The Barnes & Noble Review
Jane and Michael Stern want you to meet the real celebrity chefs -- the short-order cooks, waitresses, barbecue pit masters, and pancake flippers who work in the roadside restaurants in small towns (and large ones) across America.
Thanks to these culinary road warriors, we have proof positive that America is not one homogenized strip of fast-food chains. Some of the diners and coffee shops the authors visited include Al's Diner (12 stools at an ancient counter) in Minneapolis; Becky's in Portland Maine, where all meals are backed with a 100 percent guarantee (if you don't like it, you don't pay); Ma Groover's Pig and Plate in Valdosta, Georgia; and Flo's in Cape Neddick, Maine, where the only thing on the menu is hot dogs and the only question from the waitress is, "How many?"
The Sterns call American food a crazy quilt influenced by cuisines from all over the world. That's evident from some of the dishes they found, like Polish chop suey from Chicago, St. Paul sandwiches (egg foo young on white bread with lettuce and tomato), Siouxland chow mein from Sioux, Iowa, and the amazing Fritos Pie from Santa Fe, New Mexico. (The Fritos Pie was originally served by ladling the chili-and-cheese mixture right into a large Fritos bag, so the happy eater could stroll and eat right out of the bag.) You'll also discover local specialties like the steamed cheeseburger, a Central Connecticut addiction, in which both beef and cheese are steamed on separate trays in the same little steam box. Hmmm....
Each segment on a roadside restaurant is accompanied by stories, recipes, and the occasional photograph. Best yet, the cooks dish out stories as appetizing as their food.