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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, August 2, 2015 4:11 AM

Like ice cream, potato chips, and coffee, hamburgers have gotten much better over the last few decades. There are more and better choices all up and down the status ladder. Cheap or fancy, good ones are plentiful. But great ones remain hard to find. Poppy's serves a great one.

It is not an unusual or outrageous burger in any obvious way. It is decent-size, an honest quarter pound, crusty and irregularly shaped, thick enough to ooze juice but not boastfully large. A single is listed on the menu as a Classic Little. Two in a bun is a Classic Big. Both automatically come with a spill of chopped sweet red onion and a melting mantle of Adirondack cheddar cheese (from Barneveld, NY), which is sharp enough to be a significant presence, but not so flavorful that it in any way detracts from the booming protein flavor of the beef. Like the cheese, and like so much of the menu here, including tomatoes in tomato season and Hudson Valley lettuce, the beef used to make these burgers is local. The menu promises it is grass-fed and humanely raised and has a "distinct, clean flavor that melts in your mouth." Yes, it does. Other burger options include a BBQ bacon burger, an egg-topped burger, and even a veggie patty made of beans. Beyond burgers, there is a short list of beefless rice bowls and salads available.

Every good hamburger deserves a good spud companion. Poppy's offers two: sweet potato chips that are sliced see-through thin – crisp and elegant – and French fries that are gorgeous golden twigs, served piping hot.

For all the attention paid to the provenance of the provender, Poppy's is a casual, bare-table, paper-napkin sort of place. Burgers come wrapped in foil; and while glasses are available for soft drinks and beer, my waitress apparently sized me up as a more rugged sort of guy, bringing my root beer in its bottle with the twist-off cap still attached. For those who came to Poppy's back when it opened in 2009 and service was do-it-yourself, note that it has since remodeled, but not dramatically. Indoor seats are at handsome wood-back booths and out back there is now a nice patio for open-air eating.
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Roadfood of the Day: Crif Dogs - New York, NY
Posted on Sunday, August 2, 2015

A beauty of a dog wrapped in that Jersey delicacy, Taylor Ham and nestled atop a slice of American cheese, and capped off with a dose of mustard and a hefty amount of chopped pepperoncini. Not for the faint of heart!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, August 1, 2015 4:39 AM

Note: This review was written by Roadfood Correspondent Asher Zelson. Asher also took the photos.

Deep in the heart of rural Bozeman, Montana, tucked away amongst a plethora of quaint, quiet Montana stores and restaurants, is Roost Fried Chicken. Roost is a traditional, family-oriented restaurant dishing out a marvelous mix of comfort foods made with a unique spin. Owners Joe Darr and Mike Buck strive to run the restaurant on the basis of fresh ingredients, a warm, welcoming atmosphere, a kind staff, and a simple decor.

Although fried chicken pops up on the menus of endless restaurants around the world, one can truly have trouble finding a fried delight that one will never forget. I am not talking fried chicken that you would recommend to a friend looking for an ordinary bite to eat, I am talking the kind of chicken that you would stop brushing your teeth just to keep that glorious taste on your tongue for a moment longer. Few restaurants can achieve this seemingly unreachable feat, but the Roost is one of those restaurants.

After we arrived and ordered at Roost, we parked ourselves in the back area of the restaurant and sat there waiting for our food. Suddenly, as if we were all hypnotized, our necks craned, our eyes closed, and our nostrils opened. As we opened our eyes slowly, we saw it. Bounding towards our table like a lion, it emerged. The basket of chicken seemed to be roaring for us to eat it. The basket was placed in front of our smiling faces and without seconds' wait, we dug in. We received a thigh, breast, wing, and drumstick. Each piece was coated in a thick yet utterly delicate, glassy layer of the Roost’s special breading. As we tore through the crispy outer layer, we unveiled a copious amount of warm, salty juice erupting out of every nook and cranny of the beyond-tender white meat. We ordered the chicken with a number of side dishes, including mac and cheese, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs – none of which are as memorable as the chicken.

In addition to the fried chicken basket, we ate a glorious golden hunk of fried chicken on a stick (similar to that of the fried chicken basket), and a Nashville Hot Fried Chicken. The Nashville hot chicken comes fully smothered in a piquant blend of fiery, peppery spices. It is served on a pillowy slice of white bread -- the perfect device to sop up any extra juices or sauces.

Overall, I truly enjoyed every moment I spent and every bite I took at Roost, and I would recommend the trip anyone who is not too chicken to come!
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Posted on Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Small, But Significant, Mountain of Potatoes

A hearty and filling breakfast.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, July 31, 2015 3:31 AM

Come by car, come by boat; there is a broad parking lot and there are berths. And there is a breezy deck out over the water to which you tote your tray and dine picnic-style to the sound of waves lapping against hulls and pilings. Located at water's edge near the East Norwalk Boating and Yacht Club, Overton's is an eat-in-the-rough shack with a menu of Yankee summertime fare.

The most expensive dish, when available, is a lobster roll at just under $20. It is a nice one, if not one of the greats. A warm heap of good-size chunks and shreds are gilded with nothing but melted butter and piled into a split-top bun. The lobster tastes fine, but the big pieces could be plumper and juicier. Whole-belly clams can be pricey, too, and it does seem odd to be spending the better part of a sawbuck to eat in so déclassé a setting, but these are good clams: big and oceanic, pretty darn gooey, cased in a well-seasoned crust. At about half the price, you can get clam strips, which do have some flavor if none of the good mouth feel.

Nearly every summertime seafood joint in the Northeast serves a hot dog for fish frowners, and while Overton's dog with the works (bacon, cheese, chili, and onion) is fun in a nasty sort of way, the dog itself is not memorable. It is a modest pork-and-beef Hummel brand frank that comes in an unwarmed, bready bore of a bun. Condiments are limited to mustard, ketchup, and sweet relish. A lively hot relish and a buttered, grill-toasted bun would help give this wiener a personality.

Soft serve ice cream is a specialty, but if it's ice cream you crave, look up the street to a stand called Mr. Frosty's, which has an even more extensive menu. Like Overton's, Mr. Frosty's closes when the weather gets cold.
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Roadfood of the Day: Rice to Riches - New York, NY
Posted on Friday, July 31, 2015

Our friends' choice of the 'Category 5' Caramel rice pudding with roasted burst cherries on top was a huge hit with the table.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, July 30, 2015 5:33 AM

This review was written by Roadfood Correspondent Devin Garza, who also took the pictures.

At Matt’s, you have to try not to have a good time. The bustling south Austin Tex-Mex landmark, founded in 1952, is the perfect place to enjoy dinner, drinks, and the legendary queso with family and friends. Colorful paintings of the Virgen de Guadeloupe and bullfights adorn the walls, along with portraits of the founder, Matt Martinez, in his champion boxing days; and rhythmic conga drums playing in the background add to the festive atmosphere. Even with several spacious dining rooms plus an outdoor patio, Matt’s tends to be crowded and loud, part and parcel of being “famous,” as the restaurant’s familiar sign boasts. If you arrive during peak times, expect at least a twenty-minute wait.

This gives you enough time to enjoy one of Matt’s signature Knockout Martinis at the bar. A twist on the classic margarita, this “martini” is made with reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau, and served in a personal shaker with a chilled martini glass garnished with olives. A word to the conscious consumer (who wants to remain conscious): these drinks live up to their name. They pack a serious punch, justifying their $11 price tag.

Fresh salsa and a basket of thick, crunchy tortilla chips arrive on the table as soon as you sit down. Be sure to order the most popular dish, the Bob Armstrong queso dip, named after the popular former Texas Land Commissioner. This bowl of rich melted cheese is served with savory ground beef and a generous dollop of creamy guacamole. Pro tip: stir some salsa into the queso for an extra kick of dry heat and acidic brightness. This dish is so popular that bumper stickers shouting “GIMME A LARGE BOB!” can be purchased at the restaurant’s merchandise counter, along with t-shirts, mugs, and cookbooks. A small “Bob” can easily be shared between two to three people, and a large is recommended for four or more, but no one’s stopping you from eating one all by yourself. The stuff is addictive!

For a classic entrée, you can’t go wrong with a Matt’s Special: two enchiladas (mix it up with beef and chicken) smothered in green enchilada sauce, melted Monterrey cheese, and queso. Is this overkill? We think not. As a general rule, the more cheese, the better.

Another favorite is the Chile Relleno, a meaty pepper battered, fried, and stuffed with tender al carbon beef (an off-menu selection but highly recommended) and covered with tomatillo sauce and -- you guessed it -- gooey melted cheese. The dish sets itself apart by its garnish of Texas pecans and raisins, which adds a delicious sweetness that balances the tang of the sauce.

If tacos are your thing, don’t miss the Tacos Asadero. House-made corn tortillas wrap around savory beef tenderloin, thick Asadero cheese, sweet caramelized onions and rajas, sliced poblano peppers with cream.

Note: Lunch specials are served Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm for $7.95 each. Brunch is served on weekends 11am to 3pm, featuring Tex-Mex classics such as huevos rancheros and migas. Matt’s is closed Tuesdays.
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Roadfood of the Day: Hash House - Las Vegas, NV
Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fun With Toast

Would you like some jelly with your toast? Then you'll have some fun selecting your flavors from the kaleidoscopic presentation. All homemeade.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 4:31 AM

With a new owner who vows to make this old Route 7 hash house something special, Wooster Hollow Diner radiates enthusiasm. Two steps in the door and I was greeted by proprietor Ron Herman, who directed me to a table and soon arrived to pour coffee. My cup never went empty; in fact, ten minutes into the meal, Mr. Herman came by with a full, fresh cup, whisking the old one away and explaining that he had just brewed a batch so there was no point in drinking the older stuff. When I praised the pancakes, he explained that just the other day he had turned away the pancake-mix salesman because he prefers to make his own.

The from-scratch pancakes are tender lightweights, available full-size or as silver dollars. My stack with bananas and walnuts at first looked disappointing. All I saw were pancakes. But as I eased my fork down into the top flapjack, I hit paydirt: a tremendous load of just-ripe banana slices and crisp walnut halves cooked right in. They were delicious, even if the syrup wasn't true maple. Among interesting breakfast dishes are eggs with brisket and a breakfast bowl of home fries, eggs, cheese, bacon (or sausage or ham), and sautéed onions and peppers. Virtuous eaters will appreciate a "light and fit platter" that accompanies eggs whites with fruit salad rather than spuds; and there's a breakfast wrap tortilla that holds egg whites along with scallions, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and hot sauce.

Breakfast always is available, but starting at 11am, lunch also is served. There are sandwiches and burgers, the latter not all that interesting unless you get it Brazil-style, meaning topped with a fried egg, bacon, and cheese – a lollapalooza of a meal in which the sum is greater than each of its parts. There is pizza, too, cooked in the manner that Northeasterners know as Greek, meaning it bakes in an iron pan and has a crisp, lightweight crust. It's enjoyable pizza, so long as you are not expecting the muscular chew of one from the Neapolitan / New Haven places. I've yet to try dinner, which is served Wednesday through Saturday nights. Mr. Herman told me the menu always includes a steak, a fish, and a chicken.

What I like best about this place is not the food, which is in the pretty-good category. It's the attitude that wins me over. This is a restaurant on a mission that goes beyond food, its website promising, "We are always honest, friendly & appreciative, respectful & trusting, clean & safe, and hard working."

Note: Wooster Hollow Diner is open every day for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is served Wednesday through Friday.
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Roadfood of the Day: Ronald's Donuts - Las Vegas, NV
Posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Variety Tray

The bottom pastry is a buttermilk donut. We'd never seen them made in that shape before. The old-fashioned (that crown-shaped donut that is common out west but we rarely encounter back east) is a classic. The jelly donut is good, but not quite up to the level of the other two.
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