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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 4:57 AM

A fact that eluded me when I studied American history in school is that the chicken tender was invented in Manchester, New Hampshire, by Arthur Pappas and Louis Canotas of the Puritan Back Room Restaurant. In fact, the Puritan Back Room has eluded Jane and me all the while we have been writing about American food. No surprise: it really isn’t a Roadfood restaurant, but I list it here for history buffs. Its name makes sense; it really is the back room of a huge building that also is a function hall and ice cream dispensary. Ambiance is well-to-do bourgeois: a happy bar with TVs overhead, plush upholstered booths and banquettes, thick rug on the floor. When I arrived at 5pm, there already was a wait-list for tables. The good people of Manchester love this place.

“I guess I better get the tenders,” I told the waitress after she clued me in to the restaurant’s place in the annals of gastronomy.

“Yes, you better!” she said with glee, offering me a mix of regular tenders, coconut tenders, Buffalo tenders, and spicy tenders. When I asked about the onion rings, she assured me they were not the big, gross ones, and like everything else on the menu they were hand-made, from scratch. In fact, they’re pretty good: not the wispy type, but nice, thin hoops with crisp crust and sweet onion flavor. As for the tenders, the regular ones are encased in a batter that is slightly sweet and the spicy ones are quite peppery. One order is absolutely immense, enough for three or four moderately hungry people, or for a dozen people who don’t like them very much. They come with a ramekin of clear liquid that tastes like hummingbird nectar. “Duck sauce,” the waitress said, for dipping the chicken. “Sweet and sour.” Yes, it is sweet; but sour I did not taste.

The dish I liked best was the Greek salad that preceded the mountain of tenders. It comes with a block of good, tangy feta cheese and is dressed with a well-seasoned vinaigrette that reminds me of the Greek salad they served at the old George & Harry’s in New Haven.
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Roadfood of the Day: Smoke & Bones - Derby, CT
Posted on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Long ago, burnt ends were simply cutting-board scraps. But people like them so much that many barbecue parlors offer big hunks of edge-meat, ribboned with fat.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 4:22 AM

I had time for only one meal at Bufalina – one pizza to be precise – but based on that experience, I highly recommend this place to pizzaphiles. The style is true Neapolitan, each pie a good-size meal for one. 90 seconds in a 900+ degree wood-fired oven yields a pizza with a thin, chewy crust that is gently fire-blistered at its puffed collar and infused with smoke that so nicely enhances the dough’s long-risen, yeasty savor.

Roadfood of the Day: Red Barn - Exira, IA
Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One of Iowa's great tenderloins -- crisp, juicy, hugely satisfying. And garnished with slices of garden-fresh tomato.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 5, 2015 4:18 AM

This clam castle is in fact a clam shack, and we mean that in the nicest possible way. A breezy roadside eatery with a pleasant dining room adjacent to the order windows and picnic tables set back from Route One, it has been a significant shoreline source of fried clams and clam chowder for more than half a century.

The whole-belly fried clams are plump, juicy and sweet with vividly seasoned crust that is brittle but virtually melts on the tongue when you crunch into it. For those who like only a hint of clam flavor as part of the fried-food package, the Castle also offers clam strips. While not the bivalve connoisseur’s choice, these strips are in fact quite tasty … reminding us of the fried clams that originally helped make Howard Johnson’s famous.

There’s a full array of other fried seafood, as well as seafood salads, burgers and hot dogs for the fry-basket-frowner; but in our book there are two non-fried things that must be eaten. First, chowder: a brisk, oceany brew typical of the southern New England shoreline, bright with clam flavor and ballasted by the starchy goodness of potatoes. Second, the lobster roll! A striking Connecticut beauty, it is loaded with immense, butter-glistening pieces of meat, many of them two- or three-bite size (no shreds or stringy stuff here!) Barely holding them all is a split-top Yankee bun, so fresh and soft inside that it absorbs massive amounts of butter-lobster flavor and is impossible to stop eating even after the big hunks of lobster are gone. Its outside has been brushed with butter and grilled to a golden crisp.

The food is better than ever, and service has gone a bit upscale since the Clam Castle formally became Donahue's Clam Castle a few years back. You still place your order and pay at the counter, but now a member of the waitstaff will bring it to you at the table. Everything is still presented on or in disposable dishware.
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Roadfood of the Day: Pepperhead - Cortez, CO
Posted on Monday, October 5, 2015

The cheesy combination of enchiladas and a chile relleno is extremely satisfying.
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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Sunday, October 4, 2015 4:53 AM

First of all, the name of this place can be a little confusing. The sign hanging over the front door calls it Moody's Place. A smaller hand printed sign over the parking lot says Moody Café. An interior sign goes with the name Moody's Restaurant. And then you have to actually find it. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Moody's puts the "hidden" in hidden gem. If you can get past those issues, you will be rewarded with a memorable meal in one of the South's best meat-and threes.

Don't expect a menu to be brought to your table. A huge menu board plasters the back wall with a list of everything the kitchen makes. There is a white dot next to each item and if that dot is filled in, (green for entrees and vegetables, blue for desserts and yellow for drinks), then that item is available. As tempting as the baked chicken and dressing looked on nearby tables, I couldn't pass up chicken and dumplings. A comfort food classic, this is soft, misshapen dumplings, with both white and dark meat. The vegetables are world class: highly seasoned field peas, earthy turnip greens infused with pork, and fresh, sweet oven baked corn, available as a special.

You cannot leave Moody's without trying dessert or in my case, two desserts. The wonderful coconut pie was highlighted by a thick layer of homemade whipped topping. Even better was the peach cobbler with just the right mix of sugary sweet breading and slices of fresh fruit.

Moody's is ultra casual and run by genuinely welcoming people. One note of warning: it is open for lunch on Mondays through Fridays only.
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Roadfood of the Day: Beto's - Pittsburgh, PA
Posted on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Notice the unmelted cheese on top of the tomato-sauced crust. The pre-cooked sausage and mushrooms are phenomenal!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, October 3, 2015 7:09 AM

Peach ice cream, hot peach cobbler, peach cider, pickled peaches, and peach preserves are a few good reasons to come to Peaches ‘n’ Such, aka Watsonia (after the Watson family that runs it). It isn’t only an organic peach orchard and peach-product shop. It also is an adorable place to eat.

Located on Highway 23 and surrounded by orchards in all directions, Peaches ‘n’ Such has a tiny dining area of four long tables, shared by strangers when necessary, and a limited menu of sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers plus special entrees each day of the week along with downhome vegetables to match. Tipped off by Aiken sages Tom Bossard and Len Cherry, who waxed rhapsodic about the peach ice cream, I drove out for the every-Friday special of fried chicken.

O, what fine chicken! Hugging pieces of indulgently moist meat is a seasoned crust poised perfectly between crunch and chew, oozing its own full-flavored juices with every bite. On the side come two vegetables. The one I won’t ever neglect is broccoli casserole, the home-ec classic that presents well-cooked stalks and florets in a melted web of chewy orange cheese and bread crumbs. Butter beans are simple and just-right al dente with real legume earthiness. A third choice this Friday was fried eggplant. Not being a big eggplant fan, I was shocked to like it so much, the vegetable itself turned ethereal as it cooked inside a jacket of salty, delicious breading. It reminds me of the best fried okra, but half its weight.

There was no red velvet cake remaining for dessert. It had been eaten up by an after-church crowd that came in earlier. But Andrea, who does the baking for Peaches ‘n’ Such, had also made triple-layer Neapolitan cake (yes, three flavored/colored layers) as well as hummingbird cake. The fruity-sweet Dixie delight was loaded with bananas and pineapple and was so yummy that I could barely stop eating it long enough to dip up spoonfuls of house-made soft-serve peach ice cream on the side.

The one disappointment of my first visit was that Andrea’s son hadn’t made any of his legendary cobbler. That was one of the main allures Tom and Len originally extolled. But I’m OK with missing out on it. Now I have a necessary reason to return to this happy place for another lunch and cobbler for dessert. Hot peach cobbler – a la mode, of course.
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Posted on Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beef stew in a pastry pocket: the pasty is a great cold-climate rib-sticker.
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