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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 9:16 AM

Ribs

An inconspicuous storefront in a commercial strip by the side of the two-lane, 521 B-B-Q & Grill is a conspicuously worthy barbecue destination. Not that there's anything wrong with the menu's extra-thick fried bologna sandwich, but it would be a crime to come here and not eat chopped pork and/or ribs. The former – Boston butt that is slow-smoked for 14 hours – becomes rough-hewn hash that is served sauceless. Please, savor some unadorned forkfuls for full appreciation of the refined synergy of swine and smoke. But then, bring on the sauce. Two kinds are arrayed in squeeze bottles on every table (next to the roll of paper towels): a thin, pepper-powered vinegar dressing that adds an exclamation mark to the flavor, and a thicker, sweeter and extremely tangy tomato sauce. Both are winners.

The ribs are just about the meatiest baby backs we've ever run across. Huge amounts of juice-sopped meat slide off the bone at the slightest provocation. Like the pork butts, the ribs are slow-smoked so the woodsy flavor of the pit completely insinuates itself into every fiber of the meat. Then they are painted with some of that tangy sauce and grilled until the sauce begins to caramelize. The glaze hugs the pork; and those two tastes together define the joy of ribs.

We haven't yet mentioned what some people consider to be the very best thing on the menu, included on every plate or tray of barbecue: hushpuppies. Irregularly shaped with dark, red-gold skin that offers both crunch and chew, their interiors are moist and sweet-corn sweet, laced with perfumy onion. Nor are the baked beans to be ignored. They fairly vibrate with barbecue zest.

And finally, we need to mention the staff: a corps of waitresses who are as much fun as they are efficient, eagerly replacing a couple of hushpuppies that accidentally tumbled into the baked beans and lost a touch of their crispness and taking great joy when a customer is caught licking every bit of sauce off his fingers. In short: if you like barbecue, put 521 on any short list of must-visits in the Carolinas.
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Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yocco's Dog

Yocco's hot dogs are well-browned and topped with a dark brew.
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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 4:41 AM

Don't worry if you get lost looking for Archibald's Bar-B-Q in Northport, AL. If you are anywhere nearby, just roll down your window and follow the powerful aroma of smoke and barbecuing meat. In no time at all, you will be pulling into their driveway. This is one restaurant you will smell long before you actually see it.

The building itself is, shall we say, charmingly rustic. The painted white exterior is covered in black smoke stains. But, considering this is a barbecue parlor, the looks of the place hardly matter. What does matter is the pile of hickory wood out back, the constant pouring of smoke out the chimney and that intoxicating smell. The inside is tiny and immaculately clean, with four stools at the counter. Most customers get their 'que to take home or eat at one of the outside picnic tables. I recommend eating inside, where you get a view into the impressive pit, with rows of racks of ribs cooking over flames.

The menu consists of nothing more than ribs (you can order a whole slab, a large plate or a small plate) and the pork barbecue sandwich. The ribs are long, meaty with serious smoky flavor and just the right amount of chew. The pork on the sandwiches comes in thick, tender slices. Both are greatly augmented by the addictive barbecue sauce. It is more vinegar than tomato, with enough kick to leave your lips tingling. There are no sides, just bags of chips.

Archibald's started in 1962 and is now in the hands of second generation owner George Archibald, Jr. The service here is quick and friendly. One note of warning: if you are making a special trip, call ahead to make sure that they have what you want. On my most recent visit, they were out of ribs and wouldn't have more for another hour. After all, you don't rush great barbecue!
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Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The ribs are cooked perfectly but lack good smoke flavor.
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Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014

French Bistro Or Southern Cafe?

This orange cardomom tart reminded us of chess pie, although it's dressed finer than any chess pie we've ever seen (creme fraiche, fresh strawberry, chocolate drizzle, and candied orange peel).
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:11 AM

Oklahoma's best-known foods are beef, burgers, barbecue, and catfish – all of them rugged and bold. But if you travel west to Elk City, you will find the Country Dove Tea Room and a completely different kind of meal: ladies lunch. It is served in a charming little place that is, in fact, a 1920s country home, where meals share the spotlight with an inventory of country décor and crafts and a large selection of Christian books for sale.

Gentle food, served with grace and good manners: creamed soups accompanied by heart-shaped muffins and honey butter; little squares of Jell-O here known as "Jell-O salad," positioned on a lettuce leaf. The house specialty is chicken-avocado salad, which is the two elements pulverized together with mayonnaise and served on either a croissant or grilled wheat bun. The day's special when we stopped in was "Mexican Fiesta" – a mild-mannered casserole with a south-of-the-border twist.

It is such a nice, polite, repertoire of dishes … until you get to dessert and French silk pie, which is a powerhouse: lasciviously chocolaty, smooth, dense, topped with a frothy ribbon of whipped cream and mounted on a plush nut crust. Alternative desserts include almond pound cake with lemon curd sauce and New York cheesecake.

Proprietors Glenna Hollis and Kay Farmer originally opened for business some 30 years ago, but not as a restaurant. Country Dove was strictly retail country décor. But business was slow; and one day a woman passing through said to them, "You girls need to put in a tea room." She advised, "Do not use iceberg lettuce" and provided the recipe for raisin bran muffins and the chicken-avocado salad. Kay had some experience in food service, having been a soda jerk at her father's lunch counter, and the recipe for the awe-inspiring French silk pie was provided by her mother. Now that old Route 66 is such a tourist attraction and Elk City has become a destination for its grand-scale National Route 66 Museum, the little restaurant attracts tourists from all over the country and the world.
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Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2014

Margherita

These pizzas, baked in a wood oven, picked up little, if any, character from that oven.
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Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2014
Item Results
Raw 398
Oyster? Ugh. 320
Deep Fried 165
Rockefeller, Baked, or Broiled 102
Grilled 47
Pan Fried 46
In a Stew 31
Comments (1)
Roadfood of the Day: Wave Hill Breads - Norwalk, CT
Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sliced

If you are a lover of country bread with soul, this image of a just-cut Wave Hill loaf is a large slice of heaven.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, September 26, 2014 5:32 AM

Rich and Chris Decker took over the Igloo in 2010 from the Mazzorana family, who started it in 1937, and they have vowed to keep it as its always been: the town's favorite destination diner for burgers and chili, tenderloins and brats, hand-cut French fries and from-scratch shakes and malts. Nearly everyone here is a regular customer. One veteran waitress gives me a motherly smile when I sit at the counter, telling me I look just like good old Dr. Schott, who recently died and who was a big fan of Igloo chili.

After only a few minutes in this place, it is apparent that both Rich and Chris relish their role as owner, host, ringmaster. When one waitress starts needling Chris about spending too much time kibbitzing with the clientele and not enough running the diner, he turns away from her and announces loud enough for all around to hear: "This is my back. And this is you off it!"

Order a tenderloin (here known simply as "a pork") and its standard complements are onion, pickle, and – are you ready? – ketchup. At first I was skeptical, considering mustard to be the de rigueur condiment, but I very much enjoyed the interplay of sweet and tangy. The loin itself is wavy, crisp, and quite thin, with enough meat to be juicy once you crunch through the crust.

Root beer is served in a frosty mug, but if you like milk shakes, that's the drink to get. "I guarantee that this is the best chocolate malt I have made all day," says Chris Decker when I order one at 11:30am. I reassure him that it is the best one I've drunk all day. In fact, it was the best I drank during a weeklong trip through the Illinois River Valley.
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