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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Sunday, December 21, 2014 9:31 AM

Village Coffee Shop is the type of breakfast restaurant you always hope to find while traveling, but so rarely do. One note of warning though: if you embarrass easily, it might not be for you. As soon as the waitress found out it was our first visit, she turned around and announced in a loud voice that we were a couple of "Village virgins", which was met with rousing applause. From then on, with the personable, sassy service and the friendliness of other diners around us, we felt as if we were now part of an exclusive club.

We loved the atmosphere so much that we would probably still eat here even if the food was ordinary. Fortunately, it is much better than that. Highly recommended is the blueberry pancake, which can be ordered in quantities of one, two or a stack of three. Just one was enough as it takes up an entire dinner plate and is filled with a copious amount of fresh blueberries. We think most pancakes are served undercooked nowadays, but this one was well done so that the surface had a crispy texture, especially around the edges.

Another favorite was the French toast, which looked unlike any French toast we have ever seen. The full order (1/2 orders are available) brought two wide flaps of what we suspect was homemade bread, thick, eggy, light and folded over. These could easily be mistaken for more pancakes. The country fried steak was fork tender and covered in a creamy sausage gravy, filled with huge chunks of meat. Everything else we sampled, including the fried eggs, the hashbrowns and even the wheat toast were made perfectly.

Village Coffee Shop opens early seven days a week and closes right after lunch hours. We particularly loved the t-shirt for sale, which read "800 Square Feet of Reality Surrounded by Boulder"!
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Roadfood of the Day: Nellie's - Las Cruces, NM
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sopaipillas

New Mexico's favorite breadstuff: puffy sopaipillas, so hot from the fry kettle that they're a little hard to handle when you want to pick one up, tear it open and pour honey inside. Sopaipillas are great for mopping the last of the chile from a plate.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, December 20, 2014 5:14 AM

Portlandia, Astoria is not. Nor does Charlie's Chowder House fit the current common stereotype of an Oregon Coast that is all about such nostrums as sustainability, fair trade, local-sourcing, and organic farming. Not that there is anything unsustainable about what you'll eat at Charlie's; it's just that the management seems to be more concerned with providing good food and good times to its clientele than with earnestly saving the ocean and the earth from us rapacious humans.

I knew we were in for a, let us say, eclectic experience when I saw the window that presents to pedestrians a diorama of a Barbie Doll mermaid hovering over a pile of pirates' bones while two sharks swim close, apparently ready to eat her. Inside, décor is vaguely Polynesian, each table accoutered with a different salt-and-pepper set. The menu, on which each line is written in a different color of ink, includes tunesmith quotes from the likes of Bob Dylan ("I got a brand new suit and a brand new wife, I could live on beans and rice") and Jimmy Buffet ("Life is just a tire swing and jambalaya was the only song you could sing").

It is a broad menu, including southern gumbo, shrimp Creole, turkey chili ("NW style"), and burgers made from buffalo, marlin, shark, or tuna. Charlie's is famous for its peppery chowder, and rightfully so. The menu is a little confusing, listing it as "Astoria's Own Chowder – New England Style," but it is definitely more West Coast than Yankee, packed with ribbons of pork and chopped clams so tender and savory-sweet that sometimes you think you have hit a nugget of bacon when in fact you are enjoying a morsel of clam. Manhattan chowder is another dish altogether. It has plenty of shellfish and is fine as an appetizer, but has none of the clam chowder's charisma. I like the grilled mahi mahi tacos with cabbage and cheese and bright chipotle salsa. Grilled salmon and a tuna steak are both yeomanly, if not memorable.

NOTE: Charlie's is closed on Wednesday.
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Roadfood of the Day: Chicken Pie Shop - Fresno, CA
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie Lunch

Chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes and yellow gravy, cole slaw and biscuits.
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Roadfood of the Day: Ted's Hot Dogs - Tempe, AZ
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2014

Two With Hot Sauce

Hot sauce, pickles, brown mustard. On two crusty dogs.
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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:17 AM

Open since 1943, Ed Walker's just looks like a cool place to eat. It has a ruby red retro sign with an arching arrow pointing down to the small building and the drive-in car stalls. It certainly caught our eye as we drove down busy Towson Avenue in 2012. Unfortunately, it was early on a Sunday morning and our schedule didn't allow us to stick around until they opened. Two years later, we found ourselves back in Fort Smith and made Ed Walker's our first stop.

Despite the sign informing patrons to "flash headlights for service" and the fact that this is the only restaurant in Arkansas where you can legally enjoy curb service beer, we decided to eat inside. You can choose to sit at the long red counter up front or the comfy red-backed booths in the back. Doo Wop music fills the air and unlike so many wannabes, Ed Walker's 1950's charm is the real thing.

The menu lays claim to being "Home of the French Dip" and the version they serve is indeed the star of the menu. You get a generous portion of thinly sliced, tender, roasted beef served on a pillowy soft sourdough roll. And if you like, Swiss cheese that melts right into the meat. Dip the sandwich into the rich au jus sauce and you have something special. We also enjoyed the Razorback burger, which is a beauty of a 1/3 lb. bacon cheeseburger made with fresh ground meat, well dressed with lettuce, tomato and onion. The excellent onion rings provide minimum grease along with maximum crunch. To drink, you can get one of their thick milkshakes or perhaps a beer or root beer served in a frosty mug.

The desserts are also made in house and should not be ignored. The red velvet cake was wonderfully moist and topped with sweet, but not cloyingly so, cream cheese icing. The rest of the cakes, pies and cookies looked equally as good.
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Roadfood of the Day: Litton's - Knoxville, TN
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our Neighbor's Chili Dog

The man sitting next to me ordered the chili dog. When it arrived we all stared at it for a minute, never having seen a chili dog quite this large. It gave a whole new definition to the term SMOTHERED! There is a hot dog somewhere in that chili. He managed to finish this, but it took awhile!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 5:57 AM

In 1942 Hymie and Freda Sckolnick opened a lunch counter in the Bancroft Stationery store in Montreal's garment district at the corner of Rue St. Urbain and Rue Mont-Royal. The stationery store is long gone, as is the garment district, but not the lunch counter started by the Sckolnicks. Today their son, Larry, runs what is called Beauty's Luncheonette. Many Montréalais consider it home of the best breakfast in town.

Two items in particular are famous, the Mish-Mash omelet and the Beauty's Special. The former is less an omelet than a kitchen-sink whirlwind of eggs scrambled with chunks of hot dog, salami, pepper, and onions. I don't know if the dog actually is kosher (Beauty's is not), but it's firm and beefy, and along with the salami, gives this dish heft. The onions are caramelized, serving as tender veins of sweetness throughout. On the side comes a toasted sesame bagel. A Montreal bagel, of course: chewy, slightly sweet, with a hint of char flavor from being baked in a wood-fired oven.

A Montreal bagel also is the foundation for the Beauty's Special, a beautifully assembled Jewish breakfast sandwich of smoked salmon and cream cheese along with slices of tomato and onion. It's a jaw-stretcher; although Montreal bagels tend to be small, there's plenty to eat.

The breakfast menu includes pancakes and waffles and challah-based French toast; and at lunch there is an array of burgers, sandwiches, melts, and salads. Beauty's Mac 'n' cheese is a short-order gem, as is the rice pudding. The kitchen also is known for its smoothies, available in a wide variety from the classic strawberry/banana to such modern concoctions as cookies & crème and mochaccino royale. Stacked up along the counter are dense, dark brown loaves that look like banana bread, but are identified by the waitress as gateau au banane. Indeed, grilled slices are sweet and luxurious enough to be cake, lacking only frosting.

The name of the restaurant, by the way, derives from founder Hymie Sckolnick's bowling nickname. Now a nonagenarian, Mr. Sckolnick is on hand daily, sitting on a stool at the counter up front, helping direct customers to an available booth.
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Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ten Slices of Crispy, Chewy Heaven!

This is how I imagine pizza should be. Darkly browned and crispy on the edges. Chewy in the middle with just the right amount of sauce, cheese, and spices.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 4:24 AM

Lemon Cheese Pie

The Bisbee Breakfast Club opened in the sleepy town of Lowell (a part of Bisbee) in 2005 and it has since been successful enough to open two more locations, in Tucson and Mesa. The everyday clientele at this original location reflect the curious population of a community that has gone from mining town to hippie enclave to artist colony and is now becoming coveted sunbelt real estate.

The price is right: entrees are all under $10; and for half that, you can enjoy one of the heartiest breakfasts ever: two jumbo oven-warm biscuits split and topped with sausage cream gravy seasoned with crushed chiles, black pepper, Tabasco sauce and sage. Gooey sticky buns, made weekends only, have earned legendary status. The everyday menu includes broad, free-form wally cakes (pancakes with walnuts) and a juicy chicken-fried steak topped with the same crazy-spiced gravy used on biscuits. It is not uncommon to follow breakfast with a lofty wedge of pie. Of the several we sampled, the most amazing was lemon cheese, a citrus-perfumed cross between lemon meringue pie and cheesecake, stacked upon a soft-as-cookie crust.
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