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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 4:16 AM

NOTE: This review was written by Allie Spangler, a new Roadfood intern in the Tacoma area. Allie also took all the photos. -- MS

A new rule of thumb: you know when it slides around on the bun, it’s going to be good. This is what the burgers and dogs are like at Shake Shake Shake, a retro all-American diner a block down from the iconic Stadium High School in Tacoma, WA. The aqua and tangerine orange 1940’s inspired classic diner is located in a corner brick building with big front windows and boasts both spacious indoor and outdoor dining areas. Inside, you’ll find a roomy dining area with a raised rounded milkshake bar, funky recycled bowling alley chairs, and an oversize metal lit sign that reads “EAT” on the back wall. First, follow the signs to the register to order, then take a seat either inside or out. The outdoor eating area has a friendly neighborhood vibe; orange and aqua picnic tables with red and white striped umbrellas are scattered around a large cinderblock fire pit. Painted murals of the surrounding neighborhood line one whole side of the airy space; strung market lights sparkle above; handy napkin and condiment stations are posted at each corner.

Shake3, as locals call it, serves classic American diner/drive-in burgers that you’d find on a family road trip. Fresh, hand-pounded patties, made from hormone-free Angus beef, sport crispy edges, lots of melted cheese, creamy house made secret sauce, crisp iceberg lettuce, sweet pickles, tangy relish, and crunchy white onions all on a standard toasted burger bun. They’re difficult to eat, but well worth it – just grab a big handful of napkins! The signature hickory burger has the same piled-on ingredients plus a wonderful smoky bacon-y sauce. Fries are of the shoestring variety (you can't stick just one in your mouth!) and there are crispy tater tots as well -- a seemingly strange side for a burger or dog. The most popular frank, the ‘Tacoma dog,’ is a Nathan’s Famous foot-long split in half, griddle cooked, and topped with mustard, pepperoncinis, relish, and crunchy raw white onions. It’s served with a knife and fork – a good idea, as all the mouthwatering ingredients defy hand-holding.

True to the restaurant's name, shakes are delicious: served in classic diner milkshake glasses with surplus piled into a silver tin cup. They are creamy and rich. The house specialty Tiger shake is a nod to the local Stadium High School’s mascot and includes Tacoma’s famous Almond Roca candy crushed into it with salted caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on the inside walls of the glass to create a striped “tiger” look. A few other milkshake options: classic chocolate and vanilla (of course), miso butterscotch, pb&j, frozen latte, red licorice, coconut, and nutella. You can even make your shake a ‘boozy’ shake – an interesting concept, but one that I did not test out.
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Roadfood of the Day: Economy Candy - New York, NY
Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Goldenberg's are probably my second favorite all-time candy. Seen mostly under the label ''Chew-ets'' nowadays, it's nice to know I can still get the old label here on the Lower East Side.
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Posted on Monday, July 6, 2015


This close view of a drumstick gives a slight idea as to the juiciness that awaits once the skin is crunched.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, July 5, 2015 5:04 AM

To call Bridgewater Chocolate's Extra Chewy Peanut Bar a candy bar trivializes its magnificence. It is indeed bar-shaped, but it is eight inches long, outlandishly wide and thick – a snack big enough to sate the sweet tooth of 4 or 6 or 8. But it isn't size that makes it great, it's quality. This astonishing piece of candy is made with the best ingredients money can buy (it costs $18.95). Its flavor is reminiscent of a Baby Ruth, but a Baby Ruth with class: cream-rich nougat infused with peanut butter and crushed roasted peanuts, all wrapped in a dense milk chocolate robe decorated with a dark chocolate web. Old-time fans of Connecticut's top-tier chocolatier might remember the Extra Chewy Peanut Bar as part of Bridgewater's regular catalog, but making one is so labor-intensive that it now only is available in limited production runs. I happened to stop in when only two of a recent batch remained. I was assured they would be back – for Christmas, if not sooner. review

Posted on Sunday, July 5, 2015


A large two-flavor platter of wings (left, hickory horseradish; right, Santa Fe).
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Roadfood of the Day: Freddy's Pizzeria - Cicero, IL
Posted on Saturday, July 4, 2015

The multilayered timballo di pasta reminded us of a lasagna pie.
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Posted on Friday, July 3, 2015

Close view of a Bolton breast gives some idea of how HOT it is.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, July 2, 2015 5:21 AM

How to make a great chicken parm sub, or as it's known in Connecticut, chicken parm grinder: When you carve the chicken, don't slice it too thick – it will be too chewy – nor too thin – you want it good and juicy. Add just the right amount of family-secret seasoning when you make the breadcrumbs. Cook the lightly breaded cutlets until those crumbs get brittle crisp at the edge. Use tomato sauce that is bright and fruity, preferably made using grandmother's recipe. Pile the ingredients higher than high on a fresh roll with plenty of ready-to-melt provolone on top and bake it until everything melds together in a dazzling swirl of crunch and chew and spicy Italian savor. That is exactly how it's done at Wethersfield Pizza House – how father and mother and grandfather and daughter and daughter's husband have been doing it for the last 34 years.

Yes, the name of the place is "Pizza House," and the pizzas are alright if you like the bready Sicilian sort of crust that is frighteningly grease-free. But this place is on the good-eats map for sandwiches, available on rolls, as 8-inch "halves" (big enough to sate a very healthy appetite) or 16-inch "wholes" (I will shake the hand of any man or woman who polishes off one of these in a single sitting.) Chicken cutlets are the main attraction; they are grand the way only a natural cook can make them – each a gorgeous ribbon of meat and crust. They are piled into a sandwich four pieces high and topped either in the traditional veal-parm way (sauce and cheese) or American-style with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.

Once you've savored the chicken a few times and can pull yourself away from it for a change, you might want to move on to such other hot sandwiches as meatballs (made in the kitchen behind the order counter), eggplant Parmesan, fried mozzarella with marinara sauce, and peppers with eggs. Among the cold sandwiches is a humongous Italian special piled with ham, cotto salami, genoa salami, provolone, and a thick layer of peppers and diced tomatoes.

Wethersfield Pizza House has gained a solid reputation among northeast sandwich cognoscenti (it was thanks to an erudite forum discussion about Connecticut grinders that I found my way here), but fame has in no way gone to its head. It is a modest little storefront on a busy commercial boulevard, its uniqueness marked by a window sign that boasts, "Biggest Grinders Around – Home of the Chicken Cutlet."

To place an order you either telephone or walk through the door and step up to the counter, over which is a wall menu for those unfamiliar with the kitchen's repertoire. (I get the feeling that a large percentage of the clientele here are regulars who know exactly what they want to eat; indeed many seem to be such frequent diners that the staff knows what they want, as well!) If you will be dining on premises, find a place at one of a handful of booths and tables covered with easy-wipe vinyl; and if you are planning to take the food out (a popular option) and need to wait for it to be cooked, a bench is set up along one wall where you can either stare at the opposite wall and its Italianate décor or read magazines provided by the management. No meal is over $20, and the half-size subs are under $10.
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Posted on Thursday, July 2, 2015

Our favorite of the cupcakes we tried was the Goodie Goodie, which is chocolate cake with peanut butter cream mousse. Delicious!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 5:01 AM

It isn't easy for a pizzeria to stand out in Connecticut, where there are so many excellent ones; but Stanziato's of Danbury has earned a huge reputation in the five years since it started wood-firing its creative pies. Just the other day, the mastermind behind it, Matt Stanczak, announced that he has sold the place and will be leaving later in the summer. We wish the new owners well, and we thank Matt for so many memorable meals. Here is the review.

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