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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 5:52 AM

First, the bad news: Yakburgers are not good. At least the ones served here are not. Our waitress boasted that they were made from Tibetan yaks, raised locally; but either Idaho yaks are way too lean or whatever juiciness their meat contained got cooked away, for the yakburger I nibbled at was sawdust-dry and pretty much devoid of flavor.

Most everything else we tasted at Di Luna's was very good, a few items memorable. In that latter category, I would put breakfast potatoes, which are either crisp and starchy hash browns or sweet potato hash browns that are just barely sweet. A fine breakfast titled "sharp and sweet" augments the sweet potato hash browns with sharp cheddar cheese, the duo accompanied by thick-sliced bacon, ham, or sausage. Another tasty breakfast, which happens to be vegetarian-friendly, is known as the Three Sisters Skillet. The menu says it is a gloss on a native Pend d'Oreilles tribe dish: grilled polenta, roasted butternut squash, and white beans.

Beyond such specialty meals are eggs Benedict (made with ham rather than Canadian bacon), salmon Benedict, veggie Benedict, and country Benedict, that last one being a split biscuit topped with sausage and smothered with sausage gravy. The gravy is substantial, served also as the companion for Di Luna's crunch-crusted chicken-fried steak.

Di Luna's is a friendly sort of place, open Wednesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch and for weekend dinner concerts featuring jazz, country, or blues. It also serves as a local crafts gallery and frequently hosts Wine Maker Dinners that celebrate northwest vintages.
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Roadfood of the Day: Oink's - New Buffalo, MI
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Delicious sundaes can be enough for two.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 13, 2014 3:54 AM

"Yay We Have Oysters!" says an early-September chalkboard sign at The Fisherman's Wife in the sleepy village of Carrabelle. Pam Lycett, who really is a fisherman's wife (hubby was out on his shrimp boat when we stopped in), runs a gracious little cafe with pastel-colored walls, slow-spinning overhead fans, and a sound-dampening rug on the floor. There is no throbbing music or raucous conversation in this peaceful place, which is so right for contemplating seafood presented the way locals like it: simple, direct, and utterly fresh.

I loved my oyster po boy, which came splayed open on the plate, too large and overflowing to pick up and eat like a sandwich. I gleefully plucked at it, oyster by oyster, savoring the warm luxury of sweet, briny meat and zesty crust, occasionally punctuating the melty-crunchy ecstasy by forking up the sandwich's lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo, along with pinches of good bread. Crabcakes are only slightly devilish, peppered enough to halo the sweet, moist meat. Notable main-course companions include fried green tomatoes in a veil of see-through crust and crisp-surfaced hushpuppies the size of extra-large eggs.

"Miss Pam just brought in a Key lime pie today," the waitress advises. "It's the only one we have. No Derby and no buttermilk pie." That's fine because the Key lime is a perfect triumvirate of sweet, cream, and citrus twang – a modest wedge, pale yellow with a thin crust and no adornment whatsoever. The classic cannot be improved.
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Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014

Fresh Pretzels

Fresh-from-the-oven pretzels, ready for a squirt of bright yellow mustard.
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Roadfood of the Day: Pizzeria Lauretano - Bethel, CT
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garlic Pizza

Do you like crust? Do you like garlic? If you answer 'yes' to both questions, you need to have one of Lauretano's garlic pizzas. It's a crisp, puffy-edged flatbread gilded with oil, minced garlic, a sprinkle of herbs and a dash of grated cheese. Heaven!
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Roadfood of the Day: Johnnie's - Elmwood Park, IL
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2014

Italian Beef & Sausage Combo

The sausage is peeking out from under the beef. Hot giardiniera tops off this delicious sandwich.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, October 10, 2014 5:41 AM

It's a good thing for a restaurant to have a motto, whether it's Steak 'n' Shake's old "In sight, it must be right" (hearkening back to a time when customers could watch their steak burgers ground, thus insuring there were no mystery ingredients) to the place we found long ago in Southern Illinois, the name of which we forgot, but where the motto was impossible not to remember: "If I can't eat it, I won't serve it." All of which is a circuitous way to introduce you to Bobke's Bread Basket, which touts itself with these happy words: "When the schnecken beckons."

Schnecken, which is the name for a German sticky bun, is but one of several dozen outstanding goodies baked in this unlikely old world bakery in the middle of the Arizona desert. Here you will find a vast array of buns and pretzel rolls, cookies, bars, strudels, puffs, and stollen as well as some of the most delicious pound cake we have eaten anywhere: tender, moist, and just sweet enough to be coffee's best companion. A few other notable bakery wonders are buttery little pastries filled with sour fruit known as cherry stars, jumbo macaroons, apple fritters, and stupendous chocolate croissants.

Beyond what's in the bakery case, Bobke's has a short menu of lunch specialties and a scattering of nicely-clothed tables for in-house dining. We feasted on hot brats in freshly baked rolls and wiener schnitzel with spaetzel and puckery-sweet cucumber salad.

Why is there a good German bakery in Cochise County, Arizona? The town of Sierra Vista is home to a large military installation called Fort Huachaca, which attracts visitors from all around the world. In fact, you can take your pick of Asian, Italian, Filipino, Costa Rican and, of course, Mexican food. At Bobke's, the staff converses with each other in German; and if you speak German, too, they are especially happy to host you.
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Posted on Friday, October 10, 2014

Boiled Peanuts

The beany taste of boiled peanuts reminds us that peanuts are actually legumes.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, October 9, 2014 4:40 AM

The name alone is compelling, but this happy little eatery with its Fiestaware-colored upholstery offers more than just excellent pie. There's an inviting array of hearty sandwiches, from an Italian hero on focaccia bread to hot pastrami with sauerkraut and 1000 Islands dressing on grilled rye to a huckleberry Monte Cristo, which is an egg-dipped and griddle-fried sandwich of turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese topped with sweet huckleberry syrup. A Hawaiian panini combines Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese, pesto, and pineapple chutney. On the side of just about any sandwich, we highly recommend a bowl of baked potato soup – an unexpectedly light dish garnished with cheddar and scallions.

As for the pie, it's first class. In late summer, the star of the show is huckleberry, in which the deliriously flavorful blue berries spill copiously from a fragile crust. Other surefire winners include sour cream lemon with sharp citrus zing, marionberry/apple in which the dark berry's complexity sings mischievous harmony with ingenuous apples, and rhubarb that is the classic pie-plant pie with fruity ebullience in a savory crust that easily flakes when prodded with a fork. Heather Gross, who is chef, owner, manager, and hostess, bakes about three dozen pies every day, not counting the savory chicken pies that are a locals' favorite for take-home supper.
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Roadfood of the Day: Las Maravillas - Chicago, IL
Posted on Thursday, October 9, 2014

Carne Asada Burrito

In the foreground, my favorite item at Las Maravillas - the steak (carne asada) burrito.
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