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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, January 24, 2016 4:50 AM

Years ago, when I first visited Canter’s, I didn’t take a lot of pictures because as soon as my camera flash went off, the hostess asked me to stop, explaining that "people pay thousands of dollars to take pictures in here." She meant that movie makers and professional photographers rent it out as a restaurant backdrop that very clearly says "vintage Los Angeles," which is what it is. Since that time, taking pictures of one’s food has become part of the dining experience for enough people that nobody on staff gave me a hard time when I photographed a recent breakfast.

Canter’s is an old-style (since 1931) delicatessen that smells of salami and corned beef and pickles and is staffed by take-no-prisoners guys and gals who are equal parts service and entertainment. Open all night, it is an opportunity to eat excellent kosher-style (but not actually kosher) fare. This includes the full repertoire of cured meats and smoked fish, matzoh ball soup, noodle kugle, and a vast variety of traditional pastries including hamantaschen, rugguleh, and black-and-white cookies. Hot entrees range from corned beef and cabbage to chicken in a pot, and the sandwich selection is epic. I like traditional corned beef (on rye), the meat briny and just fatty enough to feel slightly sinful. Another good sandwich is chopped liver that is enriched with plenty of schmaltz. Among breakfast specials is matzoh brei (here spelled brey), a felicitous balance of matzoh shreds that range from custard-soft to slightly chewy all enveloped in buttery scrambled eggs. Chicken soup is like an idealized grandmother might make.
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Roadfood of the Day: Queenie's - Tulsa, OK
Posted on Sunday, January 24, 2016

The pain perdu is ultra-soft, nicely grilled, with the right amount of butter.
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Roadfood of the Day: Leo's - Oklahoma City, OK
Posted on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Of all the meats that come out of this smokehouse, none is more wonderful than spare ribs. Each one is weighted with nearly as much meat as a good-sized sandwich; and while there are some veins of fat, it is astonishing how many ribbons of lean but luscious pork pull easily off the bone.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, January 22, 2016 12:31 AM

Those who find themselves awake and hungry in the middle of the night anywhere near Manhattan Beach are in luck. Here you find The Kettle, which never closes. Still on eastern time and therefore ready for breakfast at 3am, I recently popped in and found myself among local cops on a break, dating couples rounding out their night, and a motley collection of well-behaved insomniacs.

I’ve seen The Kettle referred to as a diner, and while it does share qualities with that genus of eatery (reasonable prices, square meals, counter seating, quick service, and egalitarian mein), it really is different. It is a classic southern California coffee shop, meaning it is more middle class than blue collar, with unique decorative pizzazz (chandeliers, log-cabin rustic armchairs at the counter, extra plush bench seats in the booths), a menu several cuts above greasy-spoon status (have a mimosa with your meal), and hospitable service by a staff who likely won’t call you hon’ or dear. While many diners are breakfast-and-lunch joints, coffee shops serve three meals a day. At The Kettle, it’s breakfast all day and supper from 5pm. I’ve yet to have lunch or supper (looking forward to braised pot roast and weekend-only baby back ribs); breakfasts are outstanding.

If yours doesn’t come with muffins, order some. Moderate size, they are plated in pairs, preferably warmed up if not oven-warm at that moment. I like honey bran best – they’re sweet and oily with especially broad, crisp-edge tops – but other winners include carrot-raisin, banana-nut, and blueberry crumb.

From the griddle come bananas Foster French toast and stacks of big, handsome pancakes, including a winning combo of blueberry buttermilk pancakes with house-made cranberry maple granola. Benedicts include California (with avocado), smoked trout, and crab cake Benedict in which the hollandaise has an orange-cilantro twist. Still to try for breakfast: oeufs pain perdu, buttermilk honey fried chicken and biscuits, and the hangover scramble.
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Roadfood of the Day: Liberal Club - Fall River, MA
Posted on Friday, January 22, 2016

Dense, creamy, and fresh as an ocean breeze, dayboat scallops are sure proof of the Liberal Club's passion for high quality local seafood.
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Roadfood of the Day: m. henry - Chicago, IL
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Drunken eggs is only a nickname for this dish, as it is formally known as Jorge's black bean cakes and huevos borrachos. We especially enjoyed the adobo sauce on top.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 6:35 AM

The full name of this place is hardly an exaggeration: Miss Harriet's repertoire does seem unlimited. She lists 60 different kinds of cheesecake on her menu, with seasonal and custom flavors always a possibility. This is a small place -- a cramped storefront with a close-quarters bakery in back -- so the full roster is not available every day; When I stopped in, 19 different cakes were available: by the slice and in full 8-inch cakes. (10-inchers and 10x2-inch rectangles also are available.)

I confess that in the hierarchy of beloved desserts, cheesecake is not at the top of my personal list: pie, layer cake, and ice cream surpass it. But if any place could convince me to elevate cheesecake to the top rank, Harriet's is it. The four different slices I sampled were each outstanding, all sharing the creamy, claylike avoirdupois that makes cheesecake so over-the-top rich, but each dramatically different in character, including unique crusts.

Harriet's always-available best-seller is praline, a caramel-draped wedge of dense cake scattered with candied nuts on a crust that seems at least 50% brown sugar -- soft and crumbly. The crust under a spicy sweet potato cheesecake is similar, but because the sweet potato cake is less gooey, the crust stays more intact. Under banana pudding cheesecake is a more traditional Graham cracker crust. Supporting the cookies 'n' cream cheesecake, which is absolutely chockful of thick chocolate veins, is a crust that is like the cookie part of an Oreo, but more intensely chocolaty. Jejune it may be, but the cookies 'n' cream slice is the one that kept me eating long after appetite had become a distant memory.

There is no place to eat at Harriet's. All business is take-out. Cash only. Closed Sunday and Monday.
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Roadfood of the Day: Dukes - Aiken, SC
Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

South Carolinians like their barbecued pork torn into motley shreds that are moist and subtly smoky. The exemplary version at Dukes is set out in a big tray on the buffet line, then it is up to you to sauce it. The sauce of choice around here is a mustard sauce that is slightly sweet and quite tangy, eliciting full sweet pig flavor from the meat.
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Roadfood of the Day: City Billiards - Aiken, SC
Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hand-pattied and a full inch thick, the burger is griddle fried to extreme succulence, the cheese laid on at the last minute and covered with a lid so it melts quickly. We wouldn't dream of having it any way but with the full complement of condiments, including mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and raw onion. The sesame seed bun is steamed soft and able to absorb burger juice, mayo, and mustard, becoming a delicious breadstuff.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, January 18, 2016 4:17 AM

Jean-Kay's pasty shop was started by the Harsch family in 1975 in Iron Mountain and, as Jean Kay's Sweet Shop, its specialty was donuts. But Jean Kay Harsch suggested they change their business plan to make pasties. She felt the Upper Peninsula could use a place that made the Cornish meat pies the way her grandmother used to do it back when they were a staple in the diet of the region's settlers.

If you want to know what grandmother's pasties were like, I suggest a visit to Jean-Kay's of Marquette, a restaurant started by Jean Kay's son Brian, sold to someone else, then rebought by Brian when he didn't feel the pasties were up to snuff. Here you will savor a classic, made with steak (not burger meat) and suet (not lard). Although rutabaga-free pasties are on the menu, Brian explained the value of rutabagas in the filling – an ingredient frequently ignored by Jenny-come-lately bakers. "It is an amazing vegetable," he enthused. "Aside from its own flavor, it works with whatever else is in there to keep the moisture flowing. It is a conduit."

While Jean-Kay's is a small storefront with a few tables inside and out, the pasty-making part of the operation is big. Being USDA-approved, it can Fedex half-baked, frozen pasties coast-to-coast, any time between September and May. Available varieties include steak, veggie with cheese, and mini pasties that make wonderful hors d'oeuvre.
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