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Roadfood of the Day: Oink's - New Buffalo, MI
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sundae

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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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 5:37 AM

We were directed to Dr. Ho's by Ronald and Peggie Turner of Turner's Ham House up in Fulks Run. These two, whose culinary cred is impeccable (Turner hams cannot be beat), told us that Dr. Ho serves the best pizza for miles around. While we haven't tried a lot of Virginia pizzerias, we can attest that these pies are pretty darn wonderful. They have a thin, flavorful crust that is a balance of crunch and chew, and the toppings we've sampled are first-rate, from meatballs to locally made andouille sausage. The combo you don't want to miss is called "Bellissima," a gloss on the traditional margherita pizza that also includes arugula, lemon vinaigrette, and thin shavings of country ham from – where else? – Turner's Ham House. It is a bewitching combo, the ham a Virginia analog of fine prosciutto di Parma.

Pizza is just one portion of a menu from which we have relished crispy grits-n-greens, which is spinach, salsa, and red quinoa accompanied by flavorful triangles of crisp-edged grits cakes. We also unequivocally recommend the pickled okra and country ham salad, spicy fried calamari with sesame ginger vinaigrette, and a roasted sweet potato salad. High on the list of items to be tried: a burger of local beef stuffed with sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan risotto fritters with butternut squash/apple puree, and a mango tart topped with lemon-honey cream cheese, fig jam, and caramel.

Every dessert I've had is impressive, foremost among them a huge chocolate-cookie caramel ice cream sandwich drizzled with chocolate sauce for which a fork is necessary. At the other end of the spectrum is a dessert that is simple, and utterly perfect: hot milk cake. This is a home-cooking classic, so straightforward that it rarely appears on restaurant menus and is often referred to, even in vintage cookbooks, as "old fashioned" hot milk cake. Made right, as it is here, and crowned with uncomplicated buttercream frosting, it is not even a little extravagant. It is moist, eggy, and ingenuous – a mother's-hug Dixie classic.

Dr. Ho's is a big, airy place designed to look like a converted old garage. It has a lively semi-open kitchen, exposed heat ducts, vintage signs on the wall, bare tables and unupholstered chairs and booth benches.
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