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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 4:55 AM

Al's French Frys is nostalgic – a pre-McDonald's fast-food operation serving greasy little burgers, pudgy franks in toasted split-top buns and, as the name says, French fries (or as Al's spells it French frys). Ruggedly handsome frys they are, cooked to crisp-edged darkness, presented in overflowing containers that hold a cup, pint, or quart. Business at Al's is brisk enough that you always get them hot, just moments out of the fry kettle. Along with salt, tables are outfitted with a squeeze bottle of vinegar for those who like to add acidic twang to their potatoes.

The burgers are small enough that degree of doneness is not an issue and a double makes good sense. Not being so exquisite-flavored, the beef benefits from maximum accoutrements, which can include cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, and onions. As for the hot dog, it is nothing special in its own right. But the bun is a New England pièce de résistance, split and griddle-toasted, adding a cushion of starchy support to the piggy little tube steak. Fried chicken, which is often a second-tier dish in cheap-eats diners, is pretty darn good, encased in a thick, brittle crust that delivers the welcome flavor duet of chicken fat and skin.

Two order lines inside and three ice cream windows outside assure that no matter how crowded this boisterous joint becomes, you will eat soon after arriving. Except for chicken, which takes a while, service is nearly instantaneous. Place your order and pay, take a few steps and whammo: there is your tray full of food, ready to be carried to one of the tables or counter seats in the sprawling diner.
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Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cheese Steak

No sauce or pickles or peppers (although Mama's fresh-roasted hot peppers are wonderful): just a swirling confluence of beef and cheese and caramelized onions packed into a length of brawny fresh Italian bread. In my book, this is the ultimate cheese steak.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 3:52 AM

Note: This review was written by Allie Spangler. Allie also took the photos. -- MS

Steamer’s Seafood Café is nestled in the northwest side of Tacoma in Titlow Park, a family-friendly waterfront area with fantastic views of the Puget Sound and the Narrows Bridge. Locals come for the view, the fish fry, and an array of other seafood dishes. This casual eatery is an order-first and sit-second kind of place; you can take a seat indoors, out on the deck, and they even serve the nearby park tables. All three options offer incredible views of the water.

House specialties include coconut prawns, Parmesan crusted sole, and Dungeness crab cakes. Steamers also is known for fried fish, fish tacos, and seafood chowder and soups. The Alaskan cod and chips is crunchy on the outside and firm and flaky on the inside – certainly one of the best I’ve tried. The coconut prawn dish includes six plump, juicy prawns with a sweet chili sauce. Meals come with a pile of fries or a large and well-dressed side Caesar salad, or you can get onion rings for $2 more – I chose this option and I’m glad that I did. The onion rings are thick, beer battered, crunchy on the outside, sweet and firm on the inside – in a word: delicious! Steamers serves a sauce with the onion rings and fish that tastes similar to honey barbecue: the vinegary taste of the sauce pairs nicely with the crispy, mild fish and the sweetness of the onions.

Seafood stew is tomato based and includes flaky white fish, shrimp, and an abundance of colorful veggies. It looks and tastes like an Italian cioppino without the shells.

Steamers also boasts an ice cream case with a bunch of flavors (you can come down to the waterfront just for ice cream!), milkshakes, smoothies, wine, and microbrews on tap.

A family-friendly beachside café with terrific seafood and stunning views, Steamers is definitely worth a visit. Two things to note: look both ways before crossing the train tracks and be patient with summer parking!
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Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lee's Crispy Chicken and Stellar Sides

A two-piece dinner with porky green beans, a flaky biscuit, and Lee's mouth-watering potato wedges.
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Posted on Monday, July 13, 2015
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Alone on a cone or in a cup 493
In a sundae 111
Atop a piece of pie 56
In a milk shake 43
Ice cream is never all that good 13
As a frozen cake 9
In a soda 9
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, July 13, 2015 4:54 AM

It's ripe-berry time throughout much of the northern half of the country, a fact to treasure at a charming outfit along Route 7 in Vermont called Charlotte Berry Farm. Here you can pick strawberries, raspberries, black raspberries, and blueberries, and, in the fall, pumpkins. Picked berries also are available from shelves shared with such other farm inventory as local honey and maple syrup, jellies and jams and baked goods. The not-to-miss item is a blueberry creemee: soft-serve ice cream flecked with vibrant bits of berry and topped with a whole one.

Posted on Monday, July 13, 2015

Ribs

There are no words to describe how tender these ribs are, nor how flavorful. When the meat slides off the bone, you practically can hear the piggy juices ooze inside the caramelized-sauce coat that encloses the meat.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, July 12, 2015 5:29 AM

Just a few minutes' drive from I-84 in a Sandy Hook residential neighborhood, Lorenzo's is a trip back in time. It was opened in 1926 as a waterside refreshment stand selling hot dogs and ice cream and also offering rental canoes and cabins. We know these facts because we can see exactly what it was like by looking at the photo on the cover of the menu. It shows Lorenzo's as it was; the current staff will tell you that it was grandpa who started things. It's still a family-run operation -- a restaurant with a genuine personality.

Locals now know Lorenzo's mostly for its homey Italian-American food: lasagna, ziti, spaghetti and other macaroni dishes, plus a full repertoire of pizza. The pizza has a thin crust nearly as brittle as a Saltine cracker, sturdy enough that it maintains its crunch even under cheese, sauce, and multiple toppings.

Beyond Italian fare, Lorenzo's does a great job serving meat-and-potatoes square meals. We like coming for steak: a big, pillowy sirloin preceded by a bowl of crisp iceberg lettuce topped with gloppy blue cheese dressing and accompanied by a stuffed baked potato.

At the end of the road all alone, Lorenzo's is a totally charming restaurant, like a kind of summer-camp cabin for adults. The front room is a bar, where those waiting for take-out meals knock back a few; and the back is a wood-paneled sanctuary with dim lighting and high-back wooden booths.

One word of caution: everything is made to order, and even when Lorenzo's isn't crowded -- it can get very busy late weekend nights -- you will wait a good half-hour for your meal.

Finally, please note the limited hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday, dinner only.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, July 12, 2015 4:23 AM

Considering the success of their older restaurant, The Skinny Pancake, it makes some sense that the proprietors christened their new bakery / coffee shop with a similarly silly name, The Chubby Muffin. Yes, the muffins are good, both sweet and savory. Apple-cinnamon, banana chocolate chip, corn, and cheddar-jalapeno all deserve a whirl. Also available at breakfast are freshly-baked English muffins to accompany local eggs, local sausage or bacon.

Don't let the name of this place limit your expectations to breakfast pastries. Lunch is grand, too. I love what's called the Southern Gentleman – one of those English muffins packed with Vermont-smoked pork in tangy maple barbecue sauce. You can't go wrong with the 1/3 pound Beef Burger (local beef with Cabot cheddar cheese); and for vegetarians, there's a Black Bean Burger, also available with Vermont cheddar. There are sandwiches and paninis of all sort, made on Chubby Muffin bread and holding the best locally-sourced ingredients, from Vermont-cured bacon to basil-sunflower-seed pesto. No matter what else you get, do have cheese curds on the side. These squiggles of dairy goodness are encased in a spicy batter and fried until the cheese within begins to ooze through fissures in a golden-brown crust. I am looking forward to returning on Friday, which is devoted to pizza. Chubby Muffin also makes its own ice cream. It is hardly a mere muffin hut!

The Chubby Muffin also calls itself a coffee house. In the latter category are expertly made lattes, cappucinos and the like, as well as hot cocoa, tea, and smoothies. Among the interesting bottled drinks is a barely-sweet sparkling maple seltzer that goes well with just about anything.

Well-meaning and with an admirable locavore mission, the Chubby Muffin is a likeable place just so long as you aren't in a hurry. Whether the staff actually subscribes to the slow food movement, I don't know. But I did see them preparing food with measured care and expertise in the kitchen, where it seems that no short cuts are taken. Dining facilities consist of a few crowded-together seats in a tiny dining area and a scattering of tables out front on the sidewalk.
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Posted on Sunday, July 12, 2015

Baklava

So sweet and slightly gooey: the essential baklava.
Rate this place Reviews (3) Learn more about Ephesus Mediterranean & Turkish Cuisine...
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