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Posted on Saturday, August 8, 2015

Inspired Combo

Bill Spoon's tangy-sweet mustard slaw perfectly draws forth the elegant and almost evanescent flavor of whole-hog pork.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, August 7, 2015 6:29 AM

Years ago Jane and I came across a roadside tourist attraction with a sign outside that said, "Prepare to be Amazed." I offer the same advice to anyone who goes to Carbone's Market for a grinder (Connecticut's word for a hero or hoagie). These sandwiches are huge. Lengthwise, yes – available as an 8-inch regular, as a Super-Sub, which seems about as long as a healthy newborn baby, and as a family-sized Extra Large, which I hadn't the courage to order. But length is not their most outstanding trait. What's truly amazing is girth. Each torpedo is a half-foot tall with an 18-inch circumference – far too large for any human jaw to encompass. In addition to the main ingredient of choice, which ranges from bologna to veal loaf – piled on in superabundance – all sandwiches come festooned with lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, oil, and spice. Other garnish options include bacon, onions, olives, pickles, and peppers.

I went for the roast beef grinder, which came highly recommended by indefatigable contributor ketteract, who has made it his business to seek out Connecticut's finest and largest grinders. The roast beef, made in house by Tony Renzullo, who's the great-nephew of founder Alphonse Carbone and has been running things here since 1972, is velvet soft and mild flavored. It would not be exciting on its own, but piled high in grinder form and boosted by a hail of pepper and salt and sliced onion and tomato and mayo and peppers, it is a hugely satisfying lode of meat. The bread that holds all these ingredients is sturdy enough. However, as is typical of Connecticut grinders, it is not a memorable loaf.

Grinders star, but Carbone's also has a steam table with hot dishes available. I tried the chili, which a sign warns is HOT; but it is not. It's good northern-style chili with great clods of ground beef and beans in a tomato-red emulsion that is a little bit sweet and just whisperingly peppery.

Carbone's is a neighborhood grocery store, and it seemed to me that just about everyone ordering sandwiches at the counter was a regular customer known to the staff. There is no indoor seating and just a trio of picnic tables along the sides of an adjoining parking area. Grinders are presented firmly swaddled in heavy butcher paper, making it easy to carry them to wherever they'll be eaten. But do not expect to munch one while driving anywhere. They're cut in two pieces, but even half a sandwich is a two-handed proposition, and some sort of drop-cloth is necessary to catch all the ingredients that inevitably tumble out.

In July, 2015, Carbone's Market was sold to new owners, who have promised to keep everything the same. Tony still will be roasting the beef, and the merry crew of sandwich makers behind the counter will remain.
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Posted on Friday, August 7, 2015

Velvet-soft sliced pork pairs magnificently with R.O.'s slaw.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, August 6, 2015 7:07 AM

Believe the name of this restaurant. The salad you eat is grown in a terraced field out back. The fish comes from a co-owner's seafood business, most of it from nearby waters. Describing itself as a "community oriented restaurant where people can meet and enjoy reasonably priced, locally grown food and high quality seafood," Purdys Farmer & the Fish is a casual destination for anyone who appreciates the freshest possible food made with skill and style and served in helter-skelter dining rooms that ring with cheer. Located in an old farmhouse and surrounded by effulgent blossoming plants, it has earned tremendous kudos (and sometimes long waits for a table) since opening in 2012.

On the Roadfood scale, the "reasonably priced" meals are a splurge. Entrees go for $25-30; but you can get a soft-shell crab sandwich or Big Eye tuna burger for under $20. A block of Scottish salmon, perched atop a base of black barley with a subtle sweet twist, along with baby beets, turnips, and carrots, seems worth every penny of its $24 tariff. The impeccably fresh salmon, cooked medium rare as ordered, is velvet-soft except at its well-seasoned, crusty edges – a true melt-in-the-mouth dish. A lobster roll, available either cool with lemon aioli and cucumbers or warm with only butter, contains massive chunks of juicy meat from tail, claw, and knuckle. The bun is a bore, but who cares? The meat is ocean-sweet. On the side come glorious steak fries – great logs of spud that are crisp-skinned and creamy inside.

Among hors d'oeuvre, I was particularly impressed by calamari veiled in an elegant thin crust, each little circle shockingly tender (no rubber here), delivering that subtle seafood taste that even a fish frowner could love. An order of Buffalo shrimp is three breaded colossals on a field of piquant hot sauce scattered with blue cheese, presented with a ramekin of cool ranch dressing. One of the most amazing starters is cucumber salad, an off-the-menu special in which the bright, sunny flavor of just-picked cukes is tangled with other garden greens in a pool of cucumber squeezin's that is like high-proof vegetable liqueur. On the subject of appetizers, a full raw bar menu offers East Coast and West Coast oysters, clams, shrimp or lobster cocktails, crab legs and cornucopic "seafood towers" for two or more people.

There is a nice card of desserts with some wild chocolate creations, but if it's summer, I am going for freshly-picked berries with just-whipped cream – a fitting end to a truly farm-fresh meal.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, August 6, 2015 4:39 AM

Sausage Ring

Smitty’s operates from the building in which Charles Kreuz opened his grocery store over a century ago. That store is what put Lockhart on the map as a destination for superb Texas barbecue. In 1948, Kreuz sold the business to the Schmidt family, who operated it until the mid-1990s, when a family feud split them up and sent the Kreuz Market out to a big new building.

In this old place, customers used to sit at wood counters against the wall, where the only utensil was a knife chained to a post so that everyone could use it to cut their sausage, if desired. The creaky wood counters are no longer in use; and you now dine at long communal tables in a front room that is cool, quiet, and comfortable.

In the back room, logs still smoulder in the old pit, which turns out gorgeous, juice-laden sausage rings, big-flavored brisket, and insanely succulent prime rib. Order food here and it is presented on butcher paper, which you carry up front to one of the tables in the air conditioned dining room. Most people know to eat this meat with their hands. It’s too tender for utensils, and too nice not to touch. Plastic spoons are available (for eating beans) as well as knives for cutting sausage.
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Posted on Thursday, August 6, 2015

Huevos Rancheros

Teresa's version of Huevos Rancheros takes the top prize in our book!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 4:43 AM

This review was written by Roadfood Correspondent Devin Garza, who also took the pictures.

Billy’s is a tried and true neighborhood beer and burger hangout where your get a lot for your dollar. While it features a kid’s menu for “kids of all ages,” the family-friendly atmosphere fades as the sun goes down and the place resumes its activities as a local watering hole. With a continually rotating tap selection, veggie hot dogs, daily food and beer specials, comfortable patio with picnic tables, game room with arcade games, dartboards and a pool table, and plenty of flat screen TVs playing the game, there is something for everyone. And more often than not, you can chat with Billy himself over a cold pint and basket of fried zucchini.

Start off with mouthwatering bone-in Buffalo wings, arguably some of the best in the city, or enjoy them as an entree. The naked wings themselves are large—a basket of ten will satisfy most appetites—and the sauce, ranging from mild to hot, is perfect in its simplicity. It has a dry heat, spicy enough to be exciting, but not uncomfortable; it strikes the right balance of peppery, tangy, and sweet; and the consistency is thick enough to stick to the wing, but it doesn’t distract from the flavor of the meat or end up all over your face and hands (unless you just don’t give a damn, in which case, do your wing thing).

There is a variety of burgers on the menu; most popular is the Uptown Burger, and for good reason. It’s topped with a trifecta of bacon marmalade, avocado, and bleu cheese. These three ingredients rank with such other classic Texas trios as ZZ-Top and the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker: all work together so well precisely because they eschew flash, focusing instead on fundamentals and teamwork.* Not a bleu cheese fan? Try a Basic American Cheeseburger. Can’t decide between a burger and a Frito pie? The El Jefe Burger comes with a Frito pie on it. No matter which burger you choose, you can’t go wrong.

The one sandwich you mustn't miss is the Reuben. Bulging from between slices of rye bread, toasted on a well-seasoned flattop until golden brown, is a hearty pile of corned beef, sauerkraut, and melted Swiss cheese. And of course Thousand Island Dressing, for a Reuben without Thousand Island dressing is no Reuben at all. Served with Ruffles potato chips and a pickle spear, like everything else about Billy’s, the presentation lacks all pretension, but the execution is on the money.

A picnic table on Billy’s patio is where you want to relax on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the game on, the dog at your feet, and the pitcher full.

Notes: A vegetarian menu offers veggie alternatives to many sandwiches and other menu items. Wednesday night is trivia quiz night.
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Posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Rosemary-Lamb Sausage Omelette

Rosemary-lamb sausage, roasted garlic, tomato, spinach, and goat cheese omelette with buttermilk-dill toast and homefried potatoes.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 6:28 AM

Help is on its way. If not at a gallop, then at a brisk pace. As part of the evolution, we have established a help center accesible via email. If you are having usability issues of any sort, drop a note to this address and we will git 'er done:

Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 5:46 AM

This review was written by Roadfood Correspondent Allie Spangler, who also took the pictures.

6th Avenue in Tacoma boasts some of the best restaurants and bars in the area, and locals go to the strip for good food and good vibes. The Red Hot is an inconspicuous hole in the wall with just two small signs on its front windows. It was filled with locals when I took a friend to for dinner on a Tuesday, which turned out to be $3 pint day. Almost every day of the week has some sort of special to get people through the door, as if The Red Hot needed more incentive than its laid back atmosphere, extensive menu, and large selection of local brews.

One of the most creative dogs on the menu is The Hound Dog: a salty hot dog topped with sweet creamy peanut butter and two slices of crisp bacon. Under the description for this dog the menu reads “trust us on this…” And so trust them I did. I was not disappointed – this hot dog is definitely strange, but it has the perfect mixture of salty and sweet and I found myself scarfing it down.

Two other dogs we sampled were our server's favorites: the Tacoma Boys BLT and the Red Hot Frankfurter. Tacoma Boys BLT is topped with mayonnaise, two slices of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and fresh cracked black pepper. It tastes like a traditional BLT, but with the dog adding an additional level of flavor. It ends up being wonderful. The smoked pork shoulder Frankfurter is a mixture of spicy and sweet with sweet hot mustard, sweet relish, and grilled onions.

In addition to hot dogs and sausages, The Red Hot also serves “sidekicks” (BBQ beans, potato salad, Frito pie, etc.) as well as vegan dogs for those who want something a little different. Being a beer-centric place, they are happy to fill up any clean growler you bring in and charge accordingly. (A growler is a beer tote.)

With more than twenty ways of serving dogs and sausages and countless brews on tap, this 21-and-over spot has become one of the most popular local hangouts.
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