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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, September 26, 2014 5:32 AM

Rich and Chris Decker took over the Igloo in 2010 from the Mazzorana family, who started it in 1937, and they have vowed to keep it as its always been: the town's favorite destination diner for burgers and chili, tenderloins and brats, hand-cut French fries and from-scratch shakes and malts. Nearly everyone here is a regular customer. One veteran waitress gives me a motherly smile when I sit at the counter, telling me I look just like good old Dr. Schott, who recently died and who was a big fan of Igloo chili.

After only a few minutes in this place, it is apparent that both Rich and Chris relish their role as owner, host, ringmaster. When one waitress starts needling Chris about spending too much time kibbitzing with the clientele and not enough running the diner, he turns away from her and announces loud enough for all around to hear: "This is my back. And this is you off it!"

Order a tenderloin (here known simply as "a pork") and its standard complements are onion, pickle, and – are you ready? – ketchup. At first I was skeptical, considering mustard to be the de rigueur condiment, but I very much enjoyed the interplay of sweet and tangy. The loin itself is wavy, crisp, and quite thin, with enough meat to be juicy once you crunch through the crust.

Root beer is served in a frosty mug, but if you like milk shakes, that's the drink to get. "I guarantee that this is the best chocolate malt I have made all day," says Chris Decker when I order one at 11:30am. I reassure him that it is the best one I've drunk all day. In fact, it was the best I drank during a weeklong trip through the Illinois River Valley.
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Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014

Lamb Sausage

The lamb sausage is made from lamb raised by a local woman.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, September 25, 2014 4:50 AM

Carla Hall, host of TV's "The Chew," hails from Nashville, so she knows a thing or two about fried chicken, HOT fried chicken in particular. Carla recently began a crowdfunding project to open Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen restaurant in New York with a menu that offers hot chicken in increments from "sweet heat" to "firestarter." Backers are invited to contribute anything from one dollar, which earns voting rights on upcoming decisions, to ten thousand dollars, which not only gets your name on the founders' wall but also includes Carla and her crew coming to your house for the day to cook and entertain a party of 10. For details, check out Carla's website.

Roadfood of the Day: Demetri's BBQ - Homewood, AL
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014

Homemade Pie

This was maybe the densest and fudgiest chocolate cream pie I have ever encountered.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 5:04 AM

I’m not sure if the name of this restaurant is Cuban Sandwiches or Cuban Sandwiches To Go, which is what the sign outside says. Much business is take-out, and there is no dining room other than a few tables on a patio overlooking the parking lot. Service is eat-in-the-rough style: Order food and pay for it at one window, then receive it at an adjoining one. Expect to wait a while.

“We are not a FAST food franchise,” advises a sign in the window. “Our Cuban sandwiches are made fresh to order then grilled (slowly) to perfection.” This Cubano is, for sure, a beauty, masterfully assembled and toasted long enough for the outside of the bread to become sensuously brittle. It is then cut on a rakish diagonal from end to end, making the sandwich into two long-legged triangles.

Inside is thinly sliced pork with a good roasted flavor and enough fat to be appealingly unctuous. There is sheaf of salty pink ham and a layer of Swiss cheese that has been warmed enough to be ultrasoft but not quite molten. And, of course, there are pickle chips and mustard. Despite its compression in the plancha, you need to hold the sandwich gingerly, lest mustard lube the ingredients enough that they begin to slide out when pressure is applied.

I look forward to future visits when I can sample this little eatery’s variations on the theme: a media noche, which is a Cuban on sweet bread; a roast pork sandwich (basically a Cuban without the ham), and an intriguing item listed as a Cuban tradition, the pan con timba: guava and cream cheese on sweet bread.

Available drinks include Cuban coffee, Latin sodas, and tropical shakes made with mango, papaya, or mamey.
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Roadfood of the Day: Tim's Pizza - Independence, MO
Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Tim's pizza with pepperoni and meatballs.
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Newsletter: Charlotte, Ho!
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 7:15 AM
Queen City, Here We Come

The Roadfood trip to Charlotte & beyond (October 17-18) has been sold out for a while, but one traveler who bought two tickets is unable to come, so there are now two available spots for anyone who wants to join us as we eat our way through some of the nation's best fried chicken, BBQ, fish fries, and more. The tickets can be purchased here. [READ MORE]

No Gluten, No Yeast, No Problem!

While getting my chocolate fix at Bridgewater Chocolate in Brookfield, Connecticut, I got into a conversation about local restaurants, during which someone said that Mama's Cheese Bread Factory (just around the corner) made the best sandwiches for miles around. I was super-skeptical, given that Mama's breads are yeast-free and gluten free, but after a couple of bites of the punta cana sandwich pictured above (shredded chicken, raisins, carrots, lettuce, mayo, and crunchy little potato sticks), I became a believer. The bread is chewy, flavorful, and hugely satisfying. I can't wait to try it in a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. (Mama's opens at 7am.) [READ MORE]

Give Us This Day Our Daily Pizza

Ever since attending a pizza making class/party at Steve Rushmore's house, I have become a pizza making fool. Led by Mark and Jen Bello of Pizza A Casa Pizza School in New York, the evening made home pizza a snap -- so easy and fun that my home oven is turned up to 550 three or four times every week. Mark said that some people have figured out how to put their oven in self-cleaning mode and thereby bake their pizzas at 700-800 degrees -- a trick I don't intend to use, since even 550 frequently sets off the smoke alarms around here.

Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 4:39 AM

Chicken Biscuits

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen is a kitchen and little more. There are no dining accommodations whatsoever. Service is drive-through, and there's not much available parking nearby if you need a place to eat. All that is OK with me, because the biscuits are superb. They are extra large with fluffy insides that radiate a rich buttermilk character. The kitchen splits them into halves and loads in such items as bacon and eggs, sausage, and country ham. That ham – rank and salty with plenty of chew – is a well-nigh perfect match for the creamy biscuit, especially when sided with a tall, icy cup of sweet tea.

We also loved the pork tenderloin biscuit and the chicken biscuit, the latter a luxurious pillow of expertly fried white-meat chicken with a golden crust and insides moist enough to flavor the biscuit once that crust is severed.

For an on-the-go breakfast, this humble little shop cannot be beat. The menu also lists sandwiches, hamburgers, and hot dogs. I can't imagine coming here and not wanting a biscuit.
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Roadfood of the Day: Chez Piggy - Kingston, ON, XX
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shrimp, Garlic, Pepper

The shrimp were good, the garlic oil was great.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, September 22, 2014 5:42 AM

Skyline Drive, the 105-mile two-lane that threads through Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, offers boundless opportunities to hike, camp, bird-watch, and horseback ride in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is possible to eat well at a National Park Service oasis along the limited-access road – try the Smithfield Ham Monte Cristo or the roast turkey with cornbread stuffing at Big Meadows Lodge at mile 51.2 – but when big appetite beckons, we head for one of the four entry/exit points and drive into the countryside for great Old Dominion eating

Just off Highway 66 and ten minutes from the Front Royal terminus of the drive, The Apple House has been a landmark stop since the 1960s. If ever you doubted that Virginia is serious apple country, a visit to this little place is sure to clear things up. It's not fancy; in fact, for many regular travelers it isn't a restaurant at all, but rather a place to stock up on crunch-skinned apple butter donuts plastered with sugar. These are four-star donuts, radiant with fruit flavor and all the luxury of fried dough. They are modest-sized and easy to eat by twos and threes – a great, albeit rather messy car snack as well as coffee's best friend.

You can eat on premises, and the vittles are good. Breakfast, served all day, includes a typical roster of eggs and flapjacks; and the pork barbecue available at lunch is hickory smoked and satisfying. There are soups and salads and specialty sandwiches that range from BLTs to one-pound hamburgers. If you do have a meal here, save room for dessert. The next best things on the menu, after the apple-butter donut, are the apple fritter – sugar-glazed and chockful of fruit – and the baked apple dumpling with a caramel glaze.
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