A few regional notes for the group.
Ritz' Little Fryer, Springfield IL
(2 Locations, Jefferson St Downtown, North Grand Ave East, North End) Springfield is proud of it's many locally owned establishments and Ritz' is a favorite for breakfast and horseshoes. It is a clean family run place with big portions and low prices that has been a local fixture for years. Coffee is good with attentive refills, and the food was as follows:
EGGS perfectly cooked to order
HASH BROWNS/AMERICAN FRIES both prepared the same way, fried on the grill, good flavor and huge portions (your humble reviewer could not eat them all).
BACON/SAUSAGE LINKS good diner quality and both selections include four pieces.
BISCUITS & GRAVY The gravy was fair, with decent sausage content but just not that good. The biscuits seemed to be some sort of pillsbury rolls from a can, not biscuits. I have certainly had worse, but bear in mind the B&G is not exactly a house specialty.
An up side here is the price. My special was 2 eggs, 4 pc bacon or sausage, potatoes, and a 1/2 (side) order of biscuits and gravy for $4.25. Steak and eggs is only about $5.25. And if one comes for lunch one can get the famous Springfield horseshoe starting at about $5.00. The Ritz horseshoe is one of the best in town, with huge mounds of crinkle cut fries and a white cheese sauce that IS a specialty of the house.
TIPS They are only open until 2PM, and if you are a non smoker the downtown location is smoke free. For smokers, the north location is a smoking haven, but the ventilation is better than average.
Trattoria Branica, Frontenac MO
OK, we were in suburban St Louis and scheduling precluded a trip to the famous "Hill" neighborhood, but this looked like a good bet for good Italian and it was (although not exactly roadfood). The restaurant's reputation was for good Italian in an upscale atmosphere but with moderate prices. The owner (who we recognized from the website) was ever present, as is nice in such a place, and the large staff was extremely attentive. The location is sort of remodeled 1980's upscale suburban, but that was OK with us--the tables were not crammed in, and pleasant, quiet conversation was possible. Everything was spotless and, again, the staff and owner were everywhere tending to details. The entrees did not include salads or soups, but the portions were large enough as is. Our first basket of bread was sort of store bought rolls (but butter pats on a plate were also served) but subsequent baskets had a good sampling of crusty bread and rolls. Entrees were nicely presented, and we had:
RISOTTO PESCATORE shrimp, scallops, mussells and fish in rice with a tomato sauce, it was very good and so large that, again, your XL size reviewer could not finish it all.
VEAL RAVIOLI Very good
RIB EYE STEAK absolutely delicious, cooked perfectly, mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side.
The rib eve was the most expensive item on the menu at $21.95, the other dishes were in the $15 range. IMO-A nice place very well run by people who care about their food and reputation.
Fitzs Root Beer, University City MO
Apparently Fitzs was a St Louis root beer drive in during the 1960s and closed down, but has been reborn as a very popular sort of campus town root beer brewpub. The root beer is said to be produced in house with real cane sugar rather than corn syrup. We went for the house specialty root beer float ($3.99) which could also be had in a tempting alternative with their own orange cream soda. An unusual twist is the frosty root beer mug is filled with root beer first and the ice cream scooped to sit on top of the mug, like an ice cream cone. My first mental response was "how do you eat the root beer and ice cream evenly?" but it is served with a straw for the underlying root beer and I observed that their way actually gives you more ice cream AND root beer than the conventional way. A delicious treat! More to come.....Todd