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Al's Place

13936 Main St., Locke, CA - (916) 776-1800
Posted By Michael Stern on July 1, 2002 2:32 AM
Al’s Place, known to legions of fans by its proper, albeit politically incorrect name, Al the Wop, is a fabulous destination for travelers in search of culinary color. It is located on the main street of Locke, a forgotten little town in the Sacramento Delta, originally built by and for Chinese Californians. Once famous as an anything-goes enclave of vice, Locke is ghostly today, with few Chinese left; but its weathered wood-frame main street remains a magical sight; and in the middle of it is Al’s Place, thriving since 1934.

A while ago we heard from Patti Spezia, whose father was a good friend of Al Adami, the man who started the place. Patti wrote to say that Al's place began because another member of the Adami family had been convicted of bootlegging; but Al took the rap and served the jail time himself. When he got out of prison, the family rewarded him with a stake to start Al's Place in what had been Lee Bing’s chop suey joint. Al's was the only non-Chinese restaurant in town, and there was no menu. Mr. Adami asked you how you liked your steak, which was the only thing to eat amidst the slot machines and card tables in the Tong Dining Room behind the front-room bar.

According to Patti Spezia, one day her father Vic brought jars of peanut butter and marmalade into the restaurant and asked Al for some toast to spread it on. Al liked the idea, and started putting peanut butter and marmalade on every table. Current proprietor Stephen Gianetti suggested we use the peanut butter and jelly on the bread, although he says some customers actually spread it on their steak!

The menu remains simple, now including hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and steak sandwiches in addition to steak. Steak is our choice, but we must say that the burgers are wonderful – thick and juicy, served between thick slices of grilled-crisp Italian bread with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, and olives on the side. The steak sandwich is, in fact, not a sandwich, but a sandwich-size steak on a platter accompanied by a second plate of toasted pieces of the good Italian bread. Horseradish or a little dish of minced garlic are available to spread on the meat.

Be sure to look upward in the bar room at the front of Al’s. The ceiling is plastered with dollar bills. And if you wonder how they got there, ask the bartender. It will cost you a buck to find out, but it’s well worth it!
5 star rating
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Posted By Otis on March 30, 2011 11:38 AM
I haven't been in Al's since the mid 80s. I'll make the trip from Portland, Oregon soon. My softail will love to get me there. From the pics I see they have changed things some, so I better go check 'em out again. They have added to the menu as well. Can't wait.
5 star rating
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steak

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Posted By Samuel Shor on September 5, 2009 10:07 PM
The address is a bit iffy: I think the town is actually Locke but either way, if you blink you’ll drive right by. This is probably the smallest town I’ve ever been to; apparently there are “between 80–90 people” who live in Locke. Al’s is located just off the main road, down the hill. It’s known by either Al’s Place or Al the Wops. I believe they open at 11 am for lunch but when I asked they said that was when they began serving food, but they open whenever the locals knock down the door, sometimes 7 am. They have a full bar and by 11 in the morning there are quite a few locals saddled up to it.

They’re known for a few things here: steak, burgers, and peanut butter and marmalade. I had a cheeseburger and I’ll say it was excellent. It was cooked perfectly, with the right amount of all toppings and condiments. The “bun,” more like buttered toast from the griddle, was wonderful. The fries were fantastic too. I didn’t try the steak but it was highly recommended by several people.

You’ve got to try the peanut butter and marmalade on toast. It’s worth driving there solely for that. They griddle the toast just as they do for the burger "bun." It comes nice and hot; slather it with the PB and marmalade. You’d think you’ve had enough PB & J sandwiches before but, until you’ve had this, you haven’t.

The co-owner/barkeep was extremely friendly and accommodating. He was joking and jabbing the whole time. His “mother” (still not quite sure if that's factual) was the cook and she was just as pleasant. They had a nice banter between the two of them. If you’re ever within 100 miles of Locke/Walnut Grove be sure to make the trip here.
5 star rating
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peanut butter
hamburger

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