Saturday, March 7, 2009

Backtime Guest Columnist: Turtle's Taste of the Town

This is a response to Fran Fraschilla's Top 5 "Franchise" restaurant chains.

These are the places Fran would only go if he a) needed to use the restroom or b) conveniently forgot his wallet while out with the group.

Without further ado, the best "one-of-a-kind" places to eat in the Big 12:

By Anthony DeVita

1. Hullabaloo Diner - College Station, TX

This is as old school as it gets...But when you try and bring a bunch of hungry people there on your lunch hour, make absolutely certain it's open. (Closed Monday & Tuesday) There's no beating the Roman Sausage Sandwich, topped with peppers, onions and smoked provolone cheese with a red marinara sauce on the side (which is key for me...Nothing is more disappointing than soggy bread). And if you walk in and see the Italian Pork Sandwich on the specials board, do yourself a favor and order it...It's the best you'll find outside of Tony Luke's in Philly.

2. Magnolia Cafe - Austin, TX

This is the kind of breakfast I wish I could have everyday. The omelets are big and fluffy (I had the Popeye - Spinach, bacon, red onion, cheese and topped with a bit of sour cream) Homefries are a big favorite of mine and they do it right here...Kept on the flattop grill until a nice crust forms on the outside. But the real stars here are the pancakes...Your options: Buttermilk, Whole Wheat, Cornmeal or...Gingerbread -which are amazing, like biting into a big warm buttered cookie.

3. Adriana's Deli - St. Louis, MO

*Not technically a Big 12 town, but you have to land somewhere on the way to Columbia.

The Hill in St. Louis is an Italian neighborhood that feels like what I imagine Brooklyn in the 1950's to have felt like. I just picture games of stickball and block parties clogging up the streets when the weather gets warm. And right down Shaw Street is a lunch only gem called Adriana's. When you first walk in the first thing that hits you, besides the fact that there is not an open chair to be had, is the smell. Authentic Italian. The list of sandwich combos are endless but all the usual suspects are represented. All of it served on their house baked bread, which makes all the difference.

4. Gian-Tony's - St. Louis, MO

Once you've put away the lunch at Adriana's, it's time to start thinking dinner, and on the Hill, you've got a lot of choices. The locals favor Gian-Tony's and it's easy to see why. Again, this place has the feeling of old New York about it. I had to look around to make sure Michael Corleone, the Police Captain and Sollozzo weren't dining at a nearby table. The Baked Ziti has something special about it, like grandma is in the back cooking just for you. And if you're going to have a successful Italian joint, the meatballs better be good, and Gian-Tony's have obviously served a few in their day.

5. Mama's 39th Street Diner- Kansas City, MO

Another classic diner on the outskirts of Kansas City. The name refers to its former location on 39th Street which had to be ditched for a larger, more accommodating location on Waddell Street a few blocks away. Again, breakfast is king here. You have about 80 omelet combos to choose from. And if they're all as good as the corned beef/bacon/cheddar, you'll be one happy diner. And any place that puts Frank's Hot Sauce in a traditional ketchup bottle right at the table is always going to hold a special place in my heart.

6th Man Award - Bleu - Columbia, MO

Try the Shrimp Cobb Salad...It's good all week.

While I've found many great places in my travel through the cities of the Big 12, you'll notice there is not one mention of BBQ. And I LOVE BBQ. And maybe it's because I haven't hit the right place yet, but overall my Big 12 BBQ experience has been moderately good at best. No one place stands out as being anything extraordinary. Maybe I just need another year of...research.

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