Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Author: Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle (page 1 of 55)

Walter’s Hot Dogs, Mamaroneck NY

REVIEW

More than one hot-dog-loving food writer has proclaimed Walter’s Hot Dogs as the source of America’s finest hot dogs. While that assessment is certainly open to debate, less debatable is the assertion that Walter’s is America’s finest hot dog stand. For sure, there is none other even remotely similar to the early 1900s weathered-green copper-crowned pagoda building with lanterns at each corner. It’s a beauty, alright, and it’s been declared a national landmark to boot. Continue reading

Checking In at: Greasy Nick’s, New Rochelle NY

What a massive blunder! Greasy Nick’s somehow neglected to renew their liquor license! How could that have happened? Cheap beer is so intrinsic to the Greasy Nick’s experience that there’s barely a reason for the clam bar’s existence without it. We showed up early on a Friday evening and found the joint almost empty. Our waiter confirmed that business has been way down. We hear efforts to correct the situation are underway but will take some time. We’d learned about the beer situation before heading up, so we arrived with Playmate cooler in hand, loaded with Genny Cream and Budweiser (microbrews and Nick’s just don’t mix). Continue reading

Sharkey’s, Binghamton NY

REVIEW

Sharkey’s is the spiritual home of the spiedie, a Binghamton-only shish kebab cousin with an Italian-American genealogy. The word spiedie is said to come from an Italian word for the skewer upon which meat is cooked, or perhaps the meat on that skewer. In Binghamton, that meat was originally lamb but it’s been decades since anyone has seen a lamb spiedie around here. Pork had become traditional until the last decade or two, when chicken has overtaken it to become the spiedie of choice (much as chicken has elbowed other meats aside all over the country, so that chicken cheesesteaks and chicken-topped pizzas are not uncommon – this is a development that irritates us no end). Continue reading

Phil’s Chicken House, West Corners NY

REVIEW

It’s all about the bird at Phil’s Chicken House. True, Phil’s has a wide-ranging menu, and in our experience, plenty of folks order things like beef tips, grilled ham, or baked fish, and they evidently enjoy those meals very much. Phil’s is usually packed at normal mealtimes. Phil also offers bounteous daily buffets. Nonetheless, in our experience, which spans over 40 years of dining at Phil’s, it’s all about the bird. Continue reading

NYSEG Stadium, Binghamton NY

REVIEW

Minor league baseball stadiums, like NYSEG Stadium, home to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, AA affiliate of the New York Mets, haven’t gone all-in on the current major league trend of offering local food specialties at their concession stands. For sure, at the big league level, it can sometimes seem as if the fans are more interested in the food than the ballgame. In the boonies, hot dogs and beer are still more the rule, but regional food or, at the very least, extreme food, is finding its way onto the menus more and more in places like Charleston and Louisville and Fort Myers. Continue reading

St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church, Utica NY

REVIEW

Here’s one important lesson to keep in mind when searching for superior local food: keep your eyes, ears, and, especially, nose on the lookout for anything edible that catches your senses’ attention. Don’t depend exclusively on scouring the internet, following the Yelp and Tripadvisor lists for all your meals. At least, not if you want to find the really interesting stuff. Continue reading

Oneida County Public Market, Utica NY

REVIEW

The USDA has classified a portion of downtown Utica as a food desert, which means the residents have low access to fresh food. The Oneida County Public Market was established, in part, to help address that situation. Located outside the historic 1914 Union Station (and inside the station during the cold months), OCPM is a year-round, Saturday morning operation. Continue reading

Pete’s Hot Dogs Inc., Newburgh NY

REVIEW

First of all, let’s ask the important question: Do you like hot dogs? We ask because, if you don’t, there’s no point in reading any further. Pete’s sells hot dogs, and only hot dogs. Oh, there are toppings to choose from and, of course, they also offer drinks. You can even nab some packaged chips or cookies if you must. But Pete’s is about the tube steak, fast and hot. They want you in and out. And they’ll get no complaints from us. Continue reading

Land-Grant Brewing Company, Columbus OH

REVIEW

We made a pit stop in Columbus, Ohio during our day-long drive from Pennsylvania to Cincinnati, just long enough to enjoy a pair of beers outside on the warm and sunny patio at Land-Grant Brewing. The clear, deep brown Son of a Mudder was more refreshing than a typical brown ale, probably due to the slightly elevated hop level. The toasty brown flavors were not overstated, making it quite drinkable for even a dark ale-frowner like Sue, although she enjoyed a Kölsch-style ale that is perfect on a hot, sunny afternoon such as this. Continue reading

American Legion Post 1 Restaurant, Wheeling WV

REVIEW

Have you served at least one day of active American military service during wartime? No? Not a problem! You can still join the American Legion for a meal, at Wheeling Post 1, said to be the oldest American Legion post in the U.S. Step inside and you find yourself in what appears to be a bar with a few tables to the right. We arrived a bit late for lunch on a Saturday. The bar was well-attended but we were the only dining customers. Continue reading

Schwalm’s Cleona Restaurant, Cleona PA

REVIEW

Good country cooking is becoming ever more scarce in eastern Pennsylvania Amish country. We keep searching but the results have been lukewarm at best. Schwalm’s feels right but, based on a first visit, we’re just not yet convinced. There were decent things to eat (in a couple of cases, more than decent), but most of what we tried, while all perfectly edible, was simply standard issue luncheonette food. Continue reading

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, Dover-Foxcroft ME, June 25th 2016

Is the whoopie pie an Amish original or did New England bakers first devise the sweet snack? That debate will never end but, either way, it seems to have made its first appearance in the 1920s. What is a whoopie pie? Classically, it’s two chocolate cake discs about the size and shape of the top half of a hamburger bun sandwiching a sweet, creamy white filling. These days you can find whoopie pies in dozens of cake and filling flavor permutations — gingerbread? blueberry? candy cane? — and sometimes they’re even gussied up with real, dairy-based fillings. Call us Luddites but we cling to the original chocolate version the way our fingers cling to the whoopie’s sticky chocolate cake. Continue reading

Gary Bimonte of Pepe’s Pizza in The VIP Lounge

The VIP Lounge is a weekly Boston Globe interview of a usually D-list celebrity with some passing connection to Boston. The same eight travel-themed questions are asked of each interviewee — Aisle or window? Guilty pleasure when traveling? This week the VIP is Gary Bimonte, one of seven grandchildren of Frank Pepe, founder of the greatest pizzeria in the country, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT. There are now eight Pepe’s pizzeria’s in the northeast, the most recent of which opened, very successfully, in Chestnut Hill mall in Boston. Mr. Bimonte is manager of quality control, popping around to the eight restaurants to ensure the pies are up to New Haven standards. Check out his VIP Lounge interview here.

The Big 3 (or 4) of Lockhart: A Day of Texas BBQ

American barbecue is highly regional. True, barbecue has exploded across the country over the past decade and, when you venture beyond the traditional barbecue regions of America, the cuisine becomes a gallimaufry of styles. And that’s fine, especially since the regions identified by a particular style continue to hew to their traditions. Sure, it’s possible to find smoked brisket in North Carolina and pulled pork in Texas, but you’re far more likely to enjoy yourself if you sample the chopped whole hog pig in The Tar Heel State and get all greasy with smoked brisket and muscular beef sausage in The Lone Star State. Continue reading

PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, Emerson AR, June 25th 2016

Purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, crowder peas — they’re all types of cow peas, also known as southern peas. The pea pod of purple hull peas is, guess what, purple. All of these peas are thought to have arrived in America with African slaves. Although Africans liked to eat the peas, white Americans used them as a forage crop, hence the name cow peas. Eventually, the entire American south was won over by the taste of these cow peas. Emerson (population 368), Arkansas’ PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is an homage to this signature food of the South. Continue reading

Graeter’s Coming to Pittsburgh, Cleveland This Summer

The first Pittsburgh-area and Cleveland-area Graeter’s scoop shops will be open sometime this summer. The Pittsburgh store will be located at 10610 Perry Highway, in the north suburban community of Wexford, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh. The address of the Cleveland store is 261 Main Street, in the city of Westlake, about 25 minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Word is they’re also opening a second Chicago scoop shop this summer. Tomorrow, June 17th, an 11th Columbus, OH area Graeter’s will open, debuting a new store design and updated Graeter’s branding. Yep, Graeter’s is on the move!

5 Dishes to Try at DC’s Whaley’s

The cousins Wiseman, men behind the hot, artisan Jewish deli (hot artisan Jewish deli?!) DGS Delicatessen of Washington, D.C., have turned their attentions to seafood with their month-old Whaley’s, a raw bar in the Washington Navy Yard, facing the Anacostia River, near Nationals Park. Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post has given the restaurant his imprimatur, particularly praising the small plates and raw bar offerings (as well as the soft-shell crab entree). Rina Rapuano, writing for Zagat, identifies five must-try dishes at Whaley’s, highlighting some of the very same dishes as Mr. Sietsema, including those tempura-battered soft-shell crabs, a plate of clams casino where chorizo replaces the bacon, and some shrimp-stuffed fried squash blossoms. Continue reading

Cheese Curd Festival, Ellsworth WI, June 24th and 25th 2016

Ellsworth is the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, so it’s only natural that they would be the home of the annual Cheese Curd Festival. It happens this year on Friday and Saturday, June 24th and 25th, at Ellsworth’s East End Park. What are cheese curds? When rennet is added to milk to make cheese, the milk separates into curds and whey. The whey is drained off, leaving curds, which are pressed into blocks or wheels to start the cheddar cheese process. If you don’t press them into cheddar, you’ve got bite-size nuggets of fresh cheese without any of the bite of aged cheese, boasting fresh dairy flavors and salt, mostly. Their most famous characteristic? They squeak between the teeth when you eat ’em! Continue reading

Boomshakalaka!

Cayenne, Habanero, ghost peppers, and Reaper peppers — they all work together to give Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen‘s Boomshakalaka Nashville chicken its top-of-the-line jolt. Not a masochist? She’s got six levels of heat to choose from, all the way down to no heat at all (Southern-style). They’ve been operating in soft-open mode for the last couple of weeks but the big day is tomorrow, Friday, June 17th: the grand opening of Carla Hall’s culinary ode to Nashville hot chicken. Continue reading

Best Places to Eat in the Midwest

This comes from Dan Kaercher, the founding editor of Midwest Living magazine — his favorite places to eat in the Midwest. He once took an 8,000-mile, 44-day, six-meal-a-day eating tour of the Midwest for Iowa Public Television, so he’s probably better qualified than most to speak authoritatively on the matter. Among his favorites: the Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, IA, home of Dutch letters, Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City, where he enjoyed a chocolate shake with a slice of chocolate praline pecan bourbon pie blended in (!), The Bohemian Cafe of Omaha, soon to close permanently, and the spectacular fish boils at The White Gull Inn in Door County, WI. See the complete story here.

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