Dining out in Middle America

A continuation of our thorough investigation into rampant gluttony in America...

1y ago

On Wednesdays, we go out for dinner

As I may have mentioned, the nearest vegan place is 47 miles away. We do have sushi close by, but besides the fact that my wife hates it, I have a couple of nagging issues with this place: first, it is 2,039 miles from the Pacific Ocean; and perhaps more tellingly, it is more famous for its...burgers.

The venue we chose last night is one of our new go-to favorites, Maria's Pizza in Amboy, IL. It isn't much different from the several dozen other Italian-American restaurants in northern Illinois, but it is delicious and close by. Their pizza is a typically Midwestern thin-crust affair that we order when we visit with friends. Housemade dough is stretched in a machine and formed to a round, then cooked in a 500 degree oven. The crust is a bit crisp but much more tender than the St Louis style pies. I like their sauce. But when we dine alone, we prefer to order their entrees.

The Starter

Dinner plates pictured alongside for comparison

Dinner plates pictured alongside for comparison

Hand cut and battered onion rings. The largest of these Saturnic rings is nearly five inches in diameter. My wife dips hers in ranch dressing. Since these are not hot dogs, I dip mine in ketchup.

The Entrees

I had to pull back a tad to get it all in

I had to pull back a tad to get it all in

From the top: a 9"x5"x3" deep pan of tortellinis in marinara sauce, covered with mozzarella and baked until golden; the whole loaf of Italian bread & butter that accompanied the baked ravs; and their house specialty, the six piece chicken strip dinner with fries and a wee cup of macaroni salad. As if it was needed. The strips are breast meat, between 6 to 8 inches long, originating from exactly one of the Giant Chickens raised in our area. That's a whole topic in itself.

Of course, it's deep fried.

I have to mention the yellowish dipping sauce. This is Jan's Sauce, a local "delicacy" invented 40-some years ago in another rural joint like this one, to accompany their enormous fried chicken dish. Individual restaurants have the right to make their own version of Jan's Sauce. In fact, it is a source of pride to have their own specific tweak. Maria's adds a bit of mustard to theirs, which gives it the yellow hue. The original Jan's Sauce is whiter, because it consists of the following:

Mayonnaise. Powdered Sugar. Vinegar.

Honestly, and yeah this happens every time, we were nearly full after finishing off the onion rings. So we brought 2 1/2 of the strips, half of the fries, half of the bread loaf, and about a third of the ravs home. And the wee cup of macaroni salad, which was unnecessary. The dogs got the fries, and the half chicken strip. The rest looks like today's lunch.

There was no leftover Jan's Sauce.

The Cheque

I easily covered it

I easily covered it

She had a Diet Coke, and I had a Cherry Coke. Of course refills are free.

So almost 30 bucks for a couple of pounds of fried chicken, a loaf of bread, a pan of baked pasta, two Cokes, and a wee cup of macaroni salad. I ran this through my iPhone currency exchanger, and this came out to...carry the nine...four pounds six.

The Takeaway...

Our thanks, as always, to the fine folks at Maria's. It's good value, even relative to the surrounding casual dining area. The gist of the story is that fast casual dining options abound in the States, even if you live in the sticks. If you stick to "locally" sourced items, which in our case is beef, pork, chicken, and deep fried breading, restaurant owners deliver a sh*t-ton of food to its customers for a small amount of money. Not everyone here eats out once a week. Some eat out nearly every night.

Next time...Burgers I have eaten in America. Sure to be a hit!

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Comments (5)

  • That meal might be a bit cheaper up here in WI, our ‘italian’ places have pretty big sizes as well for not a lot of $$

      1 year ago
  • just like in the super tramp song

      1 year ago