ALLEN BROS—Westminster, Vermont—By Justin Grimbol

DSC05278From the outside, Allen Bros looks like its nothing more than a large gas station. But it has much more going  on inside. There are snack galore and meats, good meats, from local farms. There are also farm fresh eggs and fancy microbrew beers. Cider donuts. Cider slushies. Maple syrup in large mason jars. Stoned teenagers wearing camo work the deli, selling decent pizza and fried chicken and stuff like that. Okay, they might not be stoned, but when I see teenagers I like to imagine they are all stoned. Anyway, sometimes they make pulled pork cubano sandwiches which are so good they make you want to cry in public. Cry and thank the day for being so lovely and offering this world such affordable and tasty sandwiches.

I love this place. They have a small cafeteria are where I like to eat my sandwiches.

Once this old guy saw me eating a sandwich.

“Its good, isn’t it?” he said.

“Its downright delicious,” I said.

“They make a good sandwich here.”

“I had such a shitty day. Then i ate this sandwich. Now im happy.”

“Me too.”

“Its so good.”

“Its incredible.”

“I love it.”

“I love it too.”

“Its the best.”

“Seriously amazing stuff.”

“SO good.”

And we went on and on like that until his wife asked him to stop.

And I’m just saying, it was a really, really, really good sandwich.

RAMUNTOS—Brattleboro, VT—by Justin Grimbol

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One Valentines day, my wife and I had a brutal fight. And we were able to yell as loud as we wanted, because we were all alone in this cabin in the middle of nowhere Vermont. Then we forgave each other with fancy pizza slices from Ramuntos in Brattleboro. They make a good pizza there. Almost as good as the pizza in New York. And that is not easy for me to say. I’m from Long Island, where the pizza is merciless

FATHER’S—Bellows Falls, VT—by Justin Grimbol

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The creek near our cabin is frozen over. But I can still see water moving under the ice in some parts. And at night, my dog kicks me in the face. Then she leans on me and chews her butt for a while. It’s hard to sleep. Marital fights happen.
Also, the old men at Father’s restaurant love to laugh at the weathermen on the TV.
“Look at that guy holding the shovel,” one guy says. “He looks so confused. Maybe he doesn’t know what the shovel is. Maybe he think it’s a spoon or something.”
“All he wants is a big bowl of Lucky Charms,” another guy says. “But he doesn’t want to get fat. Those weather people gotta stay skinny, like super models.”

AUTHORS EAT—FEATURING MICHAEL ALLEN ROSE

 

10690141_10153200594570101_6463462364297918052_nMichael Allen Rose is the author of Hard Boiled Americans and Embry. He is a great showman. His novels are great on their own, but to get the full experience you have to see him perform. Its high energy and deeply bizarro and fun loving.

Lets see what the strange man likes to eat.

You live in Chicago. I heard there is food there. Can you tell us about some good places to eat? Maybe some strange, creepy places too.

Chicago has the distinction of being a huge multi-cultural Metropolis like New York or L.A. while at the same time having that classic fat n’ happy Midwestern love of food, so there’s an endless variety of chow to be found here. We’re mostly known for our pizza and hot dogs, I think? But honestly this is such a great burger town. There’s one place I like a lot called Lockdown, and they’re basically a burger joint with a prison theme and also a heavy-metal theme at the same time. You can go in there and order burgers like the “Punk Bitch,” the “Arson” and the “Cruelty to Animals” while they blast Slayer concerts on the surrounding screens. The atmosphere is loud and crazy, but the food is amazing. They have one burger that’s this huge patty stuffed full of molten hot cheddar and other stuff. You leave that place and you can barely roll out the door, but it’s so satisfying.

There are a lot of weird little diners and dives in this town. You can’t walk a block without hitting a place that’s slinging Italian Beef or sausages or something.  Some of the ethnically concentrated neighborhoods are the bomb. Sometimes you walk into this little, crazy family owned place and the food is amazing, even if the atmosphere is kind of surreal. There was this awesome Middle-Eastern place that used to be on Chicago Ave where all the food was based on “mom’s old recipes” from the old country. She was there most of the time, and would sometimes just show up at your table and sit down and ask how the lentil soup was and stuff. One of my favorite Indian restaurants in town that is no longer open was the same way, where the family ran the place. I went there often enough back in the day where they would recognize me and usually my friends or family would get treated like their friends and family. I love places like that.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

That’s almost impossible to answer, given the sheer number of places in Chicago to feed. In addition to the above places, there are cool joints like Tweet, which is a brunch place in Uptown attached to a popular gay bar, or Piece which is a groovy Wicker Park pizza joint, or for that matter Coalfire, over on Grand Ave, both of  which specialize in those super awesome fire blasted thin bubbly magic pizzas. Then there’s Bakin and Eggs, which is a brunch place with an actual bacon “flight.” They have five kinds. It’s badass. Come visit me and we’ll eat our way around the city until we’re fat and warm and happy, then we’ll nap in the park.

Tell us about your novel, Embry, how it came into existence. And has it affected the way you view omelets?

Embry: Hard Boiled is about a chicken detective who finds himself framed for a murder he didn’t commit. He lives in a society of eggs, and one of the important ones has been scrambled, boiled and chopped. It’s definitely a noir detective story, but there are lots of stupid, fun egg and chicken puns and gags throughout the book.

I don’t know if it changed my views on eggs or chickens really. More like what I already knew imprinted itself on the book, and anyone who reads it is going to think twice before they bite into a nugget of what might have been a femme fatale with a heart of gold. There are also some bits about fake meat “chick’n” in the book, which amounts to a group of incredibly dangerous synthetic attack monsters that the egg cops use to track down fowl that have gone astray. It’s a good time for everyone.

What was your favorite food when you were young?

Cheese. Grilled cheese. Snacking cheese. Cheese on pizza. Cheese on burgers. Cheese on tacos. Cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese. Still applies.

I was a super picky kid. I hated vegetables, and didn’t really like meat very much either, honestly. I didn’t like gooey, slimy, saucy foods much either. Cheese and carbs were my mainstays, and they kind of still are, although I’ve expanded my palate a lot since then.

How has your taste in food changed over time?

It’s gotten more diverse for sure. Nowadays, although I still love cheese and starches more than just about anything else, I’ll try just about anything at least once, if I think there’s even a remote chance I’ll appreciate it. I’ve tried octopus, alligator, snails and even… ugh… Brussels sprouts.  In the end though, give me a nice spicy Cajun style hamburger slathered in habanero jack cheese and crispy bacon, or a straight up high quality pepperoni pizza, and we’ll probably be friends forever.

 

TU CASAS—Portland, Maine—By Justin Grimbol

13332759_10154118733417088_3197656359477031798_n (1)Most of the restaurants in Portland Maine are obnoxiously hip and fancy. But there is this one restaurant there called Tu Casas and it has the worst service and it is a little dingy, but the food is delicious and affordable and the fried plantains are so good they will make you cry out in a ways that sounds sexual.

Still, the service is unbelievably bad. Never forget that. I mean, it will take them a while to take your order then even longer to bring your food and your waiter or waitress will not be friendly about it.

I used to love calling the place. The phone would ring for a long time.  Then finally a teenager would pick up.

“Yes,” he would say.15350684_10209626980124777_385718486442341543_n

“Is this Tu Casas?”

“Uhhuh.”

Long silence.

“Can I order something?”

No reply. Maybe a grunt.11196302_10204072815957259_826161849677360476_n

I’d order a beef burrito usually.

“Alright,” the kid would say.

More silence.  Monk-like silence.

“When will it be ready?” I’d ask.

“Soon.”

And that would be a lie. I’d wait an hour, then pick up my burrito and usually it there even though I had ordered it to go.

 

BOWLING ALLEY CHEESEBURGERS, PART 2—By Steve Lowe

 

In the spirit of my doctor fucking off, I decided that today was a perfect day to go back to the bowling alley to see what was left. My wife joined me, and it happened to be on St. Patrick’s Day so the place was filled with randos in green drinking cheap colored beer. The wonderful, familiar smell hit me first thing walking in the door as we walked past the bar to the restaurant counter.

It looked mostly the same outside but the insides were gutted. The chipped linoleum tables and dingy red plastic chairs were all gone, replaced by bowling lockers. No more sitting inside to eat your food. It was bewildering for a moment and I asked the bored girl behind the counter when they took out the tables and chairs. She didn’t know. I asked her how long has she worked there and she said for about a year. I took a chance and asked if there was anyone who had worked there for a long time, and she said, “Oh yeah. Sue.”

“Is Sue here by any chance?”

“Yeah.”

I’m kind of freaking out right now. “Can I talk to her?”

“Sure, let me go get her.”

The girl disappeared into the bowels of the kitchen and a minute later, the face of an older lady peeked around the corner, a confused but curious little smile on her face. My wife standing behind me saying, “Oh my God, this is so cool.”

I said Hi to Sue and asked her a bunch of rapid-fire questions. She started working in the kitchen 40 years ago, almost as long as I’ve been alive. I told her about coming with my mom on Thursday ladies’ league nights, and she yepped and remembered. I told her about how I and the gangs of other bored kids used to get in trouble running around from the arcade to the long hallway at the very end of the building where we would have paper airplane flying competitions and sometimes get into fights and she yepped again and remembered it all.

“Kids are still getting in trouble down in that hallway,” she said.

Sue told me about the Kalafats, Peggy and George, long since retired. About the tables and chairs being removed and the lockers put in about six years ago. I thanked her for taking the time and asked if I could take her picture and she got a little embarrassed. I wondered about the last time a stranger had asked to take her picture. Maybe never.

We couldn’t eat inside the restaurant so went down to the bar. We laughed about meeting Sue, how it was a little surreal that she just happened to be there, like my own personal time machine taking me back to 1985. I wondered if she’d had her tattoos since then or if they were new. What else had changed in her life during that time, if anything?

We sat there looking around the bar, watching the impatient bowlers come up to the order window to get a drink, looking over their shoulders every few seconds to see if it was their turn to bowl yet. The girl behind the bar running back and forth, working hard. She made two Jack-and-Cokes and my wife pointed out that she wasn’t stingy with the Jack. I liked that and gave her a little extra tip.

Our burgers came, and we ate them pretty much in silence. I couldn’t even finish my beer, but it was a massive 32-oz. plastic cup of Bell’s Two-Hearted, which was a notable change. They definitely didn’t have locally-brewed IPA on tap there back when we were bowling in leagues 20 years ago. And the burgers came on a fancy Kaiser bun and weren’t as greasy as I recalled, but still pretty great.

unnamed (3)There was a table of about nine people hanging out behind us and they asked the bar girl to change the TV to the Notre Dame women’s basketball game. When we left, none of them were watching basketball. They were all looking at their phones and my wife wondered if they were playing a game together. It was strange and I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t really say anything.

I’ll be 42 in three weeks and maybe I’ll have a mid-life crisis soon and start up a food truck business. My original idea was a School Lunch truck in an old school bus that serves meals like pizza and corn and a little square of brownie on a plastic tray. But maybe it should just be something simple instead.

The Rolling Diner, specializing in burgers and fries. Maybe I can hire Sue to run it with me.

 

Steve Lowe is the author of seven books, including YOU ARE SLOTH! and the soon-to-be-reissued MUSCLE MEMORY.

BOWLING ALLEY CHEESEBURGERS, PART 1—By Steve Lowe

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To this day, I still crave the cheeseburgers at Kalafats’ diner inside Chippewa Bowl. It was run by the Kalafats, a Polish family who also ran a German restaurant called Hans’ House a few miles down the road. I never went to Hans’ House. I don’t know why. Usually when we went to a restaurant when I was a kid, it was the Wagon Wheel on the southside of South Bend, Ind. for Friday all-you-can-eat perch night. But also cheeseburgers at Kalafats’ on Thursdays. That was mom’s league bowling night.

This was in the 1980s. Since I was small back then, I remember the women behind the counter being really big. Tall and broad, front to back as well as side to side, all breasts and rumps that balanced them out perfectly. Hearty, loud, grandmotherly.

The men behind the counter worked the flat top grill and they were always small, especially next to the women. Short, skinny junkie types with grubby hats and bony arms and bristly mustaches, flipping burgers with metal spatulas and cleaning the grill with a scraper that looked suspiciously like it could be used to remove paint from the side of a house, too.

Oh man, those wonderful, greasy burgers, though. Hard to find them like that anymore. There’s a diner across the street from where I work that closes down in the fall and opens in the spring that still makes them like that. Bonnie Doon used to be a big deal in this part of the world. Their ice cream was famous and their restaurants were the old fashioned drive-ins where you could order from your car over the garbled, scratchy intercom, and the carhops would bring the food out on trays that hooked to your window. It’s where kids around here from the 50s and 60s used hang out.

Bonnie Doon is pretty much dead now. The ice cream no longer exists, and the diner across the street from me is the last one in existence. The burgers probably aren’t even that good compared to my nostalgia for them, but it’s the last one. I think about that a lot. Every time I order a magical greasy cheeseburger and crinkle fries from Bonnie Doon, there is a distinct possibility that it will be the last one I will ever get. Eventually, the owner will finally hang it up. Nothing lasts forever.

I need to go back to that bowling alley and get a cheeseburger. I want to see if it’s the way I remember it. That smell of lane oil and cheap shoes, and the lingering fragrance of a million cigarettes smoked. They banned indoor smoking years ago, but that building has so much cigarette smoke in its bones it’s impossible to hide, no matter how many coats of glow-in-the-dark paint they slap on the walls. It’s infused in the yellowed ceiling tiles, just like the grease from the grill in that restaurant.

I had a physical the other day and got the word that my cholesterol is too high. I have to change my diet. No more fast food, which is fine. I can cut that crap out. But not Bonnie Doon. Not Kalafats’. These cheeseburgers are not fast food. They’re my youth. There are only so many opportunities left in my life that I can say, “Bonnie Burger, fries and a coke, please.”

I’m not ready for that to end yet. My doctor can fuck off.

 

Steve Lowe is the author of seven books, including YOU ARE SLOTH! and the soon-to-be-reissued MUSCLE MEMORY.

CHARLIES CHOWDER HOUSE—Astoria, Oregon—By Justin Grimbol

“LOAF ME! LOAF ME HARD!” I’d call out as I stumbled into Charlies Chowder House.

One of the teenage waitresses would laugh in a way that seemed more than a little stoned, then yell to Charlie, who would be working in the kitchen, “GRIMBOL IS HERE! HE NEEDS TO GET LOAFED! HARD!”

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Charlie

He’d laugh and wave hello.

I’d sit and wait and drink coffee. If it was busy, I would go behind the counter and pour myself a cup. Then I’d be served a massive plate of Buffalo Meatloaf, wrapped in crispy bacon, a meal they stopped making shortly after I left. That’s fine. I also loved their fish taco and their gumbo.

I ate there as often as possible. Sometimes I would get there for lunch, hang out all day, then get dinner. Once things slowed down at night, I’d have a drink with Charlie. We both loved reading Bukowski and Fante and other disheveled writers like that.  He’d tell me about Astoria’s past.

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Helmet John and Jim. 

Often we talked about our friends who also hung out at the Chowder House. Helmet John was easily the most infamous of the Chowder House folk. He was known for wearing a motorcycle helmet like it was a baseball cap. He pushed around a grocery cart full junky treasures and talked to himself and laughed loudly. His laughter was contagious and I was always happy to see him. One thanksgiving we all gathered at The Chowder House and Helmet John poured red wine on his pile of turkey meat. Then laughed and smiled at us. Later that night, Charlie and he got up and pretended to perform a bunch of Beatles songs, using old tennis rackets as guitars. I usually hate the holidays. But that was a good night. We drank and laughed and listen to Jimmy Buffett and danced around and ate amazing food and laughed some more.

207940_10150145844937186_3705309_nWhen I think of Charlies Chowder House I get sappy. I often wish had never left Astoria. Its a scrappy town that loves rain and fog horns and weed. I got a visit a while back. Charlie had some meat loaf waiting for me. We drank and he told me about some of our friends. Some had passed away. We drank about that. Then we listened to Jimmy Buffett. Usually, I have a hard time listening to that kind of music. But Right then, with a belly full of loaf, in that Chowder House, in that grumpy town on Columbian River, Jimmy Buffett sounded good to me. It sounded familiar somehow. Like I had been listening to Jimmy Buffett my whole life without realizing it.

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Chris, aka Buddy, dancing with waitress Ani outside of the Chowder House.
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Photos by Justin Grimbol

AUTHORS EAT—FEATURING DANGER SLATER

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Danger Slater is the author I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU and PUPPET SKIN. His writing is shameless, elegant, charming strange, and filthy. Lets see what he likes to eat. 

You recently moved from New Jersey to Portland Oregon. How is the food out there on the west coast? How does it compare to food in Jersey?

Oh man, I just finished eat THE BEST fish burrito ever. It’s from this place called Don Pedro right down the street. It looks like a shitty old fake fast food place, like McDowells from Coming to America (except, ya know, not Scottish-themed) but the food is so cheap and delicious. There’s tons of cheap delicious food here in Portland. They have blocks that are made up of just food carts. It’s awesome. Still, there’s a few foods from New Jersey that you just CAN’T get out here, and if you do happen to find them, it’s not that good. I’ve lived here almost 2 years now and I’m still looking for a good bagel place, and a good slice of pizza. And HOLY CRAP don’t ask a deli to make you sandwich. They have no idea what they’re doing. I’m like “can I get an egg salad” and the kid fixing the sandwich is looking at the bread like it’s radioactive or something. It’s weird.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

Currently, my favorite place is a conveyor-belt sushi bar called O’Sushi on 82nd between Division and Powell. Inexpensive plates, and they have about 35-40 different rolls to choose from. And we’re in there so often everyone who works there is super nice to us. It’s great.

What was your favorite meal as a kid and how has your taste changed over time?

This is a hard question! My mom said I loved peanut butter and jelly when I was little and that’s all I would eat, but by the time I started to form memories I actually remembered, I recall not liking them at all. I was under the assumption that I didn’t like PB&Js for YEARS and didn’t even try it again until I was in my late 20s. My girlfriend at the time made me one and it was delicious! I missed out on, like, 25 years of peanut buttery goodness. I guess my point is, tastes are always changing, right? You just gotta keep trying things regardless.

THE YANKEE CLIPPER—BEACON, NY—By Toby Dunne

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Toby with his son outside the diner. Photo by Justin Grimbol.

 

Near where Beacon’s Main Street and Route 52 intersect there stands, like a gleaming chrome temple, a diner of the highest quality. The Yankee Clipper not long ago was a boarded up wreck on the short list for demolition, but like most of Main Street Beacon, has been saved by the tide of rising property values. The glossy red painted rail-car inspired building is heavily decked out in chrome and mirror, with wide windows welcoming the sun. The fare is just what you would expect from a Greek diner, with a large laminated multiple page menu to browse, and large portions that have never failed me in either taste or appearance. The family friendly staff there is prompt and courteous, stopping by the table often enough to keep the patron satisfied without undue interruptions, and the dining rooms impeccably clean, and bright. The next time you are in the area and find yourself hungry for a cheese burger platter, or a stack of fluffy pancakes, you should stop into the Yankee Clipper.