Jay Fox's Dining Guide

Let's go traveling

“A converted cannibal is one who,
on Friday, eats only fisherman.” — Emily Lotney

GEORGIA AND I WILL HAVE BEEN MARRIED thirty years come Jan. 25 and she’s decided we should go to Europe. January is not a particularly good time to go, so the actual trip would take place in the spring, after tax season. Naturally, I’m governed by my love for food, so I thought I would do some research on the major cities that we might visit. My research included Rome, Paris, Athens, Dublin, and Moscow. Several hours on the Internet turned up some interesting dining choices.

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Rome. In Rome, N.Y., 35,000 folks reside. There’s one movie theater, the Rome Cinemas, currently showing Toy Story 3 in digital 3D, Despicable Me, Inception, and all the other nationally running films. I-90 is just south of town, which means all the QSR’s (Quick Serve Restaurants) are right there for the traveler’s dining pleasure. But there is real food in town.

Most notable is the Savoy Restaurant (255 East Dominick St, 315-339-3166; www.romesavoy.com) established way back in 1908, serving traditional Italian fare. The munchies list includes fried meatballs, calamari, bruschetta, nacholinos. There are eight salads, four soups, pizza, and a wide variety of entrees including sliced tenderloin, and, are you ready, Aunt Yolanda’s chicken cacciatore, Aunt Fannie’s fettuccini, Aunt Martha’s pork bracciole, Uncle Rosie’s pork chops, and an entire, pardon the pun, family of favorites. There’s more than three dozen choices, including steaks and seafood. The restaurant is open every day, lunch is served five days.

Check out Teddy’s Rome (851 Black River Blvd, 315-336-7839; www.teddysrestaurantny.com). This eatery also serves Italian fare — what else would you serve in Rome — and looking at the family foto, at least the owners enjoy eating there. The menu is more diversified than the Savoy but offers less Italian fare. There’s an emphasis on fresh buggers cooked to order, my kind of place. They also serve St. Louis Ribs and other bbq dishes as well as a selection of juicy steaks. The pies are homemade. They are closed Sunday.

There’s Coalyard Charlie’s Erie Canal Tavern (100 Depeyster Street, 315-336-9940; www.coalyardcharlies.com). How can I not check out this place? Can’t go in person cuz they’re closed for three weeks vacation, but the menu reads deliciously. They’ve been in business for only 50 plus years. I guess when you’re in Rome, you don’t leave. The menu is predictable: fresh soup and salad bar, lotsa munchies, salads, sangies, chicken, steaks and seafood. And muh current fav, D/P (Diet Pepsi). Closed Sunday and Monday. ‘Ceptin the three weeks they’re on vacation. Cuz then they’re closed every day. Makes sense to me.

Gonna be tuff to decide which restaurant to eat in. I guess I’ll have to eat at all three. Actually, there are several dozen non-chain restaurants in the Rome area.

There are other cities in America named Rome. One of them, Rome, Georgia, according to the Rome city press reports, has one of the best high schools in America. And they also have fine dining. Population’s almost exactly the same as Rome, N.Y., but not quite as big as the one in Italy, where 3 million folks hang their hats.

Paris. This was a tuffy. There’s a Paris in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. I sorta randomly selected Kentucky. Paris is Bluegrass Country, ‘bout 17 miles from Lexington. It’s located in Bourbon County, hence the reason for my selection. Mike Thornton is the mayor, reports the population at 9,300 real folks and about twice that many horses. Yep, it’s in the heart of horse country. The city was named after the town in France cuz of the support the French gave the colonists in the Revolutionary War. But what about dining in Paris? Like many other rural communities with access to the Interstate, they have the standard shopping centers on the outskirts of town with familiar names for dining. They also got the Duncan Tavern. Built in 1788, unfortunately the last meal served in the tavern was during the mid 1800s. It was built as a residence, but four years later the owner converted it into a tavern, today’s equivalent of a bed and breakfast. It served road house fare until it closed in the mid 1800s. Today it’s a community center and a visitor attraction. No grub. No beer. But the name sounds cool.

There are real places to eat in Paris. Most notably are the Paris Café, Connor’s Place, and Jay’s. You can also dine at Haven South, Creekview, or the Running Horse Café — hmmm, I wonder what they serve. Seems like they’re not too Internet savvy in Paris, cuz there isn’t one menu and only one review on the Internet for any of these restaurants. I found this comment about the Creekview: “…it was horrible.never go there.the food is horible.they MADE us eat snails. EEEWWW!!!!they crawled in my mouth!!and they didn’t taste like chicken either!THEY LIED!i can still taste it and feel it!!!oo wait,that might be because i haven’t finnished chewing....” Whatever typos there are (didya notice?), ain’t mine; all I did was a cut and paste.

Dublin. We got California, Georgia, Ohio, and Maryland. Since I’d been to the one in Ohio, I chose Dublin, Georgia. Population 18,000. We’ll start with Deano’s (112 W. Jackson St, 478-275-1117; www.deanositalian.com). I think every town in America that has a restaurant starts with Italian. If folks show up to eat, they open a second Italian restaurant. After that it’s McDonald’s. Downhill from there. Deano’s Brick Oven Pizza & Italian Grill website sez its authentic Italian (never seen an ad that sez, “not authentic”), all dough, sauces, pasta and meataballs made on site. The menu is like most all other Italian menus, and they serve real New York pizza. As does every other city in America. They’re closed Sunday and Monday. Boo. Their promo piece sez they’re the best Italian restaurant in town. Maybe they’re the only Italian restaurant in town?

Gotta check out Tumpie’s Steakhouse (1049 Snellbridge Rd, 478-272-2994). The two reviews are raves, commenting that they serve outstanding steaks, blooming onions and shrimp apatizzers (sic) out of this world. Open for dinner only. Fresh salad and charming waitress (singular), good prices. I did not misspell the name of the restaurant.

Jack’s Catfish & Shrimp (245 Rex Miller Rd, 478-272-3315). The sole published review notes, “A local hidden secret…fresh tasting catfish, homemade fries, and the steaks ain’t bad either.” The town boasts several fast food eateries, a bakery and several other restaurants.

Moscow. In Moscow, Idaho, where 25,000 folks reside all inside urban clusters (whatever the heck that means), there is some real fine dining. Check out West of Paris (403 S. Main St, 208-596-8189; www.westofparis.com). Dinner only, Tuesday thru Saturday. Le Chef is Francis Foucachon, a specialist in classical French cooking. So we have a french chef in a french restaurant in Moscow… in Idaho. OK, the menu. It is so french I don’t have a clue. Just kidding. It looks so inviting methinks G and I will take a drive up there for dinner. Prices are not cheap, but great food costs. The filet tender d’agneau (lamb tenderloin) at $32.50 is probably a steal. They also offer a series of price fixe menus that look deeevine and very reasonable.

Patty’s Mexican Food (450 W. 6th St, 208-883-3984; www.pattysmexicankitchen.com) gets rave reviews for tortillas, fish tacos, grilled pork and other traditional Mexican fare. It’s an outdoor restaurant overlooking Ghormley Park. One commentator sed it’s not only the best in Moscow, but within 100 miles of Moscow. As it is sed. Then there’s the person who sed, “I’d rather get a burrito from Chipotle. Even I have to use Chipotlaway to get the bloody stains out of my underwear.” That’s muh favoritist quote in the whole world.

Nectar Restaurant and Wine (105 W. 6th Ave, 208-882-5914). A cozy, romantic spot with a limited menu, very good food and good service but somewhat pricey. Offers a large selection of wines. Portions are smallish.

Sangria Grille (2124 W. Pullman Rd, 208-882-2693; www.sangriagrille.com). What an unusual find in a relatively small town. The food is reputed to be excellent, modest prices, very large menu. In fact, the web menu is 22 pages, but slow to navigate; it’s really a fun read. The place is not fancy, and in fact sorta icky from the outside.

One reviewer commented, “…That all changed when we walked in the door and discovered that every table was full and the smells that assaulted our senses were wonderful to behold. We had the sudden sense that (we) were instantly transported to somewhere in Tuscany as the staff buzzed around us carrying all manner of magical and tempting mesas of dishes.” Wow!!! The menu includes pasta dishes, burgers, and other fare. The website, as is the menu, is screwy, with assertions that it is “American Fusion focusing on Peruvian cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean influence”. Now if you know what that means, please tell me. It is a Skandalos Lilly Restaurant, but all I could find is one. This one. It’s great to have ambition.

There are many other non-chain restaurants in Moscow, offering everything including fusion (duh?), Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Italian and Barbecue fare.

Athens. In the fair city of Athens, Alabama, some 15 miles from the Tennessee state line, 19,000 Alabamians call Athens home. They even have a building inspection department. And five cemeteries. All are maintained by the city of Athens Cemetery Department. Sure hope it wasn’t that Southern cooking that caused all them cemeteries to fill up. You can buy a full lot (8 graves) for $2,400 and have it maintained for a mere $8 a year. For all 8 graves, such a deal. Just thought you’d want to know. http://www.athensal.us/Departments/cemetery/Cemetery.htm. Sorry, Denver doesn’t have a cemetery division. But they do have dining. As does Athens, AL.

In the mood for Southern food? Most folks around Athens go to LuVici’s (105 N. Jefferson St, 256-233-5550; www.luvicis.com). But the menu looks somewhat like a steakhouse. They have ten-ounce pork chops drizzled with Maker’s Mark. Sounds mighty southern to me. But then they serve St. Louis ribs. Why not Memphis ribs, especially since Memphis is just west, less than 200 miles. They do offer MarthaAnn’s chocolate cobbler and New York Style Cheesecake….OK, I see something called skillet of shrimp & grits, and bayou chicken. There are some blank pages on the Internet menu, presumably where the jambalaya is.

Sure are lotsa fast food and chain eateries, so this town must be on a major highway. Yep, I-65 and US Hwy 72 run right thru town.

There’s a Catfish Inn and a Catfish Cabin II, both out on Hwy 72. But there’s also a Chick-fil-A on the same highway. And Bojangles’s Famous Chicken (1316 Hwy 72 East, 256-216-9994; www.bojangles.com). Now that sounds like some Southern grub, with fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits and dirty rice or Cajun pintos. But it’s still QSR. They gotta Cracker Barrel but that ain’t nothing to write home about.

The reviews about the Catfish stores are rave. “Prettiest dining room here. Best seafood in this city. It’s been awhile since I’ve been, but I can’t wait till (sic) the next time”. Luv them web reviews. But the catfish is a must dine, as are the hush puppies, fresh slaw and homemade tartar sauce.

So. After comparing the costs to travel to Europe and visit any of these great cities, or visiting the namesake cities and towns in the U.S., I think two weeks in Thornton (Colorado) would be just the ticket. Now would one of you loyal readers suggest that to G?

Cya.

Jay Fox, The Statesman’s traveling man, promises not to hit the road during this year’s crazy election season.