Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top 5 Rolla Restaurants

If you're looking for the finest French cuisine, Rolla is not the place for you. But, it does have its share of hometown favorites.

These are the places local folks like to eat. So, if you're on I-44 looking for a place to grab some grub, venture a little further into my hometown and give one of these places a try.

Honorable Mention: Before we dig into my top 5 Rolla Restaurants, I have to give an honorable mention to Alex's Pizza Palace. I love Alex's, just not as much as the other pizza joint that made my top 5 list. It's not a ding on Alex's, just an indication of how much I love the other place.

Alex's has great ambiance. Growing up, they had a cool table-top arcade game in the front of the restaurant. They're very group- and kid-friendly. Also, they have an extensive menu that includes Greek fare you can't get anywhere else in Rolla.

What to order: I prefer the house special pizza, which features beef instead of sausage. Their cheese balls are also excellent. And, get a Greek salad.

5. Matt's Steakhouse: Before Matt's, there was the 10th Street Dinner House. It was popular. So popular, they built a larger building located along I-44. The popularity is well-deserved. The steaks are amazing, as are the burgers. The unlimited salad and breadsticks is the Olive Garden concept done better. Also, they used to have an excellent broccoli salad. I don't see it on the menu, but that thing was amazing.

What to order: I'm partial to the good-old fashioned cheeseburger at Matt's. Though, my mom loves the steak tips, which are sauteed with bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, then topped with provolone cheese.

4. A Slice of Pie: If you live in Rolla and you don't know about A Slice of Pie, extend your arms, push that rock with all of your might and kindly slide out from under it. In browsing their website, I see they officially became a business in 1986. I didn't realize I pre-dated the Slice by four years. Crazy.

Here's the thing. If you're ever tasked with bringing a dessert to a family function, you can't go wrong with one of these pies. In fact, people will probably thank you for bringing A Slice of Pie, rather than saddling them with another dump cake.

What to order: Most pie lovers will tell you to get the apple or coconut cream. Those are solid choices. But, my favorite is the Tollhouse. It's like the biggest, most delicious chocolate chip cookie you've ever eaten. Lastly, if you really want to test your sweetness limit, go for the French silk.

3. Maid-Rite: One thing I love about Maid-Rite (and correct me if this has changed) -- everything is a la carte. It's very old fashioned. There are no value meals. They write your order on a ticket and tear off the voucher at the bottom.

Also, the burgers are unlike anything I've come across since. The ground beef is loose, sort of like a sloppy joe without the sauce. They're amazing. I'm not even sure why. Maybe it's their secret seasoning. Or, perhaps it's some sort of Rolla mysticism. I don't know. Veterans know that once you unwrap a Maid-Rite, you give it a solid squish to flatten it out and keep the meat together for easier consumption. (Disclaimer: I realize that Maid-Rite is a chain. But, it's a very small chain.)

What to order: Cheese-Rite with mayo, pickle and onion, a side of fries and a Heath bar concrete. Or, you can change up the ice cream and go with a hot fudge sundae in a to-go cup (so you can mix the fudge in more easily).

2. Lucky House: For years, the building at 1119 Kingshighway was a revolving door. Restaurants would come and go, never staying for more than a year. That changed in the mid-1990s when Lucky House moved in.

Lucky House serves Chinese food of the style that you find in Springfield, Mo. Here's what I mean. For most Chinese restaurants, with cashew chicken (or chicken with cashew nuts) the chicken is lightly fried, but not battered, and served with a vegetables. Lucky House batters and deep fries their chicken, and the only vegetable you'll find is a sprinkle of diced green onion over the top. It's awesome.

What to order: Cashew chicken with double fried rice, skip the spring roll. You can go all-white meat if you want. I don't. Their chicken fried rice is good too. It's heavy on garlic though. You've been warned.

1. Pryor's Fresh Pizza: For me, this is the pinnacle of pizza the entire world. From the outside, it's not much. The proverbial hole in the wall. Dine in and you'll be served on stainless steel plates that look like they have knife marks from the 1800s. (I just noticed via their Facebook page, they actually sold a handful of these plates, which technically date back to the 1960s.)

Pryor's does not deliver. They don't do fancy salads. They don't do calzones. They just do really freaking good pizza.

The pizza is thin crust. And, it's greasy. They cut it in squares. I think they have two big secrets. First is the dough. I'm not sure what they do, but it's amazing. The second is the oven. It has to be as old as the plates. Somehow, the combination of the two produces a perfect crust along with an excellent amount of grease. It's a culinary delight.

What to order: Specifically, their beef pizza is the best. My second choice is their pepperoni. My grandparents love their onion pizza.

Those are my top picks. There are several restaurants that have since closed their doors, like Johnny's and Laposada, that would have made this list. I'm working on a separate posting that's an ode to these fallen eateries. Speaking of which, I've got room for a couple more. My memory isn't what it used to be. If you have an idea for awesome Rolla restaurant that's since been shuttered, let me know in the comment section. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top 5 Signs You Grew Up in Rolla, Mo

Growing up in Rolla, Mo. was a blast.

There are certain aspects of "the middle of everywhere" that only former residents will recognize. It's sort of the secret language that only Rolla's teenage residents speak. Well, at least they did in my day. Here are the top 5 signs that you indeed grew up in Rolla (pronounced 'rah lah' for the uninitiated).

You have to try Pryor's beef pizza. It is by far my favorite pizza on the planet.

5. Cruisin': One of the rites of passage in Rolla is turning 16 and obtaining your driver's license. Once you get said license, you have to make a 'cruisin' loop.' While I was never much of a cruiser, the loop is known by every teenage driver. You literally just drive a loop, which includes Kingshighway and Pine Street and looks more like a cursive "L" on a map. Along the way, you see friends and honk and wave. Yep, it's as lame as it sounds. Still, you have to do it at least once.

4. Field parties: Another rite of passage in Rolla is the field party. I think this is pretty standard in small towns across the Midwest. In my time, we'd find a creek, park some cars, cue the music and make a bonfire. Good times. I still remember one such party when the music died. No problem. A classmate saved the day with a Pontiac LeMans that was packing four 8-inch sub-woofers in the trunk.

3. Halloween rituals: At some point in your high school career, you and a group of friends will make a pilgrimage to two spooky places in the Rolla area -- Cry Baby Holler and Goatman's Grave. Typically, only a couple people in each clique would know the exact location of these spots. They'd also claim to know the creepy story behind the places. You'd get all freaked out on the drive. Most occasions were uneventful. However, every once in a while another group of teens would be hiding in the woods and give you a proper scare. By the way, does anyone know if the "wizard tree" still exists?

2. Pizza duel: Any self-respecting resident knows there are only two pizza places in Rolla -- Pryor's and Alex's. Most folks favor one over the other. Growing up, I had the best of both worlds. My friends loved Alex's, while my family was hooked on Pryor's. For the record, my stomach belongs to Pryor's. Their beef pizza is the best. Yet, if you ask Wes and Kenan, they'll recommend the shrimp and Canadian bacon at Alex's.

1. Maid-Rite: In the summer, after a baseball or softball game, you had to go to Maid-Rite. It's a basic rule of living in Rolla. At Maid-Rite, you will order one of their infamous Cheese-Rites. It's sort of a sloppy joe without the sauce. The ground beef is not made into a patty. It's loose. After tossing a couple of those grease bombs down, you should order a concrete. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Those are my top 5 Rolla experiences. Did I miss any? For the record, I'll pen another blog on my top 5 Rolla restaurants. Lucky House will definitely make the cut.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Top 5 Easter Candies

Easter Sunday has come and gone. Yet, the candy is still hanging around...begging to be eaten, so it can wreak havoc on my attempts at weight loss.

Look at those Dove bunnies, begging to have their heads eaten off. Just the rabbits are about 7,360 calories. And, that's not even counting all the milk you'd have to drink to balance out the chocolate.

Yesterday, I popped about five Dove eggs. They were "walk-by" instances -- as in, I'm just walking by, "Oh, look a delicious piece of candy. Better eat one."

Without further ado, here are the top 5 Easter candies. (I probably should have published this last week, but now all this stuff is on sale. You can thank me later.)

You won't see any Peeps or Cadbury eggs on this list. I don't care for people passing off fancy marshmallows as candy. And the Cadbury egg is a little ball of nasty.

5. Butterfinger Nest Eggs: My mom used to always buy these for us. A lot of folks would go for the Hershey's eggs. My mom would go with Butterfinger Nest Eggs. They were better. The Butterfinger concrete was my favorite ice cream until I found the Heath Bar concrete.

4. Snicker eggs: I love a good Snickers bar, but the egg is a real treat. I think it's the thinness of it. It makes the ratio of chocolate to filling higher.

3. Robin Eggs: I actually just realized these are mini Whoppers. Whatever they are, they're freaking delicious. I remember pouring them into my mouth from the little carton when I was a kid.

2. Reese's Egg: Here's another candy where the shape makes all the difference. Reese's Cups are good. But, Reese's Eggs are heavenly. For me, it's the absence of the rough, crinkly edges, which are replaced by the smooth lines of the egg. I enjoy smashing it on the roof of my mouth. Nom nom nom.

1. Dove milk chocolate bunny: Ah, this is the supreme Easter candy. A lot of cheaper chocolate bunnies are full of air. Not the Dove. It's pure chocolate goodness. My favorite is eating the head. There's something so satisfying about biting off those ears and then eating it down to the neck. By the way, if you eat the entire thing, that's 920 calories. Probably explains why we have eight of these beauties just sitting around, waiting for a diet cheat day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Top 5 Sing-Along Songs -- Oldies Edition

I drive quite a bit for my job. There comes a time in every road trip where you have to blast some tunes and sing along. It's the only time I can convince myself that I could in fact carry a tune in a wheelbarrow (that's a Dan Flint saying).

This is how I imagine myself as I sing along to the King's tunes.
I have a multitude of playlists depending on the mood. Thanks to Spotify, finding and categorizing music is easy. Here are my top 5 sing-along songs - oldies edition.
  1. I Want You Back - Jackson 5: Thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy, this song is seeing a resurgence in popularity. I've been listening to this tune long before baby Groot danced his little twig heart out during the credits.
  2. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley: Any oldies list has to have an Elvis song on it. This is one of my favorites. And, did you know there's a video from the movie? Maybe I should watch some Elvis movies. Or not (that's a link to an Eddie Murphy Delirious clip, definitely NSFW).
  3. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - The Righteous Brothers: Again, a movie, Top Gun, sent this song into the popularity stratosphere. Yet, I remember hearing this song countless times as dad made pancakes in the morning before school. If his Righteous Brothers CD had been a cassette, it would have been worn out after a couple months. Also, who can't resist jumping in the second you hear "Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you"?
  4. Beast of Burden - The Rolling Stones: I love this song. It's a classic Jagger performance. I didn't really get into the Stones until they released their two-disc Forty Licks collection. Thank goodness I finally took the chance to see what I'd been missing.
  5. Please Mr. Postman - The Beatles: This tune has been performed by numerous groups. The Beatles' performance is one of my favorite. I once heard they would save it to very last when performing because it was rough on Lennon's vocal chords. The song was originally performed by the Marvelettes. FYI: according to Wikipedia, Marvin Gaye is on the drums in their version.