No, it is not a hard-to-find restaurant, but a new column for AdVantage News! Each week the Secret Diner will post a review of a River Bend eating establishment. The Secret Diner will not review chain or franchise restaurants, only privately owned ones. About the rating system: zero stars would mean avoid at all costs, one star is pretty bad, two stars is merely fair, three stars is OK, four stars is good, and five stars is perfect! Before posting a negative review, the Secret Diner will give the establishment a second chance at a different time of day. See if you can determine the name and location of the restaurant under review! The answer will appear in next week’s column.
Did you figure out the restaurant that was reviewed last time? It was My Just Desserts, located at 31 East Broadway in Alton. It was a delicious and satisfying experience.
My dining companion and I were searching for a restaurant that we had been to previously but could not find. It was dark and we were on a strange road. Suddenly, I saw a lighted sign on a tiny place I had never seen before. The name of the restaurant intrigued me, and we turned the car around and entered under the glowing sign.
The interior of the tiny restaurant had something to see everywhere we looked. There was a case with ammunition from more than a hundred years ago. Drinking glasses with Warner Bros., Disney, Looney Toons and Harvey Toons characters stretched over the ordering counter. A map of Route 66 was painted upon one wall. Native American artifacts were in a case on the opposite wall. There were license plates from North America, including Canada, everywhere we looked. Even the tabletops were printed with advertisements from long ago. The tile floor was dirty, but I figured that it was the end of a long day and probably would be mopped after closing.
Our server was as friendly and helpful as it was possible to be. She immediately took our drink orders, asked if we wanted lemon with our water, gave us flatware and menus, and drew our attention to the specials. One was pork and dressing with mashed potatoes. I didn’t like the idea of both dressing and potatoes at the same meal, so I ordered an open-faced roast beef sandwich, and my companion requested a catfish sandwich and a bowl of chili. I also asked for onion rings as an appetizer. Our flatware was wrapped in a single napkin, but each table was equipped with a napkin dispenser, salt, pepper, catsup and mustard.
I took a restroom break at this point. There were more “decorations” on the wall as I went down the corridor, including a rat trap with the instructions, “Complaints? Press here.” Unfortunately, as soon as I sat down, a delicate part of my anatomy was pinched by the loose toilet seat. I was able to see that the tile was not only in need of a mop, but had many cracks. Instead of a handle, the restroom door was fitted with a grab bar, meant for assisting people out of a bathtub. The toilet paper hung crookedly on its wire holder and the large trash can was overflowing. The other restroom was large enough to play football in, but no cleaner.
I saw that the onion rings were on the table as I returned, and my companion had already eaten a couple. It was a generous portion, and perfectly cooked. Our orders arrived before we finished the onion rings. My companion dug into the chili and pronounced it good. The fish was on two slices of rye and was also delicious. My sandwich was on two slices of white bread, each cut into triangles. The beef was shaved deli slices, and the mashed potatoes and all were covered in brown gravy. At my first bite, I discovered that the gravy was country pepper gravy. Our server had asked if I wanted white or brown gravy, and I figured white for chicken, brown for beef, but I don’t like pepper! Oh, my! I finished it, but I wanted something to cool my tongue.
When our server came back and suggested strawberry shortcake with ice cream, I jumped at it. She asked if I wanted whipped cream as well, which was fine with me! The shortcake was not homemade, but very good, nonetheless. It assuaged my burning tongue and left me with a good feeling.
I liked this little place. I really was not impressed with the food except for the perfect onion rings, but our server made up for a lot, and the restaurant made me feel like I had gone back in time to the late ’60s. Except for the head of Farrah Fawcett in a glass case. That was a little weird.
Cleanliness – two and a half stars
Attentiveness of wait staff – four and a half stars
Food – three stars
Overall – three and a half stars
Can you guess the name and location of this restaurant? See the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are correct!
The Secret Diner