Did you figure out that last week’s restaurant visit was to Don and Penny’s Restaurant and Lounge? You can find it at 306 State St. in Downtown Alton. Good food, made by Mom. I can’t wait to see what they plan to do with the dining room!
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After receiving an advertising flier about this restaurant, my dining companion and I traveled a couple of towns over to try this eatery that had been in business since the 1940s, but we had never been to before. It sat in the middle of a large parking lot, but it was full and we had to search for a place to park. We could hear music as we passed the outdoor patio, but since it was the middle of winter, no one was outside. There was a door on the right and on the left sides of the building and two doors in the front. The first door we came to appeared to have diners seated right behind it, so I went to the second door. It entered into the bar, with booths on the left, square tables in the middle and bar seating on the right. I counted five flat-screen TVs of various sizes. A server with both hands full told us to seat ourselves. The room was full, with only one table unoccupied. I took a peek around the corner at the other dining room, but it was full, too. My companion found a table near the outside door on the left side of the building, near the cash register. We had a good view of the short set of steps going up to the kitchen, but every time anyone entered or left by the door, a cold draft hit us. I longed for the table I saw when I first came in, but by then it was also filled.
A young male server set our chosen table with paper placemats and gave us each two forks and a knife on a napkin. Our waitress gave us menus and took our drink orders. I was intrigued by an unfamiliar dish I had seen on the flier and asked about it. She told me the small-sized one would easily serve two people, so I ordered it. Here is the description from the flier: We roll pizza dough very thin and layer salami, ham, mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, lettuce, onions, tomato, green peppers, diced peperoncini, more cheese and more sauce. This is then folded over and baked.
I also ordered Bavarian pretzels from the appetizer menu, and we both ordered lemonade. The servers skipped nimbly up and down the kitchen stairs, carrying large portions of steak, chicken and other meals. While waiting, I looked around the room. A large price board from 1970 was very interesting, with prices ranging from thirty cents for a hamburger to one dollar for a large pizza.
The lemonade was very good, and that same young man kept my glass full all the time. The pretzels arrived in a contraption that held three long pretzels in a cone, wrapped in a checkered paper, with small containers on each side that held honey-mustard sauce and beer cheese sauce. They were tasty and not over-salted, warm but not hot.
By the time the pretzels were finished, the Italian dish arrived, cut into four thick slices. Our server asked us if we needed anything else before we tasted it. As she spun away, we took our first bites, and discovered the food was cold! The onions in the dish were too strong and the bell peppers were cut too large. Our server did not return before we each finished a slice. I went to check out the restrooms, leaving my companion at the table.
Both restrooms were clean, wheelchair-accessible and well-appointed, but poorly designed. In each, the sink is placed so that when one is washing his or her hands, someone coming in is going to hit them with the door.
My companion had put the remaining two slices in a go box, and we waited for our server to come back so that we could pay. It took awhile. To be fair, all the staff members were very busy and never still a minute. The lemonades were $2.19 each, the Bavarian pretzels were $5.99, and the special Italian dish was $14.49. We paid from the table and left.
The next morning, I was ready to give the dish another try. Two minutes in the microwave heated it up nicely, and I was enjoying it better until the last bite. I hit a peperoncino! My mouth lit up, my tongue was on fire and I was out of both bananas and milk! After bread, butter and apple juice, I was able to get back to normal. I probably will return to this restaurant but I don’t think I will order that particular dish again.
Overall – 4 stars
Service – 4 stars
Cleanliness – 5 stars
Food – 3 1/2 stars
Do you think you can figure out this eatery? Check out the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are correct! And remember — he who hesitates ... sits in a draft.
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