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 discover what restaurant was reviewed last time? It was Castelli’s Moonlight Restaurant, at 3400 Fosterburg Road in Alton. The Talk ‘n’ Chik (I don’t know why they call it that) is crispy, juicy and good.
My club president sent me directions for the location of our next meeting. I made a trial run a day or two early to find out exactly where it was and I was a little set back. It is a very small, unprepossessing building near the highway. It would have looked right at home back in the piney woods of Kentucky or West Virginia.
On meeting day, I walked up the ramp and into the main room. It was about 15 by 13 feet, had a long table for our meeting and three other tables for other diners. The carpeting was a deep green. There was a flat-screen TV on one wall, but it was not plugged in. A whiteboard near the TV listed specials. The only windows faced the highway. I saw a picture of a fine pink pig near the door, and on closer scrutiny, found out that it was a framed jigsaw puzzle. The counter was near the door, but our server didn’t spend any time behind it. She kept very busy delivering food and taking orders. I had a menu in my hands in no time. Near the counter was a rustic sign that read, “Restrooms Out Back” with a hand pointing right. After a quick consultation with my fellow club members, many of whom had eaten here before, I chose a pulled pork sandwich, macaroni and cheese and fries. The city water supply had failed on the day we were there, so if we wanted water, we were given bottled water at no charge.
As I caught up on conversation with other members of the club, my food arrived on a decorated paper plate with stainless steel flatware. Napkins were plentiful, but there was only one catsup bottle for the entire restaurant. Everyone in the place shared the catsup nicely with one another. I noticed that they did a brisk carryout business here, which was good, because not too many more diners would have fit.
Conversation ceased as we began to eat. I had my teeth sunk into the best pulled pork sandwich ever! Not too spicy, not too sweet; it was perfection on a bun. The mac and cheese tasted exactly like my own homemade. The fries were fine as well. Some of my fellow club members were gushing about the green beans, and I wished I had ordered some of those, too. I indulged in a slice of Oreo mousse cake, which was actually a delicious creme pie.
My next surprise came when I went to pay. My entire meal, including dessert, came to $8.95. For a meal that good, I expected to pay more.
The restaurant closed at eight o’clock, so our meeting broke up and we all got ready to leave. The cook came out to help the server, and we complimented him on the food. I asked where the restrooms were, and was informed that I needed to go out the front door, go around the building, and enter by the back door. So, the rustic sign I saw near the counter was not just a cute piece of Americana, it was serious! I picked my way through the gravel lot and arrived there safely. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining! I have only one thing to say about the unisex restroom: go before you leave home.
Cleanliness – three stars
Food – five stars
Wait staff – five stars
Overall – four stars
Are you able to puzzle out this restaurant? Check the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are correct!
The Secret Diner