Monday, April 1, 2013

Huddle House

13002 Hwy 21
Desoto Mo.

The Place:
 On highway 21, just south of Rock Road. You can't miss it, the building is bright and crowded, and  open 24 hours. It's been open for about five months according to Emily, our server, who has been working there since it opened. If every new restaurant drew as many people as were there when we arrived, five months in, there would be a lot of very happy restauranteurs.  I'd heard of Huddle House, never actually been to one. We found it last week heading toward 'Off The Hook'. There was a sign that we hadn't noticed before.
Advance research indicated a Denny's like menu. Primary focus on breakfast anytime, but also offering sandwiches and dinner platters as well.
All week I salivated at the prospect, hoping that it was not a lame wannabe. The first thing we noticed was that it looked kind of small. Inside though it seemed to be much larger. Though it was very busy, we still had our choice among several booths and tables.
It was cozy, the aroma was that of breakfast, the walls were muted colors, burgundy and brown. The tiles sort of adobe color. The ceilings were high and the kitchen area was framed by stamped chrome, diner-style. Hanging from the ceiling was a large flat-screen tuned to a muted, but closed captioned, Fox News. the music was country and there were framed jerseys and photos representing local high school sports teams.
I was not surprised by the country music and Fox News, it simply meant that HH knew its locals.
Desoto is almost too far south for a daily commute into St. Louis, most people in and around  the railroad town are locals, many rural. It is a conservative, God-fearing town for the most part. Nothing wrong with appealing to the locals.
We were greeted by Emily and started drooling on the menus. We started with drinks, coffee for me, sweet tea and Pepsi for Angel and Adam.
The Food:
Stuffed Hash Browns
The problem with a place like this is that everything looks good. It's all comfort food.Nothing fancy, nothing pushing the envelope. I'd scanned the online menu ahead of time and had prepared myself for the meal I wanted.
After much deliberation and after Emily delivered our drinks, we ordered.
Stuffed hash browns for me. Yeah, you read that right. A layer of crispy hash browns, topped with scrambled eggs, sausage patties and crumbled bacon, then another layer of hash browns topped with some cheese sauce and sausage gravy, with a side of toast. Wow.
Angel and Adam finally decided on the country fried steak platter. Slight variations though. Adam wanted to replace the toast with a waffle, and Angel wanted extra gravy since Angel always wants extra gravy.
The CF steak platters came with toast, scrambled eggs and hash browns.
Around us, people were casually dining on similar fare. We sipped our drinks and occasionally looked up at the TV. Adam played a game on his mother's smart-ass phone, I people-watched. Salt of the earth locals, families, and a young couple that looked like they had recently been strung out on meth. That's an opinion only, I have no actual knowledge that the non-blinking wan and pale couple had ever used illicit home-made drugs.
I sipped my steaming Joe out of the fire-engine red mug. It was fresh, earthy and hot. Angel said the sweet tea was pretty good as well.
The wait for the food was a little longer than I expected, but not really too long. Then the plates arrived.
Country fried steak, with sides
"That looks like a heart attack on a plate." Adam said about my piled-high platter. Lots of gravy, enough to completely conceal everything else. Their CF steaks were also thickly coated.The scrambled eggs were bright yellow, the hash browns looked very crunchy, the way we like them.
We dug in.
My platter was everything I wanted and optimistically expected. Adam's comment bothered me a little. I am a man of a certain age with certain typical medical conditions, treated, common for the type. I try to watch my fats and cholesterol, yet here I was throwing caution to the wind. I thought deep thoughts as I shoveled the wonderful flavors and textures into my face.Yeah, this could kill me eventually. I thought, so could about a million other things though. I travel two and a half hours per day to get to and from work, I have a history of smoking and generally not watching my diet. I have an often-stressful job, frequently work long hours, don't get a lot of exercise, and have a family history of certain scary things involving advanced age. Lots of things could be pointed to as what eventually kills me, but frankly, if it is the occasional intake of food like this that eventually does me in, well, there are certainly much worse things.
Honestly though, we pretty much only eat like this when we eat out. At home there are lots of salads  and light meals, fruit, veggies and ground turkey instead of beef whenever possible. You guys only hear about these heavy, rich meals because my regular meals are usually quite light, tame and boring. I don't usually eat breakfast, my lunches at work consists of a few snack crackers, a small box of raisins and a banana. Snacks are more likely nuts than anything else, so get off my case.
I tried one of the pointy, spill-over-bits of Adam's waffle, it was a sweet recipe, I'm okay with that, but it's not my favorite form.
I asked Angel about her steak. She wrinkled up her face and said that part of it was overcooked, so it was a little dry, but crispy. Adam agreed. Both finished their meals though without further comment. I couldn't finish mine, there was simply too much. "It beat you!" Angel cried when I pushed the plate away. "Yes, yes it did." I was however completely satisfied.
The secret to places like this is to keep it simple. The spice racks are not overloaded with exotic herbs, recipes contain only a line or two. Think about it. You choose a good quality sausage and fry it in a pan. You scramble an egg, shred and grill potatoes. Then you mix flour, sausage drippings until smooth for the gravy. A little salt a little pepper and you're done. There are no complicated or complex recipes at all. Keep your grill clean and at the right temperature and keep an eye on the done-ness and you've got it nailed.Waffle House, IHOP, Denny's, they are all similar and all very good for this one exact reason.
The staff, Emily in particular was dutiful and always available refilling our drinks. She smiled a lot and seemed warm and friendly, as did the other servers. All in all a very nice, inviting, comfortable experience.
 The price was right as well, all that luscious food for only twenty eight bucks, less than ten dollars per person. A guy could really get used to this sort of thing, if only it wasn't trying to kill him.

 Huddle House on Urbanspoon

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