Almost Home

It’s been a tough last few months in our house and when dinnertime rolls around, we either don’t feel like cooking, it’s too late, or there’s nothing in the fridge. This means we have been eating out at cheap restaurants more often than we’d like to admit. Not our preferred lifestyle, but things have been kind of upside down and out of control.

This also means we’re getting sick of the same old places, so recently we decided to try Rockin’ Rodgers. Yes, this is actually a review of Almost Home – stay with me and I’ll explain.
We have a few rules about going out to eat.

Rule #1. We prefer locally owned over chains.
Rule #2. We avoid any place that looks, smells, tastes, or is rumored to be dirty.
Rule #3. We like to see cars in the parking lot during meal time. An empty parking lot at 5:45pm on a Thursday evening scares us off.

Rockin’ Rodgers was violating Rule #3, so after circling their building twice looking for their customers we continued down Market Street. We had never been to Almost Home, and we had heard it was good, so we gave it a try.

The parking lot behind the building had several cars in it. So far so good.
We were seated in a booth that accommodates 6 people. Even better, since we one of the 3 of us is a lefty and she always ends up sitting in a spot where eating with a fork means bruised biceps for someone else.

Rule #4. The menu must be practical.
I don’t mean that we never want to see escargot – while escargot is not a practical food (it’s delicious but likely not going to be the only thing you order), it is practical to serve in a kitchen that sells lots of nice appetizers.

By a practical menu, I mean that if the menu offers everything under the sun, that’s bad. How on earth is the kitchen going to keep all that stock on hand, fresh (not frozen or canned), prepped, and ready to go if and when someone orders it? That’s just not practical. If a restaurant insists on selling everything under the sun, couldn’t they offer up a fourth of their 6 page menu and rotate their items every season?

Looking at the menu, we realized Almost Home was pushing the limits on Rule #4. The Chef (my hubby) counted up 132 menu items (including the Seniors’ menu). He rationalized that they might use the Prime Rib in several other beef dishes, which means the beef is freshly made every night. (There were other tables with hungry diners, but it wasn’t slammed busy.) We discussed which items we wanted, which was tough because there really were so many choices. We also talked about the probability of some items being frozen or convenience food and carefully avoided these kinds of items.

Fish? Nope. Roast Turkey Dinner? Doubt it.

Ok, maybe we’re just being picky, but if we’re going to part with our hard-earned money it has to be worth it. We can buy a box of manufactured food at the grocery store for a lot less than restaurant prices.

Did I mention that we thought the prices were a little high? Just a little. Let's hope the portion sizes match the prices.

We started with appetizers. The Chef (the hubby, not the employee) ordered onion rings and refused to share. They were battered - possibly by hand? - and perfect. I snitched one off his plate when he wasn’t looking. Delicious.
The Teenager and I shared the appetizer sampler. Due to our lifestyle/cooking situation at home, leftovers means we can coast for another meal without having to think about cooking. Which is good. This is a huge platter of food that will kill your diet but keep you sustained if your only other choice is another bowl of Cheerios in front of the tv.

The chicken strips, while probably frozen from a box, were the best we’ve ever had. The Teenager says they are tied for first place with the strips at Northgate Bowl. I am not making this up. (Northgate Bowl’s chicken strips are also extremely good.) I lamented WinCo changing their Chicken Strips a while ago but now when the craving hits I’ll just make a “strip run” down Market for these babies. Ditto for the Loaded Potato Skins. They were even better the next day for lunch.
The Chef ordered a make-your-own burger sort of thing and added a fried egg and bacon. With fries. I didn’t say we had made the conscious decision to eat healthy, did I? You must have heard me wrong. Seriously, it’s ok to admit that you also have days when you say, “To heck with the salad no croutons with lite dressing on the side, give me something fried by golly!”

The Chef may be Deaf, but those flying fingers made his choice loud and clear. (That’s a Sign Language joke.)

The Teenager and I ordered Hot ___ Sandwiches. My favorite diner comfort food as a kid was the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich with mashed potatoes in the middle and gravy all over the whole thing, so that’s what I got. The Teenager had never had one before and ordered the Hot Meatloaf Sandwich. With fries under the gravy. I think the whole mashed potatoes and gravy concept was a little lost on her but have you tried their fries? They’re battered. And so good. We traded some of her potatoes for some of mine.
Then she made the mistake of proving that the whole Hot ____ Sandwich concept was lost on her when she tried to pick up her sandwich and eat it with her hands. That’s ok, I can work magic with laundry detergent and cotton shirts.
After all I’ve told you so far, and what I’m going to tell you about dessert, I hate to admit that these sandwiches were the most disappointing part of the meal. If/when we go again we won’t be ordering Hot ____ Sandwiches.

(More like When. Like we would go for appetizers and dessert after a movie.)

The meatloaf was terrible – it was nothing special to begin with and too salty to eat even if it had been special. My roast beef was ordinary and also very salty. The gravy was salty, too, but not as salty as the meat.

Wanting to see if The Chef was right when he said they probably use the Prime Rib in other beef dishes, I asked if the roast beef was slices of the Prime. Our waitress said, “No, the roast beef is just deli meat. It’s different.”

That’s a shame. Of course, it wouldn’t have been so salty, either.

I forgot to tell you that they garnished The Teenager’s plate with one of those red pickled apples. Have you ever had one? I haven't had one since I was a kid who was dragged by her parents to the local supper club in order to celebrate some crotchety geriatric family members' birthday back in the late 70's. 
She ate hers.
And liked it.

Then The Chef asked, “What’s that red thing you ate?” so I asked our waitress for another one. She was surprised and said,
“You ate it? Nobody ever eats theirs.”
“Have you ever tried one?”
“God, no.”
She gave us a few extras and The Chef tried it. The Teenager had one more and I tried it. Nothing special; tastes like apple pie apples and red food coloring.
By the way, look at all our leftover appetizers sitting next to the pickled apples – There are lots. (Yay!) And yes, that is a hangman game in progress on my napkin. It’s a family tradition when we eat out. (That’s how we taught the ASL alphabet to The Teenager when she was little.)

The waitress came around again.
“Anyone want dessert?”
Oh sure, why not.
The Teenager ordered a slice of Coconut Cream Pie and I got a slice of Lemon Merengue. The Chef hadn’t planned ahead for tomorrow’s lunch and was too full.

Wait - back up there; did I say a “slice” of pie? The picture doesn’t really show that these “slices” are actually a quarter pie. I mean, they serve up 25% of a pie to you.

Are you following me? They only get four servings out of each pie.

And while I loved the Lemon Merengue, the Coconut was the best we’d ever had. Ever.

Bottom line – We’d go back for apps and dessert, but avoid the impractical menu items in between. Although The Teenager just said might want to go back for a burger. The fries and onion rings were really good. And they do have Marionberry and Blueberry shakes on the menu.

3310 Market St NE
Salem, OR 97301
(503) 378-0100
Just west of I-5, by Shiloh Inn


Nate Rafn said...

I really like the Polaroid-style pictures.

Pam said...

Hey Nate -
Yeah, I thought the Polaroid look was cool too. They're part of Windows Live Writer - I got it with my Windows 7 package.

d. davis said...

I had always taken them for a chip off the Shari's/Elmer's block. The large desserts look worthy of a visit.

Chuck Bradley said...

d davis, To consider Almost Home a Shari's/Elmer’s clone is doing them a huge disservice. I think of AH as a slice of what truck stops and diners were in the 50's and 60's. I hope you give them a try. I would love to read your impressions.

Here are my notes from a May 9th visit:

Took she who must be obeyed here for her Mother's day lunch. The name and the appearance of the building suggest exactly what you'll find inside. All was as anticipated. Clean wholesome atmosphere, well groomed and courteous waitpersons and hearty American fare. It's the kind of place your Mom and Dad took you to when you were a child. Sometimes "nothing out of the ordinary" suites me just fine.

Pam said... I believe they're locally owned.