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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 1999

LAWRENCE RESTAURANTS EXCEL IN SPECIFIC DISHES

April 22, 1999

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What Lawrence restaurant serves the best appetizers? Chicken-fried steak? Here are some tasty picks.

Over the last few years I've had a rotating assignment to review restaurants, particularly in Lawrence, and I've come to appreciate that various establishments excel in different areas.

I've eaten in four-star restaurants and scores of sports clubs, and I've even reviewed a fast-food joint or two. I've sampled Cajun, Mexican, Chinese, European and American dishes, and I've come to develop a fondness for several restaurants.

Let's face it -- no place can be all things to everyone. We all have a favorite spot for coffee and dessert, another for breakfast, and yet another for particular appetizer selections.

From time to time I get asked for recommendations by our readers, so I decided to compile a list of establishments for which I have an affinity. These are the places that first come to mind when someone asks me for a recommendation.

I must admit that I'm not one for appetizers because it seems like everyone serves quesadillas, buffalo wings and fried mushrooms. But Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., serves fantastic onion rings that are a meal in themselves.

I'm also partial to that Onion Blossom over at Chili's Grill and Bar, 2319 Iowa. Other places are now offering the blossom, but Chili's is still my favorite.

Most of the sports clubs put out similar, dueling menus so it's hard to pick standout items, but Molly McGee's, 2429 Iowa, serves great burgers, and the new Pizzeria Uno, 3333 Iowa, has a sirloin tip entree that is delicious.

The BarbWire Steak House, 2412 Iowa, offers a mean chicken-fried steak, as does Willie C's Cafe and Bar, 616 Vt.

For Mexican cuisine you simply cannot go wrong by visiting El Mezcal, 1819 W. 23rd. The food is first-rate and reasonably priced. Heck, it's worth visiting just to watch the servers carry five or six food platters on one arm without a tray. (Dining tip: The fajitas are excellent, and a single order can feed a couple.)

Of course, Lawrence has numerous pizza places, but for something other than run-of-the-mill, Old Chicago, 2329 Iowa, is hard to beat. Rudy's Pizzeria, 704 Mass., makes a fine pie, and the American Pie Pizzeria, 1741 Mass., although primarily a delivery place, is also pretty good.

Next door to American Pie is Bambino's Italian Cafe, 1801 Mass. The restaurant specializes in tasty pasta dishes. The portions are huge and the tab is affordable. The Mad Greek Restaurant, 907 Mass., makes superior Italian dishes, and its Sunday Italian and Greek buffet is wonderful.

For Chinese you might try the Magic Wok, 1700 W. 23rd, for meal selections, and the Panda Garden, 1500 W. Sixth, or Peking Taste, 2210 Iowa, for buffet choices.

My sandwich preference might come as a surprise, but the Ampride convenience station, 1000 E. 23rd., makes great big sandwiches, and no one can go wrong by ordering the What-a-Sub-Club. It's a sandwich so filling that a 3-inch version is offered. Get it to go if you can't stand the thought of eating next to a tire display.

The Massachusetts Street Delicatessen, 941 Mass., also ranks right up there. The Owner's Special is delicious.

You also can't beat Mass Street Deli for desserts, primarily cheesecakes, and Perkins Restaurant, 1711 W. 23rd., is the place for pies. I recently dropped by to pick up some French Silk pie. It's so delicious that eating it seems sinful.

For breakfast, try First Watch Restaurant, 2540 Iowa, which specializes in breakfast, brunch and lunch items. It may come as a surprise, but Milton's Coffee and Wine, 920 Mass., also offers a good breakfast. Milton's is a nice place to stop off for coffee, drinks and conversation.

Lawrence has some excellent specialty restaurants. Pachamama's, 2161 Quail Creek Dr., and Fifi's Restaurant, 925 Iowa, come to mind, but my preference is Teller's, 746 Mass. It is casually elegant, and it offers first-rate, European-flavored cuisine.

Please don't take this as a "Best of Lawrence" list -- it's merely a memo of my preferences. Having a variety of places to go and menu selections to sample means there really is something for everyone in this town.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to jbiles@ljworld.com.

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