Thursday, April 22, 2010

Smalltown Favorite

This evening, for about the 4th time in 2 months, I had dinner with my family in a little, out-of-the-way joint named the Duncan Family Restaurant @ 159 West Main Street in Duncan, SC. It is an unimposing brick building sandwiched between the railroad tracks and the miniscule office of the local law. There are no huge crowds, the decor is simple, and everything is fresh.
Tonight's special, (one of 6 or 7), was a NY strip with 3 vegetables for $7.95. I chose the corn nuggets, ranch potatoes, and coleslaw. Having eaten here before, I know that the food is prepared by a chef who knows how to put his passion into his food and cares about creativity and quality. Someday, I will meet this man! Ah, but back to the food.... The food came out hot and fresh, and the first thing I bit into was a corn nugget. A not-too-thick layer of crispy crunchy tempura batter surrounded a warm, melty sweet corn center. The whole thing was about the size of a tater-tot, so they were perfect bite size. These cover both the southern fried craving and the sweet corn flavor--perfect!
Now, I am very picky about my coleslaw. I have had it sweet, sour, fruity, vinegary, too dry, sopping wet, you name it, but I have never had coleslaw like this! It had finely chopped bits of many shades of fresh green cabbage and ?, but best of all, it had fresh herbs. The flavor of the herbs took me quite by surprise, but a pleasant one! I have never had such a well-balanced coleslaw--not too sweet or sharp. To my as yet uneducated palate, the herb tasted like cilantro, but that is just a guess. Someday, I will be able to identify them all blindfolded. (It is good to have dreams, no?!) This is the coleslaw that all others aspire to be!
Now, I am not a fan of scalloped potatoes, but tonight I became a believer, hallelujah! I have never had such perfectly cooked scalloped potatoes, but beyond that were the succulent ingredients that made these potatoes drool-worthy. A ranch cream sauce bathed them in flavor, bacon chunks gave both texture and taste, and they were topped off by a blanket of gooey, melted cheddar cheese. Oh, my goodness, this is scallop de nirvana! If I were attempting these at home, I would add a package of the powdered ranch, as I believe it will mimic the flavor of this dish better than a watered-down liquid version. I will be sure to let you know if I can experiment successfully with it at home.
Now to the steak! I have mentioned before that I prefer well-done beef, so sometimes it is a gamble finding a chef with the finesse to coax out doneness without going over the edge to dry and rubbery. There was a good chew to the meat which was very successful here, and the sear was perfect, but the flavor was completely unexpected. This flavor could only come from the kitchen of a chef who loves herbs and can make them sing in any dish. I have never put such a bite into my mouth. My guess is that he marinated the meat first, but what set it apart was what I can only guess was an herb butter bath to finish it off instead of the usual salt and pepper nod to flavor. The result was juicy goodness! Stay tuned, as I intend to learn more from this chef as time progresses.
I would add that my 5-year-old, Ethan, proclaimed the generous baked spaghetti dish "the bestest spaghetti he had ever had"!
If you go for a visit, the scallops they serve on the seafood plate melt like butter in your mouth, and the pork chops are definitely worth looking into.
Overall, my favorite small town eatery. At least once during our meals, the children were entertained by the train whizzing by outside the window.
Price: $7.95
Flavor: fresh herbs rule!
Best Bet: You can't go wrong with the daily specials
See you there soon!

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