Fast, cheap and in control

Background CheckThis is the restaurant formerly known as the American Food Stand. It opened on an unlikely stretch of Highway 4 years ago and immediately scored a hit as a homegrown fast-food David trying not so much to slay but to peacefully co-exist with the Goliaths. In August, owner Jimmy Gerrain changed the name and the layout. Lots of items, like pasta, were added to the already large menu. Gerrain used to manage the Lobster Roll in Amagansett and opened this place with his father, Jimmy Sr., who passed away much too soon last year. Jimmy Jr., who has a B.A. in hotel/restaurant management from NYIT in Westbury, gave the place a slogan: "Quality Food Served In a Timely Manner With the Best Possible Service 100% of the Time." Not as catchy as "Have It Your Way," but he makes his point.

Casing the Joint In addition to flags planted at the side of Route 109 to slow down the speeding cars and tempt those getting gas at the Coastal station next door, the building now has spiffy blue awnings and a brand-new sign and logo. There is now a separate entrance for take-out and the dining room. This leads to brief confusion for some long-time customers. There are a dozen tables and booths in the bright, glass-enclosed dining room.

Best TwistAs soon as we sit down I am immediately won over by the bread basket deposited on our table. No fancy herb encrusted rolls. No over-the-top loaves. We get three hot pretzels. Street pretzels like in the city. Flecked with salt and sized just right, they come with a mini-tub of honey-Dijon mustard. I love this place and I haven't even taken bite one.

What We Eat The menu has just about every dish you could associate with an American roadside place. Prices are downright retro (read:cheap). Many dishes are offered by weight, volume or per piece. You can order a cup, bowl or quart of the Long Island seafood chowder, a house specialty. I order Just Clams, which are 1/3 of a pound for $2.99. You can also get A Lot of Clams, which is one pound for $11.99. They also have a pound of oven baked rice pilaf ($2.50) and 12 ounces of delicious veggie slaw ($1.50). I like this per-pound thing. Beats the hell out of that stupid "quarter-pounder" any day. I think all food should come this way. Imagine going somewhere for breakfast and telling the waitress, "I'll have two pounds of scrambled eggs and eight ounces of toast please." Or, "Give me the half-ton bucket of ziti, please."

What the Doctor Orders That heart symbol on the menu that usually sits next to a boring piece of fish with no butter or oil or sauce? At this place, the heart was sitting next to more than two-dozen items, including an ostrich burger--20 percent leaner than chicken, it says. I decide to not bury my head in the sand: I order it. So what if my embarrassed daughter laughs at me?

Thinking that birds of a feather should flock together if not taste like each other, I expect a turkey burger. Wrong. This is dark meat, like a hamburger, and very dense, like ground sirloin, and almost as tasty. Oh sure, I give some thought to those cute pencil necked geek birds running around aimlessly and I picture Elmer Fudd blowing their heads off. He had the right idea: These little bastards are tasty.

What the Doctor Doesn't Order Naturally, an aspiring fast-food chain has to have an ultimate hamburger. This house specialty, the Smokey BBQ Bacon Cheddar Burger ($7.99), features a disc of Canadian bacon. It comes with a choice of a side. We get two kinds of fries, curly and sweet-potato. Maybe the menu should have a little exploding-heart symbol next to ultra-satisfying, traditional offerings like this. But you have to salute the place for sticking tiny American flags in every meal.

What Elaine Would Order They have The Big Salad here ($4.50). But it doesn't have all the meat and cheese in it, as Seinfeld fans might expect. It's just a big salad. I try to get our waitress, Rachel, to tell me how much it weighs.

Vegetarians You'll be jumping out of your Birkenstocks when you see all the options here, which include a Veggie Burger ($3.99), Marinated Char-Broiled Veggies ($5.50), Portabella Mushroom ($4.99), salads and pastas with your choice of pomodoro, vodka or Alfredo sauces if you eat dairy. The penne with vodka sauce was unexpectedly light and flavorful. Don't forget the pound of pilaf and the slaw.

Cavity Patrol Of course, the place has ice cream and real shakes, not like those synthetic ones at the Arches. Don't pass up the Oreo Cookie Pie or Reese's Peanut Butter Pie.

Damage With prices this low, even students without part-time jobs can have it their way.

 
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