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A GUIDE TO ALL-STAR INDIGESTION
Gael Greene
October 12, 1970
The lady hiding behind that Coke at left is our author, a renowned restaurant critic at whose approach headwaiters would tremble—if they only knew what she looked like. But the secret of her success lies in anonymity; that way no chef can haute up the cuisine just for her. Still, a diet of all fancy food can tire a girl, so Gael set out recently to brave an uncharted area of our gastronomic civilization: the sports-oriented restaurant. Here is her candid critique, written right from the heart(burn), on how America eats.
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October 12, 1970

A Guide To All-star Indigestion

The lady hiding behind that Coke at left is our author, a renowned restaurant critic at whose approach headwaiters would tremble—if they only knew what she looked like. But the secret of her success lies in anonymity; that way no chef can haute up the cuisine just for her. Still, a diet of all fancy food can tire a girl, so Gael set out recently to brave an uncharted area of our gastronomic civilization: the sports-oriented restaurant. Here is her candid critique, written right from the heart(burn), on how America eats.

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The Dugout looks like just another neighborhood bar and grill—dark and boozy, with a gas fire flickering on the hearth and a middlebrow jukebox. But the food can be surprisingly good, with excellent man-size sirloins for $6.50 and lean, meaty spareribs for $4.50, enough to stagger the average glutton. But on the ribs: ignore the sweet smoky sauce.

Entrées, from $2.75 for ground sirloin to $6.95 for lobster tails, come with a big baked potato, sour cream (25¢ extra), garlic-soused sourdough and a huge crisp salad. All this is served by Dodgerettes, peppy cheerleader debbies in white vinyl cling boots and with prewar ice-cream-cone bosoms.

The coffee cup is bottomless, but the plastic-packaged, ice-crystal-riddled parfaits are a disaster. The plat du jour at lunch changes daily—the summer special seems to be Polish (Ron Perranoski) ham on onion roll for 85¢. Shrimp salad a la Maury Wills is $1.25, and very Drysdale martinis are 85¢; very dry Drysdale himself lopes through the dining room, signing autographs as the mood strikes.

I give it 2½ trophies.

McKEEVER'S TROJAN BARREL, 3724 SOUTH FIGUEROA STREET, LOS ANGELES.

California is the junk-food capital of the nation and the Trojan Barrel wins junk-food honors in both the sublime and slightly lethal divisions. The bacon and avocado sandwich is a gastronomic high at $1.25. Basically a BLT on toast with mayo, plus slippery avocado chunks, it is served with a fine potato salad of remarkable character. Chili Size, $1.10, turns out to be a thick, spicy potage topped with a gristly chopped-meat patty and that glutinous, orange insult to the nation's name, American cheese. Even a junk-food addict might find this a bit of an overdose. But it was sheer inspiration to deliver the steak sandwich, $1.60, on hunks of garlic bread. Alas, the meat is strictly summer-camp genre, flat and furiously tenderized. There are more conventional sandwiches, too, such as a top sirloin for $2.90, and chef's salad. Coffee tastes boiled. But there is beer on draught, by the pitcher or glass. No desserts. "After our food no one ever wants any," the waiter confided.

The Barrel is a dim, primitive, slightly shabby campus hangout near USC, with tufted banquettes (not unlike Hollywood's status beanery, Chasen's) and a pool table. There is a monster barbecue pit in the patio to cut the chill and cheer the crowd on big football weekends. Hosts Bill and Marvin McKeever also run a bar-bus to Tijuana for the bullfights.

I give it three trophies.

MICKEY MANTLE'S COUNTRY COOKIN', IRVING, TEXAS.

I have eaten Indian, Moroccan, Armenian, Balinese, Korean, Ukrainian and soul. But "country" is utterly foreign to me. Old-fashioned chicken-fried steak for $1.95 proved to be breaded beef frosted in cream sauce, "a real truck driver's dish," my country-bred companion assured me. "You've got to eat it fast before the gravy congeals." But even his native palate faltered before Cousin Elviry Mantle's Country Chicken and Dumplin's, $1.25.

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