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Despite the Asian flavor of the restaurant's name (many passing motorists assume it's a Chinese restaurant, one waitress confided), The Bamboo Hut's menu is as all-American as a club sandwich, which the Hut makes with ham and cheese instead of the traditional turkey and bacon. In fact, someone should declare a new national holiday to celebrate The Bamboo Hut's Southern-fried chicken, which is also deep-fried but moist and savory under a crunchy armor of peppery crust. It comes with a steaming baked potato -- a cloud of starchy fluff encased in a foil wrapper -- and a two-fisted slab of hot, garlicky grilled toast.
The Bamboo Hut ain't no place for dieters. I finally said to hell with calorie counting after my second visit, when I'd guilt-tripped myself into ordering a neat little dish of cottage cheese and a demure grilled chicken salad, then watched in misery as Bob lustily devoured an iceberg salad drenched in homemade buttermilk dressing and a gorgeous eight-ounce steak broiled in garlic and butter. I reached over and took one bite of the tender steak, then shoved aside the low-cal salad and yelled for grilled pork chops. You don't go to a place like The Bamboo Hut to punish yourself by watching the rest of the crowd live it up.
Two lovely little chops came out so perfectly grilled that the meat's surface was slightly caramelized and a touch smoky, next to a heaping mound of generously cut, golden American fries. Along with a cold salad scattered with tomato wedges, rings of white onion and croutons, the pork chop dinner felt like Sunday afternoon at Grandma's.
Dinner at The Bamboo Hut is a culinary trip down a lost highway not just because of the prices, the music and the snappy service. How many new restaurants still offer a livers/gizzards combo dinner? On one visit I immediately reverted to my teen years as soon as I stole a plump shrimp, encased in a hot shell of fried batter, off of Bob's platter of shrimp and steak. I don't think I'd eaten French-fried shrimp since I wore braces, and these were the really good kind: so big they were nearly impossible to dip into the tiny cup of cocktail sauce, and it took a few bites to finish them off. That dinner came with a tiny filet -- hardly bigger than a marshmallow but exquisitely succulent nonetheless.
Lou Jane's ten-ounce filet mignon was even better, a gorgeous hunk of grilled beef wrapped in bacon and brought out on a hot metal platter that sizzled for minutes. I snagged a taste before Lou Jane claimed the rest of the steak for herself, and we agreed that it was a first-class filet, not the kind you'd expect to find in a roadhouse. But The Bamboo Hut's neon sign has been trumpeting the joint's great steaks since the days when Route 40 was a super-highway.
The Bamboo Hut serves no desserts (unless a rum and Coke does the job for you), but you'll be so full by the time you push your plate aside, you won't give a damn if you ever see a pastry again. The following day, however, you'll step on the scale, let out a scream and know it's time to get down to the gym and check out the new equipment.