My Aunt Josephine would be scandalized to know that I spent nearly 50 bucks at Amor Fiery Steakhouse de Brazil for what is, essentially, a fancy salad bar and a plate of meat and potatoes (see review). As a child of the Great Depression, Aunt Jo can remember when $50 was a week's paycheck. Come to think of it, I can remember a few times in my life when, as a tipped employee, $50 was a month's paycheck.
It's getting harder and harder to find a dinner for under 10 bucks, but I never stop looking. Last week, my friend Bob drove past a little diner in Independence called Little Richard's Family Restaurant (301 North 291 Highway). He got right on his cell phone: "I know this place is going to have good food," he said. "The parking lot is filled with big trucks."
I agreed to drive out and meet him for lunch. And I'm glad he gave me detailed directions because Little Richard's (which is named for the owner, Richard Cash, and not the singer of "Long Tall Sally" and "Tutti Frutti") is so nondescript, I would have driven right past it.
The dining room has an interesting décor: gingham curtains at the windows and a handful of guns (and a couple of fishing rods) artfully mounted on the back wall. One of the waitresses wore a "Built Ford Tough" T-shirt, and another looked like a bleached-blond Loretta Lynn. As Bob had observed, most of the customers were truckers, wolfing down pork tenderloin sandwiches and platters of biscuits and gravy.
The menu has all the usual diner fare: burgers, patty melts, hot beef sandwiches and a dozen home-style dinners (served with a potato, vegetable, bread, and soup or salad) for $7.50. And the best chicken livers in town.
But it was the list of daily specials that caught my eye. When's the last time you saw tuna casserole on a restaurant menu? I'm not sure I'd ever order it, but I might — along with a couple of the side dishes (beets, jello, green beans). A wipe-off board above the window between the dining room and the kitchen listed three cakes and nine homemade pies, including chocolate, Boston cream and "Mexican fruit" — which the waitress described as "having some papaya on it."
It's no Brazilian steakhouse, but it's a lot cheaper.