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  • Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: Love the Mom and Pop Restaurants

I’m totally into Mom and Pop restaurants. Particularly enticing to me are the ones that serve Mexican, Italian or Spanish food. The dishes in those establishments don’t have to be pricey to be good.

For example. When I’m covering spring training in Port Charlotte, there’s a Mexican Restaurant where I can order two beef enchiladas, a taco, rice, chips and salsa and three cold domestic drafts for $12.

Seriously, $12? That’s an appetizer in most chain restaurants, which reaffirms why I enjoy finding a one-of-a-kind, mom and pop establishment. They are treasures.

Given the fact I travel a lot, I eat at my share of chain restaurants, too. You can usually count on consistency at one of these and, if you’re alone, you can eat at the bar. But for pricing, taste and uniqueness, mom-and-pop restaurants rule. The tough part is finding one.

I’m constantly scanning signs. Strip malls are fertile grounds for finding said restaurants. Usually they have funny names like “Curley’s” or “Ugly Sam’s” or “Fat Freddy’s” and the sign outside is barely big enough to read. Sometimes you’ll find one that’s a family restaurant with a broad menu, leaving you wondering what to choose. That’s when I employ some great advice I received from a Devil Rays prospect when I visited him at his home in a small Pennsylvania town. My complaint to him about a local restaurant I’d eaten at prompted him to ask what I had ordered.

“I had a steak that I could barely chew,” I said.

He shook his head and replied as if he were repeating a postulate: “Always go with the specials.”

Wise advice.

I’ll be on the lookout for new mom and pop restaurants this season. If you have any suggestions, please send them along.

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