The Frugal Forager: Redwood boasts that diner spirit and plenty of good food

“Nice to see you again,” the server said to the couple being seated. She greeted another group with

Redwood Diner

WHERE: 2688 Hamburg St., Rotterdam. Phone 355-9522.

WHEN: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $36.07, including tip.

MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Lots of off-street parking.

“Nice to see you again,” the server said to the couple being seated. She greeted another group with a friendly hello. There apparently are a lot of regular customers at the Redwood; it’s a welcoming place with good food.

Mom and I arrived about 1 p.m. which was, by Redwood standards, a late lunch. The crowd was thinning out and the staff was giving the tables a vigorous wiping down. The dining room is mostly booths, with a small raised dining area with couple of tables to break up the space. Tiffany-style lamps hang in the front windows, and carpeting and ceiling tiles keep the noise level down.

Our booth was cozy, that is to say, a bit tight. Mom claims to be 5-foot-2, and we kept bumping each other’s feet. Low booth backs mean you can hear cellphone conversations at nearby tables easily, which we did.

Plenty to choose from

We were greeted warmly and seated as soon as we were done checking out the refrigerated dessert case by the door. More on that later. Our sodas came promptly and we perused the multipage menu. There are breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, that day’s lunch and dinner specials and then even more specials in one voluminous menu.

Mom’s sausage and pepper sandwich ($6.25) included fries, coleslaw and a cup of soup. “That’s good chicken soup,” said Mom, leaning over the steaming cup. “There’s carrot, and celery, and parsley, and chicken,” she added, as she stirred it and examined closely. We liked the heavy white china cup and plate, which added to the diner experience.

The sausage and peppers are served in a terrific roll, made fresh that day, Mom said. The crust was golden and sturdy, inside was cottony and light. The sausage was spicy and ground fine, like chicken sausage. “Good roll, good sausage,” decided Mom. The paper cup of coleslaw also drew compliments. “It’s chopped, not sliced. Like mine. Some coleslaw is just OK, but this . . .” she trailed off, no doubt thinking of the cabbage at home that was going to be her coleslaw soon. The pickle got a thumbs-up, as well.

My salad was mostly iceberg lettuce with some Romaine thrown in, grated carrot, cucumber slices, white onion rings and a wedge of tomato, all fresh. Italian dressing came in a small paper cup on the side. I liked it.

The grilled chicken breast ($7.95) on the day’s special menu sounded healthful, and it came with the salad and spaghetti. The chicken was pan-fried diner style, seasoned with salt and pepper, a bit juicy and as good as a white meat chicken breast gets. Alongside the sliced chicken on the oval plate was the spaghetti, with a ladle full of red sauce on top. A sprig of curly parsley finished off the plate. I can’t say the sauce tasted like fresh tomatoes, but it tasted like tomatoes and it was nice and smooth. Mom liked it a lot; I thought it was OK.

Satisfying examination

Check out what’s homemade for dessert at Redwood. They have the diner dessert trifecta: tapioca, rice pudding and jello, and there’s a variety of pies. Skip them. Head for homemade.

This is how we eat dessert: Mom: “This is a gorgeous slice of cheesecake. Fresh strawberries.” Me: (looking at mine) “This is great cake. I can see bits of carrot, and lots of walnuts. And look, four layers.” Mom: “That’s two layers, sliced lengthwise. I think they used a deep 10-inch spring form pan for this cheesecake.” Me: “Hey, there’s no crust on the cheesecake” Mom: (examining) “You’re right.” Me: “This is real cream-cheese frosting.”

And so on. There’s as much examining as eating, and I think we enjoy them equally. It must look odd to an outsider, but it’s fun and Mom helps me figure out what’s in our food and how it’s made. The homemade desserts at Redwood are really good, and you should order them. If it’s strawberry cheesecake or carrot cake (both $4.15), you’re going to have a tough time deciding which one to have.

It may not be silver and shiny and shaped like a rail car, but the Redwood has diner spirit through and through. Its staff is friendly and welcoming, you can get breakfast all day and there’s lots of good comforting food made on premises.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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