The $10 Challenge: Terri Ann’s

Biscuit and gravy from Terri Ann's
Biscuit and gravy from Terri Ann’s

A restaurant like Theresa’s doesn’t come along all the time. Neither does its breakfast special.

Theresa’s is a diner in Bowling Green that serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday; Sundays are reserved for the staff to spend time with “the Lord and their families,” the menu says. The smoking section takes up the majority of the restaurant, but the cloud of secondhand smoke inevitably wafts over to a non-smoker’s table as waitresses hustle by with full trays of orders. Because the doors close at 3 in the afternoon, the booths and tables are full of blue-collar workers still in cover-alls looking for breakfast after the first and third shifts.

Breakfast was my favorite thing about Theresa’s. They had this incredible breakfast special that I ordered every time I visited as a Western Kentucky University student. For four dollars and some change, you get biscuits and gravy or toast (but seriously, who chooses toast when biscuits and gravy is an option), your choice of a meat, two eggs any way you want them, and hash browns.

I’ve spent three years trying to find a dinner in Louisville that I love as much as Theresa’s.

Terri Ann’s is pretty close. It’s a diner in southwest Louisville, just down the street from the beauty shop my parents own. Terri Ann’s offers a hearty line-up of meat-centric Southern diner fare that will set you back well less than $10.

My dad comes in most Saturdays with a carry-out box filled to the edges with some kind of breakfast combo he’s picked up from Terri Ann’s.

“You want some of this?” he asks, mouth full of egg and potato.

Yes, Daddy, I indeed want some Terri Ann’s, I decided one Saturday.

Instead of picking out of my dad’s to-go box, I went down to the restaurant after my shampoo and set to enjoy an early lunch with Rob.

The diner lacks some of the charm of Theresa’s (the city’s smoking ban probably has a lot to do with that), but it’s just as unpretentious. Guests seat themselves in vinyl booths or small tables under the dull glow of fluorescent lights. Waitresses don’t wear uniforms – just T-shirts, jeans and a smile.

We started with a couple of mismatched mugs of coffee ($1.50). I wasn’t expecting Starbucks, but I wasn’t expecting the thin beverage I sipped. Even though it was the cheapest coffee I had in weeks, I quickly decided I would stick with just water the next time.

Terri Ann’s food is more robust than its drinks, but take note: this is a restaurant where New Year’s resolutions come to die. All of the appetizers ($3.25-$4.95) are fried or covered in cheese. The only vegetarian option on the lunch sandwich menu is the grilled cheese on Texas toast (served with fries, $3.50). And don’t get me started on the country fried steak. But there’s a certain charm to this disregard providing healthful options. This isn’t a place to count Weight Watchers points. Terri Ann’s is a place to fill your belly on the cheap with some good, greasy, cheap food.

My general rule is to order breakfast whenever a restaurant serves the most important meal of the day all day. Unless you had your heart set on waffles, which aren’t on the menu, Terri Ann’s has just about everything I could ask for in a breakfast menu. I could be full for hours with one of the egg plates, which come with fried potatoes, a biscuit, two eggs and one of seven different meats (ranging from $5.95 for smoked sausage and eggs to $9.95 for steak and eggs). The short stack with meat ($5.35 for two “hot cakes” and your choice of meat) and old-time French toast ($3.50 for three piece made with Texas toast) would satisfy my sweet tooth. And if all else fails, there’s always biscuits and gravy ($3 for two biscuits).

To get a little taste of a lot of food, I ordered the “Two Egg’s & Taters” (sic) that came with two eggs cooked to order (over medium for me), fried potatoes, country gravy and a biscuit ($3.95). Rob went with the Traditional Western omelet and fried potatoes ($8.70).

Biscuit and gravy, fried potatoes and eggs over medium from Terri Ann's.
Biscuit and gravy, fried potatoes and eggs over medium from Terri Ann’s.

The meal made up for my earlier disappointment with the coffee.

The fried potatoes were like the fat cousin of hash browns. The heftier hunks had the crispy edges that I like but more of the potato’s “meat.”

The eggs and biscuit were very good, nothing out of the ordinary, but tasty nonetheless. The country gravy, however, was some of the thickest I had ever had. I only needed to plop couple of heaping spoonfuls onto my biscuit. The gravy was a day away from being the consistency of a Jell-O mold.

A bite of Western omelet from Terri Ann's.
A bite of Western omelet from Terri Ann’s.

If I ever go to Terri Ann’s on an empty stomach, I will get the Western omelet that Rob ordered. The three-egg dish includes bacon, sausage, ham onion, tomato, mushrooms, green peppers and cheddar cheese. It was like someone dumped the toppings of a supreme pizza onto a pile of eggs. This dish is guaranteed to give you a severe case of the itis that you can only remedy with a nap.

Terri Ann’s won’t have the nostalgia that I’ve attached to Theresa’s any time soon. But it is a restaurant where I can afford to make plenty of new memories.

Terri Ann’s, 2605 Rockford Lane, Louisville

Coffee: $1.50
Two eggs, fried potatoes and a biscuit with gravy: $3.95
Total (with tax): $5.78

Mission: Accomplished

Guilt-free waffle fries, more counterspace and other things I want for Christmas

 

In no particular order, here is a sampling of what I would like this year for Christmas:

  • For Chick-fil-a to adopt more progressive social views so I won’t have a moral dilemma every time I want some waffle fries.
  • Delivery service from Annie Café. Yes, I live within spitting distance, but sometimes laziness sets in when I get a hankering for ginger chicken.
  • Time to reorganize all the recipes I’ve torn out from magazines.
  • MORE COUNTERSPACE.
  • Nutella in bigger, redesigned jars optimal for dipping pretzels and animal crackers. I’m sick of getting hazelnut spread on my wrists when I near the end of the jar.
  • And speaking of pretzels, a steady supply of chocolate-covered pretzels at my desk would be great. The salty/sweet combo is magical.
  • To receive the same (alleged) multi-million-dollar deal from Weight Watchers that Jessica Simpson will (allegedly) receive after she has a baby. I’m already down with PointsPlus, Weight Watchers. I’ll take the cash.
  • For people to truly like the homemade baked goodies I’m doling out for the holidays.
  • A new lunch bag. Something like this will do.
  • More respect for the tiny carts at Kroger. Quit leaving them out to freeze, Angry Teenage Cart-Gatherer.
  • More coupons for real food — the kind that doesn’t come in cardboard boxes.
  • Cherry Coke Zero at every fountain.
  • The realization of the great app that will be Menu and Hours.
  • More butter for Norway. Those people have suffered enough.
  • To not gain winter weight from all the cookies, doughnuts, cakes and lunch specials I’ve been exposed to in my new office.
  • World peace.

Bits and pieces: Jewish soul food, food-safety bill and other food news from the web, 12.6.10

Like matzo ball soup? How about matzo ball gumbo? Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Tastes via Flickr.
  • A University of North Carolina professor has written a book that takes a look at how Jews in the South have blended Jewish dishes with Southern staples. Marci Cohen Ferris recently appeared on NPR to discuss her book, Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South. Some interesting hybrids that Ferris discusses include lox and grits, sweet potato latkes and, of course, matzo ball gumbo. I can dig it.
  • A store clerk recently stopped a robbery by throwing a package of empanadas, a Latin American pastry, at the would-be robber, according to a story from the Associated Press.
  • Weight Watchers has changed its Points system, and some folks over in the Gawker comment section aren’t happy about it. According to ABC News, the biggest change to Weight Watchers is that fruits and vegetables have zero points. This probably means nothing to anyone who hasn’t done Weight Watchers, but as a two-time former Weight Watcher, this is pretty major. Thoughts?
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, the first major overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s food-safety provisions since 1938, is working its way through Congress. USA Today provides a really good overview of the bill and the changes that would take place if it passes, such as the FDA having the right to order companies to recall tainted food and the first federal oversight of produce.

Put down the pie and pop in the workout DVD, or how to stay healthy during the holidays

I’m two turkey sandwiches, four slices of sweet potato pie and nearly a dozen Crescent Rolls into the holiday season.

My hips are going to spread faster than the BP oil spill if I don’t change my eating habits between now and Christmas.

Most weight gain during the year occurs during the holiday quarter, and folks typically don’t lose the pounds they put on, according to an article from the Washington Post.

It’s the beginning of December, a prime time to learn from the gluttony and subsequent food hangover of Thanksgiving and make smart food choices through Christmas.

Here’s a few tips on how to stay (kind of) healthy during all the buffets, sit-down dinners and break room goodies. This advice has been gleaned from two rounds of Weight Watchers and too many years of eating myself silly at Mama Eats’ kitchen table. Bottom line: treat yourself, but don’t pig out.

  • Eat your veggies first. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and dive into the healthy stuff first. When I fill up on vegetables first, I have less room for the less-healthy options.
  • Pack snacks for work. Is it me, or does the office break room have little elves that constantly fill platters with cookies, cakes and pies during the holidays? Bring healthier snacks in your lunch bag, such as dried fruits or almonds, when you are tempted by the generosity of your co-workers.
  • Don’t forget to exercise – even if it’s just walking. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s cold and gray outside. But a few extra minutes of cardio each day can really make a difference. I like following a workout DVD when I get up in the morning – it gets my day started on a good note. I’m a fan of Leslie Sansone, who advocates indoor walking for exercise (it sounds kind of weird, but it’s pretty awesome).
  • Go easy on the sauce. Some of those holiday cocktails can be heavy on the calories. Check out the nutritional facts for eggnog. And chug some water between those hot toddies.
  • Bring your own dish to the holiday parties. The menu can be a mystery at holiday gatherings, but there’s some security in bringing your own healthy dish. I recommend pumpkin spice muffins.
  • Just say no. Daddy Eats will still love me, even if I don’t try that pecan pie he bought for charity. I’m sure your loved ones feel the same. But if Grandma’s eyes start to well when you turn down her cornbread stuffing, have a small portion instead of a heaping mound.