AMERICAN BLANDSTAND

Our waiter seems hurt when my accomplice says he's had all the meat loaf he wants. "No seconds?" No, just the check.

The out-the-door cost of our meal at Country Corner, including tax and tip, is $15. Not bad. And the food wasn't bad. But, other than the sauteed veggies, it wasn't that good, either.

On a Friday night, another accomplice and I head over to the West side to try the New Yorker Family Restaurant. The New Yorker looks like the kind of place where in the late Sixties you and your mom stopped to eat triple-decker burgers after shopping at the new mall. In fact, the hanging lamps and general decor scream Space Age. There's a lunch counter, lots of vinyl booths and NO nonsmoking section.

"I'll put you in this corner," the hostess says, leading us to a secluded alcove. "No one's smoking over here."

Maybe not at the moment, but in a short while the section is filled with smokers of all kinds. "Is this smoking?" one guy asks. When the waitress indicates smoking is allowed everywhere in the restaurant, he raises his fist in a gesture of solidarity. He then proceeds to pull out a pipe.

Service is super-quick at this popular restaurant, faster than at some fast-food drive-ins. By the time we pay our check and leave, all the tables around us have turned over at least once.

Nightly specials and dinner entrees are very reasonably priced. The fare the night we visit includes prime rib au jus ($6.85), Greek-style chicken over rice ($4.65), roast duck with dressing ($5.40) and liver with onions ($4.15). At $6.75, NY strip steak is the most expensive item on the menu.

We go with the roast duck and the shrimp Creole ($4.55). Within seconds, tossed salads are placed in front of us. Mine is okay until I discover a half-inch of water at the bottom of the bowl. My accomplice is a little bummed to find an iceberg lettuce core in his.

Not five minutes have passed when our meals appear, along with some bread and scoops of butter substance in paper cups. "Are you done with your salads?" our waitress inquires. Yes, please take them away.

Ah! The New Yorker's mashed potatoes are a decided improvement over Country Corner's. They are whipped and hot, and the light-colored gravy poured over them is peppery and flavorful. The one-quarter duck is tender and not too greasy, the dressing moist and hot, but unmemorable. Only the dreary-looking (albeit steamed) cauliflower and carrots are disappointing.

Speaking of moms, shrimp Creole is the kind yours would have made with a recipe culled from Woman's Day had you grown up inland. Made with frozen bay shrimp, this Creole, served over rice in a bowl, is heavy on the canned tomatoes and green pepper. It's homey in that mediocre, adapted way.

Our waitress has already dropped off our check. We must flag her down to order dessert. She seems startled. Most people don't order dessert, I guess. She rattles off a list of pies. We ask her if they're baked here. Our waitress shakes her head. We order a couple of slices anyway.

Why did we bother? Both the chocolate cream pie ($1.45) and apple pie a la mode ($1.95) are cheap and commercial. The piping hot apple pie has been nuked and bonds to the roof of my dining accomplice's mouth.

By the time we leave, each of us has smoked the equivalent of three cigarettes--just from breathing. We're out of there for $16.50, including tax and tip. You can do it for less by skipping dessert, a course of action I recommend.

When I first moved to Phoenix from New York, Andros Restaurant seemed like familiar territory. A Greek coffee shop where you can order mashed potatoes with gravy and a Greek salad if the mood strikes you. Sometimes I have moods like that.

It's been four years since I last visited Andros. In the interim, the restaurant has been spruced up and modernized. Peach and teal are the dominant colors, with oak-look Formica tables and brass hanging lamps. Situated across from a large Motorola complex, Andros is now a savvy coffee shop for well-dressed clientele where you can have a Manhattan with your lunch if you want to. The adjoining bar is always full.

And the food is still good. Looking at the menu, I am tantalized again by roast turkey with dressing ($6.45), but this time I'm days older and light-years wiser. "Is it real turkey?" I ask our waitress, a middle-aged woman with a European accent. "Oh, yes, hon," she nods. "It's real." My dining accomplice orders grilled pork chops with applesauce for $6.95.

Dinners come with soup or salad, bread, vegetable, potato, and pudding or Jell-O. The soup is yummy. It's thick chicken rice with vegetables--not lemony enough to be Greek lemon-chicken soup, but close. I like it. The tossed salad is standard iceberg and red cabbage.

Our waitress comes toward us, carrying large plates of food. Dinner is served. Sure enough, the turkey is real slices of the Thanksgiving bird. But what really stands out is the hot, moist dressing. It is fantastic! Slightly lemon flavored, it tastes almost as if it were made from rye bread, but our waitress disagrees. "Maybe whole wheat," she says.

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