Today, Im writing about a pair of places, one catering to my sons tastes, the other to mine. Nick, whose diet consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, has been dragged along by me to plenty of cheap eateries over the years. This time, he took me to a place he discovered. Mom, you have to write about this, he said. He was right.
Henrys Root Beer Stand is faux retro, a throwback to the old burger joints that offered bottomless root beers ($1.49) and lime rickeys (24 oz. for $2.49). Henrys and its three sibling restaurants two in Taunton and one in Cohasset are owned by Kimberly and Bill Palmer, who grew up in Quincy and are proud of their root beer, which is made on-site from their own recipe.
There are all sorts of deals here, including a 99-cent cheeseburger thats far superior to those offered by the big chains. My son is partial to combo No.2: the Dog/Burger Meal ($5.99). Its a large, grilled burger, a meaty hot dog, and great, crisp fries.
If you like those messy sausage sandwiches, oozing with onions and peppers, youll find them here from $1.49 to $3.99 (fries included). The hot dogs come with either chili, cheese, sauerkraut, or, for those with healthy hearts, chili-cheese. There are all sorts of other sandwiches, thick and crunchy onion rings ($2.79 for a large order), ice cream specials, and something called a Black Cow (from $1.99 to $2.99). This made us famous, reads a sign. The Black Cow is vanilla ice cream floating on top of root beer, then blended into a shake. My son was in a swoon. If youre not dead after all the carbs and cream, theres also fried dough ($2.49).
You order at the counter and sit at the wooden tables. The place is decorated with old license plates and movie posters on the walls to give it a 50s feel. The only thing missing is a drive-through and waitresses on roller skates.
If you want to score points with the kids, take them to Henrys and grab yourself a bacon cheeseburger ($3.99) and a shake, too.
Henrys Root Beer Stand, 60 Newport Ave., North Quincy. 617-472-3554. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Open daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Now its my turn.
Every time I get a hankerin for my Aunt Lils southern cooking, I head over to Murphys Country Kitchen in Hyde Parks Cleary Square. Its just a tiny storefront place, but in the back, the cooks no chefs here turn out the lightest fried chicken ($8) and meanest meatloaf ($7) this side of Richmond. Each entree comes with three sides: the macaroni and cheese is creamy, the collard greens with ham hocks (or turkey bones) cooked just right, and the yams sweet and soft, with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Use the warm cornbread, a generous hunk for 75 cents, to sop up the gravy that accompanies the smothered pork chops ($9). The lean chops are fried, the gravy plain-spoken: onions, pan juices, and flour. My favorite is the meatloaf, moist and studded with minced onion and tiny bits of green peppers.
The restaurant is owned by Robin Murphy, whose mother, Grace, does much of the cooking. I grew up cooking this food in Georgia, says Grace, 60. Its the only thing I know how to cook, and its all I ever ate.
Murphys is open for all three meals, and breakfast is a winner, too: three eggs, bacon or sausage, grits or homefries, and toast and coffee for five bucks. You can get those grits regular or garlic. Try the garlic; youll never go back.
OK, I know yall Yankees dont like grits. But theyre misunderstood up here. Give them a chance (tip: slather with butter and salt generously).
A warning: The place itself is low on charm and could use a good cleaning and spiffing up. You place your order at the counter, and it arrives in a styrofoam container. Take it home, turn on the televised UNC Tar Heels vs. the Duke Blue Devils, and youll know what heaven on earth is.
Murphys Country Kitchen, 10 Fairmount Ave., Hyde Park. 617-333-4433. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Open Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-10 p.m.