I begin to understand why we are a nation with of overweight. And before you start sending me hate messages, let me go on record as saying that I love this place and I have loved it for nearly 40 years. But do any of us really NEED this much food? To wit: (and this, for the uninitiated, is what comes with an average dinner:
--Two salads, one a green salad in blue cheese dressing-- tasty blue cheese dressing, I'll give you-- in fact the blue cheese dressing which made me learn to like blue cheese dressing-- but is it necessary to put a bottleful in each bowl? (OK, I'm exaggerating. I do that.) Maybe it is. Maybe the balance of taste just won't be the blue cheese salad we know and love.
--Yes, their red cabbage coleslaw is unsurpassed. I've tried a number of times, but I just can't make mine taste anywhere near as good as theirs. I will gladly make a meal on this stuff alone, but you can twist my arm to add the other salad and some cheese bread while you're at it. Yes, I can happily dine at Northwoods Inn for very little money.
--Cheese bread is a goopy delight; just sinking your teeth into the topping is a wonderful sensation. They sell the topping to go and you can often find it in markets, but in my experience it never tastes nearly as wonderful as when you're eating it at Northwoods Inn.
-- Much as I love rice pilaf, I confess I've never warmed up to the version at Clearman's. To me, it tastes like converted rice is used-- and I'm not much of a fan of that product.
-- I'm still not clear why the restaurant serves both rice and potatozilla (a baked potato the size of the state of Texas). For the fat lovers amongst us, it should be pointed out that this enormous potato can be served with mushroom sauce or cheese butter. Regular butter is now available as well. I believe you'll be given about a stick of it.
Oh, but I've forgotten the main courses. Basically, it's steak, chicken and fish, mostly grilled. Over the years I've had all three and have developed a distinct preference for steak chunks on a skewer with their wonderful homemade steak sauce-- perhaps it's because the serving size is considerably less formidable than the regular steaks which range in size from 9 to 25 oz. (yes, you read that last correctly) Who really needs a 25 oz steak? Perhaps for the lumberjacks among us-- but wait. Where ARE the lumberjacks among us? Granted, recent trends toward healthier foods have caused Clearmans to stop frying as many foods and opting to broil instead, but the portions are still enough to feed a small family. I think it pretty much speaks for itself when our server arrived, threw his prerequisite handful of peanuts on the table (there are signs through out the restaurant advising patrons to please throw peanut shells on the floor) and we were greeted pretty much with "Welcome to Clearman's; would you like your doggie bag now or later?"
Still in all, I will go back. I love the kitschy atmosphere, a little like eating at Disneyland, but with decent food. I love the snow covered roof with the lady of the evening at the window (or is she gone now?) I love the log cabin walls, the pot bellied stove, the wood burl tables, the Tiffany lamps and old time lanterns. I do miss the live ragtime piano of the past and the way I could wander into the bar and watch the guy's fingers fly across the keyboard with a sense of awe.
Go to Northwoods Inn and enjoy as a special treat. Take out of town guests; they'll love the place. Truly it is fun and the food is good. Just don't try to eat it all at one sitting.
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