25 jun 1998if you pull into St. Paul, Nebraska, (population under 1000 probably), you'll find two recommended places to eat (now that "home fixin's" is a napa auto parts store). the first is pizza hut, and the second is "legion."american legion hall number 119
entering the stately fifties building, you walk not upstairs to the locked double doors, but downstairs into the restaurant - like a museum of white people from some time past. in a glass case first thing you see on your right is "past presidents" (women) and "past commanders" (men). the women are older like bess used to be quite a peach but now with curly hair and glasses you can say she makes a mean peach cobbler. buzz stevenson, all the older chaps with vaguely scandinavian and european names, wearing caps with "american legion st. paul's" with assorted pins and patches. the current commander has a mustache running down to his chin and a grin behind some squarish glasses that makes him look like an easygoing veteran biker.
the menu is simple, mostly beef/steak stuff, burgers, fried chicken (took 30 minutes though - too long for us), and some fish, including something called "ocean pike." george asks, what is ocean pike? and our waitress responds, "it's a white fish. a cheap fish." it was $5.95, and the walleye was $10.95, lori asks, "do most people order the walleye pike?" "no," she responds, "most people order the ocean pike."
i made the mistake of ordering the pork cutlet - a cheap piece of pork breaded and fried beyond pain. everything is breaded and fried - my relatives raved about the walleye pike, but it too was golden, just like all the side dishes: hashbrowns (a giant glistening patty), homemade onion rings (thick batter), curly french fries, or the exception: a foil wrapped baked potato.
each of our dinners came with salad bar, again lauded by my companions. mostly white and yellow fare; two different ways to eat cabbage: sweet saurkraut and coleslaw. whole eggs. iceberg lettuce with dried carrots interspersed. fresh strawberries. potato salad. cottage cheese, jello with fruit cocktail. some kind of fruit salad. some kind of odd looking noodle thing. later i saw the patrons ladeling thick white stuff over piled plates of all this stuff. the soup of the day was distinctly gray, very gray and very thick. as for his kind appraisal someone sez, "given the location, the absence of bad is great."
drinks included "pink squirrel" "gold cadillac" - the former described only as an ice cream drink. my brother and i each ordered ginger ale; it arrived oddly flat and watery. george asked about the beer selection - "we have budweiser products, miller products, coors."
dinner for 6 was $57, before tip. if you're travelling highway 281 west, take a left at the st. paul arrow and it's over the tracks and past the flashing pinafore?semafore? lights.