Park-N-Dine restaurant in Hancock is “famous for serving good food in a family atmosphere since 1946,” according to its website.
That sounded like a good invitation to visit so I called my friend, Pap Ricka, and asked him if he wanted to make a road trip.
Park-N-Dine is on Main Street and in the olden days, U.S. 40 traffic went right past it. Now it serves travelers from nearby Interstates 70 or 68 or people like Pap and me who are interested in a home-style cooked dinner.
We entered the restaurant through the front door and were greeted immediately by a friendly waitress who told us to sit anywhere in the front room.
Just down the hall was a huge dining room with two big sections, but it was closed off for this weeknight dinner.
The front room looked to be the original part of the restaurant with booths all around the edge and a counter with stools.
There were large windows facing the street and the décor looked like a vintage diner.
The atmosphere was cheerful and friendly.
Pap and I reviewed the menu. It was like being a kid again. There were sandwiches such as grilled cheese and BLTs, tuna salad and fish filet; and soups including vegetable, ham and bean and chili.
There were also sandwich combos such as hot turkey or roast beef, a club with ham or turkey or both and Reuben, all served with french fries and other fixings.
Of course, there was chicken which you could order fried, grilled or roasted. And there was steak including a New York Strip, swiss steak, chopped sirloin and country-fried.
I went directly to the listing of “Traditional Favorites.” They included a roast turkey dinner served with stuffing and gravy, baked ham or country ham, and roast beef.
They also had liver and onions on the menu. Liver and onions was my mother’s favorite dinner and she often requested it as her special birthday meal. I remember facing it with dread when I was a child, but coming to appreciate the deep, rich flavor as I grew older.
I finally decided upon homemade meatloaf and gravy. I got to select two sides with my dinner and went with two more traditional favorites: “real mashed potatoes” and green beans.
Meanwhile Pap decided to go with the 8-ounce Jumbo Burger. (He momentarily set aside his new found respect for vegetarianism in favor of an old favorite.) French fries came with the burger, and Pap ordered a side of broccoli.
In no time at all our food arrived. My slice of meatloaf was huge. It had a thin coat of tomato on the top and was smothered in gravy.
The meatloaf was very dense with bits of onion and green pepper in it. The flavor was traditional and satisfying. It was a substantial piece of meat, and I could have easily stretched it into two meals.
As it turned out, Pap found it irresistible and polished it off after he had finished his dinner.
The “real mashed potatoes” were true to their name. Beautifully whipped, there were just enough tiny bits of potato in them to ensure that they would not be mistaken for something out of a box but were, indeed, “real.” Also covered with gravy, they were an old-fashioned delight.
My green beans were surprising. They were cooked in a traditional way with nice-sized bits of pork, but these were not the gray, overcooked variety from my childhood. These were a lovely shade of bright green, tender and full of delicious pork flavor.
Pap’s hamburger was also huge with two 4-ounce patties stacked on a sesame seed bun. It was topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The beef was cooked through, yet it remained juicy and flavorful.
The french fries were hot, dry and crispy on the outside and soft inside. They weren’t a bit greasy.
Pap was also surprised by his vegetable. The little dish of broccoli, like my beans, was tender and perfectly cooked to keep its bright green color.
Our waitress was attentive and friendly as was the other waitress.
They helped each other out by seating patrons, refilling drinks or taking up checks for one another. It added to the congenial, family atmosphere of the restaurant.
Park-N-Dine is also open for breakfast and I can only imagine what a treat that would be. The website for Park-N-Dine says that a meal there is like time-traveling. I agree. It was a comforting and delicious trip.
Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.