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ALL FOR ONE

A complimentary piece of apple pie soothed our ruffled feathers, and we walked away with three dark segments and one white one--all the restaurant had left after a busy night depleted the stock. But even as the evening's leftovers, the chicken was across-the-board wonderful, with each piece evenly cooked and coated with that tangy marinade. Our seventeen bucks also scored a total of four cold and four hot side dishes in little to-go containers--each portion weighed about four ounces--and four buttermilk biscuits (the deli also had run out of cornmeal muffins). While the biscuits had a good, homemade texture, the hot sides were as uneven as the dishes at a church potluck. The cream-cheese whipped potatoes were a hit, proof that you can't go wrong with cream cheese; the BBQ baked beans, on the other hand, tasted of nothing but beans and cheap barbecue sauce--despite Greg's assertions that they're cooked with onions, bacon, ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, pepper, molasses and, yes, barbecue sauce. And while the garlic-cheese grits were unsettlingly smooshy, the creamed spinach casserole was rich and homey.

The cold sides were the same tossup. The cole slaw is made from Andy's recipe, which Greg was quick to explain uses lemon juice and onion for flavor, rather than mayonnaise and vinegar, but it tasted like wet cabbage. I'm not saying that slaw has to have mayo in it to be good, but either someone didn't follow the instructions, or something got lost in the translation. The potato salad was slathered with mayonnaise; Greg says they buy it ready-made. The cinnamon apples were just pieces of the fruit mixed with cinnamon and sugar, but the strawberry cream-cheese gelatin was something special. This time the cream cheese had been whipped up with Cool Whip and spread atop gelatin crammed with strawberries and celery; it sounds like a recipe out of a small-town Junior League cookbook, but it tasted great in a kid-again kind of way.

In fact, those old-timey tastes are a big part of Rocky Mountain Chicken's appeal. Although our serving of chicken noodle soup ($1.50 a cup) suffered from being the dregs of the pot and had thickened to gravy consistency, it was still filled with homemade-style noodles (frozen fresh pasta instead of dried) and hand-shredded chicken pieces. Eating our meal was like having Mom cook for us again, although this time we had to pay her--but we didn't have to do the dishes.

And that's a restaurant trend that will never go out of style. Whether a kitchen serves a one- or fifty-item menu, convenience should always be the specialty of the house.

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