Powers Boulevard reminds me of a long chain-link fence. For a couple miles, its sections look the same: supermarket, corporate restaurant, liquor store, video store.
But every once in a while, some brave soul, hammer in hand, puts up a picket fence on the strip. Feng Yang is such a soul.
Yang and her family recently purchased the former East Coast Deli spot, between Stetson Hills and Dublin boulevards, and renamed it I-95 Restaurant and Bar. If you liked East Coast, you should have no problem with I-95. Most of the menu, the chef and many staff members are the same. Though Yang has added a few Asian-inspired appetizers, like crisp, albeit traditional egg rolls (two for $3.85), she's largely banking on the All-American, casual, family-dining style to draw customers.
Embedded deep in the traffic-laden obstacle course off Powers that is the Stetson Hills Shopping center, I-95 isn't easy to get to. And I live up here. You can skip part of the headache by taking Tutt Boulevard into the back of the shopping center, or take I-95 up on its delivery option if you're within five miles.
Bringing to mind an upscale Perkins restaurant, a crystal chandelier greets between double doors, followed by deli and dessert cases inside. Continue on in to a separate bar area or turn left into a bright, airy dining room lit by large windows and a skylight; muted tones and grey cityscapes round out the room.
At lunch, the scents of bacon and maple syrup linger in the air from breakfast service — not a bad welcome. As expected, the eatery offers a vast array of soups, sandwiches, burgers and salads. The turkey avocado melt ($10.59), piled high with warm, thin-cut turkey, sliced avocado and melted Swiss on sourdough, proved both hearty and delicious. As with the menu's other "skyscraper" sandwiches, it came with tasty seasoned fries. But what really set the men off in my family was an order of Dirty Fries ($7.99), which are fresh-cut and loaded with beefy homemade chili and melted cheddar cheese.
I melted with the jumbo sirloin Patty Melt ($9.99), topped with grilled onions, mushrooms and melted Swiss on perfectly toasted rye bread. The massive sandwich was juicy, without being soggy, leaving a nice crunch to the rye.
Back for dinner, my husband ordered a charbroiled New York Strip ($17.99), which while a touch gristly, was cooked as requested and with good flavor. I was not as lucky, as my blackened salmon ($13.95), while well-seasoned, arrived overcooked. Dinners are advertised as coming with soup or salad and fresh bread; though we never got the bread, the matzo ball soup that night thrilled us with its clear broth, still-crisp carrots, noodles and two large fluffy matzo balls.
Prices seemed fair, considering the generous portions overall. Our fresh-made turnover ($3.29) measured 10 inches on the angle and was warm and flaky, with the added crunch of raw sugar. Every dessert, for that matter, proved stellar, from the dueling 10-inch, six-layer, moist chocolate cake ($7.99) to the rich and fluffy carrot cake ($4.95).
Logistical hassle considered, I-95 still is more than worthy of earning a loyal clientele. But as it's been for all Powers Boulevard independents, folks will have to ditch the corporates to make this local kitchen survive. Here's hoping this picket fence stands strong.