Los Angeles Times
Those in the know at Tracy's Bar & Grill in Long Beach check out the blackboard specials before looking at the games on TV.

A few are already munching on nachos or a hot dog that's too messy to eat with your hands, but not the smart ones.  Those in the know are checking out the blackboard.

I don't give a hoot about sports.   I don't even care about how they play the game, yet I learned long ago that the average sports bar serves American food that is vastly superior to that of the typical coffee shop or family restaurant.

That's not exactly true at Tracy's however.   The imaginative entrees, available at Tracy's after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night, are on a par with your favorite upscale restaurant where the average dinner costs $18.95

The three special weekend entrees, along with two soups and a dessert(sometimes there are two) are listed on the blackboard, and my husband, Martin, and I decided to share the chicken tortilla soup, $1.95.

Ever the pasta enthusiast, he chose the walnut chicken over cheese ravioli, $7.50, while I picked the grilled trout with fresh tomato dill sauce, served with fresh green beans and rice pilaf, $7.95.

The third entree was a New York steak mrlot,$11.95

"this is my favorite soup in the whole world," confided our perky waitress as she set the bowl before me, and she surely had an educated palate.   This soup was ambrosia! The broth was extraordinarily strong and flavorful, and it was crowded with juicy strips of grilled chicken breast, onion, celery, fresh tomatoes, narrow ribbons of chewy tortillas, garlic and herbs.   I took my time before passing the bowl to Martin, but as soon as he tasted it, he suggested that we order a second bowl.   I knew featly how he felt, but I instantly vetoed the motion.   I knew that we'd eat every bit of this dinner (who could resist?), and I was determined to save room for dessert.

Both my husband and son eat faster and more quietly when they're served an entree that's particularly splendid.   Martin distinguished himself this time.

He didn't utter a word until over half of his ravioli were gone, and then it was in response to question.  I asked him how he liked his meal, and all he could manage was a blissful sigh and he handed over his plate.

The large ravioli were fully packed with a beautifully seasoned, creamy ricotta filling, then sauced with a luscious chicken and walnut sauce, lovely and thick.   I've cooked for years, yet I couldn't begin to list the ingredients in this tasty, seamless sauce.

You might suppose that the richness of the walnuts might be a case of gilding the lily, but that wasn't true.  They provided a welcome textural contrast, an opulent addition that was the crowning touch.

My boneless grilled trout was spread open prettily in the middle of my plate.   This sauce was less robust, an inspired pairing of fresh tomatoes and fresh dill.   There's no comparison between fresh and dried herbs.   There's such a difference in flavor that I no longer fool around with the dried, and neither does the gifted chef.   Tomatoes and dill are soul mates, and this was a delectable trout.   I ate every bite.

Needless to say, the prime green beans had been cooked al dente.    They had been sauteed, but only until done, so their original flavor was still intact.   Everybody seems to be doing better with vegetables lately, and that's a load off my mind.   The rice, too, had been sauteed with onions before being steamed to perfection, and each grain was separate and puffy.

Nobody should miss the German chocolate cake, $3.25.   One glance is enough to tell you that it's really homemade.   It has three layers, moist and crumbly, and there are both coconut and nuts in the frosting. When I told the waitress how much we enjoyed it, she said, "There's something different every week.   Once she even made cream puffs." I certainly regret missing that.

Don't be fooled by the fact that Tracy's is a sports bar.   Food such as this carne up anywhere.   For the last 15 years I've investigated the area's thrifty restaurants, and only once before have I found American food as outstanding as this.  Make no mistake about it. This cuisine is haute! - 121799 
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