The closing of the landmark Ma Hawkins Restaurant two years ago left a lunchtime void in downtown Dublin.
Sure, there was a fine sandwich shop a few doors down and popular burger joint on the next block. But those craving a meat-and-three had to wait a few months until the Blue Plate opened around the corner.
The Blue Plate is a spacious place with down-home taste in food and decor. It's open only for lunch Mondays through Fridays and on Sundays.
You seat yourself, then circle your order on menu forms printed for specific days of the week. On this particular Friday, the meat choices were fish fillets, fried pork chops, barbecue ribs and baked and fried chicken.
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The veggie choices were plentiful, ranging from turnip greens and steamed vegetables to baked beans and yam patties.
I circled the fried chicken, purple hull peas, creamed corn and macaroni and cheese.
I don't know whether the fried chicken was cooked to order, but it was served nice and hot, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. In others words, close to perfect. The creamed corn and peas both had just the right texture. The corn was creamy with no lumps, and the peas were soft but not mushy.
The macaroni and cheese was much better than the clumpy and dry mac-and-cheese so often served in restaurants. It was moist, tender and just cheesy enough.
I rarely add salt to my food but almost always shake on a little pepper. The food here was seasoned so that I added neither.
My wife went with the turnips, chicken casserole and mashed potatoes with gravy. She liked the chicken casserole but rated the mashed potatoes even higher. They got a "very good." The turnips managed only an "OK."
For dessert, I chose the fruit pizza. She picked a dish called "Cherry Delight." The generous-sized slice of pizza had chunks of cherries and peaches served over a creamy filling. I intended to stop after a few bites, but I couldn't seem to get enough of the cookie crust.
The other dessert had a pecan crust with what tasted like a cream cheese filling, topped with cherries. It was a bit heavier than the fruit pizza but quite tasty.
A meat-and-three order, with a drink and roll or cornbread, costs $5.99. The price goes down as you cut back on the vegetables. A three-vegetable plate with bread runs $4.99. Add an additional meat for $1.99 or a dessert for $1.75.
If you're not in a meat-and-veggie mood, other options include a chicken salad plate at $4.99, a chef salad at $5.50 and shrimp plate at $8.99.
The Blue Plate might not be a landmark. But with good food, friendly service and reasonable prices, it's definitely a lunchtime destination.
Blue Plate Restaurant
116 S. Jefferson St., Dublin
Three and a half stars
Hours: Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Payment: Cash, local check, credit card
Price: $1.75- $8.99
Kids menu: No
Noise level: Medium
Latest health code: 93
Alcohol: Blue Plate in downtown Dublin.