In Good Taste

The Beacon Journal, March 1, 1992

IN GOOD TASTE by Katherine Spitz

Sticking To The Basics

Don’t let the lace curtains and Victorian-rose-print wallpaper fool you: Fred’s Diner doesn’t offer dainty eats.

Solid breakfasts and lunches are what Fred Spencer serves the sometimes-standing-room-only crowds. And despite the success of his 3-year-old venture, Spencer adamantly vows that he will not expand or add dinner hours.

“More paperwork, more W-2 forms, more dishwashers who don’t show up,” is his answer to those who think bigger is better.

Spencer is 32, but looks younger – perhaps because he is living out a boyhood fantasy.

As a child, the Cuyahoga Falls native dreamed of owning a restaurant, once even setting up a makeshift “diner” in a backyard shed where he fed his friends hot dogs and chips.

Actually, the menu hasn’t changed all that much since that trial run. Breakfast items include eggs, toast, gravy and biscuits, steak and home fries, hash, pastries and cereals.

For lunch, there are main-dish salads and a host of sandwiches with such coy names as Yo Meatball, Here’s Your Beef, I Got One (that’s fish), Steak It Out and Doggin’ It (a deluxe hot dog). The highest-priced item is $4.95.

Always, there is a soup of the day or chili, and Fred’s Famous Chicken Soup.

It’s famously satisfying, at any rate. Full of chicken chunks and falling-apart dumplings, the soup wraps around the tongue like a fluffy warm blanket.

Spencer got the recipe from a former chef, June Smith.

So thanks go to Spencer, Smith and D.G. of Akron, who tipped us about Fred’s chicken soup.

The recipe has been tested by Audra Wixom, a student intern of Dick Alford, professor of food and hospitality management at the University of Akron.

Fred’s Diner Chicken Dumpling Soup

1 whole chicken
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. white pepper
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. chicken soup base
2 cups milk
1 cup cornstarch
3 drops yellow food coloring, optional

In a large uncovered Dutch oven, boil chicken in five quarts of water along with the carrots, celery and onion for one hour, or until chicken is cooked.

A few minutes before the hour is up, prepare dumpling batter: In a bowl, mix eggs, baking powder, pepper and flour until a thick batter is formed.

After the hour is up, remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Add chicken base to stock.

Drop spoonfuls of dumpling batter into boiling stock. Let soup boil uncovered for five more minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down to warm, then add milk. Mix cornstarch with one cup of water and then slowly stir mixture into soup. Add food coloring, if desired.

Remove cool chicken from carcass, discarding skin. Cut meat into chunks or strips and add to soup.

The recipe yields about five quarts.

Note: The large amount of cornstarch called for contributes to the soup’s ultra-thick consistency.