Fit for a Duke 

Mosey over to Liberty Valance for all-American food and kitsch.

John Wayne, star of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” is everywhere — as a life-size cutout and on the busy newspaper-style menu. The owners haven’t left so much as an inch of interior space untouched. Fake fireplaces, leather saddles and jukeboxes are waiting to be discovered. Wine and beer are served in Mason jars, and curtains are made of green lace. It’s the kind of place where “How y’all doin’?” abounds, and you can still get 8-ounce Cokes in the bottle. It’s friendly here.

Food is as American as it gets, so “Saddle Up for Appetizers” and have a “Ranch Hand Sandwich.” Homemade chili ($1.95 cup/$2.95 bowl), with chewy red kidney beans, chunks of ground beef and plenty of cayenne will warm you from the inside out on any cold afternoon.

Feel free to snub the French and order a freedom dip ($5.95) with a side of freedom dressing or grab a club sandwich ($6.50) served soda fountain style with layers of toasted white bread, ham, turkey, cheese and bacon. Served with steak fries and a pickle spear, it’s as good as a sandwich can get.

Tuesday through Friday, there are numerous diner-style lunch and dinner specials. such as chicken livers over rice with gravy and homemade chicken and dumplings with two sides (each $5.95 lunch/$7.95 dinner). The dinner menu offers an array of aged hand-cut steaks and ribs including the impressively-sized 16-ounce Liberty Strip ($16.95), a superthick New York strip arriving on a sizzling plate cooked to perfection. Pa’s Baby Back Ribs ($15.95) arrive hanging off both sides of the platter. Bathed in a tangy, sweet tomato-based sauce, the meat just falls off the bone. It’s a meal made for the Fred Flintstones and Boss Hoggs of this world.

A baked lasagna ($8.95) is served with a salad (make sure to order the homemade ranch dressing) and comes across as decidedly fair — heavy on the cheese, light on almost everything else. For seafood, go for broke with The Ship ($15.95), a platter piled high with flounder (broiled or fried), scallops, fried oysters and shrimp, a crab cake, steak fries, coleslaw and hush puppies. The flounder is a standout but the crab cake is a letdown — too heavy on the breading.

Desserts are a bargain, so plan on sharing. The hot fudge cake ($2.95) is a huge slice of chocolate brownie cake, topped with ice cream, fudge sauce and whipped cream from a can (and don’t get snobby about canned cream, because we’ve all squirted it directly into our mouths at some point). German Chocolate Cake ($3.50) was clearly homemade with just the right hint of coconut in the icing.

This place is shabby chic times 10. Where else can you purchase a Matchbox car, a plastic razor and an imitation mini six shooter all while sipping a frosty Mason jar full of Mellow Yellow? Saddle up that SUV and pile in the younguns, cuz I just heard your dinner bell ring. S

Liberty Valance Family Restaurant ($)
7017 Forest Hill Ave.
Lunch and dinner: Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Saturday and Sundays 8 a.m.-10 p.m.Closed


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