When I invited three Watertown buddies to join me at Rhondas Place for a lunch review, I was surprised they didnt know where the restaurant was.
Rhondas Place is at 566 State St. just a few blocks east of Public Square. The space was formerly occupied by Fiesta Mexicana.
The seating area is small (and cold, located just inside the front door), accommodating a dozen patrons at best. The open kitchen is great for watching Rhonda do her magic, and for occasionally chatting with her.
The diner/restaurant opened about a year ago. Owner Rhonda Carlisle and her husband, Guy, came to Watertown after running a restaurant in Evans Mills for two years.
Home cooking is Rhondas specialty. Homemade chili. Homemade meatballs. Homemade mac and cheese. Homemade desserts.
Meatloaf, chicken and biscuits, goulash, shepherds pie, lasagna, stuffed shells all homemade.
And of course deep-fried favorites, soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, pizzas and wings.
Rhondas chili ($4.49) was a good place to start, meaty and hearty, tomato-based with a thoughtful sprinkle of grated cheese on top.
Subs are available in 6-inch or 12-inch sizes. We ordered the smaller version of a pulled pork sub ($5.59) and a linguica sub with onions and peppers ($6.49).
Lets start with the linguica because, like us, you probably dont know what it is.
Linguica is a paprika-and-garlic smoked sausage with the consistency of kielbasa but with a unique smoky garlic flavor. Coin-shaped pieces of the tasty sausage were served with sautéed onions and green peppers on a fresh, dense sub roll.
The pulled pork was OK, a commercial product, we figured. It could have used a bit of slaw on top and been served a little hotter. But the sub roll redeemed it theyre delivered fresh daily from Mr. Ricks Bakery a few blocks away on Mill Street.
There were several tempting items listed under the dinner portion of the menu, available throughout the day.
The goulash ($6.99) was great, like Mom used to make. Its an Americanized version of the Hungarian dish, with good-sized pieces of browned hamburger, diced tomatoes, sautéed onions and elbow macaroni topped with doctored up canned red sauce, according to Rhonda.
It was served with toasted garlic bread made with one of those great sub rolls.
You dont see shepherds pie ($6.99) on a menu very often. Its a dish of cooked ground beef mixed with peas and carrots and gravy and topped with mashed potatoes. The pie is baked until the potato crust browns.
Rhonda did a nice job on this crock of warm comfort food on a cold winter afternoon.
Also from the dinner column, we ordered fried haddock ($10.29) served with homemade mac and cheese. This came with a story from Rhonda.
She told us that the haddock she uses is caught with a line rather than a net so the fish arent bruised and remain solid white. Sounds like a line to me.
Whatever, she did a nice job hand-breading the haddock and frying it to a crisp golden brown. The fish was delicious light and flaky and white. The large portion of mac and cheese was nice and tasty. I would have liked more cheddar flavor, but my friends thought it was just right.
Homemade desserts ($4.49 each) are prepackaged in clear to-go containers, self-servable from the glass-front cooler in the dining area. They looked great and tasted even better.
Carrot cake was thick and moist with prefect consistency and great cream-cheese frosting. Oreo cream pie was my favoritechocolate pudding filling with an Oreo crust and whipped cream on top. Yum.
Lunch for four including soft drinks came to $54.55 with tax.
We were pleasantly surprised at the homemade quality of the food at Rhondas. She loves what shes doing and it shows.
Although we were the only table eating in, we spent a little over an hour at Rhondas. Theres a sign on the wall suggesting that if youre in a hurry to call ahead with your order. They also offer delivery in the Watertown and Fort Drum area.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
566 State St.
A diner/restaurant just off Public Square in downtown Watertown serving up some mighty fine homemade food.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week
OUR FAVORITES: Homemade chili, goulash, shepherds pie, fried haddock with mac and cheese, carrot cake, Oreo cream pie