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Cheap eats

I know the last thing you want to read about today is somebody eating a turkey dinner. Rest assured that I did this a few weeks back, when the weather had just started to turn autumnal and a stuffing sample seemed like just the thing on a darkish Saturday evening.

The place was American Pie Family Diner in Lancaster, and you're not likely to find a cuter little diner-inspired cafe. It's got the booths, the round tables, the black-and-white photos from "I Love Lucy," the row of 45 records decorating the walls. Even the menu features an image of the "American Pie" record, which, rather than the movie, is the inspiration for its name.

There's an extensive menu here, featuring everying from pizza (starting at $6.50 for a medium) to tacos (beef, $3.59), subs ($3.25 to $4.99 for a half) to breakfasts, which they were willing to make because they weren't too busy.

There were five of us, the better to sample various parts of the menu. Margaret's Hawaiian pizza (medium, $9.99), which came with bacon, ham, pineapple and mozzarella and which she ordered with extra red sauce, arrived first. The crust was impressively thick, if slightly overbrowned -- "it's almost Sicilian," she said -- and she enjoyed the sweet, complex taste of the red sauce.

Ruth ordered a Royal sub (half, $4.99, whole, $6.99) and found both the sausage patty and the cappicola tasty and tender. The oil on it was Italian dressing, which, she said, "is unexpected but not unpleasant." The herbs gave it a different twist.

John was happy to see a daily fish fry on the menu ($8.19 -- love the odd price!) and found it generous, with coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad and french fries. All the salads were fresh, although a bit bland. The battered fish was thick if not as large as some we've seen, and was flaky and mild.

My turkey dinner ($8.79) was served with a pile of mashed potatoes indented to hold a pool of turkey gravy, corn and stuffing. The white-meat turkey, obviously carved right in the kitchen, was plentiful and somewhat dry. I excused them, because I know how hard it is to cook a turkey so the dark meat is done and the white meat stays juicy. I asked for extra gravy and got it, and that helped me eat most of the turkey.

Dan found the meat in his open-faced beef with gravy sandwich ($7.19) both dry and a little tough. It was sliced thin, but that didn't help.

A 22-item salad bar -- one visit included with the dinners -- offered a varied assortment of fresh greens, garnishes, chopped meat and toppings.

-- Anne Neville

American Pie Family Diner

3987 Walden Ave., Lancaster


Review: 2 1/2 pennies (Out of 4)

"Classic dinners."

American Pie Family Diner opens daily at 6 a.m. It closes at 8 p.m. Sunday, 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is handicapped-accessible.

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