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Sweetwater Restaurant and Fireballz

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Chef Andrew Manning has lifted out of the homey doldrums of grilled chicken breast and meatloaf by turning to a creative, carefully executed blend of classic ingredients brought into the contemporary vulgate of casual dining.

Though you'll be faced with a menu of temptations and two chalkboards of specials, do not overlook the duck-liver foie-gras appetizer served with blood oranges and pears in a vanilla bean/blood orange sauce ($9.95). Competing appetizers ($7-$10) include smoked salmon with a goat cheese and rosemary tart with arugula cream, and confit of duck with rosemary roasted Fuji apples. There is also a refreshing selection of winter salads ($6). Manning's entrees ($17-$20) give a complete picture of his approach to the kitchen and provide the dot at the bottom of the exclamation point. The specials, together with the main menu, offer luxurious entrees skillfully prepped and artfully plated. Braised rabbit with potato gnocchi is accented with a grainy mustard sauce; roasted rack of lamb with white truffle, and chive mashed potatoes boasts a veal-stock reduction with thyme and garlic; seared grouper with garlic polenta is served with mustard sauce with shiitake mushrooms.

With Manning recently returned from two weeks in Italy on a creative dining and idea-gathering tour, the spring menus should be a treat. — Noel Patrick

Sweetwater Restaurant
Corner of Laurel and Broad streets
Dinner daily from 5:30 p.m.

Amidst the dismembered 1950s autos that make up the booths and bar of , noon on a weekday finds many a business person bobbing his or her head to Chuck Berry's electric guitar and polishing off a burger and fries.

Fireballz's lunch menu is predictable. There are appetizers such as wings, cheese fries, jalapeno poppers, nachos and chili ($3-$6). The usual suspects are available in the sandwich department for around $5, and somewhat creative toppings like smoked mozzarella and blue cheese are available on a selection of burgers that are named after car models and are priced in the $6 range. In the 1950s cliché department, Fireballz serves up a side of beans and franks, a selection of $5 hot-plate specials and last, but not least, the venerable MoonPie for $1.50. A recurring ingredient of the Fireballz menu is a special sauce that apparently includes habanero and jalapeno peppers and purports to be "butt-burnin' hot."

The only food I actually liked at this place falls in the 1950s cliché department. Although they were fresh out of beans and franks, I did manage to get the turkey hot-plate special ($5) that came with iced tea, a soft roll, mashed potatoes and baked beans. Thick, salty gravy smothered a mound of mashed potatoes and turkey slices atop soft white sandwich bread. It even arrived on a beige, sectioned plastic plate to add to that TV dinner appeal. — B. Ifan Rhys

623 E. Main St.
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday

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