Mystery Diner: Manhattan's Roadhouse 52 a diamond in the darkBy MYSTERY DINERMarch 13, 2018 MANHATTAN – The building is in a dark area that isn't the easiest to find as you drive south on Route 52 through Manhattan. But, when you arrive, there are two options at Roadhouse 52. The bar area on the right or a large well-lit dining area on the left as you enter.We were there early on a Friday evening with some younger diners, so the dining area was great. It was wide open with rustic and classy decor – practically a history lesson of the area on each wall – and plenty of crayons and coloring books that Ruth, our server, brought out quickly after we arrived and sat in a corner booth.The younger diners in our group were pleased to get pink lemonade in a large jar with a handle. As for the adults, we pored through the lengthy beer list. They have 12 on tap but over 100 options in page after page of their menu.One of my fellow diners went for the Stateville Stout in a 16-ounce can ($5) from Joliet's MyGrain Brewing, while I ordered a Surly Furious IPA on draft. We were there before 6 p.m., so it was still happy hour and the draft brews were all $3.50.The younger diners made their choices quickly. We went over the menu on the way in the car and only one change of mind happened after that. We started onion rings ($6.99), a favorite of one of my fellow diners.We also ordered the pretzel appetizer ($5.99). The cheese dip was a perfect addition to the three warm salted pretzels that kept us busy before the main course.One of the younger diners ordered the hot dog ($4.99).Another had the grilled cheese ($3.99).And the other had the chicken fingers ($4.99), each arriving with a side of fries and each finishing with a pretty empty plate.As for the adults at the table, one of us went with the butterfly fried shrimp appetizer ($8.99) as a meal while I waffled between the pulled pork and brisket sandwich specials. Both were $8.99, so I asked our server and she recommended the brisket. I like both, so who am I to argue? One of our younger diners was proud when she cleaned her plate, even the crust, on the grilled cheese.I was proud, when it arrived, that I had gone with our server's recommendation because it truly was a fine brisket sandwich. The meat was tender and tasty and a few bits fell off as I ate. Good thing I had a fork to get all of it. The shrimp were pretty good too. And my fellow diner commented on how good the cocktail sauce is.As we ate, we picked one more special brew each from the extensive menu. The first picks, by the way, had gone well. The Stateville Stout had a somewhat sweet finish for a stout, a good thing, while the IPA was just the right amount of hoppy. I ordered the Central Waters Satin Solitude Imperial Stout ($3.75), a smooth, somewhat malty beer with a dark brown color.My fellow diner was extra pleased with the 3 Sheeps Cashmere Hammer ($3.75), a nitrogenated beer that calls for an aggressive pour that comes out rich, creamy with a bit of chocolate flavor.As we finished those, our desserts arrived. There were three options and we ordered two of them to share at the table, the raspberry cheesecake and......the triple chocolate cake ($2.99 apiece). They were downed quickly, with one of our fellow diners surprisingly (and to my disappointment, because I wanted more) loving cheesecake for the first time, while the others shared the chocolate deliciousness. It was an Eli's cheesecake and that meant it was good.When it was time for our bill, we showed the 15 percent coupon our our phone we had signed up for through the website (it's good as many times as you want for a month) and the process was easy. Did I mention Ruth was a great, patient server? Because she was. • The Mystery Diner is an employee at The Herald-News. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.IF YOU GO WHAT: Roadhouse 52 WHEN: Restaurant from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Bar open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. WHERE: 525 S. State St., Manhattan ETC: All-you-can-eat breakfast buffets Sunday mornings starting at 8 a.m. Wings 50 cents each on Wednesdays. INFORMATION: Call 815-478-7820 or visit www.roadhouse52.com.