Section: PREVIEW,  Page: P20

Date: Thursday, June 5, 2003

Without exaggeration, I've probably driven by Truman's restaurant hundreds, even thousands of times. Yet, somehow, I always managed to disregard the tiny, old-fashioned establishment where my grandmother had worked, some 30 years ago. Back then, the place was known at DeVito's. My fiance, Adam, and I both expected the hear the music stop and heads to turn when we walked through the door, knowing it's predominately a local hangout. But Brenda, the bartender, and the regulars greeted us so warmly we joined some of them at the bar.

If you prefer a dining room, there's one for you: small, but clean and comfortable.

We were tended to promptly and ordered two drinks (they offer nightly happy-hour specials featuring draft beers and well drinks for $2.25) and perused the menu.

The offerings mimic the restaurant's modesty and include simple, homemade Italian dishes like lasagna and linguini with clams, hot and cold sandwiches and soup. Almost all items are under $10.

A ``side'' order of breaded, fried mushrooms ($3.25) came overflowing a salad-size bowl. They were piping hot and served with a side of ranch dressing.

Adam had a hard time settling on a main course. It was a toss-up between the special, homemade meatloaf, or the New York strip steak. He chose the steak ($12.95), which includes a small salad and warm bread, which he had to pass on since he's following a low-carb diet. Brenda was kind enough to offer several substitutions.

The juicy steak was cooked to a tasty, tender medium-rare and was accompanied by a heaping portion of green beans.

My chicken breast, a special that evening, came breaded and with an apple stuffing ($10.95, including salad). The dish was served with green beans, cranberry sauce and fluffy mashed potatoes with a delicious gravy reminiscent of my grandmother's. The chicken was slightly dry, and I would have loved more of the soft, tasty stuffing, although my eyes were certainly bigger than my stomach that evening.

We were too stuffed for dessert, which was probably a good thing, because Truman's choices are limited to ice cream.

Dinner for two, including two drinks, came to $35.05 before tip. Big Hits: Strip steak and the mashed potatoes Needs Work: Dessert offerings Hours: The kitchen is open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. The bar is open until 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Details: Happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Phone: 869-8646

-- Shannon Bouck