I have traveled the broad expanses of this beautiful nation we call America and have seen and enjoyed this country that I call home. On this July 4th birthday, I would like to celebrate by adding photos to the words of the song “America the Beautiful“, which was written by American Poet Katharine Lee Bates. All photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies
For Amber Waves of Grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good,
to Shining Sea
May we celebrate this day as we enjoy our freedom and our liberty…..
One of the important facets of traveling the less beaten paths of America (and Canada) is the food. As I travel the country, I look for good food at local places. This post covers some of the restaurants, steak houses, cafes and fine (or semi-fine) dining places. Subsequent FOOD posts will include Diners/Drive-Ins, Barbecue Joints, Burger Places and Bakeries/Donut Shops.
Ric’s Grill is one of those REALLY unique places to eat. I visited Lethbridge on a cross-country trip from Kentucky to Washington in 2005. I have friends in Lethbridge who took us here for dinner.
Though it looks strange from the outside, actually, the atmosphere and food is very high class. This is a top notch steak house with fancy china, excellent waiters and delectable food. There are 11 Ric’s Grills in western Canada, though this is by far the most unique one.
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge – Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse is a unique steak house in the small town of Paxton, Nebraska. Opened on August 9, 1933 (the day after prohibition ended) as a bar by Rosser O. Herstedt (locally known as “Ole”). Originally stared as a tavern, Ole and his friends would talk about their hunting trips. Then, in 1938 Ole bagged a nice buck and was so proud of it he had it displayed in the tavern. This was the first of many animals to make their way into the tavern that later became Ole’s Steakhouse and Lounge. Ole’s also serves breakfast.
So, now one can sit and enjoy a wonderful steak with a moose or an elephant or a buffalo peeking over your shoulder.
All totaled there are over 200 mounts now showcased at Ole’s with animals from all over the world.
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – Ozark, Missouri
Another fun place to eat and enjoy a great meal is Lambert’s Cafe, the home of “Throwed Rolls”. I have been to the two restaurants in Sikeston and Ozark, Missouri (which is near Branson). They have one more in Alabama.
So, why “Throwed Rolls”? I am not sure, but Lambert’s serves the side dishes family style, all you can eat. The seating arrangement is in a big square with an open center for the staff to bring in the food and throw the rolls.
If you miss the flying rolls, too bad…. But, there will be more. According to their website’s Fun Facts, their ovens turn out rolls from 9:15 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. usually without stopping. and they average baking 520 dozen rolls per day, for a grand total of 2,246,400 individual rolls. in one year. Pass the butter please!!
Besides the rolls, Lambert’s also has what they call “Pass Arounds”, sides that come with the meal and include Black-Eyed Peas, Fried Okra, Macaroni & Tomatoes, Fried Potatoes & Onions and unlimited Sorghum to go on the rolls.
Astoria Shish Kebob House – Toronto, Ontario
If you are in the mood for some awesome Greek food in a totally Greek atmosphere, then try the Astoria Shish Kebob House in Toronto’s Greek Town. We went to Greek town on a whim and fell in love with this place. We enjoyed Saganaki (pan-fried and flaming kefalotyri cheese) and then shish kebob with some of the most savory tadziki sauce my tongue has experienced.
Saganaki is a small Greek frying pan that is best used for frying a variety of sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. Astoria uses kafalotyri, which is a hard and salty cheese. When fried it actually flames and that is how they bring it to the table.
Astoria serves a variety of shish kebob and we tried some. It too was YUMMIFEROUS!!
While at Astoria, I got to meet the owner, who loves having his photo taken with patrons, including numerous celebrities. I am now included in the menagerie!!
Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon
Mo’s Seafood is not a fancy place in terms of the dining area. It is nice inside, but the tables are picnic tables. But don’t let that fool you. Their seafood is amazing.
Mo’s gets its name from Newport native Mohava Marie Niemi, who started the restaurant in 1946 with her partner Freddy Kent.
Mo’s is especially famed for the luscious and buttery clam chowder. Indeed, they claim it to be World Famous, and I can see why. So, I ordered the Halibut (so I could say I came to Mo’s just for the halibut”, but also enjoyed the creamy buttery clam chowder, which was almost so thick my spoon could stand up in it!!
It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful experience to see the Pacific Ocean out the window while enjoying the bounty of the ocean inside.
Armadillo Palace – Houston, Texas
Deep in the heart of Houston, Texas is a cafe and bar and home to some good live music – The Armadillo Palace. Protected by a 20 foot tall silver armadillo, this place is a real kick and gives you a real down home cowboy feel.
This restaurant, owned by the Goode Company, a purveyor of a number of good restaurants in Houston covering the gamut from BBQ, seafood and Mexican, the Armadillo Palace is decorated with mounted longhorns and buffalo, has a bar with saddle seating and the western decor and photos take you back to the days of the Old West.
The old decor and the smell of leather just add to the flavorful and generous portions dished out at Armadillo Palace. One of their signature dishes is Chicken Fried Steak and this slab of yummiferousness is almost as big as the plate. Their spicy green beans and special mashed potatoes help make a rib sticking dinner!
Frontier Bar and Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
A few miles east of Shelby, Montana, on US Highway 2 (The Hi-Line), is a non-descript old whitewashed building with an old yellow sign (above). The Frontier Bar and Supper Club certainly does not look like much, but once you are inside, the atmosphere is rustic and the steaks are to die for!
Upon arrival you are greeted by the whimsical mailbox dude. I don’t know what to call him, but he is a work of folk art.
The atmosphere inside is like many Montana bars. Lots of longhorns, neon signs, a country music jukebox. The dining room is decorated with wood paneling adorned by the many cattle ranch brands of the area. But the best part of this place is the blackened steaks. On this visit I had the Chipotle Blackened New York Steak…. spicy and pricy but tasty good!!
El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery – Roswell, NM
Ok…so, you mix Mexican food and aliens and you get this weird mix…only in Roswell…
Of course, we were hungry so we had the real food….
The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant and Tavern – Heidelberg, Ontario
Olde Heidelberg Restaurant in the small town of Heidelberg is family restaurant and also has a mini brewery. Located in the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite and Amish country, this place is famous not only for its Weiner Schnitzel, but also for its pig tails, something I had never had in the past.
But, I don’t drink the beer, just eat the good food…and here is what I had
Past Time Cafe – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Yes, there are less beaten paths in Kentucky and many of them lead to Amish Country. Crab Orchard is in the heart of Kentucky Amish country and the Past Time Cafe is right there in Crab Orchard.
This cafe has generous portions of country cooking and is well known for their fried catfish, their soup beans and corn bread. The walls in the place are covered with the history of Crab Orchard and surrounding communities, including many old newspapers and photos. Plenty to browse while waiting for a good meal.
Chriswell’s Trails Inn – Ashton, Idaho
Ashton, Idaho is one of the southern gateways to Yellowstone National Park and is also a western gateway to the Grand Tetons. The small Idaho town is a touristy place and on the edge of town is Chriswell’s Trails Inn restaurant. This rustic place is a steak house and also has some other great meals. Like Ole’s and Armadillo Palace, this place is full of mounted animals, included a rare White Buffalo Head.
Of course, the food is why we were here. We were starved and this placed fit the bill.
This chicken fried steak was HUGE!! Covered the whole plate. Of course, the potatoes were huge too and stuffed goodness!!
Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
I have written about Tightwad in earlier blogs, especially concerning the famous Tightwad Bank. But, there is also a great little cafe in Tightwad called Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe. Originally just called the Tightwad Cafe, owner Carrie Fields purchased the once Cafe and Bar from her aunt and then closed the bar. Carrie is unabashed and very friendly, but she doesn’t take credit cards…doesn’t want to pay the fees (HA!). But, she also insists that she is not a tightwad!
Carrie was correct about the not being a tightwad part. The meals at the cafe are not expensive and they are very large portions. No skimping on the food!! I had “Delmer’s Big ‘In” for breakfast this day which included 3 eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns and biscuits and gravy, all for about $8.00 (try to beat that McD’s!)
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a wonderful little town in the Ozarks. In the midst of town is a shopping section known as the underground and housed within is the Mud Street Cafe. This is a one and all – Coffee shop, Bar and Cafe, all in one. My wife and I visited for breakfast one nice morning in November 2012. What a great little cafe!!
Once downstairs we were enthralled by the kitschy decor. Painted chairs, painted glass, sculptures, tapestries…decor that was nice and cozy.
But, the coziness was nothing compared to the food. Freshly made HUGE muffins, fruit salads and tasty breakfast food.
Just a few more places to note….
Coming soon – FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 2: Barbecue Places and Diners
As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated with statistics and numbers. I have also been a collector. As a young fifth-grader in Dallas in the late 1960s, I was already obsessed with statistics. I looked at baseball boxscores daily and kept my own tabulations of most homeruns, doubles, RBIs, etc. I also had a huge collection of bottlecaps from sodas. I would pick them up a couple of times a week at the 7-11 (which in those days was really open from 7 AM to 11 PM). I had bags of them and would lay them out in the driveway and count the various types…Coke and Pepsi were always the clear leaders, followed by Dr. Pepper, 7-UP and Sprite. But I had countless other flavors. As an eleventh grader in Bozeman, Montana I had a job as a dishwasher and I counted the forks and knives and spoons each day and kept a running tabulation of them with averages, etc. AS well, from the time I lived in Dallas until I was a senior in high school, I would listen to the AM radio and peruse through channels slowly seeing how many call letters I could get. Denver was the best place for that and I even got Chicago, Seattle and some Canadian places. It was a fascination.
But my two biggest collecting obsessions have been music and travel. On the music front I currently have a 1 TB hard drive with over 90,000 mp3s, including digitized versions of wax ring recordings from the 1890s!! I have over 5000 cover songs as well (including over 20 covers of Stairway to Heaven such as “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island” by Little Roger and the Goosebumps. Imagine what my Spotify playlist would look like!!
While a 6th grader in Denver I began listening to Dr. Demento. I never missed a show and continued to listen to his programs all through high school. I became obsessed with quirky music, though I still loved the main stream. Just after graduation I worked for a company called Alta Distributing in Salt Lake City. They were a record and tape rack jobber. My job was to travel all week to southern Utah and southern Wyoming and fill the racks with the latest LPs, 8 tracks and cassettes. I was in heaven with music and travel.
Dr. Demento and Antsy McClain
Back in 2007, my dear friend and nationally known singer/songwriter Antsy McClain got to visit with Dr. Demento and do an interview. Like me, Antsy had grown up listening to Dr. Demento and by 2007 some of his songs were being played by the Doctor!! You can listen to the interview here. During his visit Antsy got me the ultimate gift…two MP3 greetings by Dr. Demento just for me. Check them out…
But I digress….this is a Travel Blog, not a Music Blog. Like my passion for collecting music, I am also a “Travel Collector.” I collect places and all kinds of them. Obviously, my passion, just like my quirky music tastes, is on the strange and unique places…the offbeat destinations. But, I also collect many other places. Following are a few examples:
The 50 U.S. States: I have been to 47 of them. Still missing Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
US towns that start with every letter of the alphabet: I have been to every letter – yes, even Q for Quincy (IL) and Quakertown (PA), X for Xenia (OH) and Z for Zanesville (OH) and Zuni (NM).
MY PERSONAL COLLECTIONS:
Of course, I have done many strange things as I take trips. I will plan my trips around getting somewhere interesting or around a theme. Some of my trips help me collect on other themes, some of which I will cover in other parts of my “I’ve Been Everywhere” series.
The US version of the song starts in Winnemucca, NV. (I have been there) and then has the following locations in order, most from the US, but some in Canada and a couple of other places. (I took this from Wikipedia). The one’s in BOLD are places I have been:
Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston (Jamaica), Texarkana, Monterey, Ferriday (LA), Santa Fe, Tallapoosa (GA), Glen Rock (WY), Black Rock (NV), Little Rock, Oskaloosa (IA), Tennessee, Hennessey (OK), Chicopee (MA), Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devils Lake and Crater Lake.
Pittsburgh, Parkersburg (WV), Gravelbourg (SK), Colorado, Ellensburg (WA), Rexburg, Vicksburg, El Dorado (MO), Larimore (ND), Atmore (AL), Haverstraw (NY), Chattanooga, Chaska (MN), Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika (AL), Baraboo (WI), Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Sioux City, Cedar City (UT) and Dodge City.
I have also done a number of other interesting trips:
In 1996, while the Presidential elections were in fill swing, I was on a trip with my kids heading back to Kentucky from Utah. On the way home, just for fun, we stopped in Texarkana (AR) (home to candidate Ross Perot), we then continued to Hope (AR) (home of Bill Clinton) and then stopped to have lunch at an A & W in Russell (KS) (home of Bob Dole). Ironically, in Russell, we sat next to a lady who had gone to school with Bob Dole.
On that same trip in 1996, on the way out to Salt Lake City, I decided to hit as many towns with the name Junction as we could. We skipped Junction City in Kentucky as it was too far south, but we did go through Junction (IL), Junction City (MO), Junction City (KS) and Grand Junction (CO). We were tired so skipped going too far south to Junction, Utah.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories to tell is about a trip I planned in February 2010. I had to make a trip to Dallas, so I decided to go through Bugtussle, KY. While researching the road to get there, I discovered that there was also a Bugtussle in Texas. So, in one day (a long one), I drove from Lexington, KY thru Bugtussle, KY all the way to Keller, TX thru Bugtussle, TX. You can read about the whole trip on my Trip Journal.
Other themes I have tried…
On a trip in Pennsylvania in 2008 I drove from Virginville to Intercourse to Paradise in one day (I actually did it in reverse, but more fun to say it this way – see the trip here)
On a trip in North Carolina in 2012 I drove from Climax to High Point. I stopped halfway there to call my wife and tell her I was somewhere between Climax and High Point.
I have made stops specifically for names of Doobie Brothers songs in China Grove, TX and Blackwater, MO
On another trip in 2012 I was in West Virginia and specifically took a drive thru a Hurricane and then a Tornado and survived to tell about it.
I have sought after towns named after my children. Though I have not found an Amaree anywhere in the US or Canada, I have been to Marissa (IL), Chelsea (MI), Seth (WV) and Solomon (KS).
I collect covered bridges. I have been to dozens of them in the US and Canada. I’ll post a special blog entry on these later as part of this series.
I collect animals along the way
I collect flowers along the way
I collect roadside oddities and attractions along the way
I collect big things and little things and super things
I collect interesting street names
I collect Police Cars from strange place names
I collect church signs from strange place names
Along the way, I have found Charm (OH), Success (MO), Talent (OR), Friendship (AR), Comfort (WV) and looked for Romance (MO) and discovered it was a dead end. I have gone from Odd (WV) and Oddville (KY) to Peculiar (MO) to Boring (OR) to Okay (OK) to Normal (IL) and all the way to Uncertain (TX). I have visited a Metropolis (IL) that is actually a small town. I have also been to Cool (TX) and Coolville (OH). I have been to Flame (OH) and even have gone to Hell (MI). I have made my way to Earth (TX) and Mars (PA), as well as Vulcan (AB) and Romulus (MI). I have come across a Black Gnat (KY), some Rabbit Hash (KY) , a Toad Suck (AR) and a Booger Holler (AR). I have visited a Tightwad (MO) and a Prosper (TX). Heck, I have even found a Waldo in Arkansas and Wisconsin.
Over the next few entries I will include photos of town sign names and places and some of the stories. Singularly, various places are a lot of fun. Collectively, there are some interesting themes.