The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long  cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!

Here is a map that includes many of the places:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below.  I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.

In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna,  where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story”  was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family.  I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode  their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY.  Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.

Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

 

(107)

Vintage Neon Everywhere

Old Mojo Gas Sign - Rock Springs, Wyoming
Old Mojo Gas Sign – Rock Springs, Wyoming

Everywhere I go I see old neon.  These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled.  Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place.  But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots.  Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs.  There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs.  And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names.  Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.

OLD MOTELS

Chinook Hotel - Chinook, Montana
Chinook Hotel – Chinook, Montana

Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories.  My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968.  At the time I was only 12.  It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch.  We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Log Cabin Motel - Ashton, Idaho
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone, Montana
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
D-K Motel - Arco, Idaho
D-K Motel – Arco, Idaho
Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, South Dakota
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, South Dakota
4 Winds Motel - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
4 Winds Motel – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana  The sign is all that remains
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana The sign is all that remains
Generic Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Generic Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri.  Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri. Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Motel in Havre, Montana
Motel in Havre, Montana
Palace Hotel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Antler Motel - Kemmerer, Wyoming
Antler Motel – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Texan Motel - Raton, New Mexico
Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….

Sleep in a Wigwam - Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Village Motel in Cave City, Kentucky

CAFES AND RESTAURANTS

Goody Goody - St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint.  Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)

Donut Whole - Wichita, Kansas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas They have a giant rooster on the roof there too!
Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon
Royal Donut - Danville, Illinois
Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois
Crystal Cafe - Raton, NM
Crystal Cafe – Raton, NM
Golden Burro Cafe - Leadville, CO
Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO
Presti's Bakery - Cleveland, OH
Presti’s Bakery – Cleveland, OH
Lil' Cafe - Commerce, Oklahoma
Lil’ Cafe – Commerce, Oklahoma
Irma Restaurant and Grill - Cody, Wyoming
Irma Restaurant and Grill – Cody, Wyoming
Pickle's Place - Arco, Idaho
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota

How about some burgers for lunch?

Wimpy's Hamburgers - Dallas, Texas - I'll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today....
Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….
Paul's Hamburgers - Kansas City, Kansas
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Waylan's Hamburgers - Home of the Ku-Ku - Commerce, Oklahoma
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Miami, Oklahoma
Scotty's Hamburgers - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Frostop Root Beer - Ashton, Idaho
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Schroeder's Drive-In - Danville, Illinois
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed.  This one deserves two photos

Cozy Drive-In - Home of the Cozy Dog - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In – Home of the Cozy Dog – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In - Springfield, Illinois  The sign says it all
Cozy Drive-In – Springfield, Illinois The sign says it all

Don’t want a burger or a corn dog?  How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?

Maid-Rite Sandwiches - Lexington, Missouri
Maid-Rite Sandwiches – Lexington, Missouri

Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?

Bryant's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….

Zesto - near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Zesto – near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Jimmy's Ice Cream - Waldo, Arkansas
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Stamps, Arkansas

Okay.  So this next one is not neon.  But it is certainly Vintage.  And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?

M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, Illinois
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, Illinois

There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant.   And many have unique signs.  Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.

Manhattan Bar - Leadville, Colorado
Manhattan Bar – Leadville, Colorado
Mint Bar and Lounge - Chinook, Montana
Mint Bar and Lounge – Chinook, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge - Butte, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge – Butte, Montana
Atomic City Bar - Atomic City, Idaho - no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Atomic City Bar – Atomic City, Idaho – no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Elk Bar and Good Food - Chinook, Montana
Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana
Steaks - what more needs to be said? - near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Steaks – what more needs to be said? – near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Fort Worth, Texas
Lariat Saloon - Buena Vista, Colorado
Lariat Saloon – Buena Vista, Colorado

And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….

Cowboy Bar - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Big Texan Steak House - home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) - Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) – Amarillo, Texas

Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….

Joe Mama's Italian - Time for Fine Eats - Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
Joe Mama’s Italian – Time for Fine Eats – Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
El Fenix Restaurant - Best Tex-Mex in Texas - downtown Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Restaurant – Best Tex-Mex in Texas – downtown Dallas, Texas
Hung Far Low - Famous Chop Suey and Famous name - Portland, Oregon
Hung Far Low – Famous Chop Suey and Famous name – Portland, Oregon

Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak?  How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)

Geno's Cheese Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Pat's King of Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, PA

Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls

Teton Drive-In - Rexburg, Idaho
Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV.  A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.

Too cold outside?  Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.

Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.

 

Plaza Theatre - Glasgow, Kentucky
Plaza Theatre – Glasgow, Kentucky
Lund Theatre - Viborg, South Dakota
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
Liberty Theatre - Vandalia, Illinois
Liberty Theatre – Vandalia, Illinois
Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
The Blue Room - Kansas City, Missouri
The Blue Room – Kansas City, Missouri
Pix Theatre - Winner, South Dakota
Pix Theatre – Winner, South Dakota
Westside Theatre - Newman, California
West Side Theatre – Newman, California
Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky
Kentucky Theatre – Lexington, Kentucky
Fox Theatre - Detroit, Michigan
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Skyline Theatre - Rudyard, Montana
Hi-Line Theatre – Rudyard, Montana
El Raton Theatre - Raton, NM
El Raton Theatre – Raton, NM
Fischer Theatre - Danville, Illinois
Fischer Theatre – Danville, Illinois
Orpheum Theatre - Wichita, Kansas
Orpheum Theatre – Wichita, Kansas
Leeds Theatre - Winchester, Kentucky
Leeds Theatre – Winchester, Kentucky
Bing Crosby Theatre - Spokane, Washington
Bing Crosby Theatre – Spokane, Washington

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES

Pelo's Sundries - LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)

Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section.  That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items.  There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”

I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I  want to include in this section.

The famous Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
The famous Pike Place Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas.  They also do shoe repairs
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas. They also do shoe repairs
Arco City Hall - Arco, Idaho - First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Boring Rexall Drugs - Warsaw, Missouri
Boring Rexall Drugs – Warsaw, Missouri
The Old Drugs Store - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
The Old Drugs Store – Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?

Yummy House - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Yummy House – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

(1977)

FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 1: Restaurants and Cafes on the Less Beaten Paths

Maid Rite - Lexington, MO
Maid Rite – Lexington, MO

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.

FoodBig
Food – Cozy Dog, Springfield, Illinois

Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta

Ric's Grill - Lethbridge, Alberta Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Ric's Grill - Dinner in a Water Tower
Ric’s Grill – Dinner in a Water Tower

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.

Ric's Grill - Lethbridge, Alberta
Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta

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 - Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse – 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.

Polar Bear at Ole's
Sumoflam with Polar Bear at Ole’s

So, now one can sit and enjoy a wonderful steak with a moose or an elephant or a buffalo peeking over your shoulder.

Giraffe hangs around at Ole's
Giraffe hangs around at Ole’s
Big Moose at Ole's (and one with antlers too)
Big Moose at Ole’s (and one with antlers too)

All totaled there are over 200 mounts now showcased at Ole’s with animals from all over the world.

Sumoflam with tusk and lion
Sumoflam with tusk and lion

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.

Lambert's Cafe - The Home of Throwed Rolls - in Ozark, Missouri
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Home of Throwed Rolls
Home of Throwed Rolls

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.

Throwing the Rolls
Throwing the Rolls
Lambert's Rolls in Flight
Lambert’s Rolls in Flight

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!!

Bringing the "Pass Arounds" at Lambert's
Bringing the “Pass Arounds” at Lambert’s

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.

Passing the potatoes
Passing the potatoes at Lambert’s

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.

Astoria Shish Kebob House - Toronto, Ontario
Astoria Shish Kebob House – Toronto, Ontario
Astoria on Danforth in Toronto
Astoria on Danforth in Toronto

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.

Making Saganaki Fried Cheese at Astoria
Making Saganaki Fried Cheese at Astoria – OPA!!
The final product - fried cheese - delectable!!
The final product – fried cheese – delectable!!

Astoria serves a variety of shish kebob and we tried some.  It too was YUMMIFEROUS!!

Lamb Shish Kebob at Astoria
Lamb Shish Kebob at Astoria

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!!

Hanging with the owner of Astoria
Hanging with the owner of Astoria – OPA!!

Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon

Mo's Seafood - Newport, Oregon
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.

Giant Mural on outside of Mo's in Newport, Oregon
Giant Mural on outside of Mo’s in Newport, Oregon

Mo’s gets its name from Newport native Mohava Marie Niemi, who started the restaurant in 1946 with her partner Freddy Kent.

Mo's Interior
Mo’s Interior

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!!

Mo's Halibut with their "world famous clam chowder"
Mo’s Halibut with their “world famous clam chowder”

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.

Men's Restroom at Mo's
Men’s Restroom at Mo’s
Women's Restroom at Mo's
Women’s Restroom at Mo’s

Armadillo Palace – Houston, Texas

Armadillo Palace - Houston, Texas
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.

Giant Armadillo at Armadillo Palace
Giant Armadillo at Armadillo Palace
He has his eye on you
He has his eye on you

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.

Mounted Longhorns at Armadillo Palace
Mounted Longhorns at Armadillo Palace
Mounted Buffalo at Armadillo Palace
Mounted Buffalo at Armadillo Palace
The Bear Brothers at Armadillo Palace
The Bear Brothers at Armadillo Palace
Saddle Bar Seating
Saddle Bar Seating

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!

Old fashioned lighting at Armadillo Palace
Old fashioned lighting at Armadillo Palace
Leather is everywhere
Leather is everywhere
Signature Chicken Fried Steak
Signature Chicken Fried Steak – Yummiferous!!

Frontier Bar and Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana

Frontier Bar and Supper Club - Dunkirk, Montana
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!

Frontier Bar and Supper Club - Dunkirk, Montana
Frontier Bar and Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana

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.

Frontier's Mailbox
Frontier’s Mailbox
Sumoflam and the Mailbox Guy at Frontier Bar and Supper Club
Sumoflam and the Mailbox Guy at Frontier Bar and Supper Club

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!!

No Bull Here...
No Bull Here…
....this steak is AWESOME
….this steak is AWESOME

El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery – Roswell, NM

El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery - Roswell, NM
El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery – Roswell, NM (with my alien granddaughter…)

Ok…so, you mix Mexican food and aliens and you get this weird mix…only in Roswell…

Alien Mariachi?
Alien Mariachi?
Alien Mariachi guitar?
Alien Mariachi guitar?
Alien bullfighters? Toro call home.....
Alien bullfighters? Toro phone home…..
Alien pastries? Real Wonder Bread?
Alien pastries? Real Wonder Bread?

Of course, we were hungry so we had the real food….

El Toro Bravo lunch - yummy
El Toro Bravo lunch – yummy
Have a Coke and a Smile?? Coke machine in Roswell...
Have a Coke and a Smile?? Coke machine in Roswell…

The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant and Tavern – Heidelberg, Ontario

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant - Heidelberg, Ontario
Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – 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.

Mini-brewery at Olde Heidelberg
Mini-brewery at Olde Heidelberg

But, I don’t drink the beer, just eat the good food…and here is what I had

Weiner Schnitzel Dinner at Olde Heidelberg
Weiner Schnitzel Dinner at Olde Heidelberg
Pig Tails and sauce at Heidelberg
Pig Tails and sauce at Heidelberg
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg

Past Time Cafe – Crab Orchard, Kentucky

Past Time Cafe - Crab Orchard, Kentucky
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.

Past Time Cafe storefront - Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Past Time Cafe storefront – Crab Orchard, Kentucky

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.

Past Times Memorabilia
Past Times Memorabilia
Greetings from Crab Orchard
Greetings from Crab Orchard
Salmon Patty Dinner with homemade cornbread, greens, fried potatoes and Past Times' famous soup beans
Salmon Patty Dinner with homemade cornbread, greens, fried potatoes and Past Times’ famous soup beans

Chriswell’s Trails Inn – Ashton, Idaho

Chriswell's Trails Inn - Ashton, Idaho
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.

I love Moose...here's the one from Chriswell's
I love Moose…here’s the one from Chriswell’s
Chriswell's Interior
Chriswell’s Interior
White Buffalo at Chriswell's
White Buffalo at Chriswell’s
Buffalo and antelope at Chriswell's
Buffalo and antelope at Chriswell’s
Sumoflam and the Sandcrane
Sumoflam and the Sandcrane

Of course, the food is why we were here.  We were starved and this placed fit the bill.

Road Kill sign...their jerky
Road Kill sign…their jerky
Chicken Fried Steak at Chriswell's
Chicken Fried Steak at Chriswell’s

This chicken fried steak was HUGE!!  Covered the whole plate.  Of course, the potatoes were huge too and stuffed goodness!!

Old Gravy Nose - boy was the Chicken Fried Steak was good!!
Old Gravy Nose – boy was the Chicken Fried Steak was good!!

Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri

Tightwad Cafe - Tightwad, Missouri
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 Fields, owner - Tightwad Cafe
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe
Carrie's Tightwad Cafe
Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe
Open - But No Credit Cards
Open – But No Credit Cards

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!)

Tightwad Cafe Menu
Tightwad Cafe Menu
Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Biscuits and Gravy at Tightwad Cafe
Biscuits and Gravy at Tightwad Cafe

Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Mud Street Cafe - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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!!

Mud St. Cafe Entrance
Mud St. Cafe Entrance
Artsy Mud Street Cafe sign
Artsy Mud Street Cafe sign

Once downstairs we were enthralled by the kitschy decor.  Painted chairs, painted glass, sculptures, tapestries…decor that was nice and cozy.

Coffee sign at Mud Street Cafe
Coffee sign at Mud Street Cafe
I Love This Sign at Mud Street Cafe - Practice Safe Lunch
I Love This Sign at Mud Street Cafe – Practice Safe Lunch
Cozy Mud Street Cafe
Cozy Mud Street Cafe
Tapestry at Mud Street Cafe
Detailed Tapestry at Mud Street Cafe

But, the coziness was nothing compared to the food.  Freshly made HUGE muffins, fruit salads and tasty breakfast food.

Giant Blueberry Muffins at Mud Street Cafe
Giant Blueberry Muffins at Mud Street Cafe
Veggie Breakfast - Mud Street Cafe
Veggie Breakfast – Mud Street Cafe
All the fixins at Mud Street Cafe
All the fixins at Mud Street Cafe

Just a few more places to note….

El Fenix Mexican Food - Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Mexican Food – Dallas, Texas
Shipwrecked Brew Pub and Restaurant - Egg Harbor, WI
Shipwrecked Brew Pub and Restaurant – Egg Harbor, WI
Sparta House Tearoom - Sparta, Ontario
Sparta House Tearoom – Sparta, Ontario
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant – Mt. Horeb, WI
Riscky's Steakhouse - Ft. Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Ft. Worth, Texas
Enterprise Family Restaurant - Vulcan, Alberta
Enterprise Family Restaurant – Vulcan, Alberta

Coming soon – FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 2: Barbecue Places and Diners

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……


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