In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Fiberglass Snowman – Lewisburg, West Virginia
Fireplace of States – Bemidji, Minnesota
Fat Smitty’s – Port Townsend, Washington
Futuro Flying Saucer House – Covington, Kentucky
Four Corners – Teec Nos Pos, Arizona
Frank L. White Grave Marker (The Cream of Wheat Guy) – Leslie, Michigan
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Fair Play, South Carolina
Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Fisherman’s Dream – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
First Church of Peculiar – Peculiar, Missouri
Fox in the Snow – Grand Teton National Park
Fallasburg Covered Bridge – Fallasburg, MI
Forest Fire Department – Forest, Mississippi
Flatrock Coffee – Nashville, Tennessee
Flying Saucer Monument – Mars, Pennsylvania
Frank Sinatra Park – Hoboken, New Jersey
Flower Man House – Houston, Texas
Future City, Illinois
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Frog Pond Bar-B-Que – Frog Pond, Tennessee
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center – Glen Rose, Texas
Flood Wall Murals – Paducah, Kentucky; Jeffersonville, Indiana; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; Portsmouth, Ohio
Fort Worth Stockyards – Fort Worth, Texas
Floodwood Catfish – Floodwood, Minnesota
Friendly, West Virginia
Fort Steuben – Steubenville, Ohio
Findlay Market – Cincinnati, Ohio
Frontier Bar & Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
Mount Fuji – Fuji City, Japan
Flower Bed Art – What Cheer, Iowa
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
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
March 31, 2013: After spending a few wonderful days in Shelby, Montana with family (see my previous post on Shelby), it was time to head back to Kentucky. This segment of the trip we would take US Route 2 along what is called the Montana Hi-Line. Basically, the highway parallels the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). The full Hi-Line in Montana stretches from North Dakota to Idaho border, for a distance of more than 650 miles. However, it seems that to many of the residents in the area, the Hi-Line is really the stretch of US Route 2 from about Cut Bank, MT all the way east to the North Dakota border. US Route 2 is the northernmost east-west route in the United States and is broken into two segments – the western segment is the longest stretching from Everett, WA all the way to St. Ignace, MI for a distance of 2112 miles. We drove the route all the way to Wolf Point, MT and then headed south to Glendive, for a total of about 420 miles for the day.
The Hi-Line drive is predominantly wind swept rolling prairies, wheat fields and small towns dotted with tall grain elevators, silos and old abandoned buildings. The hey day of the early railroads is long gone and many of the towns now cling to life with farming and support of the BNSF tracks that run though the dozen or so small towns.
Between Shelby and Chester there is not much. We passed by the Frontier Bar in Dunkirk and then, past there we saw a few old wooden cabins, barns and elevators.
As a throwback to the 60s, we did come across an old RV Park in Galata, MT. I loved the old vintage sign.
Train tracks and silos span the entire way along Route 2. Scenes like the one below are not at all uncommon.
Continuing east from Galata, our next stop was in Chester, MT, a town of about 850 people. You can tell by the welcome signs that it is most definitely a railroad town.
Apparently, the Sugar Shack Diner was a prefab “Valentine Diner” built by Valentine Manufacturing of Wichita, Kansas in the 1950s. It is a 10-stool diner built in 1953, with previous homes in Conrad and Chinook, before being moved here. There is an interesting site on these prefabs done by the Kansas Historical Society. Following is the advertising graphic for this type of diner from the 1950s:
Of course, I continue to collect Wall Art/Murals from my trips. Here are a couple I saw in Chester.
From Chester we headed east. To the north we could see the Sweet Grass Hills far beyond the prairies. These are legendary to the local Blackfeet.
These are prominent in the area in that the three main buttes and the surrounding hills jut up out of the prairies, with a couple of them having a towering vertical rise of over 3000′ above the land level. The main hills are West Butte (6983′), Gold Butte (6512′) and East Butte (6958′). The three buttes and the hills between them run for about 50 miles east to west and are about 10 miles in distance from north to south.
Our next stop was in Joplin, Montana, a small town of barely 150.
There wasn’t much in Joplin but a few buildings, so we pressed forward to Rudyard, Montana, which promised to have a bit more personality. Before we got to Rudyard, off to the right of the highway we came across a big metal triceratops skeleton. It was so random!
Apparently, this dinosaur is the work of a metal artist in Rudyard as I found another site that had some photos of some other pieces. I’ll check it out next time in Shelby to see the family.
Like many of the towns on the Hi-Line, Rudyard is a small town. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things.
The charm of small towns are the museums and historical centers. Unfortunately, we were driving through on a Sunday afternoon and things were not open. But, Rudyard boasts a couple of museums – see the Rudyard Historical Society site for more details. Following are a few photos from Rudyard.
Actually, there is apparently a story about “Old Sorehead” being a dinosaur. Check it out here. So, even though it is a small town, there is certainly a story here.
The other thing I learned about Rudyard is that it is the only populated spot in the United States that has an antipode that reaches a landmass. The antipode is the opposite point of any point on the surface of the Earth, so that if you connected the two points with a line through the center of the Earth, that line would be an exact diameter. Mathematically, the antipode of a point whose latitude and longitude are (A,B) equals (-A, B ± 180°). Almost everywhere in the U.S. hits a point in the Indian Ocean, except for two unpopulated sections of Colorado and then a section of Northern Montana (see this map). The town of Rudyard has an antipode in one of the small islands of the Kerguelen Islands (also known as the Desolation Islands) in the southern Indian Ocean. There is also a great little animation about antipodes here.
Enough about geography…back on the road eastward with the next stop being Kremlin, Montana.
The town of Kremlin apparently got its name from a Russian immigrant who was laying railroad track in the area around 1890. He saw the Bears Paws mountains in the distance and they reminded him of home. There is a nice story here.
Continuing east on US Hwy 2 towards Havre we took a sideroad to visit a small abandoned schoolhouse in what used to be Fresno, Montana. This schoolhouse has been photographed numerous times and is kind of indicative what things looked like on the prairies. From US Hwy 2 we took a left on Smith-Frisno Road, crossed over the tracks and went north about a mile. The old schoolhouse is on the left…you can’t miss it. It’s actually about 8.5 miles from downtown Kremlin.
Havre is probably the midway point on the Hi-Line and is by far the biggest town on the Hi-Line as well with more than 10,000 residents. The town was in incorporated in 1893 and was founded primarily to serve as a major a major service center for the Grand Northern Railroad which was built by James J. Hill, who was also known as “The Empire Builder.” The town was named for Le Havre in France due to the number of Frenchmen working with Hill.
The main industry for many years has been the railroad. BNSF was, for many years, the main employer in town, though the hospital and a university may now be the biggest employers. It is also about 6 miles north of Fort Assiniboine which served as one of Montana’s chief military posts from 1879 through the early 1900s.
Former Havre resident Lyndon Pomeroy is a well known Montana metal sculptor. He created the Hands Across the Border piece to represent U.S. and Canadian partnership in northern Montana. He has a few other works in Havre and also a number of them in Billings., where he now resides. He also has done a recent large piece for Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.
The above bison was created by Havre resident Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison. Cory is better known for his “Fence Post Art,” some of which can be seen here. He has work in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. The fence sculptures cover a wide range of subjects: people, animals, insects, abstract and impressionist pieces. Can’t wait for my next trip to Montana to look for these!!
From Havre it was east to Chinook. This town of a little over 1200 people. Like many of the towns in northern Montana, Chinook was born from the railroad. In the late 1880s the railroad was coming through here and by the early 1900s the town had hotels, businesses and a bustling economy. In 1924 the Utah-Idaho Sugarbeet company moved to Chinook to make molasses and sugar beet pulp. There are still many nostalgic signs hanging in town.
From Chinook the drive gets more scenic as it also runs along the Milk River. Unfortunately, the day was passing by as we passed small towns like Zurich, Harlem and Malta on our way into Glasgow. I wanted to get to Glasgow before dark so I could get shots of the dinosaur statues on a hill as you enter town. Another quirky way to end the daylight portion of the trip before pushing our to Wolf Point and then into Glendive.
It was really a long day, especially since we left Shelby at 2 PM to head east. We made it into Glendive around 11 PM, but had a great eventful day along the Hi-Line. The next day will be a fun one too with the Enchanted Highway and Mount Rushmore on the agenda!! Watch for that post soon.