D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.


Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY



Washington State: Fat Smitty’s – The Quirky Burger Joint

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty's
Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s

Every so often I come across an eatery that looks so quirky and fun that I must stop there.  On my recent trip to Washington, we stopped in one of

these places.  Weeks before the trip, my daughter and son in law apprised me of these place near Port Townsend, WA and said that it was “So Sumoflam” that we would go there.

Fat Smitty's at the edge of Discovery Bay, WA
Fat Smitty’s at the edge of Discovery Bay, WA
Fat Smitty's in Port Townsend, WA
Fat Smitty’s in Port Townsend, WA

Fat Smitty’s is a funky little burger joint sitting on US Hwy 101 at the junction with WA Route 20 in the Discovery Bay region of Port Townsend.  The outside is decorated with a couple dozen chain saw carved statues of food and other oddities.  Colorful and fun, it is a must stop!

Fat Smitty's
Fat Smitty’s
Sumoflam at Fat Smitty’s

So, on our trip to Neah Bay in July (see post here) we stopped at Fat Smitty’s for lunch.  And, true to their word, this place is a “Sumoflam stop du jour” for sure. Even though I am working on not eating too many burgers, I relaxed my restriction for this one time visit to this one time unique little place.

Fat Smitty's ceiling covered with money.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.


But if the outside is a drawing card, the inside is an invitation.  This place is literally plastered with 1000s of dollar bills (and a few other denominations)!  I have never seen anything quite like it.  Check out all this money!

Much of the cash has the donor’s names on it or where they are from.  Almost every single bill has something written on it.  Really unique interior decor!!

Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty's
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Duck Cash
Duck Cash

Back in 2012, owner Carl “Fat Smitty” Schmidt enlisted Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to remove all of the money from his walls (see newspaper article) as dozens of inquiries had come in about how much was there.  At that time 27 years of cash was removed totaling $10,316, most of which he donated to a kitchen at a Scout camp in Washington.

Cash on the Ceiling
Cash on the Ceiling
M&M Memorabilia abounds in the shop's second room
M&M Memorabilia abounds in the shop’s second room

Apparently, according to Schmidt (in another article), the plastering of money all started back in the 1980s when two sales reps from Caterpillar wanted to pin their business cards to the wall along with a dollar bill.  From there it grew and apparently they never touched the walls.

Marine Wall at Fat Smitty's
Marine Wall at Fat Smitty’s
Larger denominations and business cards can be found as well
Larger denominations and business cards can be found as well

Schmidt, who was in the US Marines in the 1960s, also has a couple of walls dedicated to US Servicemen.

Many still add their business cards to the wall.  You’re lucky if you can see one amongst all the cash.

More uniqueness at Fat Smitty's
More uniqueness at Fat Smitty’s

On this particular visit, I was taking photos and noted that I write travel blogs.  A table of guests noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!

hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, WA
hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Yes, they do make a nice burger at Fat Smitty's
Yes, they do make a nice burger at Fat Smitty’s

Of course, I suppose I should also mention the fact that this place has hamburgers…..I got one of those as well…honestly not in my whole foods plant-based regimen, but, it was a vacation and they didn’t have any vegan offerings (nothing even close!)

And just a couple more shots of the outside woodwork of the place:

Other side is a Pepsi bottle
Other side is a Pepsi bottle
A giant wood-carved ice cream cone at Fat Smitty's
A giant wood-carved ice cream cone at Fat Smitty’s
Big hands hold up the building
Big hands hold up the building
Watch out for the giant skeeters!!
Watch out for the giant skeeters!!
They even sell Fat Smitty's T-shirts
They even sell Fat Smitty’s T-shirts