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

 

(55)

Taking the Long Way Home from Nebraska – 800 miles in a day

Clouds over Concordia
Giant Clouds over Concordia, Missouri

The best and worst part of a long road trip is the coming home part.  Its always nice to be at home in my own bed after a grueling trip across the country.  But, it is bittersweet.  All of the adventures, sights, sounds and exhilaration are behind me.  The last leg of the trip is usually on the Interstates to get home as quickly as possible (with a few brief stops along the way).  This trip was no different.  My trip home was the “long way home” as it covered over 870 miles on the last day as I traveled straight from Grand Island, Nebraska to Lexington (via Kansas City and St. Louis in order to visit a friend in KC).

The Last Leg of a nine day trip - 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
The Last Leg of a nine day trip – 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE

I started off early on this May 29 (Thursday) morning cruising east on Interstate 80.  It was a beautiful morning drive with a bit of mist in the air providing for some nice scenes from the highway.

Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Early morning in the heartland of America...east central Nebraska on I-80
Early morning in the heartland of America…east central Nebraska on I-80

My first stop was in York, Nebraska.  I had to stop for a rest stop and to get a photo of the uniquely colored water tower.

Water tower in York, Nebraska
Water tower in York, Nebraska

From York the interstate continued east to Lincoln, the capitol city of Nebraska.  It is home to the historic Capitol Building, a towering 400 foot tall building that can be seen for miles. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1932.  The building is not the tallest state capitol in the country.  That goes to the Louisiana State Capitol, which is 450 feet tall.  Nonetheless, the “Skyscraper of the Plains” is quite impressive.

The "Skyscraper of the Plains", Nebraska's State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
The “Skyscraper of the Plains”, Nebraska’s State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
And this is a closer look at the impressive "Skyscraper of the Plains"
And this is a closer look at the impressive “Skyscraper of the Plains”

Of course, Nebraska is the “Cornhusker State” and there are plenty of corn fields to be seen from the highway.

Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska
Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska

From Lincoln, I continued into Nebraska City, a place I have visited and stayed in (see my blog post about this lovely town). When there, I always have to stop at Sapp Brothers on the southside of town (actually in Percival, IA) off of Interstate 29….they have the cleanest restrooms on I-29!

Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the "Cleanest Restrooms on I-29"
Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the “Cleanest Restrooms on I-29”
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City

Not too far south of Nebraska City, I-29 crosses into the far southwest corner of Iowa and through the small town of Hamburg, which basically hugs the borders of Missouri to the south and Nebraska to the west.

This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg

Perhaps the real treat in Hamburg is Stoner Drug…yes, a strange name for a drug store.  But this particular shop also houses an old fashioned Soda Fountain, which is rare to find nowadays.  Even has the little spinning chairs and they make MALTS too.

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats.  I almost got one, but I had used my "hat money" on a Carhenge hat the previous day
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats. I almost got one, but I had used my “hat money” on a Carhenge hat the previous day

Heading south from Hamburg you are almost in Missouri immediately.

Welcome to Missouri
Welcome to Missouri

My main purpose for heading south to Kansas City was to visit with my good friend Brad Sweeten, the Athletic Director at Center High School in Kansas City, MO.  I stopped in for a visit and lunch at one of his favorite places (and mine too), Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que.  My last trip we visited their store in a gas station.  This time it was at their new place…still plenty of lines.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe's
Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Inside of Oklahoma Joe's - nice atmosphere, great food and big portions
Inside of Oklahoma Joe’s – nice atmosphere, great food and big portions

After my brief stopover in Kansas City is was time to fly on home down the Interstate.  As I drove through Missouri, the clouds were amazing…giant cumulonimbus clouds were framed by the blue background of the sky.

Large clouds over central Missouri
Large clouds over central Missouri
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone...
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…

After a hearty meal, a short night of sleep and a lot of driving already, it was time for a nap….even Road Warriors need to sleep!!

Nap time in Missouri - even Road Warriors gotta sleep
Nap time in Missouri – even Road Warriors gotta sleep

After my brief 30 minute power snooze, I was back on the road with only one other planned stop to see a Paul Bunyan looking Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO.

I went to Wentsville!
I went to Wentzville, the Crossroads of the Nation
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, IL
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, MO

If you are really interested in Muffler Men and Uniroyal Gals and their variations, you MUST see Roadside America’s Muffler Man Page.  It is chock full of info, history and even a location map of these big guys and gals.

Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO
Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO

I have seen many of these guys in my travels and you’ll run across them in my blogs.  (HERE are some in Texas; a Uniroyal gal in Idaho; a Native American Muffler Man in Bemidji, MN; a Big John in Metropolis, IL; another Big John in Great Falls, MT and there are more.)

Approach to St. Louis, MO - heavy traffic!
Approach to St. Louis, MO – heavy traffic!

On the way into St. Louis I got slowed down considerably by heavy late afternoon traffic.  I was really glad when I finally go to Cardinals Stadium, which meant I was soon across the river…

Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

I still had quite a trip as a drove home with the sunset to my back…

Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip

Finally, the last leg of a trip covering 9 days, 12 states, 4500+ miles and numerous amazing adventures was over with at about 1 AM EST.  Time for a rest….

(846)

FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 2: Barbecue Places and Diners on Less Beaten Paths

Arthur Bryant's - Kansas City
Arthur Bryant’s – Kansas City

As I travel across these great United States (and Canada too) perhaps the most common sight along the way is Barbecue (BBQ) places and diners, big and small.  Following are a few of the places I have visited (or at least passed and wished I had time to stop in for a visit….).

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, WV

Hillbilly Hot Dogs - Lesage, WV
Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, WV

Ever eaten at a junk yard?  Ever had enough guts to do so?  Well, if you head north of Huntington, WV along the Ohio River to the small little village of Lesage you can do just that at Hillbilly Hot Dogs.  A junk collector’s dream and a neatnik’s nightmare!

Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front
Order Rite Cheer at Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, WV
Order Rite Cheer at Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, WV

I really got quite a kick out of some of the wackiness here…

Yes, they do have a Website!!
Yes, they do have a Website!!

And they have their own song “We Got the Weenies

The Delivery Van - Hillbilly Hot Dogs
The Delivery Van – Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Permanent Menu at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Permanent Menu at Hillbilly Hot Dogs

Like many offbeat roadside eateries, Hillbilly Hot Dogs has been featured on TV shows.  They have also been featured on the Travel Channel, the Food Network and others. Here is a short clip from Diner’s Dives and Drive-ins.

Then, there is their famous BIG SIZE dog called the Homewrecker!! They also have a Big Bad Bubba Burger!!

The Homewrecker at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
The Homewrecker at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Don't Forget to Wipe (off your face)
Don’t Forget to Wipe (off your face)

Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – Kansas City, Kansas

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ - Kansas City, KS
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – Kansas City, KS

Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas is a BBQ joint in a gas station.  I actually think the gas station takes second fiddle to the BBQ. Fortunately for us, we got there just before the rush.  By the time we got our food, the line was clear out the door.  Like many of the places on this post, Oklahoma Joe’s has been featured on TV shows including some on the Food Network and PBS.

Oklahoma Joe's Neon
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon
The waiting line at Oklahoma Joe's
The waiting line at Oklahoma Joe’s

I have discovered thru my travels that many BBQ places participate in competitions for best sauce, best BBQ, etc.  Oklahoma Joe’s is no exception.  In fact, that is how they got their start.  Owner Jeff Stehney began his career in BBQ by participating in Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) competitions. In 1993 he and his partners (team Slaughterhouse Five) won eight grand championships. They did this with their Oklahoma Joe’s 24″ smoker.  In 1996 they opened their first shop in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Kansas City location opened in 1996.  They now have three locations in Kansas.

Daily Menu at Oklahoma Joe's
Daily Menu at Oklahoma Joe’s
Oklahoma Joe's T-shirt
Oklahoma Joe’s T-shirt

But, of course, the best part….the BBQ!!

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ with all the fixins including jalapenos!
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ with all the fixins including jalapenos!

Big Jud’s Country Diner – Archer, Idaho

Big Jud's Country Diner - Rexburg, Idaho
Big Jud’s Country Diner – Archer, Idaho

Continuing the string of made famous by TV diners, I visited Big Jud’s in March 2013.  Located in Archer, Idaho, a small town outside of Rexburg, this “country diner” is rustic, but, the food isn’t!  I have never seen such HUGE burgers and portions anywhere!!

Home of the 1 LB Burger
Home of the 1 LB Burger
Big Burger Menu at Jud's
Big Burger Menu at Jud’s
Big Jud's 1 Lb Burger
Big Jud’s 1 Lb Burger
A REAL Mouthful at Judd's
A REAL Mouthful at Judd’s

Like many places, they have their “Chow Down” contests.  Eat the big burger in a certain amount of time and you get a t-shirt, a photo on the board and even a free meal.  My friend Trevor Mortensen, from Rexburg, joined a team to try this…

Tried but failed....
Tried but failed….
....but finished this one off
….but finished this one off

But check out what this other kid was having while we were there….

The Big Jud
The Big Jud

Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario

Hutch’s on the Beach in Ontario is a classic 1950s style burger joint (actually, since 1946!).  This place is practically right out of American Graffiti (even though it is in Canada).  Black and white checkerboard floors, big fresh made burgers, great fries and shakes.  A juke box that played music from the 1950s….

Hutch's Menu board
Hutch’s Menu board
They have Fish and Chips too...it is in Canada mind you.
They have Fish and Chips too…it is in Canada mind you.

I loved the nostalgia that Hutch’s brought me….

Old Style Milk Machine
Old Style Milk Machine
Checkerboard Tile and Booths
Checkerboard Tile and Booths
Lots of stuff too
Lots of stuff too

Of course, like any of these places, we came for the “real” food…burgers, fries and milk shakes made the old fashioned way.

Burgers and fries and goodies at Hutch's on the Beach
Burgers and fries and goodies at Hutch’s on the Beach. Fries are home made too!
This is a REAL burger - not something like McD's production line burgers
This is a REAL burger – not something like McD’s production line burgers
Hanging behind the counter with the Hutch's team - April 2008
Hanging behind the counter with the Hutch’s team – April 2008

Stewart’s Drive In – Russell’s Point, Ohio

Stewart's Drive In - Russells Point, Ohio
Stewart’s Drive In – Russells Point, Ohio

Located in central Ohio, southeast of Lima, Russells Point, Ohio is a touristy destination with Indian Lake bordering it.  While driving to Indian Lake to see the sights, I came across the old fashioned drive in.  I had to stop for a drink and an ice cream cone.  What a pleasure!!  Had someone come to the car and everything!

Stewart's Drive In
Stewart’s Drive In
Bringing out the ice cream at Stewart's
Bringing out the ice cream at Stewart’s

Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, North Carolina

Snappy Lunch - Mt. Airy, NC
Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, NC
Snappy Lunch - Mt. Airy, NC
Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, NC

If you have ever watched the Andy Griffith show or Mayberry RFD, you would have heard about “The Snappy Lunch,” which was mentioned in Episode 007 of the Andy Griffith Show on November 14, 1960.  Andy Griffith actually ate there as a young boy growing up in Mt. Airy.   Opened in 1923, it is the oldest eating establishment in Mt. Airy and is famous for its Pork Chop Sandwiches.

Snappy Lunch Menu
Snappy Lunch Menu
Andy Griffith loved Snappy Lunch
Andy Griffith loved Snappy Lunch

The pork chop sandwiches served up at Snappy Lunch were a first for me.  I had never had one, but I would most certainly return for another.  I caught owner Charles Dowell busy at work cooking up his specialty back in March 2012. He passed away in September 2012 at the age of 84.  He began working at The Snappy Lunch in 1943 and by 1960 he had purchased the cafe.

Cooking up the pork chops at Snappy Lunch
The Late Charles Dowell cooking up the pork chops at Snappy Lunch
Snappy Lunch Pork Chops
Snappy Lunch Pork Chops

So, if you are wondering what time it is…..

Snappy Lunch Clock
Snappy Lunch Clock
....it's time for a Snappy Lunch Pork Chop Sandwich
….it’s time for a Snappy Lunch World Famous Pork Chop Sandwich

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota

Space Aliens Grill & Bar - Waite Park, MN
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, MN

While on a trip to Montana in 2005 with my kids, we made our way into Waite Park, MN, just west of St. Cloud.  We got in fairly late after a day of traveling in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  We had pushed to get here in time so that we could eat at Space Aliens.  And, we were lucky, it was a Wednesday and all you can eat night.  I had two BIG HUNGRY boys, along with myself and one of my daughters.  We chowed down to say the least!!

Kitschy Mars theme in Space Aliens
Kitschy Mars theme in Space Aliens
Aliens everywhere!!
Aliens everywhere!!
Space Themed Walls
30 foot tall Space Themed Ceiling Dome

Mort Bank and David Glaser, like other BBQ proprietors, got their start in BBQ competitions. Having won the National Barbecue Convention for “America’s Best Ribs” in Tennessee, they returned to their home in North Dakota and opened up a store in Bismarck and a second one in Fargo, North Dakota.

Space Aliens Grill & Bar - Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Fargo, ND
Wall Mural on Fargo Space Aliens Grill & Bar
Wall Mural on Fargo Space Aliens Grill & Bar

As for the Barbecue — they have actually trademarked “Positively the Best Ribs in the Entire Universe”.  Their slowly smoked 20 spice ribs were really fantastic.  In fact, we ate them empty that evening!!

An order of Space Alien ribs
An order of Space Alien ribs
My boys gnoshing on Space Alien Ribs
My boys gnoshing on Space Alien Ribs
Dem Bones - all that was left was a pile of bones
Dem Bones – all that was left was a pile of bones
Sumoflam with an Alienized Smile at Space Aliens
Sumoflam with an Alienized Smile at Space Aliens

Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Stoneville Saloon - Alzada, Montana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Alzada is a very small unincorporated community in the far southeast corner of Montana, practically bordering Wyoming and South Dakota.  The long empty stretch of U.S. Highway 212 is basically the only way in and out.  Originally named Stoneville in 1880, the town’s named needed to be changed due to a Post Office conflict.  In 1885 it was named Alzada in honor of the wife of the postmaster.   It is an old cowboy town steeped in cowboy history.  But, it also is known for the Stoneville Saloon – “Conveniently located in the middle of Nowhere!”

Stoneville Saloon T-shirt
Stoneville Saloon T-shirt

I think the real draw is the tag line “Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food”

Stoneville Saloon - Cheap Drinks - Lousy Food
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food

We had been driving all the way from Great Falls in 2005 on our way home from Montana and this was one of the MAIN destinations for us that day.  We got here starved.  Turns out that this is now a “biker bar” frequented by many bikers on their way to Sturgis, SD, which is about 67 miles to the southeast of Alzada.  We stopped and ate, but enjoyed the atmosphere more than anything…

Unique motorcycle at Stoneville Saloon
Unique motorcycle at Stoneville Saloon
Many antler mounts - Stoneville Saloon
Many antler mounts – Stoneville Saloon
Pool tables in the Saloon
Pool tables in the Saloon
Love the Signs
Love the Signs – “Yes, the customer is always right. However, the bartender determines who is no longer a customer” and more….

OK, we had some burgers and fries while here.  But they do serve steaks and a few other goodies.  Needless to say, we were in a hurry so we didn’t try their famed canned delicacies…

Canned Delicacies at Stoneville Saloon - Alzada, Montana
Canned Delicacies at Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Genos & Pats in Philadelphia
Genos & Pats in Philadelphia

A write up about diners cannot truly be justified without noting the Philly Cheesesteak rivalry in Philadelphia. No place represents the heart and soul of the Philadelphia better than the corner of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. This is the cheese-steak epicenter where Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks face off 24 hours a day for the Cheesesteak crown.  So, what’s the best way to do it?  My friend and I hit BOTH places in the same evening.

Geno's Steaks - Philadelphia
Geno’s Steaks – Philadelphia

First stop was Geno’s Steaks, located in a corner of the intersection of E. Passyunk and 9th Street.  Geno’s was started in 1966 by Joe Vento with $6.00 in his pocket, 2 boxes of steaks and some hot dogs. If you can’t order in English, then don’t try this place.  They have signs up that explicitly state you must order in English.

Order in English only sign at Geno's
Order in English only sign at Geno’s
Even the cooks wear shirts about speaking in English at Geno's
Even the cooks wear shirts about speaking in English at Geno’s

The intimidation doesn’t stop at English only.  There is a specific way to order as well.  You must order with Provolone, American or Cheese Whiz.  If you don’t do it right they may chew you out!!  Fortunately, there is a constant stream of customers ordering so you can listen and learn.  They whip out those steaks with whiz pretty quick!

Steak Sign at Geno's
Steak Sign at Geno’s
Grilling the steaks at Geno's in Philadelphia
Grilling the steaks at Geno’s in Philadelphia

After indulging in a tasty, hot and yummiferous Geno’s  Steak sandwich (mine had Provolone), my friend and I meandered across the “X” to Pat’s King of Steaks. This shop is older than Geno’s, having opened in 1930 by Pat Olivieri, who ran a hot dog stand originally.

Pat's King of Steaks - "Don't Eat a Misteak"
Pat’s King of Steaks – “Don’t Eat a Misteak”
Best of Philly - Pat's King of Steaks
Best of Philly – Pat’s King of Steaks

Their website claims that this was where the cheesesteak was invented … there is even an historical marker on the site:

Pat's King of Steaks Historical Marker
Pat’s King of Steaks Historical Marker

Unlike Geno’s, there are not “Speak English” signs, but they are still persnickety in terms of ordering in a timely fashion as they also whip those cheesy meaty sandwiches out quickly.

Grilling up the steaks at Pat's
Grilling up the steaks at Pat’s
Steaks!! These will make a lot of cheesesteaks!
Steaks!! These will make a lot of cheesesteaks!

The final product is what everyone comes for:

One of Pat's cooks shows off "the goods"
One of Pat’s cooks shows off “the goods”
Yummmiferous! A Steak with peppers, cheese, onions and the goods.
Yummiferous! A Steak with peppers, cheese, mushrooms, onions and the goods.

And the winner?  It was definitely ME!!  I got the best of Philly in a double take.

Dash-Inn Drive In – Shelby, Montana

Dash In Drive In - Shelby, Montana
Dash-Inn Drive In – Shelby, Montana

This is another one of those drive up diners where someone will come out to your car and serve up great burgers, fries, onion rings, tater tots, etc.  My wife and I had the opportunity to eat here in March 2013.  It was as you would expect…great prices, great service and great food!

Camp 31 BBQ – Paris, Ontario

Camp 31 Bar-B-Que - Paris, Ontario
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario

I have eaten at BBQ places all over the U.S. and in parts of Canada.  However, I have to admit that the absolute best experience I ever had was at Camp 31 in Paris, Ontario.  In 2008 I had the opportunity to work in Woodstock and I rented a place in Paris, about 20 miles south of Woodstock.  I made my way to Camp 31 at least twice a week.  It was heavenly.

Camp 31 Menu
Camp 31 Menu

Started originally in a Sawmill in Alabama, the owners moved to Canada and opened up in an old sawmill building in Paris.  The inside is rustic which makes the BBQ all the better tasting.

Smoking in giant smokers
Smoking in giant smokers
Bringing out the ribs from the smoker
Bringing out the ribs from the smoker
Grilling the Ribs after they have been smoked - Camp 31
Grilling the Ribs after they have been smoked – Camp 31

Camp 31 BBQ has a diverse menu and a good variety of goodies.  Their cornbread is sweet, their BBQ sauce is tangy, their meats are tender and their service is impeccable.

April takes the orders
April takes the orders
Camp 31 Seating
Camp 31 Seating

Many BBQ places compete and Camp 31 is no different.  In fact, they compete all over Canada and in the US.  They even have a tour bus with built in smokers!!

Camp 31 Hawgs Gone Wild Bus
Camp 31 Hawgs Gone Wild Bus
One of a gazillion trophies on display at Camp 31
One of a gazillion trophies on display at Camp 31

And here is why….

A satisfied Sumoflam at Camp 31
A satisfied Sumoflam at Camp 31
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Barbecue Ribs at Camp 31
Barbecue Ribs at Camp 31
Robs at Camp 31 - Tender and Juicy
Robs at Camp 31 – Tender and Juicy
Oliver Zuder serving up the best at Camp 31
Oliver Zuder serving up the best at Camp 31

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

Goody Goody Diner - St. Louis
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

Goody Goody Diner opened their doors as a Diner in 1948.  Started by Cecil Thompson, it is now owned by Richard Connelly who has worked at Goody Goody since 1955, when he was 14 and began peeling potatoes and working as a carhop.

Giant Coffee Cup Sign at Goody Goody's
Giant Coffee Cup Sign at Goody Goody
Goody Goody owner Rich Connelly
Goody Goody owner Rich Connelly
Scale Model Goody Goody delivery truck
Scale Model Goody Goody delivery truck

There is plenty of seating at Goody Goody and very little wait.  They really move the folks through and the service is fast.

Counter Seating - Diner Style
Counter Seating – Diner Style
Seating at Goody Goody
Seating at Goody Goody

The diner has a diverse menu, but they are especially famous for their “Wilbur”, a breakfast omelet filled with potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes and then covered with chili and cheese. Sometimes it is referred to as a “slinger”  A delectable delight of a dish.

The "Wilbur" from Goody Goody
The “Wilbur” from Goody Goody
The works - Wilbur, English Muffin and Grits. Rib sticking breakfast or lunch
The works – Wilbur, English Muffin and Grits. Rib sticking breakfast or lunch
The Wilbur brings a smile to Sumoflam
The Wilbur brings a smile to Sumoflam

Another favorite is Goody Goody is the waffles and fried chicken, a good southern dish.

Chicken and Waffles at Goody Goody
Chicken and Waffles at Goody Goody. Super Good!

Gronk’s Grill and Bar – Superior, Wisconsin

Gronk's Grill and Bar - Superior, Wisconsin
Gronk’s Grill and Bar – Superior, Wisconsin

Gronk’s Grill is the ultimate mixture of hamburger joint and BBQ joint.  Like Jud’s, they offer HUGE 6 and 8 pound burgers (The “Enger Tower Burger” and the “Great Divide” respectively).  You finish these off you get a t-shirt and a place in their Hall of Fame.  They also offer BBQ ribs and hot dogs.

Enter Here at Gronk's - a GIANT hand
Enter Here at Gronk’s – a GIANT hand
Carved bears greet you at the door
Carved bears greet you at the door

This is what you can get if you are really really hungry…the Enger Tower

Gronk's Enger Tower Burger
Gronk’s Enger Tower Burger

Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

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

Kansas City is known for its barbecue and one of the prime establishments of Kansas City Barbecue is Arthur Bryant’s. This BBQ joint opened in the 1920s and once it moved from its original location to the corner of 18th and Brooklyn, near the old Municipal Stadium, it gained its national fame as major league baseball players and others visited the place.  Some claim that Arthur Bryant is the “legendary King of Ribs” and is considered by some to be “the most renowned barbecuer in history.”  Bryant died in 1982 at the age of 80, but the legendary flavor continues.

Arthur Bryant's Meat Tray
Arthur Bryant’s Meat Tray
One of the BBQ Masters at Arthur Bryant's shows off the goods!
One of the BBQ Masters at Arthur Bryant’s shows off the goods!

Unlike many BBQ places, Arthur Bryant’s serves their BBQ on slices of white bread.  I had never had it that way except at home.  Apparently, Bryant had created his special sauce so you “could put it on bread and eat it.”  Well, they did put it on bread and I did eat it.  Fabulous barbecue, great prices, good smoky environment (smoky from BBQ that is) and sweeeeet sauce!

BBQ Pork on bread at Arthur Bryant's
BBQ Pork on bread at Arthur Bryant’s
BBQ Meat Sandwich with Ham and Brisket at Arthur Bryant's
BBQ Meat Sandwich with Ham and Brisket at Arthur Bryant’s

Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois

Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog! Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.

Cozy Drive In - Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction

And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!

Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries - Cozy Dog - Springfield, IL
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog

Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City, Missouri

Paul's Drive In - Kansas City
Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City

Apparently, Paul’s is so good that locomotive engineers literally stop the train on the tracks and get out to get some of Paul’s tenderloins and burgers.  On my visit we were more interested in something cold and sweet on our palate after enjoying some great Kansas City BBQ elsewhere.  And, this was a chart topper!!

Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul's Drive In - Kansas City
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City – DQ can’t beat this one!

Patche’s Mini Mart – Bradfordsville, Kentucky

Patche's Mini Mart - Bradfordsville, Kentucky
Patche’s Mini Mart – Bradfordsville, Kentucky

As I drive the Less Beaten Paths, I do run into little gems like Patche’s.  Patche’s is named after owner Patsy, who is called Patche’s by all her friends.  It is a gas station, mini mart and a little grill.  I was hungry on a long drive so I stopped.  I asked her what was the specialty and she told me “grilled boloney sandwich with egg and cheese.”  I had her make one up for me.

Seating area at Patche's
Seating area at Patche’s
Hats and goodies for sale at Patche's
Hats and goodies for sale at Patche’s

Patche’s is a two person show – Patche’s on the grill and her assistant.

Patche's cooking up the baloney sandwich
Patche’s cooking up the baloney sandwich
The final product - Baloney Sandwich Extraordinaire
The final product – Baloney Sandwich Extraordinaire

There are so many places on the road to stop.  I have another set of shots I will include in a “Leftovers” section in a week or so.  But, as you enjoy the ride, also make sure to enjoy some of the local fare.  It’ll do you good.

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