July Evening 2022
Don and I had one night in Durango. We chose to eat dinner at a gas station.
We had wandered by many restaurants, but none lured us the way this festive corner did.
11th & Main
The Conoco truck was the first thing that caught my eye, on the corner of 11th and Main. Then I spotted food trucks and all kinds of outdoor seating.
There were tiny tables and long picnic tables to share. There were Adirondack chairs for sitting a spell and tables under umbrellas.
There was an interesting raised area, under a glass roof, with couches and curtains and twinkly lights.
The Old Station
I was most intrigued by the old gas station, sitting towards the back of the property. This old photo shows Ernie's Conoco Triangle, In the 1950's.
The station opened in 1953, but it wasn't the first. The Spanish Trails Filling Station sat along Main Avenue, long before. It opened in the 1920's.
Today, Ernie's name is still connected to the filling station. But it's a bar.
I love a good theme and this Gas Station Bar was done well. We chose to sit right outside the bar. You can see Don behind the Dino pump.
I peeked inside and it was a pretty fun space, with a '57 Chevy poking out of the wall.
I'm guessing that was Ernie in the portrait, high on the wall.
The Service Station area had lots of open seating. The garage doors were open and I could imagine mechanics years ago, working away with a breeze blowing through.
There were old hub cabs on the walls and lots of framed photos of cars. I should have sat for a pose, on the fine cushioned seat, between the taillights.
The restroom was pretty amusing! I don't know enough to tell you what that sink was made of. But I recognize the gas nozzle!
And of course the trash can was a Pennzoil can!
There were good food options. Although not all the trucks were open.
The red truck named The Box, served wood-fired pizzas.
Avalanche Bowl Company served up rice bowls with different themes. Hawaiian, Mexican, Poke, Tree Hugger...
The Backwater Gourmet truck, served gourmet sliders! This was our Truck Stop Choice!
Nothing like sipping an Old Fashioned, sitting next the fuel pumps!
I enjoyed a glass of wine and then we dug into our sliders!
Sliders & Slaw!
We shared 3 sliders and all were delicious. The BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger was my favorite! It came with a huge crispy onion ring.
Actually the Apple Jicama Slaw was my all time favorite! The wet pile of goodie was slapped onto a sheet of waxy paper, with a plate underneath. That sounds horrible, but I loved the sweet and soupy concoction! Our little table of food and drink was just the right amount.
We enjoyed a nice evening, but next time maybe we'll enjoy the day. I see on the website it opens at 7 am! We can start with coffee and pastry. Then every couple of hours, we can try a new food and eat in a new spot. Can't wait!
Chama, New Mexico
There wasn't much going on in the town of Chama, when we passed through in July.
We were lucky to find this cute log restaurant, painted barn red! It was time for lunch!
I love the nostalgia of knotty pine! There was a lot of it, on the walls and ceiling.
The metal chairs looked cute in the little cafe, but after driving half a day, I would have preferred comfier seats.
The air felt wonderful though! The windows were open and the lacy-fringed curtains moved with the breeze. I felt at home.
There was some interesting decor. A ceiling fan with horns and lots of heavenly metal art, on the walls.
Under the Clock
We took a seat next to the partition, beneath a large clock. We were near the counter, where we could witness lots of playful banter. A waitress chatted with some local diners as they checked out. She had some humorous complaints about achy feet.
I expected a paper menu at this casual restaurant, but Natasha greeted us with a smile and a big hefty menu. It was decorated with elk horns!
The options looked good and the prices were reasonable. We ordered right away.
Don's impressive chicken quesadilla plate, was only $10. There was a generous amount of meat packed into each quarter and lots of extra goodie on the side, for adding more flavor!
We like to support small town cafes, when we travel. But, my road trip clothes were getting tight. I reminded myself there was no need to apologize for my choice, but I still felt guilty ordering the 5-dollar salad.
Ordering small salads in small town cafes, often means iceberg and bottled dressing. But I lucked out! Fresh mixed greens, red onion, mushrooms, crispy and colorful peppers, cheese & tomatoes! All served on a sleek, modern plate. What an unexpected and filling surprise!
Don and Barbara
After finishing our quick feast, Don checked out with Barbara at the counter. Barbara's mask did not hide her warmth and enthusiasm. She and Don talked a long while about Barbara's memories of Elk Horn. She talked about growing up in Chama, a town of around 1,000. She hinted about "wilder" days, when snowmobiles were more popular. I'm not sure what that meant exactly.
Barbara told Don that the restaurant had originally been a house and then it became a tackle shop. At some point, (I'm guessing 1950's) the property was owned along with nearby cabins, lodge and gift shop.
Growing up in the Restaurant
Barbara said it was 28 years ago, when the property owner leased the building to her mom. Their restaurant opened up 5 days before Barbara's 10th birthday.
Barbara grew up around the restaurant and now her own daughter is old enough to work on weekends. She said it was a good town for raising her 2 kids.
It turns out that we had been seated at the very table where the previous owner Don, dined daily for years.
Barbara said that Don used to come into the restaurant once a day for breakfast. He would order one pancake and a small milk.
"Don't you dare try to give him a large milk!" Barbara added with a laugh. "You don't want to do that!"
Barbara said her mother eventually bought the restaurant, but not the cabins or lodge.
She said the lodge was recently purchased and was being fixed up. We took a peek after we departed. Who knows? Maybe we'll be back for an overnight, someday. I can include a Notable Night write up as well!
What a perfectly satisfying stop on our travels. Good food and equally good conversation.
If we return in a couple years, I'll have more questions for Barbara. "What foods are as popular today, as 30 years ago?" "What was the best thing about Elk Horn that you remember, from when you were 10 year?" I could go on and on.
A sweet place!
It was a hot Saturday in August and we had time to kill!
The red sign called to us! World Famous! Amazing Pies and Soups! RV park and cabin rentals! Who can resist!
Boise to Idaho City
Don, and I were with my bro and sis-in-law. Chris drove us from Boise to Idaho City, to enjoy a day outing. Scenery was fun and we were excited about a 1:30 appointment.
Idaho City is actually more of town, but it was bigger than Portland back in the mining days. There wasn't much going on in I.C. when we visited. We found some bars that were open, but we needed food while we killed time for our appointment.
Hopping at Trudy's
Just outside of the tiny historic town, we found Trudy's, with a packed parking lot.
The flower baskets on the patio, were inviting.
The window with lace curtains and the neon OPEN sign, looked welcoming.
The notices on the wooden door, looked less so. There were 2 signs about dogs... mostly some requirements about good dog behavior.
There was an order from the mayor to conserve water. There was a reminder about not bringing your own food and there was a colorful poster about an upcoming rodeo.
It was near 90 outside, so we peeked in. There was a brick fireplace and a lots of decorative doodads... like an old saw on the wall.
But it was crowded and noisy. The tables were all full anyway.
We chose the covered patio, with food covered tables. Pictures of food!
A young server handed us menus with lots of welcoming words. Love...Vacation.. Neighbor...Kids... Laugh...Family...
While we studied the menu I overheard a few conversations with some of the young staff. Some older locals were chatting with 2 teen workers about some high school events. It sounded right neighborly. The menu words fit.
We studied the food images on the table for only a moment. They were actually not very appetizing. Maybe the shellac had yellowed the photos.
Ruebens for Us!
The Ruebens we ordered were actually much better looking than the photos.
The 4 of us split 2 and our young server was kind enough to bring extra plates. She didn't even treat us like old people, who split orders. We appreciated that and tipped well.
One half order was just right! We had places to go and appointments to keep.
Before hitting the road, I headed back to the restroom.
The restroom was in the far back and I had to pass through this added little room, with windows. As I stood in line for the one restroom, I spied on diners through the windows. Some local families I'm guessing and some bikers and some guys in camo apparel.
There were three women waiting before me, but I was in no hurry. There was lots to look at on the wall.
Idaho City is a very patriotic town. There are less than 500, but I'm guessing many have connections to the military. One of the women saw me studying the wall and she made sure I didn't miss the uniform in a nearby case.
I peeked at the uniform, but I was more intrigued with the sign outside of the restroom.
The sign was amusing, mostly because we were in Idaho City, not Portland or Austin. I think a lot of folks in this part of Idaho aren't so used to unisex restrooms.
But we ladies stood patiently. We've done it before. Then a man who looked like he'd been fishing with his buddies that morning, tried to stroll past us. "Sorry Ladies!" He laughed as he moved on by, expecting to find an empty men's room. It took him a moment to realize he belonged in the back of our line. He shook his head and returned to his table. We 4 ladies were mighty amused by that!
So after a quick and pleasant lunch, (with a funny bathroom adventure) we headed off to our appointment. It was very important!
Nearly 30 years ago, I remember visiting The Springs, with Chris and Karen and our kids! The hot springs pool from my 1994 memory, (near Idaho City) looked a little bit more like the black and white photo.
In 2022, we stepped into a lovely new building and spent a couple heavenly hours enjoying the hot (but not too hot) natural springs pool! I love appointments like that!
What a fun lunch and spa adventure, with Chris and Karen!
Mom & Pop Gem in Colorado
While driving through Pueblo last summer, I searched the internet for a lunch stop. Estela's Mill Stop Cafe had good reviews.
Don made a few comments while following my driving instructions. "Are you sure we're going the right way?" he questioned, as the directions led us into a somewhat sketchy section on the south side of town.
Near the Steel Mills
It became clear that the "Mill Stop" part of the cafe's name was due to the cafe's proximity to a steel mill.
We could spot the green and blue restaurant just past the Cosmopolitan Club. This was defiantly a cafe that attracted a blue collar work crowd, but we also saw a family heading that way.
Across from the Estella's, there was a huge parking lot.
Professional Travel of Pueblo? Who knows? But the old building looked interesting.
If we'd come during dinner hours, maybe we could have gone dancing afterward.
Cosmopolitan's was closed. It looked like someone had had a good time the night before. They deposited their empty whiskey bottle in the gutter.
Colors of Mexico
As soon as we reached the door, we knew we'd come to a good place. No more worries about location.
We could see the place was bustling with diners and we also noticed the sign for New Hours. The Mill Stop Cafe was closed on Saturday and Sunday, This Mom & Pop business must be doing well, to be able to close for weekends!
The cozy cafe didn't seem to have an empty table or booth, but there were a few stools at the counter.
Don and I were invited to sit at the counter until a table opened. We said we were happy to stay put at the counter.
It took only a moment to pick up on the happy energy in the place. There were at least 5 people behind the counter as we approached. I couldn't hear what they were all laughing about.
A young woman named Vanessa, handed us menus after we got settled. I pointed to a framed photo above the shelves and asked if the smiling woman was Estela.
Vanessa's smile was as big as her grandmother's. She said I was right and that the photo was of her grandparents. Both had passed away, but she pointed our her father and a cousin or two, in the cafe behind us. The room was filled with family.
I ordered a taco salad. It must have had an entire bag of chips circling the plate.
I'm guessing that most diners don't order salad. The man next to me was a regular and he seemed surprised to see my dish. He laughed at the size and said, "I thought salads were supposed to be healthy." I'm sure it wasn't. I felt like I was eating a giant 8-layer dip all by myself. It was yummy.
Don ordered the chicken enchiladas.
His plate was quite a blended feast! The soupy rice, (good!) spilled into the enchilada sauce. I stole many bites and we still couldn't finish.
Vanessa reminded us to save room for sopapillas. Her reminder came too late. I was stuffed.
But I changed my mind when 2 piping hot, complimentary sopas arrived.
Cinnamon and Honey
It's been a long time since I've indulged in one of these treats. I put on my glasses to make sure I aimed the honey correctly.
I still made a sticky mess! I ate more than my share and enjoyed every bit!
I told Vanessa that it seemed like everyone working (and even eating) seemed to be in such good moods. I was impressed with the efficient and friendly atmosphere.
Vanessa admitted her family was in extra good spirits because they were just about ready to close the restaurant for 2 weeks. They do this every year around July 4th. Christmas too, I think. She said the business was celebrating their 40 year anniversary!
As we headed off, I wondered what this happy family would do with their 2 weeks off. If the family smiles this much when they're working, I'd like to see them when they're relaxing and celebrating!
Last August, Don and I were driving through Western Montana, when we decided it was lunchtime.
We drove into downtown Missoula and before I could search the internet, we spotted this neon sign. Oxford! It sounded like a classy place!
The old building on the corner of Higgins & Pine, looked classic. The flowers were pretty, the awnings looked nice and the artwork in the windows seemed... more curious than classy. There was a parking space, so we went for it.
As we approached, we noticed a few men sitting on the sidewalk, in the shadows. Hmm? There was also a neon "24 Hours ATM" sign in the window. Hmmm? We paused briefly, but headed in.
More Bar Than Cafe
We could tell right away that this place catered to more drinkers than diners, even at noon. There were actually 2 at the bar when we entered. I snapped this pic later.
As we stepped inside we were greeted right away. Not by the guy behind the bar in the leather vest, but by a woman sitting on a stool in front of a gaming machine.
No Turning Back
It suddenly felt rude to change our minds. We had been welcomed in, by a smiling woman who looked like she'd been "gaming" for hours.
Besides, we were intrigued by the all the stuff in the long narrow room!
On the Floor and On the Wall
There was a line up of gaming machines, but there were also great vintage photos on the wall.
There were images of loggers and miners and other working men. Men who might have come to the Oxford 100+ years ago. Evidently The Oxford moved to this location in the 1950's.
There were other glowing things, besides electronic gaming machines. There was an old pinball machine and a jukebox.
There was also a stuffed bison staring down. He actually needed a glowing spotlight. It was dim in the saloon.
This nice guy behind the bar eventually greeted us.
He said it was fine to take his photo. However, the guy sitting at the bar swiftly moved out of the way. "I'm supposed t be at work!"
The old saloon seemed to have a little of everything. Above our fellow with mustache and vest, there was a case filled with old Remington and Winchester rifles.
I know little about guns or gambling, but I do know about diners. We walked past the bar and found ourselves at a totally different kind of counter.
There was no wall dividing the large space.
The drinking bar, just seemed to turn into an eating counter.
There were just about as many stools at the dining counter as there were at the bar.
The classic diner stools were lined up on a little platform. As Don got ready to sit down, he got a compliment on his "Death Valley Park" t-shirt.
We had fun studying the menu. Since The Ox, is open 24 hours, the menu offered everything from scrambled eggs to ribeye steaks.
Too bad we couldn't order from the "Old Menu". We could have ordered Brains & Eggs or Sardines or Beef Liver Sandwich! Actually the names of the foods were even better. "Yodeling T-Bone" and "Chippee in the Mud".
Watching the Cook
Watching your food being cooked can be fun, or just plain awkward, Nothing uncomfortable here. We had the best time watching Dang cook our food on the grill.
atI complimented Dang on her shirt (with ox!) and we 3 were soon gabbing. Turns out Dang is from Thailand. She had to write her name on her order pad, before I could get it right. I showed her pictures of our son and DIL's Thai wedding. We told her they were in Thailand at the moment. Dang told us where she was from... I should have had her write it on the pad.
Breakfast & Lunch
Don ordered corned beef hash and fried eggs. The hash came from a can, but it was still pretty tasty. Dang told us she usually works behind the bar or in the office. The cook was sick, but she did a good job!
I really wanted just a good old grilled cheese, but I felt like a Cheapo, ordering a meal for $5.50. I upped my order by adding ham. Why do I over think things? A half sandwich ended up being the right amount.
When we first stepped into The Ox, I felt a little hesitant. But by the time we were at the dining counter, we were relaxed and happy. Our chat with Dang made all the difference in the world.
Dang seemed more proud than stressed, when she told us she works 6 days a week. I didn't ask how many hours. Hopefully not in the wee hours of the 24-hour business. I read later that there are no keys to the doors, because they never close. I wish I'd heard that earlier, so I could have asked about that.
Dang said her husband had worked at the Ox for 40 years. She gestured to the bar and said he was the owner.
I hope I got that bit of info right. Our communication was a little choppy. I could be totally wrong on this.
All our chatting slowed down our eating. I asked for a box and loaded in a half sandwich, an egg and half off the hash. Even though we were traveling. Then I asked if I could take Dang's photo. She smiled agreed and told us she was 56. I gasped and refused to believe. "35 maybe!"
Then Dang insisted we get a photo of the 3 of us, together. She flagged down the woman who had greeted us earlier from the gaming machine. Then Don and I tried to say thank you in Thai. "Sawadee Khan?" we struggled a little and Dang laughed and correct us. There was a bit of bowing thrown in. We loved our time with Dang!
We headed off with our leftovers. Not knowing what we'd do with them.
We said good bye to Dang's hubby, near the door. Never got his name. What a fun stop!
We stepped out into the bright daylight and noticed 2 men sitting against the wall, near the side entrance to The Ox.
Without knowing their situation, Don chose to at least offer them our leftovers. Luckily they looked pretty appetizing in the box.
I headed for the car and Don returned, empty handed. At first the old and young man (father & son?) looked confused.
Don tried to explain diplomatically, that we just couldn't finish our lunch and they were welcome to have it. He popped the lid and the young guy suddenly seemed pleased. "I'll try it!" They both thanked Don and the young guy complimented Don's Death Valley shirt. 2 compliments in a day!
We headed back on the road feeling pretty wonderful. We had a couple of good people encounters and we didn't have to waste any food. Everyone we met, gave us a little something to smile about!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.