Lunch Stop on Route 66
Don and I made a u-turn when we spotted this red carport, with neon accents. It at least looked the part, for our road trip lunch stop, on Route 66.
New or Old?
It was hard to tell the age of the building. It didn't look as worn as some of the motels and gas stations on the Route, in Santa Rosa. The brown stucco was smooth and the the retro, painted mural wasn't peeling. But the spirit of the place, felt old.
Best Mexican Food in Town
Then I spotted this odd little building in back. I loved the rough stone and painted cinderblock, the weathered door and the accent of live cactus! Could this have been the original building?
Feels Like a Diner
We headed in and were invited to sit anywhere. We chose a booth near the counter, where I sat facing a large framed photo of a cowgirl.
Main Dining Area
Don's seat faced out towards the main dining room. There was a good crowd of locals seated in the blue vinyl chairs when we first arrived. By the time I snapped this photo, most of the men in cowboy and trucker hats, had already departed.
Pie for Lunch?
Before ordering, I saw an order of pies come out of the kitchen to cool. I popped up to take a photo and that seemed to amuse the old couple sitting nearby. I told the woman we were from Houston, when she asked. She seemed concerned, since she'd heard there'd been a recent tornado... maybe she meant hurricane.
I asked where they were from and the woman waved towards the window. "Oh, I'm from the apartments." Then she gestured towards the elderly man. "He lives in the motel." I asked what was good on the menu and was told I needed to order the Baby Back Ribs. "They are the best!"
Northern New Mexico Cuisine
We didn't order ribs and Don was craving a burger, but I went for the Mexican Special of the day. What a mix of flavors! I was told the restaurant made 5 different homemade chiles a day!
I loved reading the menu description of all the people who have influenced the local cuisine... "Native American, Mexican, Spanish immigrants, sheep herders, trappers, Jewish merchants, Eastern carpet baggers..."
"Oh, this was my grandfather's badge!" He seemed delighted we had noticed. He said it was from 1916, when his grandfather was a New Mexico Ranger. I wish we could have heard more stories!
When we checked out at the front desk, I studied some old photos and wondered more about this man who must have taken over the business from his parents.
I recognized Johnny, with his dark hair and mustache in this photo.
Don paid up and I looked for more clues about the restaurant's history. If Mr. Martinez had not disappeared into the kitchen, I would have asked a lot more questions.
I looked Johnny up on the internet and learned little. One write up said restaurant owner was part Native American and part Mexican... nothing about sheepherder cook. I had missed my chance to ask Johnny my own questions.
We headed out of town on Route 66, thinking about our yummy-curious lunch. I spotted the Sun 'n Sand Motel and decided we might just have to return to Santa Rosa some day. A night at this fine Route 66 motel would give us an addition to the Notable Night List... and we could have another meal at Comet II!
Lunch at the Cranky Diner
Don and I were excited when we read some reviews for Harold's Diner.
Road Side Diner
I liked the looks of the place when we pulled up. It shared a parking lot with the gas station next door. It had a big old shade tree. It also had a welcoming OPEN sign. Just above the 4, orange letters, I read the words, Sorry We're, in small print. So sassy.
Like a Train Car
We made sure to arrive early, while things were still calm. We entered one of the 2 doors and found ourselves in a space, that felt like a cozy train car. There were 13 counter stools and 4 tiny tables beneath the windows. Later when it got crowded, there wasn't much room to walk between.
Behind the counter there were 3 people, swiftly gearing up for the expected lunch crowd. The woman with the ponytail, greeted us. She was all business, but she wasn't scary.
Stools and Rules
We bravely chose 2 stools at the counter, instead of a "safer" window-facing table. As soon as we were seated, the woman reminded Don to grab two order forms from the holder, near the door.
Don grabbed 2 sheets and I hopped up to take a couple quick cell phone pics... while the place was mostly empty. I made sure to photograph the Diner Rules, but didn't study them until later. The rules reminded us, that No Sissies were allowed... and to Leave when we were done!
It was very clear that Harold's had a system for everything. I felt like I was taking a test when I checked the box for Grilled Cheese.
I was afraid I might get reprimanded for ordering less than $5. worth of food. So I added bacon for $2.25. Don whispered to me. "Don't forget to write your name at the bottom." Whew. I almost missed that. I am not the best test taker.
Guy at the Grill
The youngish guy at the griddle seemed focused on his cooking. Surely he wasn't one of the rude people mentioned in reviews. I liked his efficient technique, tossing the round balls of beef onto the griddle and flattening them. But when he suddenly turned and faced me spoke, I gulped. Was he the mean guy? He spoke fast and I couldn't hear over all the sizzling. I didn't want to risk it by asking, "What did you say?" So I just said, "I'll have some water please." He said nothing, but promptly brought me my drink.
"Eat Here or We Both Starve"
It was clear very quickly, which of the 3 was the grumpy owner that I'd read about. I didn't get a photo of him, because his constant frown was intimidating. However, he probably saw me in the mirror when I took this photo of the important words, "Eat Here or we both starve." Luckily I think he was in an extra bad mood and couldn't be bothered by acknowledging diners. We had read that "hurling insults" is his claim to fame... but he wasn't in a good enough mood for that.
Harold ... Chuck
Harold Smalls opened the diner in 1974. I have no idea a bout his character or how he ran the place, but Chuck is the owner, now. Chuck is the one with the reputation. He wasn't exactly pleasant during our visit, but at least he had a efficient system.
The 3 seemed to have their moves choreographed behind the counter. There was a lot of tossing, reaching, lifting, bending and dodging going on back there. At one moment Chuck darted over and dropped the cage of raw potatoes into the bubbling vat. Suddenly the diner was filled with smoke and sizzle and a high pitched sound came from somewhere. Don and I looked at each other, but everyone else ignored the screeching alarm. The sound disappeared, after the air cleared.
Since I was seated right next to the line up of baskets, I should have been prepared to have my name shouted. But I was caught off guard and about fell off my stool when my name was hollered. I raised my hand like I was in school and I remembered to say thank you.
My grilled cheese with bacon was decent, but it did have the taste of a million foods cooked on the griddle. Don's burger was good, but the fries looked like they'd been heavily peppered. Maybe it was time for some fresh oil in the vat.
Lots to Read
Don and I ate our meal quietly. That seemed to be what everyone else was doing, since most were single workmen eating lunch. Chuck and his workers didn't converse either. It was odd. But there was lots to read. The snarky bumper stickers plastered all over the mirror, were pretty lame and dated. I didn't dare roll my eyes.
I'm sure I could provoke a reaction, though. "Hey Chuck, would you mind posing in a photo with me?" Yikes. That's a scary thought.
Road Trip Stop in Florida
Last month, Don and I headed to South Carolina. I was frustrated when I saw the exits for Tallahassee, off I-10. We didn't have time to drive in and see the places I remember, from when my family lived there in the '70's. But we spotted this farm-style restaurant from the freeway. We made time for quick lunch.
Farm to Table
The farm to table term is used pretty loosely these days. But this restaurant was sitting on 4 acres, surrounded by gardens and chickens and a bayou behind. Even in January, the raised plots had some growth!
When we stepped in the front door, we spotted a young man watering plants in a room to the left. The words on the door said "The Nursery" which was kind of sweet. I felt like we should whisper.
I learned later that the growing room is where seedlings are tended, before they're moved to the nearby greenhouse.
We passed the Nursery and headed down the enclosed porch that wrapped around to the back. I loved the colorful red tractor painting. The empty waiting benches made me realize the huge parking lot probably gets very full at times.
The porch off the rear had lots of windows and a barn-like feel.
I liked the swamp view, which might look different in warmer months. The utensil display on burlap was clever.
Main Dining Area
The main dining room had a modern, homey feel, with some fun farm accents. The pine floors and bright veggie & dairy art, was pleasing to the eye. Best of all the place smelled good, which means a lot. Before Backroads Crossing opened, locals used to gather here at Stinky Fish Camp.
Our wonderful server Stacy, talked us through the menu. She explained how the offerings changes weekly, depending on what the garden inspires and what the local and regional farmers have available.
Don was mostly inspired by the burger options, on toasted sourdough bun. I stole plenty of fries!
Down Home Price
My "Toasted and Roasted Salad" was like dinner and dessert in one. Blackened beef tips, served on a bed of healthy greens, with roasted red peppers, toasted sunflower seed, bleu cheese crumbles and Rosemary bleu cheese dressing ... all for $11. It was pretty amazing.
I liked the friendly vibe of this place. Hard to believe it's owned and run by two brothers, who happen to be about the ages of our own kids. Their mama must be proud.
Next time we pass through, maybe we'll have time to visit the chickens or wander through the garden... and drive into Tallahassee for a peek at my old house!
Fast Food in Colorado
It's a chilly February day today and I'm dreaming of that yummy summertime lunch.
This cute little roadside joint has been sitting here, since before I was born. (barely) Originally it was named Goldbrick and Jerry's Fountain Goodies. A woman named Kay, bought the place in 1968. New owners in 2000, kept the name.
We placed our order at the walk up window. They didn't ask for a name. They just gave us a name and that amused me very much.
Next, we walked past the decorated windows, to the side door. Inside, I looked around while waiting to hear my new name being announced.
There was a tiny eating area, with some wall amusements. There were colorful shapes on the wall, with words of wisdom. "One who runs behind a car gets exhausted." There was also a "Dot Your Spot" map.
A few displays on the wall needed a little help. This one included some buttons, a building block and an empty bottle of garlic seasoning... carefully displayed behind a sheet of plastic. I could have made a few display contributions, if I'd cleaned a drawer or two before our trip.
I heard them call her name! It was exciting for a split second to think my favorite actress was waiting on her order. But when Meryl Streep was called to pick up her order, she was a man.
While I waited on our order, I made a quick dash to the teeny tiny restroom, between the half-door and the kitchen. Not only was the cute little room, the size of an airplane restroom... it even had the handy little "occupied/vacant" announcement above the doorknob!
Order Ready For Ariel The Mermaid!
There was no time for questions. We just grabbed our bag and lots of napkins and headed to one of the picnic tables at the nearby park.
Don's sloppy cheeseburger was yummy enough to remind us of Steak-N-Shake burgers back home. My chili cheese dog was equally messy and unhealthy and tasty. The huge cup of fries was piping hot and enough to share. All good and worth waiting for.
Between Mountains and River
We will remember our K's lunch for a few reasons. Our fast food feast was yummy. The little building with neon sign, was fun. We had a mountain view from our table. We ate our K's food, in a park with a river and "snowing" cottonwood trees. Memorable!
Denver's Only Tiki Bar
Don and I had a Denver Tiki Adventure, in June 2017. Maybe it was the powerful cocktail that made me forget to add Adrift to the tiki list!
This is what I saw from our Uber, when we pulled up to the little bar on South Broadway. The gray brick and spotlighted sign, had no Polynesian flair at all.
However, the entrance welcomed us with two grand carvings!
The door was propped open and we headed right in!
Let There Be Light!
I was delighted right away, because the interior was nicely lit! Don and I have had some crazy moments in dark tiki bars. When entering from daylight, it takes my old eyes minutes to adjust. There was no stumbling and no need for cellphone guidance, at Adrift. We headed for a seat where we had a view of the island village mural.
We slid into our avocado green booth and sighed at our surroundings. There were lovely tropical plants that we could actually see. There were carved faces, staring down at us...
There were blowfish lamps and bamboo walls and a cocktail menu full of tropical cocktails, all made with hand-squeezed juices.
I made sure to order a cocktail that looked extra fun. My Rum Punch came in a proper tiki mug, with a few fruit garnishes. Don's Mai Tai looked less festive, but worked well with his outfit.
Drinks with a View
Our table allowed us to keep an eye on the bamboo bar and the people coming and going. It was too early for any wild people watching. I took in a little more scenery when I ventured to the restroom. I peeked at the back patio, which had some fun murals. The restroom was the cleanest I've seen, of any tiki bar!
Our tiki-time at Adrift didn't have any outlandish characters or creepy-crazy decor. We've had more memorable tiki bar experiences. But, this was probably the most relaxing, clean and comfortable of our tiki adventures. Cheers to that!
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.