Balboa Park in San Diego
Last May, Don and I spent some time exploring the nation's "largest urban cultural park".
This building, The House of Hospitality was built in 1915, when the park hosted the Panama-California Exposition. Most of the Expo buildings were meant to be temporary, but luckily there were influential people who fought to keep the buildings from being torn down!
Courtyards, Fountains and Terraces
It was such a gorgeous day and we were starved, so imagine our delight when we walked through the ornate entrance and found this lovely courtyard with a picture perfect restaurant nearby.
We arrived right after the cafe opened, so there was no wait for a table. I wouldn't have minded waiting an hour in that peaceful courtyard, absorbing
the colorful tiles and carved doors and curious murals.
The inside seating was appealing. The chairs reminded me of a Parisian cafe, but the light fixtures and painted beams seemed a little like Spain!
Down to the Patio
But when you're coming from Texas, you have to take advantage of humidity-free dining in California! We were drawn towards the garden seating, outside!
Luckily there were umbrellas, because the sun actually felt a little like Texas. But the breeze felt like California!
The food matched the surroundings, perfectly. The Serrano ham and grilled cheese on sour dough, with chunky tomato basil soup was my favorite. I also liked the delicious crispy bread wedges, that arrived when we first sat down.
Our meal and the atmosphere was pretty ideal. But the very fact that we were dining in the middle of this amazing park, was a huge plus!
Wandering afterwards was the perfect ending. We strolled the sidewalks and marveled at the curious buildings and stopped to hear musicians play. Good way to draw out a good dining experience.
A Return Visit
Sometimes you have a dream-like memory of a place and you're not even sure if you just imagined it.
An Old Photo
But I knew from this 20-year old photo, that I really did once visit Diamond Mineral Springs. My kids don't remember. And my dear mom is gone, now. But Mom was the one who was giddy about the place and took the kids and me on a Sunday adventure to eat at the old place with the wood porch and screened doors.
Fall of 2014
So when Don and I were traveling along the Mississippi River last fall, I hoped we might be able to find it. We did and they still served family style meals on Sundays! The porch and doors looked just like I remembered!
Past the Pies
We arrived right after they opened their doors, to assure getting a table. We walked past quite the pie display on the way to our seat!
The window tables looked inviting, since the windows were actually open and letting in a fresh fall breeze, but we couldn't resist a booth!
Thanks for Not Changing!
I just wanted to go up and hug someone for not replacing these old wooden booths. Owners over the years may have been tempted, but someone was good enough to just leave history alone! Look carefully and you'll see a hook on the wall trim, to hold the table up for floor cleaning! The table was so narrow, the plate setting had to be staggered. And just look at the rounded, pew-like benches... and coat racks!
Empty For a Moment
The peaceful dining room began to fill up with after church crowds fairly quickly. Don and I studied the chalkboard above our booth, but ended up asking our young server for suggestions.
Our server suggested his favorite, the walleye. Don went for that and I got the traditional fried chicken. That already is a ridiculous amount of food, since it wasn't even noon!
First came the pickled beets and coleslaw. Then my 4 pieces of chicken and Don's 4 fillets of fish served on slices of white bread! There were green beans with onion and pork and mashed potatoes (with lumps that I like) and white gravy.
There were massive biscuits served with apple butter, which had teeny slivers of apple peel! We stuffed ourselves while the warm breezes and diners began to fill the room.
A Little For the Road
We had no room for any of the amazing pies. And we would have needed a bigger carry out container had we been able to take ALL the food we weren't able to finish. But we were on a road trip and we figured we could at least take a couple biscuits with us. And when we ate those biscuits later, I grinned and said, "I'm so glad that place was just how I remembered it!" Don smiled and said, "I wish we had taken some of that apple butter with us!"
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.