Frozen Custard and Root Beer!
Don and I moved away from St. Louis about 25 years ago and there are a lot of treats we miss. Ted Drewes was a must on our last visit. Luckily it was fall and we didn't have to stand in long lines.
Ted Drewes first started making frozen custard as a carnival man. He opened his first shop in St. Louis in 1930. By 1941 he opened his third location in an urban neighborhood, on a street that was part of the old Route 66.
Don is pictured, enjoying a Johnny Rabbit concrete. We watched them mix cherries and chocolate shavings into the vanilla frozen custard before inserting a spoon and turning the cup upside down. That's a nifty gesture to remind us how thick and delicious a concrete is!
Closer to our old neighborhood of Glendale, we made a stop at Carl's Drive In.
Historic Route 66
Carl's has been sitting on Manchester Road on another section of old 66, since 1959. It had been about 20 years since Don and I stopped for a bite. We arrived at 11:30, but the 16-stool joint was already packed.
2 Door & 2 Counters
There are two entrances on opposite sides of Carl's. The space is divided by a cooking area and 2 counters. If you happen to choose the door to the more crowded space, you have to walk outside the building to get to the opposite side.
We lucked out and found two stools next to the man in white hair. He was enjoying his malt and burger since it had also been 20 years since his last visit. When I popped up to take this photo he teased, "Did I do something? I showered this morning and everything!"
I had to order one of their home brewed root beers that was poured from the big barrel right into my frosty mug. Supposedly their recipe has something to do with the IBC original recipe? It was very tasty.
There was no lingering at Carl's. Before we got our order, all the men seated to my right had been replaced by moms and kids. There was a constant stream of carry out pick-ups as well.
How Many Working?
I laughed to watch the employees with their red aprons working in the center. There was hardly any room to move and there must have been at least 5 working!
Frank, not Carl
I'm not sure about the Carl who must have opened the place in the fifties. But current owner, Frank Cunetto has been smashing burgers on that grill for about 30 years. There was a photo of him on the wall with Master Chef, Hubert Keller. He certainly looked like the blue-shirted guy who stood over the sizzling grill just a few feet away. But the staff was far too busy to be bombarded with my questions.
It took only a few seconds for Don's Classic Cheeseburger and my Rueben dog on Rye to make its way from the grill to the counter in front of us. The crispy edges of the burger was the icing on the cake. The dog and 'kraut worked perfectly with my root beer! Fast and yummy!
Note: It looks like Frank has sold the biz since our visit! Sure hope all remains the same at Carl's! Glad it was as good as we remembered!
Where to Dine?
We were in Moab for just one night last October. Milt's Stop-n-Eat was our choice for dinner!
Land of Parks and...
Moab is a great stop for all the travelers visiting Utah's amazing National Parks. I expected some hip coffee shops and maybe a brew pub or vegetarian cafe. Instead we got to enjoy some authentic Old Moab.
I was pretty delighted to spend the night in a kitschy motel just down the road from a 63-year old hamburger joint! At dusk, Don and I walked from our motel down Highway 60, which used to be the main drag. We waved to some kids playing basketball next to their mobilehome, chuckled at the buckled sidewalk, then arrived at Milt's.
Hopping at Dusk
It was a lovely October evening, so there was a line at the window for orders. Quite a crowd was dining at picnic tables underneath the Sycamore trees.
At the Counter
Don and I each grabbed a vinyl covered stool at the formica counter. At least 7 workers seemed to be buzzing around in the tight quarters.
Andre handed us menus and answered some of our food questions, while Jacob stood over the grill, scraping and then slapping on meat, which began sizzling right away. Andre returned to take our orders, then dropped too large scrapbooks on the counter for our entertainment.
Then and Now
We looked at old photos of Milt, when he first stood over the grill in 1954. Jacob may not look as cheery as Milt as he cooked, but he did show us a pretty good smile later, when he told us he was leaving on a hunting trip the next day. "I just hope I get my 3-deer limit pretty fast!"
I loved the photos of the pretty pink trailer. Milt and his family lived right beside the cafe for years. I was sad to hear that Milt had passed away a year before. The diner has changed hands a number of times since 1954, but Milt was still coming by for visits over coffee, until he passed.
I had to order Milt's Classic & All Time Favorite, Chili Cheese Burger! And if that wasn't decadent enough, I ordered onion rings. Holy Cow that was yummy!
Don ordered the (not any healthier) Southwest Burger with Bacon and BBQ Sauce! He opted for the Hand-Cut Fries to complete his feast.
As We Dined
As we attempted to make a dent in with our order, we enjoyed the show around us. We continued to dine alone at the counter, while the line outside never stopped. Andre said sometimes there's a 45 minute wait for food. We listened to all the food-making sounds filling the space. Sizzling on the grill, whirring of milkshakes and malts and most interesting of all, the potato chopper! We could see in a tiny room just off the kitchen, a young woman throwing herself into some kind of work...
When she stepped out of the room she was carrying a big tub of freshly chopped potatoes! "That looked like a lot of work!" I laughed. She said it was a whole lot easier now, since they'd gotten new blades! She and Andre and Jacob were kind enough to give me a little pose before we departed!
What a fun dining adventure at the Stop-n-Eat Counter! I usually don't expect to have any sort of conversation, when a place is so busy. But we enjoyed every minute of our food & people encounter at Milt's!
A Rainy Rendezvous for Lunch
I drove 3 hours in pouring rain to meet my dear friend Rhona for lunch at Cenote. But, I couldn't complain. She'd flown all the way from Baku, Azerbaijan!
Of course Rhona didn't fly all that way, just for our lunch. She had come for foot surgery. Which is another reason I couldn't complain.
Once an Old House
Over emails, we tried to find a place to meet. Neither of us had been to Cenote before, but the website's vintage image looked pretty delightful. A quaint house, built in 1887!
A few years ago, a cafe on Caesar Chavez in East Austin would not have been up for consideration... for the Ladies Who Lunch. But it's become a fun area, without the headaches of Austin parking. And we aren't exactly the Ladies Who Lunch, anyway.
Crowded, But Friendly
I have no photo of Rhona and me, when we spotted each other. It's been a while, so there was some giddy hugging in the busy entrance. Then I rushed to grab a table while Rhona ordered.
Then it was my turn at the counter, where Jonathan took my order. His welcoming smile took me by surprise... since the hippest places in Austin often seem less inclined to smile. Rhona and I chatted with Jonathan later and had him pose for a photo with his snappy suspenders! Maybe he was just being nice to us because we were the oldest diners in the joint... or maybe the "boot" on Rhona's repaired foot gave us some sympathy. Whatever, Jonathan gets our vote for nicest employee at Cenote... or maybe in Austin.
Quick Mention of Food
Since it's a dining blog, I must. Here's a photo of my Mango Salad. My photography skills did not help me capture just how delicious it was.
Hunks of mango and chunks of strawberry... floppy ribbons of carrot, fat slivers of avocado and a tangy, cilantro & lime dressing! It was so much bigger than it looks. And for Austin, it was a cheap. $8.00!
Rhona and Goodies
I told Rhona I needed a photo of her snazzy Chai tea and breakfast burrito, but really I was taking a photo of the couple over her right shoulder. I whispered to Rho, that we were lucky to have gotten the last table. The nice fellow behind her, had seen me eyeing the table earlier, just before he sat down. He smiled and offered the table to me, then asked the nearby woman if he could share hers.
I think there were a lot of people sharing tables who didn't know each other. The tiny place was packed, since the spacious patio and porch areas were soggy.
Rhona and I seemed to be the only ones talking in the whole place. We are pretty good talkers generally, but this time we had a couple of years to catch up on. I wonder if all those people surrounding us, were really able to block out our chatter. There's no way I could have ignored the only conversation in the place. In fact I think our conversation was pretty worthy, so it's quite possible that our whole 3-hour chat was actually typed right onto someone's computer. An interesting read.
The Table Giver
I never got the name of this nice guy who gave us the table. He gets my vote for nicest customer at Cenote. I thanked him again when he stood to leave. He insisted he should thank us!
He said if I hadn't walked up when I did, he wouldn't have met the nice woman he shared a table with. He went on to say that she wouldn't let him buy her lunch, but he did indeed have a date with her on Friday. I assured him that I didn't believe that. "I saw you two greeting each other! Didn't you share a hug and a kiss?" We laughed back and forth and he inquired about Rhona's foot and wished us safe travels back to Houston and Baku. By the time he left I was shaking my head wondering if I'd dreamed up the hug and kiss part. Or is this just how strangers greet each other in Austin, now. Or were they really friends already... We'll never know. Anyway, we was a fun people encounter, especially for a cafe filled with people staring at computers.
Our Photo Time
Before departing, our new friend offered to take a photo of the 2 of us. As we stood to pose between the tables, I bumped into one woman on her computer. "What's with these two?" I half expected to hear. But no one rolled their eyes. They were all too focused to be bothered.
After 3.5 hours there were a couple empty tables, so I could snap a photo of the curious yellow room dividers and the trees painted on the wall, above the old alcoves. I tried to imagine the house 100+ years ago.
Rhona and I stepped outside to catch a glimpse of the exterior since the rain had stopped. The curious metal octopus was quite a contrast to the classic bay window. To the right, I saw just one lone woman studying her computer on a soggy table under the canopy.
I carried my closed umbrella to the front patio. I tried to imagine how crowded and fun this place must be on a sunny afternoon when those blue umbrellas are raised to shade the picnic tables. Another day!
Before saying our good-byes, I had to laugh at the funny green frog at the far end of the yard, near some orange classroom chairs. That frog fit the yard vibe just as oddly as Rhona and I fit into the atmosphere inside Cenote.
Maybe it wasn't the ideal place for our reunion, but I liked the way it all fell into place. I liked the food and the characters and the house itself. But mostly, I loved my Rainy-day Reunion with Rhona!
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.