Breakfast in Springfield, Missouri
Don and I joined my dad for breakfast at "Aunt Martha's" when we were passing through town last fall.
I never had an Aunt Martha, but I did visit lots of aunts and other relatives in Springfield over the years. The Pancake House sign makes it a worthy stop for anyone!
Aunt Martha's seems like a place that has been around forever.
That's a scary thought, since I was born in '57. I'm two years older than this family business!
What did we order?
Obviously we ordered pancakes. I think my dad was laughing because he knew there was no way on earth we would finish all that food.
I ordered pumpkin pancakes to go along with the fall harvest decor that seemed to be popping up all over the restaurant. Don went all out with eggs, hash browns, crispy bacon and pancakes!
Cozy Booth and Ruffled Curtains
The place was packed on Saturday morning.
I had to jump up and snap this photo when the booth actually cleared for a moment. The curtains and wall displays with china plates and high school pennants seemed very 1959.
There's something about drinking coffee at a counter that seems so right. There were newspapers to share and more festive fall decor.
I had to sort of slip behind the counter to get to the hall to find the bathroom...
I felt like I was practically in the kitchen when I hunted down the restroom.
If I'd snapped this blurry photo a second earlier I would have had the cook's smiling face. "Hello!" he said as he waved some utensil. I must not be the first nosy diner to peek in on the kitchen.
Smell of Syrup and Sound of Chatter
There was something pretty darn cozy about eating breakfast with my dad in this sweet smelling, popular place!
We hardly made a dent in our pancakes, but I managed to digest some fabulous old family stories that I had long forgotten!
Lunch in a Train Car!
Don and I found this place in Brownwood, on one of our many Texas road trips.
We had just had the adventure of spending the night in a teepee, so we were in the mood for a dining adventure to top it off. Sleep in a teepee, then dine in a train car. Perfect.
11 a.m. on Saturday
We'd had no breakfast or coffee in the Teepee, so we hit the cafe right when it opened. It was sitting on some tracks on the edge of Brownwood. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but I sensed some nearby suburbs.
Lots of Red
Red, black and a little neon! It felt like a 1950's soda fountain as much as it did a dining car. But I guess that was the idea. We had our pick of cozy booths.
Table with a View
We picked the side away from the road, since the window view made it look like the train was traveling from Chicago to Illinois, like it once did in the 1950's. I loved the original metal blinds that slid up and down.
The Other End
Near the kitchen there was a counter with stools. If we'd sat there, we could have asked more questions. But it started filling up pretty quickly and our server seemed a little distracted. I think she would have been happier answering questions about her high school prom than train history.
The family owned cafe has been open for about 10 years. We spoke with a few locals who let us know the owners were very nice. They also told us to keep an eye out our window because we might see some deer. We didn't see deer or the owners (in the kitchen?) but we saw about 5 different young groups in sport's uniforms. Lots of happy and hungry kiddos, just off the soccer and softball fields.
The Dining Part
Don let me slow him down for the photo before he devoured his burger and fries. We both had coffee with lunch, which made made us look extra elderly in the crowd of youngin's. I had a chili dog which was pretty perfect. I am not pictured, because I didn't look so good after sleeping on the ground in the teepee!
Headed for the Washroom
I felt just like I do when I'm waiting for the "lavatory" in the narrow aisle of a plane. I kept my gaze on "Rosie the Riveter" and the Men's room "Chief", so the family at the table I was nearly touching, didn't feel my intrusion. I was fully prepared to squeeze into a tiny bathroom like I remember from train travel 50 years ago, but to my surprise it was updated and somewhat roomy.
On Down the Road
We left the packed dining car just in time and headed home to Sugar Land on back roads. Always keeping an eye out for future dining adventures... or at least a picnic!
Don and I have been eager to return to Schilo's since we discovered it over 10 years ago. We were just glad it was still sitting there on Commerce Street, looking as retro as we remembered.
We headed over nice and early for breakfast, because we remembered it got crowded with locals.
Before walking inside, I had to smile at the tile beside the door. Schilo's will be celebrating their 100th birthday before too long!
Just As I Remembered
It was as cozy as I remembered, with colorful tile floors, molded ceilings and tables like an old library. We ordered from our incredibly perky and efficient waitress. I think she would have been game for a photo op, but she was gone so quickly. I didn't want to slow down her system.
While waiting for food, I explored a bit. There was a back room where a few men were having some sort of breakfast meeting. The 6 deer on the wall appeared to be eavesdropping. I took a peek inside the awesome phone booth that still held the original pay phone, with a wandering cord.
The Old Schilo's
Papa Fritz Schilo first opened a saloon in San Antonio, but that lasted a short while since prohibition began in 1917. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Schilo started up a delicatessen, which was run by 3 different generations and ended up in the current location.
Old Mercantile Exchange Building
The building, constructed in the 1800's was the perfect setting of a German restaurant. Across from counter/bar you can see (barely in my photo) a barrel that holds their famous homemade root beer. Behind that is an ornate carved bar. And the exchange's vault is now used as a walk in refrigerator.
Breakfast is Served!
Our very enthusiastic server soon arrived with our food! I just had to order the Papa Fritz breakfast special of 2 eggs, bratwurst, hash browns (or grits) and biscuits. Don had the potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream! Not pictured, is the container of Fritz's spicy mustard that was sitting on the table.
(I love a breakfast table with mustard!) So good that we purchased some.
Off We Go!
We headed off feeling full and happy to make the long walk to our hotel. I had to snap one more quick (and blurry) photo of the great booths as we headed to the exit. You have to love booth benches that look like wooden church pews.
Where To Eat?
Recently, Don and I found ourselves strolling down San Antonio's River Walk... alone!
Every visit we've made in the past 17 years, has been with a small crowd, of family or friends. This time when the sun went down, we only had the 2 of us. It made the decision about where to eat, so easy! We decided to check out The Esquire. We've always been curious about this place.
A Little Scary?
The street view on Commerce looked a little eerie, more like a Gentleman's Club. The river entrance didn't attempt to lure tourists, either. It looked more like second story brothel, with a metal fire escape.
Longest Bar in Texas
But once inside, Don and I were both game. There was a definite saloon feel with the dim lighting and the 100-foot long bar.
Molded tin ceilings and plush wall paper, dark leather booths and tarnished mirrors! I was tempted to climb up on the bar and remove the flat screen TV. Then I could have imagined it was 1933 and the Tavern had just opened... the day after prohibition ended.
A Few Furry Friends
The stuffed beasts hanging from the wall and standing on the bar reminded me that this was quite the man's hang out in its time. There are stories of gangsters and prostitutes and lots of shady business. By the time the place closed down in 2008, things were pretty dilapidated. What a treat that the current owner rescued the place and reopened in 2011.
I have a feeling in the bright daylight, The Tavern might look a bit worn, but I liked the dark, weathered vibe. At least the crowd wasn't creepy. There was an eclectic, not so touristy mix.
Luckily Esquire's is not just a bar anymore. Our casual, yet knowledgable waiter brought us our vintage looking menus and a chilled bottle of water with sliced lemon. It was a treat to have good service and tasty food options, in this authentic old tavern. I'm sure the smell of cigars and stale booze is absorbed in the walls somewhere, but it was the food I smelled that night.
Salad and Chile Relleno
I was tempted by the fried corn on the cob, fried pickles, deviled eggs and boiled peanuts on the menu. But we ended up splitting a garden salad and Chile Relleno, made with yummy pulled pork and ancho chiles. That $6.00 salad was huge and delicious. It was the perfect amount with a couple cold beers.
I've been intrigued by restaurant bathrooms since childhood, when I was finally old enough to venture on my own. I used to love spotting anything unusual that I could report to my family back at the table. This wonderful "Ladies Room" at the Tavern was my favorite.
The frosted glass on the door, the wonderful walls with paneled wood and burgundy wallpaper... the tile with snake skin pattern and oh my... a stuffed otter right above the door! I returned to the table with a glowing report.
River Walk Dining
Funny, I'd forgotten that the Tavern was even on the river, until heading back to the hotel. For most out-of-towners, San Antonio is all about the Alamo and the River Walk. I'm a sucker for a margarita by the water, but it really was a treat to try something completely different... away from the usual tourist crowd!
Ox Yoke Inn or The Ronneburg Restaurant?
Don and I were eager to have a meal in the old Iowa town, settled by German immigrants over 100 years before I was born.
We both love German food and we loved the idea of eating the foods that were once prepared in communal kitchens... homes in Amana didn't have their own kitchens! Which place should we pick?
Ox Yoke Inn
But it was already clearing out by 6:00. We stepped into this newer room to see if we could grab a beer at the bar. Where are the Crowds?
Cindy Welcomes Us!
Cindy had just collapsed into a chair near the bar. "Come on in and pull up a seat!" she said, patting the chair beside her. She and her grown children had worked a busy 2-day Apple Festival weekend and Cindy didn't try to hide her weariness. We joined her after ordering a beer at the bar. Cindy began filling us in about the history of the restaurant, stopping to introduce us to her daughter and son in law who were bustling in and out. Her grandfather had run the restaurant for 40 years and she pretty much grew up in it.
Lina and William
Cindy had us follow her upstairs to see a few things. She pointed to a portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Leichsenring, who opened the restaurant in 1940. Mrs. L. appeared to be holding a bible in the photograph... unless it was a cookbook.
Evidently she worked in one of the communal kitchens as a young woman, until the depression. That's when the Colonies found they could no longer remain self-sufficient... the end of the communal kitchen. Cindy remembers when Mrs. Leichsenring used to come in daily to test the potato soup. The Ox Yoke is still owned by the Leichsenring family.
Yokey and Our Cookbook
Cindy took us to a room filled with antique crocks and stuffed beasts. She wanted to show us Yokey the Bear. She laughed about how that stuffed bear scared her as a little girl. I then had to share my silly cook book with the water color illustration and recipe for Ox Yoke Sauerbraten. She was pretty surprised to see the restaurant featured in the 55 year old book.
On to Ronneberg!
We tried not to rush, but wanted to check out the other nearby German restaurant we had heard about.
Don and Elsie Oehler opened the Ronneburg in 1950. Elsie's grandmother had been a "kitchen boss" during the communal day.... I believe in this very building. In this photo you can glimpse at a few folks through the windows, some wearing suspenders. We were too late for the German band, but we saw a few gentlemen in lederhosen relaxing around the bar.
Our table was almost too small for all the dishes that cluttered the checkered cloth. Meals are all served family style as they were 150 years ago. The only difference is that Don and I got to sit at the same table. Men and women ate at separate tables back in the day.
More Than 15 Minutes
We felt a tiny bit rushed since we were some of the last diners, but at least we got more than 15 minutes, which had been the allotted time for Amana dining. How would we have eaten our Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel that came with cottage cheese, slaw, fried potatoes, gravy, green beans , Spaetzle and bread!! I'm guessing we wouldn't have had wine and beer either!
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.