I made Don take a little detour on our western road trip.
We didn't exactly have a dining adventure in Los Alamos, but we picked up some lunch there.
Why Los Alamos?
I was curious. I had just read the book, The Wives of Los Alamos. I was curious about this community that grew on the top of a desert plateau, where wives mostly raised families and husbands secretly created the atomic bomb.
As we pulled into town, I made Don stop so I could take a photo and text it to my book club. Then I got on TripAdvisor, and looked for a place to catch a quick lunch.
In a town that now has a population of over 17,000, you'd think we could have come up with something better.
But it was drizzling and there was some frustrating traffic and we were hungry. So we trusted the good reviews for this hole in the wall joint and headed over for carryouts.
Well, sort of. But there were a lot of regulars rushing in and out.
Some looked like office workers carrying lunch for a crowd. That's usually a good sign.
Through Screen Doors
I like a place with screen doors.
The green one lead into the tiny ordering place. The other door opened to a small, crowded patio.
Placing My Order... Quickly
The man at the tiny window did not look patient. He was not in the mood for any hesitation, so I asked no questions and ordered the breakfast burrito and a beef burrito. I had read good reviews, after all.
I was very brave and snapped a quick picture, which does not capture the bustling activity in the crowded kitchen. Oh well.
Don and I headed out of town and found a lovely spot in a State Park, with a self- pay fee-box, to pay for our park usage.
They should have called it the green pepper burrito. We kept digging down to see if there was egg anywhere?
Burrito #2 in a Cave
That evening we arrived at our Kokopelli Cave Hotel and toted our burrito in a paper bag and a couple backpacks down the rocky pathway to our cave house entrance.
We stopped earlier and bought some salad fixings and wine and thought we'd heat up that second burrito for a taste treat. After each taking a bite we had the same reaction. "It tastes metallic!" We were convinced the burrito was atomic and put it in the trash.
I'm sorry, Los Alamos. I tried to embrace your town and support a local establishment. But I can't say we had a good food experience. Of course, we don't really believe our burritos were atomic, but I was reminded of a LAB FOOD story from over 35 years ago...
Don was working in a chemical lab in St. Louis when we were first married. He and a few co-workers had some fun with a White Castle burger one day. Don came home and laughed about how they put the burger in a container and purged it with a little nitrogen to make it airtight. Their experiment was to see if any "self-respecting mold" would grow on the ultimate junk food.
So hopefully no ex-lab worker got a job at The Chili Works! Science geeks can have a very funny sense of humor.
Route 66 in New Mexico
Earlier this month Don and I spent one night in Tucumcari on the old Mother Road.
There were so many neon signs and intriguing options, it was hard to decide where to dine.
This place with the stucco sombrero seemed like a fine choice, until I walked inside. Only one man was dining, but the waitress was also running a flower shop. She seemed overwhelmed, so we moved on.
Lounge at the Pow Wow Inn
Our host at the Blue Swallow Motor Court recommended this restaurant & bar, at a nearby 1960's motor inn.
Only on Route 66 do you find such a blend. "Native American themed" motel, with a "lizard themed" cocktail lounge!
The Lizard Lounge
The first thing that caught our attention, was the mural of Lizard Woman. Don shook her hand and asked the bartender about her. Yogi said the face on the mural was not hers, but it belonged to her cousin. She introduced us to her Uncle Pat, at the bar, then turned back to the mural. "She's one of Uncle Pat's other nieces." Gotta love a family bar!
After that little conversation, we decided to sit right down at Yogi's bar and enjoy some more chatting with regulars. Don had a local draft and I had the "Blue Swallow" margarita, named for the iconic motel, where we were staying. I thought the icy drink looked more green lizard, than blue swallow.
We enjoyed some of the ambience around us. I took a good look at the paneled wall, covered in local history.
Then I peeked into the restaurant and noticed some pretty curious painted walls, near the booths. The artwork featured diners, who looked like they were sitting in the empty booths. Shame on me for getting no photo.
Chatting With New Friends
After chatting with Yogi and Pat, another guest at the bar joined the converstaion. When I learned that Rudy was raised in town, I asked him about something I'd read about earlier.
"Since you were born in Tucumcari, do you know anything about a water tower collapsing in 1951?"
Rudy wasn't old enough to actually remember. He said he knew the history though, since he now lives next to the replacement tank. Rudy said the tank exploded in '51, flooded the town and caused one death. Rudy moved over to the wall and pointed to a photo with a happier memory.
"I used to work at El Rancho Bar!" He had fun pointing out the long gone buildings he remembered fondly.
Uncle Pat's Memories
"Uncle Pat" jumped up and pointed to a 1956 photo of "Sands-Dorsey Drugs". He said the building burned down, but he had good memories of the wonderful malts!
An older man arrived while we were studying photos. I was tempted to ask him to point out his favorite building, but I didn't want to trouble our new bar buddy. He had just gotten his collapsable cane (with fancy spotlight) tucked away. I headed back to my stool and admired the spotlight on his cane. He shared a story about how that cane got stuck in an elevator door once. "I was just trying to hold the elevator! Those doors close way too fast! Someone had to come pry the doors open."
One More Friend
Don and I were honestly touched by the sincere pride these folks revealed, when they talked about their small town.
They wanted us to be sure to visit the museum before we left town. "And don't forget to drive by the old theatre." Then before leaving the lounge, we were introduced to one more important bar regular. Actually I'm not sure if the mechanical lizard had a name. The jazzy lizard with tie, shades and tattoo, came to life with the push of a hidden button!
What a memorable visit!
Don and I had a lot of fun over 1 drink, but figured we should move on, to experience one more Route 66 joint. We had spotted Del's earlier.
It was dark by the time we arrived, but the neon was all aglow.
The place has been around since before I was born, but the inside updates made it less iconic. We were tired of chitchat and ready to eat. I got a salad bar and chili. Don got the raspberry chicken with mashed potatoes. All tasty enough, but we were no longer needing a dining adventure. Eat and run... back to the Blue Swallow for a good night's rest... with "100% Refrigerated Air!"
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.