It was a hot Saturday in August and we had time to kill!
The red sign called to us! World Famous! Amazing Pies and Soups! RV park and cabin rentals! Who can resist!
Boise to Idaho City
Don, and I were with my bro and sis-in-law. Chris drove us from Boise to Idaho City, to enjoy a day outing. Scenery was fun and we were excited about a 1:30 appointment.
Idaho City is actually more of town, but it was bigger than Portland back in the mining days. There wasn't much going on in I.C. when we visited. We found some bars that were open, but we needed food while we killed time for our appointment.
Hopping at Trudy's
Just outside of the tiny historic town, we found Trudy's, with a packed parking lot.
The flower baskets on the patio, were inviting.
The window with lace curtains and the neon OPEN sign, looked welcoming.
The notices on the wooden door, looked less so. There were 2 signs about dogs... mostly some requirements about good dog behavior.
There was an order from the mayor to conserve water. There was a reminder about not bringing your own food and there was a colorful poster about an upcoming rodeo.
It was near 90 outside, so we peeked in. There was a brick fireplace and a lots of decorative doodads... like an old saw on the wall.
But it was crowded and noisy. The tables were all full anyway.
We chose the covered patio, with food covered tables. Pictures of food!
A young server handed us menus with lots of welcoming words. Love...Vacation.. Neighbor...Kids... Laugh...Family...
While we studied the menu I overheard a few conversations with some of the young staff. Some older locals were chatting with 2 teen workers about some high school events. It sounded right neighborly. The menu words fit.
We studied the food images on the table for only a moment. They were actually not very appetizing. Maybe the shellac had yellowed the photos.
Ruebens for Us!
The Ruebens we ordered were actually much better looking than the photos.
The 4 of us split 2 and our young server was kind enough to bring extra plates. She didn't even treat us like old people, who split orders. We appreciated that and tipped well.
One half order was just right! We had places to go and appointments to keep.
Before hitting the road, I headed back to the restroom.
The restroom was in the far back and I had to pass through this added little room, with windows. As I stood in line for the one restroom, I spied on diners through the windows. Some local families I'm guessing and some bikers and some guys in camo apparel.
There were three women waiting before me, but I was in no hurry. There was lots to look at on the wall.
Idaho City is a very patriotic town. There are less than 500, but I'm guessing many have connections to the military. One of the women saw me studying the wall and she made sure I didn't miss the uniform in a nearby case.
I peeked at the uniform, but I was more intrigued with the sign outside of the restroom.
The sign was amusing, mostly because we were in Idaho City, not Portland or Austin. I think a lot of folks in this part of Idaho aren't so used to unisex restrooms.
But we ladies stood patiently. We've done it before. Then a man who looked like he'd been fishing with his buddies that morning, tried to stroll past us. "Sorry Ladies!" He laughed as he moved on by, expecting to find an empty men's room. It took him a moment to realize he belonged in the back of our line. He shook his head and returned to his table. We 4 ladies were mighty amused by that!
So after a quick and pleasant lunch, (with a funny bathroom adventure) we headed off to our appointment. It was very important!
Nearly 30 years ago, I remember visiting The Springs, with Chris and Karen and our kids! The hot springs pool from my 1994 memory, (near Idaho City) looked a little bit more like the black and white photo.
In 2022, we stepped into a lovely new building and spent a couple heavenly hours enjoying the hot (but not too hot) natural springs pool! I love appointments like that!
What a fun lunch and spa adventure, with Chris and Karen!
Mom & Pop Gem in Colorado
While driving through Pueblo last summer, I searched the internet for a lunch stop. Estela's Mill Stop Cafe had good reviews.
Don made a few comments while following my driving instructions. "Are you sure we're going the right way?" he questioned, as the directions led us into a somewhat sketchy section on the south side of town.
Near the Steel Mills
It became clear that the "Mill Stop" part of the cafe's name was due to the cafe's proximity to a steel mill.
We could spot the green and blue restaurant just past the Cosmopolitan Club. This was defiantly a cafe that attracted a blue collar work crowd, but we also saw a family heading that way.
Across from the Estella's, there was a huge parking lot.
Professional Travel of Pueblo? Who knows? But the old building looked interesting.
If we'd come during dinner hours, maybe we could have gone dancing afterward.
Cosmopolitan's was closed. It looked like someone had had a good time the night before. They deposited their empty whiskey bottle in the gutter.
Colors of Mexico
As soon as we reached the door, we knew we'd come to a good place. No more worries about location.
We could see the place was bustling with diners and we also noticed the sign for New Hours. The Mill Stop Cafe was closed on Saturday and Sunday, This Mom & Pop business must be doing well, to be able to close for weekends!
The cozy cafe didn't seem to have an empty table or booth, but there were a few stools at the counter.
Don and I were invited to sit at the counter until a table opened. We said we were happy to stay put at the counter.
It took only a moment to pick up on the happy energy in the place. There were at least 5 people behind the counter as we approached. I couldn't hear what they were all laughing about.
A young woman named Vanessa, handed us menus after we got settled. I pointed to a framed photo above the shelves and asked if the smiling woman was Estela.
Vanessa's smile was as big as her grandmother's. She said I was right and that the photo was of her grandparents. Both had passed away, but she pointed our her father and a cousin or two, in the cafe behind us. The room was filled with family.
I ordered a taco salad. It must have had an entire bag of chips circling the plate.
I'm guessing that most diners don't order salad. The man next to me was a regular and he seemed surprised to see my dish. He laughed at the size and said, "I thought salads were supposed to be healthy." I'm sure it wasn't. I felt like I was eating a giant 8-layer dip all by myself. It was yummy.
Don ordered the chicken enchiladas.
His plate was quite a blended feast! The soupy rice, (good!) spilled into the enchilada sauce. I stole many bites and we still couldn't finish.
Vanessa reminded us to save room for sopapillas. Her reminder came too late. I was stuffed.
But I changed my mind when 2 piping hot, complimentary sopas arrived.
Cinnamon and Honey
It's been a long time since I've indulged in one of these treats. I put on my glasses to make sure I aimed the honey correctly.
I still made a sticky mess! I ate more than my share and enjoyed every bit!
I told Vanessa that it seemed like everyone working (and even eating) seemed to be in such good moods. I was impressed with the efficient and friendly atmosphere.
Vanessa admitted her family was in extra good spirits because they were just about ready to close the restaurant for 2 weeks. They do this every year around July 4th. Christmas too, I think. She said the business was celebrating their 40 year anniversary!
As we headed off, I wondered what this happy family would do with their 2 weeks off. If the family smiles this much when they're working, I'd like to see them when they're relaxing and celebrating!
Last August, Don and I were driving through Western Montana, when we decided it was lunchtime.
We drove into downtown Missoula and before I could search the internet, we spotted this neon sign. Oxford! It sounded like a classy place!
The old building on the corner of Higgins & Pine, looked classic. The flowers were pretty, the awnings looked nice and the artwork in the windows seemed... more curious than classy. There was a parking space, so we went for it.
As we approached, we noticed a few men sitting on the sidewalk, in the shadows. Hmm? There was also a neon "24 Hours ATM" sign in the window. Hmmm? We paused briefly, but headed in.
More Bar Than Cafe
We could tell right away that this place catered to more drinkers than diners, even at noon. There were actually 2 at the bar when we entered. I snapped this pic later.
As we stepped inside we were greeted right away. Not by the guy behind the bar in the leather vest, but by a woman sitting on a stool in front of a gaming machine.
No Turning Back
It suddenly felt rude to change our minds. We had been welcomed in, by a smiling woman who looked like she'd been "gaming" for hours.
Besides, we were intrigued by the all the stuff in the long narrow room!
On the Floor and On the Wall
There was a line up of gaming machines, but there were also great vintage photos on the wall.
There were images of loggers and miners and other working men. Men who might have come to the Oxford 100+ years ago. Evidently The Oxford moved to this location in the 1950's.
There were other glowing things, besides electronic gaming machines. There was an old pinball machine and a jukebox.
There was also a stuffed bison staring down. He actually needed a glowing spotlight. It was dim in the saloon.
This nice guy behind the bar eventually greeted us.
He said it was fine to take his photo. However, the guy sitting at the bar swiftly moved out of the way. "I'm supposed t be at work!"
The old saloon seemed to have a little of everything. Above our fellow with mustache and vest, there was a case filled with old Remington and Winchester rifles.
I know little about guns or gambling, but I do know about diners. We walked past the bar and found ourselves at a totally different kind of counter.
There was no wall dividing the large space.
The drinking bar, just seemed to turn into an eating counter.
There were just about as many stools at the dining counter as there were at the bar.
The classic diner stools were lined up on a little platform. As Don got ready to sit down, he got a compliment on his "Death Valley Park" t-shirt.
We had fun studying the menu. Since The Ox, is open 24 hours, the menu offered everything from scrambled eggs to ribeye steaks.
Too bad we couldn't order from the "Old Menu". We could have ordered Brains & Eggs or Sardines or Beef Liver Sandwich! Actually the names of the foods were even better. "Yodeling T-Bone" and "Chippee in the Mud".
Watching the Cook
Watching your food being cooked can be fun, or just plain awkward, Nothing uncomfortable here. We had the best time watching Dang cook our food on the grill.
atI complimented Dang on her shirt (with ox!) and we 3 were soon gabbing. Turns out Dang is from Thailand. She had to write her name on her order pad, before I could get it right. I showed her pictures of our son and DIL's Thai wedding. We told her they were in Thailand at the moment. Dang told us where she was from... I should have had her write it on the pad.
Breakfast & Lunch
Don ordered corned beef hash and fried eggs. The hash came from a can, but it was still pretty tasty. Dang told us she usually works behind the bar or in the office. The cook was sick, but she did a good job!
I really wanted just a good old grilled cheese, but I felt like a Cheapo, ordering a meal for $5.50. I upped my order by adding ham. Why do I over think things? A half sandwich ended up being the right amount.
When we first stepped into The Ox, I felt a little hesitant. But by the time we were at the dining counter, we were relaxed and happy. Our chat with Dang made all the difference in the world.
Dang seemed more proud than stressed, when she told us she works 6 days a week. I didn't ask how many hours. Hopefully not in the wee hours of the 24-hour business. I read later that there are no keys to the doors, because they never close. I wish I'd heard that earlier, so I could have asked about that.
Dang said her husband had worked at the Ox for 40 years. She gestured to the bar and said he was the owner.
I hope I got that bit of info right. Our communication was a little choppy. I could be totally wrong on this.
All our chatting slowed down our eating. I asked for a box and loaded in a half sandwich, an egg and half off the hash. Even though we were traveling. Then I asked if I could take Dang's photo. She smiled agreed and told us she was 56. I gasped and refused to believe. "35 maybe!"
Then Dang insisted we get a photo of the 3 of us, together. She flagged down the woman who had greeted us earlier from the gaming machine. Then Don and I tried to say thank you in Thai. "Sawadee Khan?" we struggled a little and Dang laughed and correct us. There was a bit of bowing thrown in. We loved our time with Dang!
We headed off with our leftovers. Not knowing what we'd do with them.
We said good bye to Dang's hubby, near the door. Never got his name. What a fun stop!
We stepped out into the bright daylight and noticed 2 men sitting against the wall, near the side entrance to The Ox.
Without knowing their situation, Don chose to at least offer them our leftovers. Luckily they looked pretty appetizing in the box.
I headed for the car and Don returned, empty handed. At first the old and young man (father & son?) looked confused.
Don tried to explain diplomatically, that we just couldn't finish our lunch and they were welcome to have it. He popped the lid and the young guy suddenly seemed pleased. "I'll try it!" They both thanked Don and the young guy complimented Don's Death Valley shirt. 2 compliments in a day!
We headed back on the road feeling pretty wonderful. We had a couple of good people encounters and we didn't have to waste any food. Everyone we met, gave us a little something to smile about!
Bell Buoy Seafood
In August, Don and I traveled to the Oregon coast for an overnight, with family.
Before reaching the town of Seaside, our daughter Heidi had figured out lunch. A place with BUOY in the name. We drove past this colorful crab sign and circled back.
Buoy's Best Restaurant
It was confusing. The little restaurant sits right next to the seafood market.
The restaurant had a slightly different name. It didn't have nearly as much character as the market's neon sign. But Heidi assured us, the reviews were good.
We were lucky to find a parking spot, when we pulled off Hwy 101. The road and lot were crowded, on a August Sunday at noon.
We headed up the steps and I made sure to appreciate the art.
Deck with View
Heidi and I laughed when we stepped out to the dining deck.
We were just minutes from the stunning Pacific coast, yet we were about to eat lunch looking out over a somewhat swampy-looking creek.
Food & Photos
But Heidi knows her parents. We like fun, authentic places. We were more focused on food and the menu had lots to choose from. Everything from halibut to razor clams.
I of course had to take a peek at the wall photos. There were only a few seats inside and the space was fairly full of folks ordering, but I peeked around and admired old fishing photos.
The space was small enough that it would have been intrusive to snap photos in people's faces.
My one room photo shows a door to the kitchen and a man filling orders. Every once in a while, he reached over and stirred a big pot of clam chowder.
Heidi brought our 18 month old granddaughter out to the deck. We'd been telling her during our drive that we were taking her to the beach. (as if she knew what that meant)
Charlie seemed to squeal with delight when she saw the water. Maybe it was a bird she saw, or the feel of the air. Who knows, but we were all pretty amused that this murky water appeared to bring her such joy.
It seemed to take forever until our order was carried out on a plastic tray. The guys were working hard to handle the sudden rush of folks who arrived when we did.
The 4 adults feasted on fried cod, with french fries and coleslaw. The slaw had a secret ingredient that I thought was extra tasty. Was that pineapple? Not sure, but I'm a lover of slaw and this worked for me.
Crab Cakes for Charlie
More and more people filled the deck and some tables below on the grass. We were tucked in at the far end, with Charlie seated in the stroller.
Charlie couldn't have been happier with her first crab cakes. Surprising, since they were strongly seasoned.
Sometimes you end a meal with a sweet treat. Instead, we went next door.
The little market has been here for 76 years. We decided it was worth a stop.
Case O' Fish
We spent a little time studying the fresh seafood on ice. I wish I'd gotten the name of the wonderful woman who chatted with us.
She told us she'd been working there for 20 years... or maybe it was more. She praised the family owned business, which sells seafood sourced within 50 miles. We bought some peppered salmon jerky and some smoked teriyaki salmon strips for later.
We were off after our quick seafood lunch adventure.
Off to the beach where Charlie's grin got even bigger!
One Hour in Santa Fe
In June, (2022) Don and I spent about an hour in Santa Fe.
We spent it, dining in The Pantry Restaurant on Cerrillos Road.
We were headed to Colorado and had hoped to stop for a leisurely lunch in the beautiful town of Santa Fe.
But there were fires and those fires changed our route. This photo was taken before we were in the midst of a huge traffic jam.
Views From the Car
We were rerouted on a strange drive, that seemed sort of curious and entertaining.
But our snaking route ate up time. There wasn't time for a proper visit to Santa Fe.
On Route 66
But we still needed lunch. I Googled and found a place that was actually in Santa Fe, but far from Old Town. This little stucco building was once on the outskirts of town, on the old Mother Road.
That was intriguing enough. But the restaurant had great reviews and they offered easy free parking in the lot.
We entered through a door that looked like it could have been original. George Myers opened The Pantry in 1948.
The stools looked like they could have been original also. I love dining at a counter!
In the Corner
But we took a corner table in the front room, where we had a good view of the guests coming and going. There was lots of activity.
We were seated by friendly staff and given menus right away.
I tired to study the menu, but my eyes were drawn to the tables around me. I liked the quilted art piece above the table behind Don. Below the framed piece, a fireplace was hidden. Did that warm the restaurant in 1948?
I studied the old casement windows nearby. The ladies sitting next to them had a nice view of the old Rt 66. However they seemed unaware of the world outside their table. One of the two was a talker. She hardly paused to taste her food. I was amused.
Don and I placed our order and enjoyed the upbeat atmosphere. There must have been 20 employees, wearing colorful Pantry t-shirts.
There was a cooperative, pitch in feel to the place. Lots of staff moving about, serving, clearing, chatting, joking. No one stood still for more than a moment and no one seemed stressed. My favorite kind of place.
Our meals arrived on colorful southwestern plates. Don ordered 2 fish tacos, well-stuffed with fish and fresh avocado. No complaints!
I'm not sure what possessed me to order a Greek Salad. But I'm glad that I did.
My hefty salad with crispy cucumbers, Kawamata olives, feta cheese and fresh greens, would have been much more than $10.75, if we'd been dining in the touristy part of Santa Fe.
It was 2:30 by the time we finished up. Most of the tables had cleared and some of the staff was freed up for a bit.
I chatted with this friendly bunch for a few minutes. They saw me taking photos and figured I was curious about the place.
One pointed out a silver dollar embedded in the counter. I was confused about her story. I'm thinking there was once another coin, in the nearby hole. It looks like someone needed more money to cover the bill and grabbed a dinner knife...
Another one of the girls took me over to the little open nook, with the cash register. She pointed to a display of origami dollars on the wall. Her favorite was the elephant. Cute!
Then and Now
We left full and happy. I wish we'd learned more about this wonderful 74 year old business. George Myers obviously did something right, when he started up, 74 years ago.
I read that George's son Max, has partnered with the current owners of The Pantry, to open up a new location. I love that.
We pulled out of the lot and I took one last look at the blue and yellow sign. I pictured a 1950 Chevy traveling on Route 66, slowing down to take a look at the neon letters.
As we continued down Cerrillos Road, I spotted more signs. I was reminded of a time when travelers in New Mexico stayed in motor courts, not boutique hotels and Airbnbs. I hope to someday and spend a night in one. In the morning, we can head over to The Pantry for breakfast!
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.