A Welcoming Lumberjack
How could we pass up the opportunity to dine at a place with a giant lumberjack in front? The lumberjack lured us, but so did the banner. "Dining Room Now Open!"
Our Summer of 2021 Pandemic Travels, made for some tricky, on-the-road-eating. A year before, we had done only drive through and picnics. But last July, we were vaccinated and appreciative of safe dining rooms.
Don and I found the restaurant with the giant log cutter, while driving through the town of Willits.
I was mighty impressed by the grand arch! "Gateway to the Redwoods".
I thought the sign seemed little familiar.
I'm not sure how many arched signs Reno has had over the years. But evidently, the Biggest Little City, donated one of their old signs to Willits.
Al's Redwood Room
While driving down the main drag in Willits, I spotted another fine sign. This is really where I wanted to eat! That's a nifty neon sign, worthy of old Reno!
I love the martini on top and I love knowing it opened in 1901! But it was closed. Possibly closed down.
Saws and Logs
So after our drive through town, we turned around and headed back to Lumberjacks.
If we couldn't have martinis at Al's Redwood Room, I was happy to enjoy a Saw and Log Theme, at Lumberjacks.
There were lots of open tables, in the two dining rooms.
I was glad to see lots of wood. If you're going to eat in a Lumberjack themed restaurant, you want to see some wood.
I've seen some fine artwork in restaurant bathrooms, over the years. This lumberjack mural was quite a hoot and worthy of a photo.
At first, I thought this was a Lady Lumberjack, swishing along with her long skirt and axe. I'm actually not sure about the gender, but I'm pretty sure that this lumberjack has some very defined glute muscles. I'm guessing axe swinging must help with that.
"Where the Big Boys Eat"
The dated tagline on the restaurant's sign, made me think this restaurant might have started up 50 years ago. But, in truth this is a fairly new biz. It opened in 2004.
Since I'm not a Big Boy, I decided to go with a Dainty Dinner Salad. (not the real name) I was pleasantly surprised that this little "$5.99 salad was so tasty! Crispy croutons, bacon and cucumbers... fresh tomato, onion and thick thousand island on the side. Honestly, this was a treat!
My Lumberjack with a Biscuit!
When I first met Don over 40 years ago, he had a beard and wore flannel shirts a lot. He could have passed for a lumberjack. In 2021, Don was not intimidated by the macho decor or slogan. He happily ordered a $9.99 "Senior Breakfast" and it was pretty darn good.
Don's omelet and potatoes were hearty enough for any aging lumberjack. But the most memorable goodie, was the biscuit! That fluffy hot biscuit was big enough to feed the big statue in front!
Worthy of a Write Up
Ordinarily the old blog posts are about odd or old, cafes and diners. A chain restaurant that's less than 20 years old, doesn't usually make the cut.
But I have to give a place some credit when it does well with it's theme.
Plus the food and prices were worthy! I should have gone for some homemade pie, after my dainty salad. The pies looked mighty good.
Of course I had to pose, before we headed to the car.
Next time I come, I'll wear a plaid shirt. Maybe I'll ask if the lumberjack has a name. I'm guessing the staff has a few stories to tell about this big guy.
Upper Lake, California
This little saloon-cafe, was just a lucky find!
Don and I were traveling in Northern California last summer, when we found this classy little place!
We followed our GPS into the small California town, last July.
The entrance looked pretty darn nice, for a town with only about 1,000 residents. I read that Upper Lake is the gateway to Mendocino National Forest. If we kept going straight, would we reach the forest?
Cute Main Street
I'm not sure if the town's main road led to the forest. We only went as far as the historic downtown. Very pretty on a blue day.
The old storefronts were cute and colorful. Some of the old buildings might have been around 1.5 centuries ago, when the town's economy revolved around canning beans, raising cattle and growing alfalfa. (Thanks Wikipedia)
Soon after driving under the town's sign. we spotted the sweet little saloon-cafe. We angle parked, right in front and headed towards the old metal chairs.
A sign on the door greeted us. It showed Benjamin Franklin wearing a face mask, announcing the latest face mask requirement. Even for those vaccinated. I was more than happy with that.
Cute and Clean
Don and I stepped inside wearing our masks. We were greeted by a friendly and masked staff.
After lots of wishy washy pandemic travel, it was suddenly a relief to be in a dining environment that just stated the rules. The place looked inviting and clean! It felt safe. And I loved those checkerboard tiles!
Don and I were the only inside diners for a while. The space felt charming and old, but I wasn't sure...
The bar had lots of old character, but the wood ceilings and paneling looked almost too perfect. If it's this hard to tell the age, then I'm impressed.
The old piano made me picture a saloon in the late 1800's.
Better yet, it made me picture this very place in 2021. The Blue Wing Saloon offers live music on weekends. (which may not include this piano) But, oh how I miss pre-pandemic days, when we could enjoy some live music on our travels.
The high ceilings felt even higher, with the redwood wainscoting and soaring, narrow windows.
The window near our table, gave us a view of the patio.
Porch & Yard Dining
I suddenly realized why there weren't many inside diners.
The outside was so inviting, even though it was nearly 100 degrees out there. The shade and breeze helped!
Burger and Salad
The food arrived! I couldn't have been happier with my cheeseburger and salad.
The burger was pretty heavenly, served on a powdery, homemade roll! The mixed greens tasted crisp and fresh and the dressing was just the right amount of sweet. Plus it was served by a very professional, yet relaxed server. A nice surprise during pandemic travel.
While dining, I kept peeking out the window. My eyes were drawn to an old hotel, on the other side of the patio.
The Tallman Hotel was built in 1895 and I'm dying to stay there, now. It was built to replace an even older hotel that had burned down.
History in the Bathroom
My trip to the restroom had me scratching my head once again. Is this old?
The small backroom looked like Grandma's farmhouse, with the painted bead-board. The hooks under the windows, held historic photos of Upper Lake.
The restroom doors felt very European with their "Toilet" signs. When I stepped inside, I was forced to take a bathroom photo.
Look at all that painted wood! How could this be new construction? I studied the old photos.
Hotel and Saloon
Here's the hotel after it changed names. The Riffe's Hotel.
I studied the old photo again. It sure looked like the Blue Wing Saloon, with the western facade!
When we finished our meal, we took another look outside before hitting the road. We learned that the hotel and saloon are under the same ownership. What a pair.
I loved our meal. I loved the tiny town and the wood plank walkway. I put Tallman Hotel on our list of historic hotels, to book for the future.
As we drove out, I imagined the wide street long ago, when it wasn't paved.
As we traveled on, I did some cellphone research. So the Blue Wing Saloon was constructed in recent years. I found my answer.
The Old Saloon
The current saloon is a recreation of the town's original saloon, that was demolished during prohibition. All those beautiful pieces of wood in the Blue Wing, were salvaged from the old hotel, when the current owners did some renovation.
I'm so glad we stumbled across this town and saloon. The Blue Wing wasn't old, but it ties in beautifully with the historic hotel. What a sweet town and what a lovely hotel & restaurant combo. I can't wait to come back.
Not Your Typical Napa Experience!
People don't visit Napa to eat at shopping centers.
But Don and I did just that. I read about Squeeze Inn and wanted to give it a try.
Heaters and Art
We arrived early before the lunch rush. Along one wall, there was a lineup of tables. There were also a few outdoor heaters. Hmm?
There were lots of burger and beer and sport related posters. Charlie Chaplin didn't quite fit in.
The Counter and Grill
The only customer, was seated at the counter having a beer.
There were lots of available stools and lots of available catsup bottles!
Squeezeburger with Cheese
We ordered at the end of the counter.
It was the Squeezeburger we'd heard about. But I figured we also needed to try a deep fried hotdog, while we were being incredibly unhealthy.
Eye on the Grill
The lone customer finished his beer and was suddenly on his way.
Yay! We moved up to the counter and enjoyed the show. Nothing quite like watching a cook, when they really know what they're doing at the grill.
Making a Squeezeburger
So we watched the guy toss a pile of cheddar onto the grill. The burger then landed on top.
Then he covered the burger with the metal hood, while he fried up my hotdog. I think the bun was heated on top of the hood actually. ??
And this is how it looked!
We took our tray of decadence and headed for the patio.
This is our lunch feast and I am not ashamed. Don's burger had the perfect "cheese skirt".
My fried hotdog was healthy, because it had tomatoes and pickles.
How to Eat?
In these photos, you can see even better how ridiculous our meal was.
Don actually cut away at the cheese skirt. I tried to wrap some of the cheese around some of our fries. Interesting.
My hotdog was surprisingly tasty. I've never had tomatoes on a hotdog and I've never had a fried dog. So how did we do? We sampled each others and secretly threw away over half. It was good! We just stopped before we were miserable.
A Question for This Guy
Before leaving, we headed back inside to let our cook know that we enjoyed our first Squeezburger Experience. Then I had to ask.
"I read that your ceiling is covered with toothpicks." I asked him why I didn't see any. He laughed and said they had issues with the fire marshal and that little tradition of shooting toothpicks through a straw, into the ceiling had to end.
Oh well, we sampled our first Squeezeburger. Good enough!
This past summer, Don and I had breakfast at this cute diner, across from our motel.
The sign was very entertaining. The letters in Fisherman, were hidden in flags at the top. Restaurant was written with driftwood. And what about that lil mermaid with her dolphin and Paul Bunyan and his ox! Who can resist a restaurant with a sign like that?
Our breakfast at Fisherman's, tied in nicely with our Crescent City Experience. We've passed through this little "city" before, but it has always felt gloomy, socked in with fog.
After 20 hours in C City, I left with some fond memories of the place. We got to see it in sunshine! We also learned about the struggles this community has overcome, dealing with multiple Tsunamis.
Curly Redwood Lodge
This is the fine motel where Don and I stayed. It's been sitting here on the Redwood Highway since 1957.
The quirky little motel has some history. Plus, it was right across the street from Fisherman's!
Open on Thursday!
We'd been so disappointed to find the restaurant closed on Wednesday, when we checked into our inn.
But luckily, the restaurant opened at 6 am on Thursday! They were doing a pretty good business by the time we headed over at 8.
Seat with a View
During our pandemic summer travels of 2021, Don and I learned to expect a wait, or possibly a stressed staff. But we were greeted by a friendly staff and a couple Good Mornings, when we entered. We took a window booth, with a view.
I was sort of amused to have this view, with our motel across the street. Even the parking lot was a bit entertaining. At one point a big pickup with "Redneck" written on the windshield, parked near the BMW and MINI Cooper. What an odd assortment of cars. And then there was that fog that rolled in and out. A common thing in Crescent City.
From our table, I looked around and took in the decor. There seemed to be 2 themes. There were lots of patriotic banners.
Tying into the nautical theme, I spotted lots of lighthouses. Crescent City does have a very picturesque lighthouse.
Short Walk Away
The restaurant was a convenient walk from our motel. But the diner also had a nice location for wandering to the harbor. Just a short walk from the restaurant, we found this scene. We could hear the sea lions from our motel!
We could also hear the eerie sound of the foghorn, (I'm guessing from the lighthouse) continuously.
Our upbeat server Susan, brought our coffee right away. I commented on her good mood and she laughed that she'd already been working for a couple hours.
I ordered a simple bagel and cream cheese, since I knew I'd be helping Don with his feast.
Don's sushi shirt did not go well with his omelet and hash browns and pancake. We worked together and almost finished!
Before taking off, we could have shopped a bit for some souvenirs.
If they'd sold Hawaiian shirts, maybe I would have bought one. I noticed that all the staff flowered shirts. Maybe that's why they were in such good moods. Or maybe they were in good spirits because they'd all had a day off the day before. Or maybe you have to enjoy your work, when your owner/manager is the kind of person who suggests flowered shirts for uniforms.
Don and I left with full stomachs and we left in good moods.
There was nothing spectacular about the food or the interior of Fisherman's. But I think this little restaurant was probably the friendliest of all the food stops on our summer road trip of 2021.
Curious Coos Bay Adventure
Last July, Don and I had an unusual adventure with unusual food.
This is the sign from where we purchased our food. Important to note that Coos Bay Oysters takes top billing. Chuck's Seafood is the name of the place.
How We Heard
We heard about Chuck's from Rik, our host at Itty Bitty Inn. After checking us in at the little motel in North Bend, we chatted with Rik for about 45 minutes. He was a hoot of a host! Then suddenly he seemed to be rushing us on our way. He handed us a cutting board and knife and told us we needed to get to the port in Coos Bay!
He told us that the fresh catch came in on Friday, so today was the perfect day. "The fish has been smoked and cured... you MUST get octopus jerky and oysters sticks... grab a bottle of wine and take it all to the beach!"
We did as we were told. We drove about 10 minutes to Chuck's Market. Actually it took longer, because we had to pick up a cheap cooler and ice.
Once we arrived, we headed towards the door, near the sign saying Oyster Farm! Yes, Chuck's has their very own oyster farm in Coos Bay!
I spotted 2 folding chairs and realized, we could actually have a dine-in experience, if we wanted.
But Rik had gotten us pretty excited about the fish on the beach idea.
Cans and Cans
We peeked around a little, before heading to the counter.
There were lots of canned options. Salmon, tuna, crab, oysters. All freshly prepared, hand packed and processed.
I spotted a few awards on the wall. It looked like Chuck's had been around a long time.
Since 1953! I love a place or business, that's older than me! Not by much.
In the Case
Don and I looked through the glass, trying to figure it all out.
The tuna and salmon looked a little more familiar. Chinook Salmon! We knew we were in the Northwest. We got some smoked tuna and a little Chinook Salmon.
We asked the young woman behind the counter, about her favorites.
She smiled and pointed to the Smoked Tuna Teriyaki.
Back at the Inn, Rik was very enthused about oyster sticks. I had pictured some kind of lollypop-oyster, on a stick! Luckily I didn't see anything like that.
We made sure to get some oyster sticks along with smoked salmon sticks and jalapeño salmon sticks. We were sort of acting like kids in a candy store. Which is odd for me, because I'm not the biggest seafood fan. And these foods were sort of scary.
Rik insisted we sample all the goodies that the locals go for. He said we might have to ask, since it's not always spotlighted in the case.
The octopus jerky was nearly hidden, on an upper shelf. Our enthused helper behind the counter, pulled it out for us.
Earlier at the Itty Bitty, Rik told us how he loved salmon fins! I was skeptical. What does it look like? A fin?
He assured me it was wonderful stuff. He showed us some leftover fins in the back of his truck. (I guess he'd had a beach feast) He said that local families know about these great treats. "The markets practically throw them away, but locals love them."
To the Beach
We bought our fish and a loaf of garlic bread and headed for the nearest beach that we could spot on the map.
We were surprised to find a picnic table in the sand, just waiting for us. I propped my camera on a rock and captured a photo memory!
I am not really the biggest fan of fish. But I do love a "When in Rome" experience.
So, When in Coos Bay, go to the beach and nibble on some fish fins and jerky!
Here's Don, getting ready for a bite of smoked salmon stick... I believe.
I'm sampling a salmon fin in this fine photo. It looks like a pretend to eat pose. But I really did give it my all. It was okay.
Two Days Later
Since we had a cooler and a fridge in our hotel, we were able to take some of our fish to Sacramento.
We stayed a couple nights with our son and our daughter-in-law. I'm not sure how impressed they were with our food contribution. It's kind of like sharing a "you had to have been there" experience... with some leftover fish.
As you can see, Scott looks a little worried about biting into this fin.
But he is always game for a food adventure! I should have taken another photo, after his bite!
Cheers to fish on the beach! Big thank you to our guide, Rik!
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.