Italian Feast at Noon
Don and I don't usually eat big lunches, especially when we're traveling.
But when we saw Occidental on the roadmap, we knew we needed to add it to our route... and prepare for a little feasting. As we headed into the 5-block town, we tried to remember the name of the place where we'd had an amazing Italian meal, about 38 years ago!
We spotted a couple of Italian restaurants in the small town.
We weren't absolutely sure if the old Union Hotel was the place we remembered, but it was open and it looked pretty charming.
We parked and headed towards the gate with the Union Hotel clock.
The patio area looked lovely on a September day, but it didn't seem to be open.
Lots of Doors
We headed towards the 2-story hotel. I loved the words up near the roof.
"1879... Union Hotel... Italian Dinners"
I liked everything about those words. I love old restaurants and I love old hotels. Sadly, I don't believe there are hotel rooms upstairs anymore.
I believe the saloon is the original structure from 1879. It began as a general store and meeting house.
Then it became a saloon and eventually a hotel and restaurant. I was tempted to ask the bartender, since he had no customers. But, he didn't look like he was up for a talking history. We moved on down the hall.
It was an adventure searching for the dining room. I loved the stairway with the funny little "baby gate" thing. There must have been 50 coats of brown paint on the stairs and railing.
I later learned a little history about those brown stairs. A man named Carlo Pannizera, bought the building in 1925. He reopened the saloon as a rooming house and restaurant. One day he ran to the rescue when his waitress, Mary fell down the stairs. Carlo carried Mary to the doctor and before long, they were married. Their descendants own and run the Union Hotel today!
I don't know if there's any history about this swinging half door, with a shelf. It was doing a good job holding a wine glass, when we passed by.
I love stories about the families behind historic restaurants and hotels.
The Main Dining Room
I had to grin when I saw the red and white checked curtains and table cloths in the dining room.
I grinned even bigger when I saw the classic, wax-covered Chianti bottles on all the tables. Better yet, the candles were lit at the tables where there were diners.
I can't think of the last time I had lunch by candlelight. I know that breaks some kind of dining etiquette rule. I'm all for breaking that rule.
Our server (Terry, I think) was wonderful. She seemed excited to know we were from Texas, since she'd lived there a while herself.
She gave us some ordering suggestions and then the food started coming... family style!
Before the Main Course
The bread and oil arrived first.
A plate of salami and cheese came next, with serving bowls of minestrone and salad and kidney beans.
Lasagna and Ravioli
We had to order a little Chianti to go along with our lasagna and ravioli. Don looks happy about that. But actually we were just happy about the fun of this cozy place, where the food kept coming.
Don and I love to eat, but neither of us can actually eat all that much. It's sort of embarrassing sometimes. But, Terry was happy to wrap up about all our leftovers. Usually that doesn't work well when we're traveling, but we actually microwaved them for dinner, in our hotel room that night.
My Kind of Cozy
I had a great view from my chair of the cozy dining room. There is just nothing better than comfort food in a comfy-cozy setting.
Not all people love the red & white checked look, or even the dark wood paneling, but this is my idea of comfort dining.
From Doors to Barrels
I loved the kitchen door with its little square window, balancing on point.
I loved the barrel supported shelf, holding pumpkins, flowers and the Virgin Mary.
Off to Explore
Don took care of the bill and I told him I was heading to the restroom. He knows those words actually mean, "I'm going exploring... with my camera."
The retro pink bathroom was worthy of a photo. I love pink tile.
I took a little peek into the Bocce Ballroom with its own bar and raised stage.
Flowers and decorations told me a wedding had been celebrated recently.
The Dining Room
From the Bocce Ballroom, I looked back at the dining room. The dining room was actually built in the 1940's to connect the original Union Hotel and the Bocce Ballroom.
As I looked at the candles and lights strung from the ceiling, it made me hope to return sometime for a dinner, at night. I'd love to see the place filled with families and romantic couples... and maybe a little Italian music!
Vermont Country Store
Sitting about 50 feet from the restaurant, was the original Vermont Country Store. I've never known much about the business, but I've gotten plenty of those funny, little Vermont Store catalogues over the years.
Mildred and Vrest Orton opened their store in 1946, selling Vermont cheddar and real maple syrup. Customers came from far away and they started selling food. Today the store and Bryant House Restaurant, are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation Ortons.
Floors in the Bryant House
After doing some fun browsing at the old store, Don and I got hungry and headed over to the restaurant.
Just looking down at the floors, made it easy to believe we were in a 190-year-old house. The home had belonged to the Bryant family until 1959, when the Ortons purchased the property.
Bar in the Back
The "Eating Rooms" in the front of the house were full, so we headed to the pub in the back. No, we didn't know the man with the broken arm, sitting at the old bar, but he posed nicely.
Don and I managed to get a table near the window. It took a while to get a menu, but there was lots to look at. The soda fountain from 1878 was pretty amazing.
The complicated looking thing was crafted with silver and Italian marble and ebony. But really the more interesting thing, was the wooden, label creation that listed the available flavors. I liked the soda flavor, "I Don't Care".
Lots to Read
We also had a lot of reading entertainment at our table. We had a store catalogue and lots of news clippings and photos and even a telegram, shellacked right onto the table top.
We enjoyed our meal on our cushioned captain's chairs, using cloth napkins. I'm sure all can be purchased in the store.
We made sure to order some good Vermont foods. Don had a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich with Vermont cheese.
I loved my plate of comfort foods. My salad was the healthy thing and my New England clam chowder (with homemade crackers) was the Vermont thing. My Johnnycake with butter, was the totally fun thing.
Why Hello There!
At one point we looked up and there was my sister Jennifer and her wife, Kate. They were sitting at the old bar. That would have been a mighty strange thing, since they live in Oregon. But we were actually traveling with them. We were just on slightly different shopping and eating schedules. So we finished up, while they started and we of course we snapped pics of each other.
Nap After Lunch
After we finished lunch, our waiter encouraged us to head up the stairs to see the Bryant's lovely bedroom. The couple's bedroom set (purchased at the Philidelphia World's Fair) was set up like a little museum. So I guess you can say we ate lunch in a museum. If it hadn't been roped off, I might have taken a nap after my lunch.
Before leaving the grounds, my sister and I had to try out the glider & table creation! It was tempting to buy an ice cream sundae from Mildred's Dairy Bar, a few feet away. We could have really tested out the whole rocking/dining set up! Or we could have bought the whole creation for $1,512.00. Maybe next time.
Two Diners in North Sacramento
Last winter, Don and I drove out to Sacramento to help with our son and daughter-in-law's move. We also spent time helping Scott and Chali try out some curious eating establishments, within walking distance.
Lil Joe's was our pick for breakfast one morning. The brown building, with tile trim had a nice retro look. But it was the sign that lured us. "God Bless...Over a Million Steaks Sold... Dinner... Ham & Eggs... New York..."
Since 1953, on Del Paso Blvd
It was February and Scott and Chali were still trying to figure out what this whole area was about.
The Del Paso Boulevard showed a couple good signs of beautification here and there. There were some new businesses, but some pretty sketchy stuff as well. We figured if Lil Joe's had lasted this long, then it must be worth trying.
Bold Menu and Stylin' Vinyl
We were greeted by a smiling waitress, who called everyone at our table "Sweetie".
The pink counters, blue booths and original stools pleased me. The giant cow on the menu sort of scared me. I ordered oatmeal and coffee, so I can hardly comment on the steaks.
Banter at the Cash Register
Probably the best part of the dining experience was watching all the locals come and go. We seemed to be the only first-timers.
I asked about the cash register and was told it had been there since 1953. The fellow in the kitchen was actually very friendly and was happy for me to take a photo.
On another day, we gave Sammy's a try.
The family restaurant has been sitting on Del Paso Boulevard even longer than Lil Joe's.
Pink & Green
Although Sammy's has been on this corner since 1944, I believe the current building is much newer.
There was a fire at some point. Maybe that's why the pink and green, stone building has a 1960's look about it.
It was tempting to have a seat right there at the pink counter. The swivel stools looked mighty comfy and the cups and utensils were just waiting for us.
I don't think those mugs (decorated with emojis) were around when Sammy's first opened!
The Back Room
We were greeted with smiles, but ushered to a table in the back. I'm pretty sure that was to prevent us from grabbing any of the tables that are usually claimed by regulars.
We placed our breakfast order with our waitress, who has probably worked at Sammy's for decades. She didn't blink at the notion of someone wanting a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast. However she was pretty concerned about Don ordering the proper potatoes to go with his scrambled eggs and grilled ham.
"Do you want peppers and onions on them taters? Because if you don't, they're just gonna be naked taters." Naked was pronounced neck-ed.
Lots of Leftovers
Hopefully the cook and staff took it as a compliment that we wanted to take home what we couldn't eat.
They seemed pretty pleased that we newcomers had enjoyed our eggs, pancakes and grilled cheese.
Past & Future
Before 1964, North Sacramento was its own town and Del Paso Boulevard was a thriving Main Street. I wish I could go back, 60 years in time and visit both diners and all that surrounded them.
Last February, we spent some time wandering up and down the Boulevard, imagining the past and seeing some signs of good things to come. I'm glad we got to step back in time, with our 2 breakfasts. I hope the diners can keep on doing what they do!
Lunch With Wine...
Don and I expected a little wine with our lunch when visiting the sweet town of Sonoma. But we ended up getting lots of history with our cozy meal, in this old building from the mid 1800's.
Originally, the adobe building was the home of Don Salvadore Vallejo. By the late 1800's it became a hotel. In 1923, a Swiss-Italian family bought the hotel. The same family still runs it!
It was just after noon when Don and I stepped through the beautiful old doors.
They took us directly to the bar.
The Old Bar
The bar was charming.
I'm guessing not much has changed since it opened in 1923.
The walls across from the bar were covered in old photographs.
The checkered table cloths made me want to sit down with some Italian wine and pasta and read up on the family history.
Whiter and Brighter
The dining room also had a cozy corner or two, with a slightly formal feel.
Each table had a rose and black napkins and of course more framed historic photos.
Another Cute Corner
This corner near the old fireplace had a little bench seating and some cocktail tables.
I wonder what that funny little window-sized door is for?
I was tempted to head up the old staircase and see if I could get a peek at one of the 5 guest rooms.
Oh how I wanted to stay a night and add to my 90-Notable Nights list! But we were only passing through.
Time For Lunch
We had wondered why the dining room was so empty, until we stepped out the back door.
What a lovely patio with a fountain, umbrellas and fireplace, checkered cloths and grapevines!
A Sweet Little Feast
I was pretty delighted with the crusty bread and olive oil, for starts. Don had a pulled pork sandwich, with pepper Jack and onion strings... on the softest roll ever.
My spinach salad with tons of bacon, beets and crumbled egg was just perfect. It was the perfect little feast before hitting the road.
Jasper and Friend
A dining adventure is always a little more memorable if you get to chat with a local.
As we headed out, I spotted this wonderful pair sitting together on the veranda. Jasper the pup, was seated on a pillow. I asked the gentleman in the purple shirt, if I could take his dog's photo. "Only if you take a picture of the two of us!" He laughed. "And send it to me." What a fun few minutes we had talking. The sweet fellow told me he was 80 and just didn't know what he'd do without Jasper. "Dogs teach us so much about living ...and about dying." He spoke those words in the most positive way.
What a great way to complete a dining adventure!
Roadside Dining in the Adirondacks!
More than a Fun Sign!
Driving by, there are so many fine little buildings, nestled underneath the pines. The white and red dining room is the most obvious.
The cabins are pretty adorable and still 75 dollars!
Making a Stop in July
In July we finally made a stop! Don and I were traveling in 3 cars, with my sibs and spouses. It wasn't exactly meal time, but we couldn't pass up a Tail O' the Pup adventure!
Where to Dine?
I was giddy over the retro red decor in the dining room. The 90-year-old roadside business recently got a makeover, with new ownership. I'm glad they kept the old charm.
Under the Tent
I do love a tent, so I was happy with the group's decision to enjoy a little outdoor dining. A few others were also celebrating the fact the rain had ended!
Our Gang (minus one)
I am in this photo, because my brother was playing photographer. Chris was taking photos of restaurants and food, long before the social media world made it a thing. I remember him snapping photos of our A&W server, placing a tray of root beers onto our car window, in the 1970's!
Before we placed our food order, a few of us made a quick trip to the Tap Room to get some beer. I was pretty much in love with the pup on the beer "jar".
Jess, the manager took our order. She admitted she was a little stressed, since they were expecting a group of 150, very soon. Yikes! I'm really glad we missed that. Although, I sort of wish we had been there to see the crowd arriving. Motorcycles, maybe?
Here we are with food (and Chris) looking pretty happy about our food. I had hoped to get a bite of Jennifer's "Michigan" dog, but it was gone too fast. I'm not sure why it's called a "Michigan" chili dog, in Upstate New York?
Eat and Wander!
Since I'm a fan of both dining and overnight adventures, I had to look around at the cabins. I even peeked in a window and I am totally game for staying over, on a future trip.
If only I'd had this on my radar earlier. Our family road trip could have given up one of our nights at Hotel Saranac and stayed here, instead. There were just enough chairs around the fire pit for our traveling group of 6!
Lobster and Oysters?
I'm sure Captain Mel's Raw Bar and Barnacle Phil's Lobster Shanty would have been pretty darn fun at night.
If we'd gotten a craving for ice cream, we could have stepped out of our cabin door and walked about 20 steps for ice cream!
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.