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!
In July, Don and I had a fun-homey meal at Dean's.
We had heard about the family owned cafe, from my sister. Jennifer sent a text last February, "Kate and I just ate at a place that you and Don would love!" She raved about the food and the folks running the place. Dean's went on my list!
Palms & Roses
Don and I were back in Portland in July and checked the place out, on our very last day. It was an easy stop, right off the highway on the way to the airport.
We parked and headed towards the sweet looking bungalow. What a palm! It made me feel like we were back in Texas. Those roses were mighty sweet, too! Bonus points!
Picnic Tables and Porch
Bonus points for picnic tables, too. Don and I are cautious travelers and diners, during these pandemic times. We appreciate outside options.
And oh how I love a porch, I guess we could have eaten out there too. But we were curious to see the inside of this cute place. We headed for the door. Luckily we had cash, since the sign told us they didn't take credit cards.
Eating in the House
We were greeted by a young bearded man, named Tyler. He was carrying on with a group of coffee drinking men, near the fireplace. Tyler invited us to sit anywhere. We peeked in the second room, which looked cozy with lots of old woodwork.
I was curious about the window that connected both rooms. Was that original? I could see through to the fireplace.
The front room had the fun fireplace, that would have been nice on a cold day. I was sort of amused by how the mantel was being used on a day in July. It had become a shelf, for holding napkins and carry-out containers.
I was more amused listening to Tyler, with the locals who were sitting near the fireplace. Tyler was across the room, but he conversed with the older gentlemen, as he moved from here to there. Don and I felt somehow included in some of the humor, that flew back and forth. The coffee drinkers seemed to egg Tyler on. At one point an old fellow stood and headed to the counter, with his cane. Tyler teased, "No running on the pool deck now!" There were some chuckles.
Sitting in the Front Room
Don and I were seated at a comfy table in the front room, with a view of the dining counter, below a display of old tools.
Next to the old saw and drill, there was a sassy little sign. "I'll have a cafe mocha, vodka, Xanax, Latte to go please."
I read a few more snappy sentences above the window. "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy!"
"Bacon makes everything better!" "Public Drunkenness Prohibited!"
As we sat and absorbed the atmosphere around us, I began to see how these signs set the tone for the place.
On the wall past the man at the counter, I spotted another sign, with yummy (and reasonably priced) food options.
The sign was surrounded by shelves of personalized mugs. Clearly, Dean's was a place where lots of locals enjoy breakfast. If it hadn't been so close to lunchtime, I'm sure more mugs would have been missing.
Chicken Noodle Soup
When Tyler came to take our order, I was able to compliment him on his t-shirt, with an amusing photo from the movie, "Step Brothers". He looked down to remind himself, then laughed. He seemed pleased that someone appreciated his goofy Will Farrell shirt.
I ordered Soup & BLT. My chicken noodle soup came so packed with noodles and chicken, I could have used a fork and knife. Moments later I heard a man nearby complain that his soup didn't have enough chicken. Tyler responded, by pointing to me. "Well, I gave all the chicken to her. It's her first time here!"
Don was pleased to have breakfast options for lunch. He was then perplexed about how to begin, with the massive serving on his plate.
Actually he was excited about his ham & cheese omelet and hash browns. There were no signs demanding that we clean our plates, so he was safe. I even helped him a bit and it was a yummy feast.
My delicious BLT arrived on sour dough. When I placed my order, Tyler suggested English muffin for my BLT. I hadn't caught on to his humor yet, so I said "Sure, BLT on and English muffin." Tyler shook his head and scolded that idea as if he hadn't given it to me. "What? You'll never fit 5 slices of bacon on that!" I scratched my head and ordered sourdough, which I loved. The sandwich was delish! And I wasn't a bit annoyed by Tyler's dry humor.
After lunch I explored on the way to the bathroom. I loved the old stairs and wondered about the family that once lived in this wonderful house.
Tyler saw me snapping photos and invited me to look at the framed photos of the Haberlach family.
How wonderful that these photos were preserved when the home was bought.
I did some internet searching later and couldn't find much info. But it looks like this family had some history with Tillamook Cheese!
Chatting with Tyler
Tyler checked us out and didn't reprimand us for not finishing our meal. He did ask where we were from though and said he might just have to charge us tax, since we were from Texas. His silly sarcasm reminded me of some of the old timer characters we've run across on our travels. But his quick and sassy remarks were somehow refreshing and kind.
I thanked Tyler for the great food and his fun humor. He seemed to genuinely appreciate that.
On our way out, we were stopped by a couple on the porch. They had overheard our conversation and seemed so pleased that we enjoyed the place. They told us, "We came all the way from Vancouver to eat today!" They agreed that Tyler was a fun and funny addition to the place. They also mentioned that Tyler's parents owned the place. "We've been coming to eat here, since Tyler was about 7 years old."
I loved ending our homey visit, with this extra little prize at the end. We drove off knowing that Dean's Cafe had been serving food for years in a couple other locations and in this cute house for about 10 years. I loved it that this couple knew Tyler as a little kid and had fun watching him grow up on their visits.
I tried to find more information on the internet, but found very little. Dean's is obviously a happy, homey business with lots of pleased customers. They evidently don't need lots of write ups and ads to lure people their way. Word of mouth got us there! The best kind of advertisement!
On Route 66
This cute little cafe is named for College Street, the street that it sits on.
But College Street used to be Route 66. You'd think they'd to capitalize on that!
A Night on Route 66
Don and I found the cute little cafe in June. We were staying a half mile down the road, at Rock Wood Motor Court.
If you're going to stay in a retro motel (that used to be a Route 66 gas station) you have to complete the adventure with a breakfast at the College Street Cafe.
It was just before 8 when we arrived.
There were 3 tables and one booth open. We took the booth near the door and I had a nice view of the whole cafe.
My seat gave me a good view of the 4 sitting at the corner of the rounded counter.
The men looked like they were about ready to head to work. They had to be a little careful coming and going, since a couple hanging flower baskets were squeezed in behind them.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
On the wall behind the counter, I recognized the old print, with James, Humphrey, Marilyn and Elvis.
I sort of wanted to ask the 3 men and 1 woman to shift themselves around a bit, so they would better match the framed print. I'm not sure how that would have gone over.
The window next to our table didn't have the best view.
But I loved studying the steel framed windows. Is that steel? Don't know, but I sure wondered how many layers of paint was coating that metal. I love red paint.
Kim and Coffee
The place was starting to get busier, but Kim didn't ignore us. She rushed over in her black hat and air purifying necklace and took our order.
When she brought our coffee, I commented that she seemed to be handling the whole place herself. She shook her head and said, "I don't usually even work Fridays!" I had a feeling she'd been called in at the last minute. I had the feeling this wasn't the first time.
Taking a Seat
There was no doubt that Kim could handle the crowd. It seemed everyone knew her, which could have slowed her down with their banter.
I took a pic of Don to sneak a pic of Kim, when she took a load off for about 45 seconds. At one point, she greeted a man sitting alone, "So will it be pancakes or eggs, today?" She sat down in the seat across from him for only a moment.
Eat and Go
The workmen at the counter didn't linger long. They left without damaging any flowers.
A man came in wearing a shirt with lots to say and sat alone in the very last open table. I guessed he would eat and go. There were a couple of interesting shirts in the place. "Dirty White Guy" was written on another shirt. Hmmm.
Sit and Linger
This is a photo I took when we were getting ready to leave. It was pretty crowded by then.
The cafe seemed to be quite the hang out for men. The conversations were not confined to tables. Lots of chatter between. I had the feeling many of these folks came daily and probably lingered quite a while.
Don ordered the Early Bird Special (from 6-9) for $4.79.
I was wise and had a breakfast sandwich. Just the right amount for me.
I was there for the atmosphere more, than the food. But the food was pretty decent, especially for the price!
Don and I didn't try to blend in with the locals. We clearly were travelers taking up valuable space. But then suddenly Don asked me a question and that got us some attention.
"Where do you think we pay, Beth?" Before I could answer Don, a number of nearby diners chimed in. Suddenly everyone wanted to show us where to pay and then the chatter began. I made some comment about how well Kim handled handled this crowd and a few of them made some teasing comments that I won't repeat. Another 2 men came in looking for a seat and I offered up our table. They were more than pleased.
The men happily slid into our booth while Don got up to pay Kim in the back. The men chit chatted while I waited for Don. I told them I just had to get a photo of the screened door just steps from their booth.
Ralph (not wearing a hat) thought that was pretty funny that I was taking a photo of the door. He offered to take a photo of Don and me. I said I'd rather have a photo of them. Click! They laughed, as the photo shows.
Posing at College Street Cafe
Don returned after paying Kim and Ralph jumped up to decide where to take our picture. I'm pretty sure every person in the cafe was taking note.
We decided to pose outside, so one guy from the kitchen rushed over to grab one of the hanging baskets from the floor. He made sure the flowers were hanging from the awning, just in time for our photo.
What a fun little ending to our sweet little breakfast!
Father's Day Breakfast
So many of Don's 35 Father's Day celebrations, have been spent on the road.
This year, we woke up on Sunday morning in a small Arkansas town. Our grown kids were far away and there wasn't much happening in Mena, but we found a mighty fine diner to start the day.
We spotted The Skyline Diner, the day before.
It was a warm afternoon in June, when we arrived in Mena. We had a fun time wandering to town from our Airbnb. I've never seen such a quiet downtown, on a Saturday evening.
By dinnertime, we spotted the little cafe with a Closed sign on the door. It looked like our favorite kind of diner, with a red bench in front and a newspaper vending machine.
Skyline had closed at 2 that day, but if we'd been able to hold off for 11 hours, we could have enjoyed some eggs and coffee, when they opened in the morning!
We didn't arrive when the doors opened at 5:30 a.m.
But, we were there about 3 hours later. The sign said Open and there was no line out the door.
Dad Day Busy
Who knows if that morning was a typical Sunday at Skyline, but it was full. At 8:30 a.m., we could have been looking at the usual pre-church crowd. Or maybe all the dads in Mena chose Skyline breakfast over church, on Father's Day.
We were happy to wait for a table and enjoy some people watching.
While I studied the dining room, I sensed that we were the only non-locals in the restaurant.
Then, I studied the map by the cash register and realized travelers have come to Skyline, from places a lot further away than Texas! We didn't bother to add a pin.
There were so many old photographs in the cafe. I wanted to study them all. But that would have been awkward, leaning over folks, as they tried to eat their biscuits or omelets.
One table cleared and I dashed over to get a look at this old photo of Mena Street, from about 90 years ago. A man at a nearby table chuckled to see me take this photo.
Mena Street Today
I could spot the cafe and Mercantile, in the vintage photo. Mena Street looked similar in 2021, except fewer cars. In fact we saw no cars at all, on Saturday night.
I wish I'd spotted a photo of the cafe from 2009, when a tornado came through and destroyed much of the town. I didn't see a photo, but I saw a framed news clipping, telling how the town pulled together to rebuild the cafe.
Don and I were finally seated. I took a look at the menu cover, before checking out the food options. You know you're in a small town cafe, when you have to pay cash.
I wondered how many photos they went through, before they decided this one should be featured on their menu.
No Church Clothes
The diners in the cafe didn't seem to be dressed in church clothes or motorcycle clothes. It was a casual crowd that kept the 3 servers very busy. Too busy for my small talk or silly questions.
What would I have asked a server or diner, if I'd had the nerve to interrupt? Maybe I would have asked, "How many times would you guess that you've eaten in this cafe?" If I'd added up the answers, I'm guessing it would be 1,000.
I read this little sign, back near the kitchen.
I'm guessing this was a little joke. But who knows. It's hard to tell.
This Old Dad had one of his favorite breakfasts.
He had an omelet and taters and a big slice of ham. No it was not the best breakfast in all the world, but he was quite satisfied.
I don't love grits or gravy, but I always feel like I have to order them when I'm in a small town cafe at breakfast. Again, it wasn't the best breakfast ever, but I appreciated the simplicity of my plate. Look at that nice little oval plate with all those round things.
Our check arrived and I had to smile. Two breakfasts for less than $10!
Well, we didn't get coffee for 75 cents like the sign said. Oh well.
We were headed towards the door by 9:30. Would this go down as a memorable Father's Day breakfast adventure? Would I remember this place at all in 10 years?
I guess I can't call it an adventure when we didn't have a good chat with a stranger. We didn't try any daring foods. We didn't see any outlandish decor or happenings. But we had a meal at a cafe that survived the Great Depression. It narrowly survived a tornado. The cafe also survived the pandemic. So for that I offer, "3 Cheers for Skyline Cafe!"
Serving Chili, since 1909
I've been visiting relatives in Springfield, since I was a baby, but I've never heard anyone mention Casper's.
After reading about the curious quonset hut diner in an article, I knew we'd have to check it out on our next visit.
In June, Don and I headed from Texas to Missouri, to visit my dad. We made it to Springfield by noon and Dad said he was game for a Casper's Adventure.
We 3 were vaccinated, but I still called ahead to see if Casper's was crowded. Marcie answered and encouraged us to come. The lunch crowd had passed.
We stepped inside and all 3 grinned. The atmosphere was as entertaining as I'd hoped.
The blue, orange and red colored surfaces, were covered with aged posters, framed photos and art.
There were endless treasures, displayed on shelves. I spotted a hanging moon mobile and exotic masks on the wall, near the kitchen.
Where to Sit?
A couple of dangling marionettes, hung near the only guest, dining at the counter. He must have been a regular, since he was studying his phone instead of the whimsical decor.
There were enough colorful stools and booths to seat about 30. I told Dad to decide where we should sit.
He turned down the lollipop stools and chose a table with a view of the brick building next door.
I read somewhere that when Casper's gets overly crowded, some locals will welcome others to join them at their table.
Table sharing can make for a unique dining experience for sure. But I was glad to have the diner mostly to ourselves. We're still navigating this pandemic world.
Marcie & Menus
Marcie greeted us and placed paper menus on the table. She was one of those rare people who communicates well, (with voice and expression) while wearing a mask. Her cheery disposition, did not match the bold reminder, "Eat, Pay, Tip, Get Out"
I opened the menu to lots of options. We could buy chili by the cup or gallon. We could have chili on hotdogs, hamburgers, spaghetti or Fritos. The back page shared a little history. Oh, how I appreciate a little shared history!
Some photos on the wall, shared glimpses of Casper's past. It was a man named Casper, who began the business as a fruit seller, in 1909. His biz evolved into a restaurant, which he later moved to a quonset hut on Glenstone Avenue, in 1948. He's shown in the first pic, folding his arms.
Not sure if that's Casper in the second photo, with a beard and folded arms. It could be Casper's son, who took over in 1966. Casper died in 1985, the same year Casper's moved to this location.
The place was so comfortably small, that Marcie didn't really need to come to our table to take our order. She could keep up a converstaion with us, from behind the counter or near the kitchen.
But she came over with her pad anyway. She was excited to give us all sorts of suggestions. At one point her phone rang and she politely asked if she could answer. (She needed to chat with her daughter, because they were selling her mom's house) Marcie was so comfortable talking to us, along with her daughter, I half expected her to hand over the phone so we could say hello.
Crackers, Beer and Chili
When Dad said he wanted a beer, Marcie hollered back to the kitchen, "We'll need a Miller High Life here!" She alerted the guy in the kitchen as if he were a bar tender, ready to make an exotic drink. A minute later, she brought the beer to dad in an icy can.
Dad and I ordered chili. Right away, Marcie brought us saltines, in what appeared to be a frisbee. That amused me. Then when the chili arrive, I laughed.
I had read about Casper's chili, so I knew it would come on a saucer, to catch the extra spoonful... that spills over the edge. But it was funny to see the messy dish.
The chili was made from a secret recipe, from 1909. It was tasty and a cup was more than enough. Marcie talked Don into the double burger. It was smashed and grilled, on the same grill that was used in their original location.
I love an entertaining restroom, but I've been sort of avoiding them during the pandemic. Marcie told me I should NOT miss a visit, so she opened the door so I could have a peek.
Marcie seemed pretty delighted that I showed proper enthusiasm. Shelves of coconut heads. What's not to like?
A Few More Guests
While we dined, a few more guests entered and ate at the counter. Marcie seemed to make it her job to connect us all. She told one man how good the burgers were and pointed to Don, so he could throw in his review of his burger.
She laughed with us that she'd had us figured out as Subaru drivers, when we walked in the place. Not exactly sure what that means, but she seemed pretty pleased with herself after she peeked out the window and saw a Subaru with Texas plates. She knew she was right. Then as Marcie checked us out, she paid a more obvious compliment, when she raved about Don's space-themed shirt. We liked Marcie a lot.
Fun and Tasty Visit
I had expected an intimidating visit with no nonsense service. I thought we might feel out of place.
Our visit turned out to be better than I expected. The building itself was pretty darn memorable. The food was pretty good too.
Most of all, I think I'll remember Marcie's good humor and energy. I was particularly delighted to be called Pumpkin a couple times. I'm not sure when I was last called Pumpkin. Marcie was so comfortable in her usage, that I thought I must have heard wrong. The second time I laughed. "Did you call me Pumpkin?" She said "Yep." or some quick answer.
What a fun place!
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.