The Lincoln Highway - November 2013
Recently my husband and I drove the nearly 300-mile stretch of the Lincoln Highway, known as the Loneliest Road in America. There aren't many dining options on the loneliest road...but I guess that made it a dining adventure.
Stop 1 - International Café and Bar in Austin, Nevada
Being big fans the Austin in Texas, we liked the name of this tiny town that suddenly appeared. We also liked the idea of a 140 year old (once) hotel, out in the middle of nowhere, serving international food. There was a lot of stuff attracting our attention as we pulled up. I particularly liked the welcoming sign announcing Ice and Free Restrooms and a very intriguing sign on the side saying, Serbian Christmas Jan. 7!
The sign said OPEN, but it was awfully empty when we entered the diner portion of the building. The portrait of W.C. Fields glaring down over the counter seemed to match the look of 60ish woman who entered from the kitchen in a Hawaiian shirt and ponytail. "Hi, do we just sit anywhere?" I asked apologetically, feeling as if we'd rudely interrupted her quiet. She nodded and left the room.
There were many tables to choose from. Most were round with Lazy Susans in the center. My photo looks like some kind of comfy pancake house with all the light wood, but there was really nothing cozy about the place. We sat and waited and I was scared to look at Don or I might burst out laughing. We know each other's thoughts too well.
Another woman entered. Her moccasins actually stomped the floor as she headed to our table. She hadn't bothered to pull her pink shirt down over her stomach, or to hide her bra or the tattoos on her bosom. However, our 40ish, frowning server may have been covering something on her neck, since the white hand towel was meticulously wrapped (not slung) around her neck. She slapped 2 sticky menus on the table and I almost jumped. She said nothing, so I greeted first. "Hi, how are you doing?" She answered with. "Do you want something to drink?" She left to get our coffee and Don and I shared nervous grins before searching the menu. There was nothing at all international on the menu! But the menu did mention something about the friendly staff at International Café. Hmm?
Ordering and Eating
When she came with the coffee, Don and I knew better than to stall with ordering. I did make the mistake of changing my order from fried egg to scrambled after she had gone to the trouble of writing it on her pad. She said nothing, but I felt a flood of childlike guilt when she shifted her weight and sighed and closed her eyes very slowly. After a short wait, our plates arrived without a word. The food was steaming hot, but I had no appetite. Don's biscuits and gravy tasted a bit spongy and my hash browns were greasy, I think...but maybe they were good. I'll never know. Our silent pink waitress had me so intimidated I couldn't taste my food.
After a while I went in search of the free restroom and discovered the old bar. The morning sun lit up the ornate wood columns and mirror, as well as lots of clutter including a wheelbarrow filled with logs...? Maybe this bar is the reason Pinky and her possible mother were so grumpy. Maybe they had worked into the wee hours and it was all they could do to serve 2 travelers on a Friday morning.
I had so many questions I wanted to ask Pinky, but before we headed to pay at the counter a middle aged couple entered with cheery smiles. I was amused to see they were treated no differently.
I exchanged a few pleasant words with them to practice my social skills before attempting a conversation with Pinky. I was just so curious about the kind of reaction I might get if I asked her about the cafe's history. Or maybe I could be a little braver and find out if she grew up in Austin. Or I could just go all out and torture myself by asking her to pose for a blog photo. But more customers arrived and she was not approachable. I left disappointed that I hadn't had my chat. So disappointed that I actually called a day later. "Do you all serve International food?" I asked innocently. The confused woman's voice answered. "No?" As if no one had ever asked. With a few more questions she did explain that her husband was Serbian and they serve Serbian food for a Christmas celebration once a year. I doubt we'll ever return for the Serbian Christmas, but I bet the ladies in their bright shirts might be a little more lively during the evening.
Stop 2- Ely's Hotel Nevada Café!
A few hours later at the end of the lonely stretch, we stopped for lunch in Ely. I was pretty excited to be in Ely, because Ely happens to my middle name...an old family name. And I was quite thrilled to dine at the Hotel Nevada. This 84 year old casino may not be the oldest building in Nevada, but it was once the tallest! AND, it has a very cool neon sign with the macho miner.
Not only did the neon miner welcome us in, but the donkey mural was very encouraging with the words, Western Hospitality. That's something we were craving by lunchtime!
As soon as we entered there were things to see...starting with the floor!
I'm not a big fan of casinos usually, but give me one with neon, buffalo heads and a cowboy and I'm impressed!
Animals and Ranch Stuff
Every nook and cranny was crammed with blinking casino lights or stuffed critters or ranching gear! I love the wall behind this wild cat. In the 1960's, ranchers from the area brought their branding gear right into the casino and branded their mark right onto the wood wall.
I was kind of disappointed that the dining room had been updated with a somewhat corny race car and motorcycle theme. But at least our server arrived with a smile and she took our order and answered an important question of mine. Yes, the locals of Ely pronounce the name as if you're describing something "eel-like". I hated the teasing I got as a child, but defended the name in recent years when people argued about the pronunciation.
It's fun to eat when you're hungry and I was starved since I hardly ate my breakfast. My simple BLT came with a pickle and super-crunchy AND creamy coleslaw which was delicious! Don had a bowl of cream of broccoli soup. (I liked my pick better) We even got a free bumper sticker which did not ride home on our bumper. But the food and atmosphere hit the spot. Clean, fast, yummy and our bill came to less than $10.00!
Yea for Dining Adventures along Nevada's Highway 50!
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.