My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review

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Junior Burger
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2009/12/30 01:22:25 (permalink)

My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review

Hallelujah, I think I've got it! After trying off and on for the past few months to figure out how to upload photos, resize photos, coordinate photos and get photos to appear on here, I think I've finally done it... just in time for the year to end. With that in mind, I'm hoping to dedicate the next few days to presenting my Roadfood 2009 Year in Review (AKA, all the stuff I've wanted to post since stumbling upon this site in May and finally figured out how).
The year started with a few days' vacation in San Antonio, where readers on Virtual Tourist suggested I check out Chris Madrid's (1900 Blanco Rd.). I didn't have a vehicle during my time in the city, so I paid a hefty sum for a cab ride to this place and back.

The building wasn't much to look at on the outside, but boy, did it have some character on the inside! Unfortunately, I neglected to take photos inside...

...but I did snap a shot of the most important part! The burger is the house specialty Tostada Burger--refried beans, tortilla chips, and more cheddar cheese than I normally eat in a month, all smashed down on a "macho"-sized burger. It's tough to tell in this photo because the portion of fries was equally huge, but that burger is actually about the size of my head! It definitely was an "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" moment, but the line of people--mostly locals--waiting to order at this place shored up my confidence that this was a "must eat" experience as soon as I walked in the door. I directed some friends of mine here during their vacation in Texas later in the year, and they came back proudly brandishing "I Ate the Macho" T-shirts and a bumper sticker touting the same message.
Now, when it comes to vacations, I'm a go-get-'em type of guy. I figure I can sit around all day and watch TV or read at home; if I'm paying good money to be on vacation, I'm out seeing the sights and experiencing things I may never get a chance to do again. On this day, however, I pushed the limits even by my standards, so when supper time came, I was happy to rest for awhile at the much-touted first restaurant on San Antonio's famed Riverwalk, Casa Rio (430 E. Commerce St.).


The restaurant's multi-colored umbrellas are such a Riverwalk landmark that gift shops all around the area sell postcards with scenes similar to this one.

The many stringed lights presented a nice view on one side of my table.

But it would have been hard pressed to compare with the view on the other:

Yep, nothing like sitting on the riverfront with a nice frozen margarita to melt all your troubles away!

Unfortunately, when the food came, it tasted nearly exactly like the stuff I can get from any number of generic Mexican restaurants back home. Not that it was bad, just... this was San Antonio, dang it! I expected something better.

And then this little fellow came along. Apparently the ducks enjoy pecking the restaurant's customers' legs in anticipation of a few stray tortilla chips. This one was relentless! I managed to hold him off with about a dozen chips while the waiting for the waitress to collect my bill; I half expected him to follow me back to my hotel.

One thing I'm sorry I missed out on is, the next night while walking the Riverwalk (the restaurant was very close to my hotel), I discovered they had a mariachi band later in the evening.

Oh well. I vowed to continue my quest for outstanding Mexican food the next day at a restaurant a friend of mine recommended (it also got high marks on Virtual Tourist): Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia in Market Square (218 Produce Row).

Subtle is one thing this place is not!

The holidays having just ended, I even got to see some Christmas kitsch.

Things didn't get a whole lot "quieter," visually, inside the restaurant's bakery/lobby, either!

All tinsel aside, everything in these cases looked amazing! I can't vouch for a lot of it, but I had them wrap me up a piece of bread pudding for after my meal (long after, as it turned out), and it was tremendous!

After being seated, I studied the menu and decided on the $6.55 lunch special. Since I hadn't eaten in nearly 20 hours by this point, I was pretty hungry, and I decided that anything that cheap couldn't possibly be filling enough. The friend who recommended this place raved about the nachos, so I order up a plateful as an appetizer. Little did I know they could have been a meal on their own.

And then the lunch special came out! I don't remember what this was called, but I forced myself to finish both corn cakes and the meat filling in between, and left the rest behind. I felt overfull for a good hour after my experience at Mi Tierra, but it remains by a wide margin the best Mexican food I've had in my life thus far.

My travels later that afternoon took me to the Buckhorn Saloon (318 E. Houston St.), purportedly the oldest continuiously operating bar in the United States or something like that, though given its obvious positioning as a tourist trap, I tend to doubt it.

I went in for the several museums housed behind the bar and in the building's upper floors (also tourist traps), so I can't testify as to how good or bad the food is here, but for anyone interested in checking it out, this was the dining area.
I opted for a "chain" meal that night (hey, don't judge me--Pat O'Brien's hurricanes are hard to resist), so my final "roadfood" meal in Texas was the next day at lunch when I sampled another Riverwalk restaurant, The County Line (111 E. Crockett St.). At least I thought it was roadfood at the time.

In looking up the address for this trip report, I've only now discovered that it's part of a regional chain of nine restaurants. But maybe becuase of the "regional" part, it still counts?

Like Casa Rio, seating was right on the water. There were a number of airmen from nearby Lackland Air Force Base seated near my table.

Unfortunately, the sampler combo didn't really live up to my expectations of what Texas barbecue should taste like. The sauce was so strong and ladled on so heavily that the meat may as well have not even been there. I even tried scraping some of it off, to no avail.

Fortunately, there was some salvation. The apple cobbler, while very obviously pre-packaged, was topped with Bluebell ice cream, which I had hoped to try while I was in the Lone Star State anyway. I'm happy to report that the ice cream was very, very good, and even the cobbler was... adequate.

Moving on to February, my girlfriend (now fiancee), sister and I decided to take a day trip to Washington, D.C., to check out the newly remodeled Smithsonian Museum of American History. While there, I insisted we check out the famous Ben's Chili Bowl.

What a disaster! This was the "line." The philosophy seemed to be that whoever was "next" was whoever staff at the counter decided was next. We were lucky to get a table, but it didn't have enough chairs, so we had to wait for another group to leave and steal one of theirs. Then two-thirds of our food came out (we each ordered separately) and was half-eaten before we were able to track down someone who cared enough to figure out what happened to the rest of it (it was given to someone who placed a "to go" order instead, and our order had to be placed again). Based on all the good reviews I'd read about this place, I figured maybe they were just having an "off day," so I tried again when I re-visited D.C. on my own in July. Believe it or not, it was even worse then!

It's too small to see here, but there's a sign in the background that says, "Who eats free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. The Obama Family (but he paid!)."

The cheese fries were good, and the chili half-smoke was to die for (they were out of sweet potato cake on both occasions I dined here, unfortunately), but based on my experiences with the service, I won't be going back for more.
In March, my dad and I both had furlough days from work at the same time, so we decided to venture down to Atlanta to visit the World of Coca-Cola. While there, of course we had to dine at the world-famous Varsity Drive-In.


We'd both heard a lot of good things about this place, including its reputation for extremely fast service. The crowds were farily light on the Friday afternoon we ventured inside, so we figured we were in luck. Boy, were we wrong!

There were only two people in line in front of us, but the cashier took so long to take their orders (and ours) that we had plenty of time to check out the menu. From the initial "What'll ya have, what'll ya have" (spoken with all the enthusiasm of... well, imagine if Eeyore worked at The Varsity, and you'd get the picture) to the time we finally got our food took a solid 15 minutes. Not bad for a place whose average time for filling an order is supposedly along the lines of 45 seconds!

We both got the No. 2 combo: chili dog and chili cheeseburger with onion rings. The food was good, and my dad, who worked at an onion ring factory briefly in the '70s, said the onion rings tasted just like the ones he used to get fresh off the line. However, neither of us could figure out the fascination everyone seems to have with the Frozen Orange. To me, it tasted like a Slushpuppy once most of the syrup is gone. I don't think I can repeat the language here that my dad used to describe it.

However, we both agreed that the fried pies were a hit. I tried the apple, and he got peach.
After taking advantage of the hotel's free continental breakfast the next day, we opted to skip lunch and ended up just having dinner at the Johnny Rocket's near our hotel (we stayed in what turned out to be a less-than-desirable section of the city and didn't want to be out after dark). However, during our travels, we discovered at least two places that I would have liked to have tried (and based on reviews I read later, wish I hadn't passed up):

Ria's Bluebird Diner...

...and Daddy D'z Bar-B-Que, where we came thisclose to actually stopping, except at the time we passed this joint, we were more worried about finding a cab or train that would get us back to our hotel than sampling barbecue. Let me just say that the scent emanating from this building was Heavenly!
That wraps up the first quarter of 2009. Stay tuned for the rest!

34 Replies Related Threads

    • Total Posts : 5092
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 07:37:41 (permalink)
    a71678, Nice report and pics. 
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 07:45:49 (permalink)
    Great first post! Looking forward to more.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 08:01:10 (permalink)

    Welcome to Roadfood, a71678.  Thank you for the pictures.  I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us.
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 08:34:06 (permalink)
    Really nice first post...heading to Varsity today before we head to the airport!
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 09:23:58 (permalink)
    Excellent, can't wait for the rest! Love the Eyeore reference LOL.
    Fire Safety Admin
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 09:50:49 (permalink)
    Welcome to Roadfood!  Sorry to hear your experiences at Ben's Chili Bowl and the Varsity weren't better.  I am enjoying the really nice photos and looking forward to reading more.
    Oh, and congratulations on your engagement! 
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 10:53:47 (permalink)
    Good pix and commentary!  I can't wait to see more.
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 11:51:55 (permalink)
    What a beginning!

    Looking forward to reading and seeing more of your eating adventures.
    Junior Burger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 16:48:12 (permalink)
    Wow, thanks for all the positive feedback! It occurs to me that I left the addresses off the last few places I mentioned, so here they are:
    Ben's Chili Bowl
    1213 U St. NW
    Washington, DC
    The Varsity
    61 North Ave. NW
    Atlanta, GA
    Ria's Bluebird Diner
    421 Memorial Dr. SE
    Atlanta, GA
    Daddy D'Z BBQ Joynt
    264 Memorial Dr.
    Atlanta, GA
    Moving forward, in April my girlfriend and I set out on a pilgrimage to take her 4-year-old daughter to a recreated amusement park from our own youth, the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City, MD, and of course we just had to hit some roadfood stops along the way.

    We started with an old favorite of mine, Ann's Dari-Creme (7918 Ritchie Hwy., Glen Burnie, MD). The story behind Ann's is pretty cool. It opened in the early '50s. In the mid-'80s, there was some to-do about the possible destruction of the business to make way for the new Marley Station Mall. Ann's wouldn't sell, and today it more or less sits in the mall's parking lot! We got lucky in that the weather was pretty nasty the day we went, so it seemed like fewer people were out; I've been going to Ann's since 1997 (when I lived in the area for college), and this was the first time I'd seen it without lines up to or outside the door.

    This fiberglass statue was a new addition since my last visit. I'm not sure whether to commend the craftsmanship or to be very, very afraid!

    Inside, there are about a dozen stools at the counter, but everyone knows you don't eat in at Ann's! Like Ben's Chili Bowl, this is another place where the "line" is more like a "crowd." Unlike Ben's, however, the staff has total control. They always know exactly in what order people enter, and they don't bother writing down a single order; they don't have that kind of time! Every order I've ever placed has been perfect. As you can see, the menu is limited. According to one of the many news clippings hanging on the wall, the only change in the offerings from opening day has been the addition of turkey sandwiches to satisfy the yuppies that the new mall brought to the area. Most of the staff has been working here for years, and it shows.

    It's difficult to take a picture of a footlong chili dog in your lap, balancing fries in one hand and a camera in the other, but this is my best attempt! It's the best footlong chili dog I've ever tried, hands down, and I highly, highly recommend the cherry milkshake, which has long been my beverage of choice here.

    Unfortunately, the bad weather that kept the crowds away from Ann's also kept the park we were hoping to visit closed, at least during the early afternoon. Seeking things to do to keep us occupied and keeping in the spirit of our trip, I suggested we check out the Forest Diner (10031 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD).

    Opened in 1946 as Gearhart's Diner, the restaurant changed ownership in 1957 and was renamed Forest Diner to cash in on the popularity of this place across the street, The Enchanted Forest. When The Enchanted Forest was established in 1955, it was touted as the world's second theme park, opening just weeks after Disneyland. NBC's Today Show even came down to cover the opening day festivities. It lasted until 1987 and played a huge part in the lives of many kids (including myself) growing up in Maryland during its era. In the mid-'90s, a shopping center was built over part of the park, and following a fire that destroyed even more of the once-popular playland, its remains were left to rot. That is, until a few years ago when a preservation group rescued what was left of the park and recreated much of it on a farm about 10 miles down the road, which was our ultimate destination that day. The shopping center kept the park's original sign and entryway, seen here, to help draw traffic, but to be honest, they've let it deteriorate so much that it seems like a good, strong gust of wind could pretty much finish it off.

    Inside, the diner has retained much of its original '40s splendor... with a little commercialized '50s kitsch for good measure. If you want to try this place, however, you'd better get here quick. It was sold earlier this year for development of a commercial office complex. As part of the sales agreement, the current owner has a lease to continue running the restaurant until 2014, then it's good-bye diner, hello wrecking ball.

    Girlfriend got the peach pie, while I tried the blueberry. They didn't exactly seem homemade, but they were still good.

    Meanwhile, this is the face of a little girl so sad at the prospect of not being able to see the new Enchanted Forest due to weather that even a dish of chocolate ice cream couldn't cheer her up. Fortunately, after our trip to the diner and a brief visit to a nearby mall, where she got to ride a carousel and pick out a birthday present for her great-grandfather, the skies cleared and the park opened for about 90 minutes--just long enough to check everything out and buy some new coloring books in the gift shop.

    In March, girlfriend's daughter (now my stepdaughter-to-be) turned 5, and her best friend (and conveniently enough, the daughter of girlfriend's best friend) came down for a weekend to celebrate. We took them to Ocean City, MD, which is about a half hour away from our home, to spend some time at the beach, ride some rides and dine at this establishment, Layton's Dip 'n' Donuts (1601 Philadelphia Ave.).

    Layton's is another holdover from the '50s. My mom remembers going there in the '60s, and while I was in college in the '90s, this was always my weekend late-night hangout in the summertime.

    Time for doughnuts!

    When I used to frequent Layton's, it was kind of a dive (in a good way) with mounted fish on the walls and a sea captain mannequin with a sign explaining how a sea captain just like him in all likelihood invented the doughnut to keep his fried cakes secured on his ship's wheel for easy access. Today, Layton's has more of a family-friendly vibe, with this pirate having taken the place of the sea captain, a giant aquarium full of tropical fish (as well as those still mounted on the wall) and a breakfast buffet room complete with a really detailed wrap-around train garden (which is only open in the morning, hence no photos).

    I always, always, always get the creamed chipped beef here. I asked the waitress once about 10 years ago what they put in it to make it so good. She shrugged and said she didn't know; they just dumped it on to the biscuits from a Sysco can and warmed it up. Oh well, it's still tasty. The homefries are very good, as well, and Kelly said her sweet potato pancakes with honey butter (no photo, unfortunately) were more or less the best food she's ever had.

    But, you know, the restaurant doesn't have "donuts" in its name for nothing.... My favorite used to be the raspberry swirl, but they didn't have them that day, so I settled for the next best thing.

    This was huge (note the quarter for comparison) and oh so good! I took half of it home and had it for breakfast the next day. Kelly tried a regular-sized chocolate-peanut butter doughnut, which you can see in the upper right-hand corner of the doughnut case photo, and said it was also good. The girls got regular powdered sugar, the remnants of which they wore for the rest of the night.
    In June, with girlfriend's daughter visiting her father in Indiana for an extended period, girlfriend and I embarked on our first vacation together, a tour of amusement parks, museums and roadfood from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest and back. It was in doing research for this trip that I discovered Roadfood--though our dining plans were pretty well set by the time I ran across it.

    Our first stop, on the way to drop off stepdaughter-to-be, was Olivia's Restaurant, a converted gas station we found via a road sign in West Virginia (239 County Hwy. 11, Bruceton Mills, WV).

    It may have still had '70s-era gas pumps standing sentinel on the outside and weeds growing in the parking lot...

    ...but that was no reflection of the interior. Talk about a pleasant surprise!

    My meatball sub was very good, and girlfriend gave her chicken breast sandwich two thumbs up. I was told by stepdaughter-to-be that the chicken strips were "schmangy"--which, for the uninitiated, means "good"--but then, they always are. The best part was, lunch for the three of us came in under $20. That's something that doesn't always happen outside of McDonald's.

    Many hours later, we reached our hotel in Louisville, KY, which was to be the drop-off point for stepdaughter-to-be. For those who have heard of the Galt House Hotel, you'll know what a treat that was. This is the official hotel of the Kentucky Derby, and every square inch of it is gilded in class. An even bigger treat, however, was that thanks to Priceline, we got our room at this luxurious four-star hotel for less than the average stay at Motel 6! We had been on the road for 13 hours at this point, so all we really wanted to do was find someplace to eat and crash in our room. Though girlfriend used to work in this area, she wasn't sure what was available within walking distance of the hotel (the last thing we wanted to do was get back in the car), so we asked the concierge, who made us reservations at the nearby Bristol Bar and Grille (300 N. Hurstbourne Pkwy.).

    From the day after my vacation in San Antonio to the night we left for this trip, I had been on a fairly strict diet, the few exceptions coming mainly for the restaurants I've mentioned so far in this report. During those four months, I lost nearly 30 pounds for the summer vacation season. Now that it was here, it was time to celebrate with a nice, juicy steak! The meat itself was pretty good; the flavored butter that came with it was outstanding! Girlfriend got a salad (which had been my dining-out diet staple since February--my, how the tables turned!) and said it was very good, as well.

    My stomach not used to big meals again yet, I was pretty full between the steak and the sub from earlier. However, Kelly insisted that I had to try derby pie. I'm glad she did! This warm chocolate-nut mixture was amazing and well worth the extra stomach space.

    The next day, we killed some time before our scheduled tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory by visiting this tourism center-cum-shrine to roadfood (and later fast food) legend Harland Sanders.

    Lunch that day was with some of girlfriend's old friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory, a chain I had never heard of before, but which turned out to be quite good. Our plans were to visit Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom that afternoon, then return to downtown Louisville for dinner. One of her friends recommended a good place near our hotel for a hot brown. However, upon driving back from Kentucky Kingdom, we spied a billboard for this place, which I insisted we had to try. Thank goodness for GPS!

    The Dizzy Whizz Drive-In (217 W. St. Catherine St.) apparently is somewhat of a Louisville legend, serving the area since 1947, though girlfriend said she had never heard of it during her time spent working in the city. I've been to drive-ins before, but none this small-town authentic (not that Louisville is a small town--that's just the vibe this place gave off).

    The carhop was extremely friendly and, upon seeing our Delaware license plate, was very curious to know how we discovered the Dizzy Whizz and what we had seen and done so far in Louisville. If this place ever goes under, she could find a good second career as a tour guide.

    Our Whizzburgers were out of this world! This was one of the best--and by far the cheapest--meals we had the entire trip. We each got a burger, fries, coleslaw, soda and "Chocolate Delight" ice cream sundae for under $5 apiece.

    The next day began with the breakfast of champions... leftover Six Flags funnel cake!

    Our main destination that day was Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, IN. First, however, we stopped off just down the road at Santa's Candy Castle (15499 N. State Road 245). This place is the only building left over from a tourist attraction, Santa Claus Town, established in late 1935. Its founder had the idea of a "Christmas village," where children could come tour various buildings sponsored by toy companies, who would promote their wares with samples at the buildings and then encourage parents to shop for their products via catalog. Apparently the idea worked well for a few years... then fell apart during World War II as gas rationing cut tourism and toy companies, unable to get enough materials to fill orders, ended their sponsorships. The concept limped along as a place where children could meet Santa year-round until the early 1970s, when the property was sold and most of the buildings were bulldozed or fell down on their own.

    The Curtiss Candy Co., then popular as the manufacturer of Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars, originally sponsored the Candy Castle. In 2006, after more than three decades of falling into disrepair, the castle re-opened as a fully restored, privately owned confectionary and ice cream shop.

    In 1929, Robert Ripley featured the Santa Claus, IN, post office in his syndicated "Believe It or Not" cartoon, prompting over a million children to send their letters to Santa there each year. Santa's Candy Castle includes a display from those halcyon days.

    Unfortunately, you can no longer send letters to Santa from the castle...

    ...but that's OK, because he's standing right there, watching you eat your chocolates and ice cream!

    Following a thoroughly enjoyable day at Holiday World (even in the rain), we stopped by a brochure rack on the way out of the park and discovered one for the Schnitzelbank (393 Third Ave., Jasper, IN). Again, thank goodness for GPS!


    Founded in 1961, the restaurant apparently is as famous for its Glockenspiel as it is for its food.

    Well, the inside looks pretty authentic... but what about the food?

    We added the restaurant's all-you-can-eat "wunderbar" salad bar to our meals. This was my second plate, and everything on it was delicious!

    But then the main courses came out! I got the sampler, which included two wursts, wienerschnitzel, German potato salad and sauerkraut...

    ...while girlfriend tried the smoked pork chops, which tasted almost like ham. We both agreed it was the best German food we'd ever tasted.

    The next day took us into Chicago, where, following stops earlier in the day at Waffle House and White Castle--two chains I particularly enjoy, but which exist nowhere near where we live--we made our way to the famous Lou Malnati's Pizzeria.

    The authentic sporting memorabilia on the walls was pretty extensive. These flags originally flew over either Wrigley Field or Comiskey Park; I can't remember which.

    I probably watched him rip this shirt on TV at some point when I was a kid....

    I'll be honest: Our drive wasn't the best (we got to Chicago just in time for rush hour, then had a godawful time finding our hotel), it poured down rain all day, the walk from the hotel to the restaurant absolutely drenched us, regardless of umbrellas, and we had to wait a really, really long time for a table, so I wasn't really in the mood to enjoy this experience regardless of how good or bad the food was. Having said that, I found the pizza to be just OK, and it gave me some pretty bad heartburn later that evening.

    The next day, to accommodate our schedule, we had a bland lunch at the cafeteria in the Museum of Science and Industry. The rain negated our planned visit to Navy Pier the evening before, so we had to squeeze it in on this day and then head on, a couple hours later than origtinally scheduled, to Six Flags America. I would have liked to have stopped at Wolfy's (2734 W. Peterson Ave.) for a snack, but time didn't allow.

    We got to spend three hours at Six Flags, just enough time to get in everything we wanted to do there. The original plan had been to stop for a late lunch at Superdawg Drive-In (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on our way to Six Flags and grab dinner between roller coasters at the park, but the Navy Pier addition didn't allow for that, so instead we stopped at Superdawg for a late dinner on the way back.

    We spotted Maurie and Flaurie from a mile away!

    They were everywhere around here!

    We were really hungry by the time we reached the drive-in. We weren't really sure if we needed to press the "order" button or if they had carhops on duty. After a few minutes we saw someone else press their button, so we followed suit.

    It didn't take long for us to decide what we wanted, having studied the online menu for some time before. Girlfriend spent most of the time we waited (which wasn't long) making fun of the "ketchup is an abomination" speech the owners give in the "FAQ" section of the Superdawg website.

    I opted for the original Superdawg, which was freaking amazing!

    This should be every restaurant's creed!

    I promise there's a hot dog under there somewhere!

    Girlfriend got the Whoopskidawg. She assures me it was good.

    I think this was about the only thing she got the entire trip that I didn't at least get a bite of (she did give me most of her fries, though).

    Since I'm not sure I'll get back to Chicago to try Superdawg again, I also decided to try the tamale, which was very good if a bit mushy.

    We rounded out our stay in Chicago with lunch the next day from Leon's Bar-B-Q (8249 S. Cottage Grove Ave.).

    I hesitated to even take photos here because it didn't seem like the kind of neighborhood where you wanted to advertise you had a camera... or even shoes, for that matter.

    This was the menu at Leon's. You ordered from behind the bullet-proof glass window, put your money in a bullet-proof glass-covered Lazy Susan and got your change with your food on that same device.

    While girlfriend waited for the food (she grew up in a bad neighborhood, so she swore she could take care of herself had something happened), I went next door to Dat Donuts to pick up dessert--and increase the rapidity with which we could flee this area. In the 10 minutes it took us to order and pick up barbecue and doughnuts, we were solicited no fewer than three times inside the restaurant.

    We quickly made our escape, not stopping to sample our food until we reached a highway rest stop about 20 minutes away. I got ribs and fries...

    ...while girlfriend got wings and rib tips. The sauce was pretty good... but definitely not worth going back again unarmed! (I may be wrong and it may be a perfectly safe neighborhood, but that's not the way we felt when we were there.)

    Meanwhile, we had two Dat doughnuts waiting for us for dessert. This was the original glazed (next to a penny for comparison), which we ate in segments over the next four days. We also got an apple fritter, not pictured, which I had half of for dinner the next night and then finished the day after the vacation (very good heated in the microwave).

    Dinner that night was at the original Tony Packo's Cafe (1902 Front St., Toldeo, OH). We got there around 4 p.m., but the place was already pretty full. It got a lot fuller before we left.

    One of the things Packo's is famous for is the celebrity autographed replica foam hot dog buns lining its walls. There were literally hundreds covering most of the restaurant.

    Of course, Packo's gained national fame when it was mentioned by Toledo resident Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger on the '70s and '80s TV show "M*A*S*H" and even played an integral part in providing sausage casings for use as pseudo-medical supplies in one episode.

    But no restaurant survives without good food, and Packo's served up some of the most amazing chili and hot dogs we'd ever tasted! The spicy pickles were great, as well. I wish I had gotten a photo of girlfriend's chili mac to go along with this one, but hindsight being what it is, you'll have to settle for my meal of a Hungarian chili dog, bowl of chili with oyster crackers, spicy pickles and fries. We bought cans of both the hot dog and regular chili, as well as a jar of the spicy pickles and peppers, and break them out for special occasions (we substitute Nathan's hot dogs for Packo's).

    Following a day at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, OH, with lunch at the park and a makeshift dinner consisting of goodies we had left over from Holiday World and those giant Dat Donuts, we set out the next day for the Pittsburgh area and lunch at Primanti Bros. The original location wasn't on our planned route to Kennywood amusement park, so we settled for this outpost in North Versailles, PA (921 E. Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd.).

    We were here for one of their "almost famous" sandwiches.

    There were plenty of "fillings" to choose from.

    We both decided on the cheeseburger, which was called a "cheese steak" on the menu, piled high with hand-cut fries, tangy vinegar coleslaw and tomatoes (I'll admit to removing the tomatoes from mine before taking the first bite).

    It's a mouthful! I really enjoyed mine, but girlfriend didn't particularly care for hers, so I ended up with a sandwich and a half before it was all over.

    "Dinner" was supposed to have been some late-afternoon famous Potato Patch fries (with cheese and bacon, of course) from Kennywood, but by the time we reached the hotel around 8 p.m., we were both hungry again. We were going to just grab something at the Chinese restaurant next door, but upon discovering it was closed (as in there was a "thanks to our customers for their many years of patronage" sign posted on the door, and the tables and chairs had been removed), we turned to the in-room directory and found a tempting ad for the nearby Belgian-style Sharp Edge Creekhouse (288 W. Steuben St., Crafton, PA).

    The potato croquette appetizer was out of this world!

    I got the mutton burger (which I dubbed a "lambburger"), which was just OK.

    Girlfriend, on the other hand, got a Mediterranean pizza, which she raved about. Alas, this was our last roadfood adventure of the trip, us opting to grab lunch at our final amusement park of the vacation, Idlewild Park in Liginor, PA, the next day, and then have dinner at the Cheeburger Cheeburger chain near girlfriend's grandparents' house on the way home.
    And that concludes the second quarter of 2009. Third quarter, including Philadelphia, New England and California, coming up!
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 20:30:45 (permalink)
    Your report is great! Welcome to Roadfood and thanks for writing this up.

    Having taken out from several "bulletproof glass" BBQ/Chicken joints in Newark NJ over the years, I know the experience.
    carolina bob
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 20:35:20 (permalink)
    Welcome aboard, a71678. This is a really great trip report and I'm sure looking forward to the rest of it. I'm sorry that your pizza at Lou Malnati's was a bit of a letdown; I know from experience that some Malnati's outlets do a better job than others. If you ever get back to Chicago, you really should stop at Al's #1 Italian Beef on Taylor St. for one of their iconic sandwiches ( my recommendation is a beef and sausage combo, "dipped", with the hot giardiniera. ) I've taken a number of out-of-town roadfooders there and none of them have ever been disappointed. 
    post edited by nocarolina - 2009/12/30 23:00:45
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/30 22:53:40 (permalink)
    Just a great report with really good photos. I like the fact that its a whole year at one time, really shows how much you've travelled around. My favorite photo is of the three counter women inside Ann's Dairy Cream and the caption about the women having total control. After looking at the picture there is no doubt of that.

    I had dinner at the County Line on the River Walk and had the beef rib and pork rib platter. The best thing about it was the look of it when it came out. With these incredibly large beef ribs it was like something from the Flintstones. I had mine without sauce and it still wasn't that great. But the location was good, the beer was cold, the day was beautiful and my friends picked up the check so that that made it seem a lot better than it actually was. I wouldn't go back to that one but maybe in a less touristy location it might be better. 

    The place I've made a note about is Dizzy Whizz. I'm thinking of stopping in Louisville on my way out to Texas this spring and would like to stop there and have lunch. Thanks for the find. 
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/31 07:22:04 (permalink)
    What a great road trip - my husband and I have talked about "doing the coasters" as a trip and just haven't gotten done, and then to top all that movin' and shakin' with great roadfood! Thanks for sharing, and the great pics!
    Fire Safety Admin
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/31 08:46:13 (permalink)
    So glad that you mentioned Ann's, which I have been going to my entire life.  My mother grew up in Glen Burnie and Ann's was her hangout when she was a teenager, so it holds a special place in my heart.  And the story of them fighting off the big mall and winning is rather cool!

    It is amazing how those women who work there never write down an order, juggle everything and I have always gotten exactly what I wanted with no mistakes.  No idea how they do it.  One thing about the hot dogs, though.  I find the ones with a single wiener to have too much bun and not enough meat.  So, I always go with a double dog.

    Also glad to see that you enjoyed Primanti's, although almost all of their other sandwiches are better than the popular cheesesteak.  Next time, try the capicola or kielbasa.

    I recently ate at the Sharp Edge location in McMurray and it was quite possibly the worst dining experience I had the whole year.  Maybe I will give the Crafton location a try and see if it is better.

    Looking forward to the next installment of this excellent report!
    post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/12/31 08:48:23
    Junior Burger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/31 16:47:45 (permalink)
    Again, thanks for all the compliments and the recommendations! I just realized that I neglected to include my interior shot of Tony Packo’s in the series above, so for anyone who’s interested, here it is:
    The third quarter of 2009 began in July with another road trip with my dad, this time to Philadelphia, a place I’d been only twice (once for a work conference and once for the airport) and he’d never been at all, despite our interest in American history and the fact that Philly is only three hours from where I grew up and he still lives.
    Of course, we couldn’t go to Philadelphia without trying an authentic cheese steak. But which one to choose?
    Pat’s (1237 E. Passyunk Ave.)…

    …or Geno’s (1219 S. 9th St.)?

    Based on my past experiences, Pat’s won out. I already knew the drill, but for those who don’t, here are the instructions.

    Yes, Pat’s is the favorite cheese steak of fictional boxing champions everywhere!

    I got mine Cheez-Whiz-style “wit-out” (Dad got his “wit”), and we both had fries and a soda. For those who have never tried one, there is absolutely nothing like an authentic Philly cheese steak.

    Based on the staunch recommendation of my then-roommate, who grew up about 90 miles from Philly, we also visited Tony Luke’s (39 E. Oregon Ave.).

    Unfortunately, this photo is a far cry from doing the building justice… but it’s as good as I could get without running out into the street (and running out into a busy street in Philadelphia isn’t something I particularly recommend).

    Rocky may have stood at Pat’s, but Tony’s has a “Walk of Fame” spotlighting prominent entertainers who lived in and around Philly.

    Based on tips from this site and Virtual Tourist, we sampled the roast pork sandwich. A few weeks later, I returned to Philly and got to try the same thing at Tony Luke’s indoor establishment across the street (the indoor place uses a slightly different roll). Both were phenomenal.
    A few days later, girlfriend and I made a trek up to New England for more amusement parks, museums and roadfood in honor of my birthday. Unfortunately, that same weekend I contracted a massive, unyielding earache that was eventually linked to the worsening of seasonal allergies I’ve had since I was a kid, so the experience was less enjoyable than it could have been.

    First stop of the New England tour: Louis’ Lunch (263 Crown St., New Haven, CT). Louis’ is one of the handful of places in the United States that claims to have invented the hamburger.

    The place was brimming with character… and we got the distinct impression that there may have been some illegal gambling going on behind the counter (but we weren’t about to ask). Don’t try to come in August!

    It’s another one of those proud ketchup-free establishments. Apparently the locals like it that way. We were very self-consciously the only tourists in the teeny, tiny restaurant.

    These are the antique ovens that give Louis’ burgers their special “taste”…

    …which, if you ask me, isn’t really all that special at all. I’m glad we got the chance to eat here, but truth be told, this was just a plain, unseasoned, fairly flavorless meat patty on dry toast with a slice of processed cheese. Forgive me if that’s blasphemy; I calls ‘em as I tastes ‘em. (And yes, some ketchup would have greatly improved the taste.)

    Late the next morning, after a trip to an immediate care clinic to find out what was going on with my ear and get enough meds to at least finish out our mini-vacation, we took a Roadfood tip and made our way to the Glenwood Drive-In (2538 Whitney Ave., Hamden, CT).

    Supposedly their hot dogs have been voted the best in the New Haven area, but it wasn’t wieners we were after…

    …it was these scrumptious hot lobster rolls! Everything was absolutely perfect about these buttery, toasty, lobstery sandwiches. Girlfriend claims she still has occasional dreams about them.

    Afterward, it was off to Neil’s Donut and Bake Shop (83 N. Turnpike Rd., Yalesville, CT), another Roadfood recommendation, for some tasty dessert.

    Now, I’m not saying everything at Neil’s looked good (OK, actually I am kind of saying that), but we stood here for a looooooong time trying to pare our desires down to an only slightly unreasonable number of confections.

    The first thing we collectively crossed off the list were these giant cinnamon rolls… with the reasoning that we could try three to four of Neil’s other delicacies for the same amount of space a single one of these would take up in our stomachs.

    They didn’t have one thing I wanted to try, which was the split jelly doughnut. However they did have the old-fashioned cake doughnut highly touted in reviews on this site. The doughnut was good, but only average compared to some of the other items we came away with.

    This braid was very good. I’d actually rank it higher than the old-fashioned, but only because I have a slight preference for glaze over crunchy sugar.

    The giant cookie was actually pretty “meh” and very crumbly. I can’t be sure it was actually baked that day.

    The piece de resistance, however, was this ricotta square. Honestly, this item by itself should be on a completely separate menu from everything else at Neil’s; it was that good. Girlfriend has since searched high and low and has been unable to come up with a recipe for them. After some unfortunate crowds (and the behavior that often goes along with over-capacity crowds) we experienced at the attractions we visited in Connecticut and Massachusetts that weekend, she claims Neil’s ricotta squares are the only reason she will ever have to possibly return to New England.

    If we ever do get back there, however, I’m also arguing for a stop at this place (as well as the Glenwood). World Famous Ted’s Restaurant (1046 Broad St., Meriden, CT) may not be large, and I highly doubt it’s as “world famous” as its name would suggest, but its offerings were really good.

    And by “offerings,” of course, I mean those steamed cheeseburgers Ted’s has gained a reputation for over the years. No problem with ketchup here! I actually thought it was pretty funny that I found the burger to be full of flavor, while the grill-crisped potatoes were fairly bland; it’s the exact opposite of most of the reviews I read over at Virtual Tourist.

    August brought my second solo vacation of the year, a two-week bus trip through California, touring amusement parks with an online club to which I belong. I’d been to the Golden State many times, but this was my first time flying into LAX. Though Encounter was undergoing renovations, it was still neat to see this landmark restaurant in person.

    Most of the itinerary was planned out for us in advance, with most meals pre-arranged either at the parks themselves or at hotel-adjacent chain restaurants that could accommodate our group of more than 50 (if you ever have the chance to partake of an IHOP breakfast buffet, I highly recommend you do it!). However, I had some free time on my arrival day, and after a quick tour of the La Brea Tar Pits, a colleague and I headed over to the world famous Pink’s Hot Dogs (709 N. La Brea Ave.). Fortunately, I had taken the liberty of writing the physical address down before I left home; our cab driver apparently had arrived in the U.S. on the flight immediately before ours and needed this for his GPS.

    Every review I read said to allow at least an hour to get through the line no matter what time of day I planned to be there, but even with the crowd ahead of me, I managed to get to the counter to place my order in about 30 minutes.

    This is what the place looked like when it first opened in 1939.

    A look at part of the menu….

    Pink’s also has featured dogs advertised along the glass in front of its fry and order areas.

    No fountain drinks here! And I can’t tell you what the cake was like, unfortunately.

    The story goes that because Pink’s was so cheap in its early days and located near several major movie studios, struggling actors would stop by on their way to and from auditions. Once those actors became stars, they continued coming to Pink’s because they liked the food. Eventually, some of the struggling actors began affixing their pictures to the stand in hopes that producers and directors wooed to the establishment by these big-name stars would “discover” them and put them in the movies. Thus began the tradition of signed photos adorning the walls of Pink’s. Today, the privilege is reserved only for “name” celebrities (my favorite was Richard Simmons, at left--why is he wrapped in chains, and why is one of America’s most recognized fitness gurus advocating a chili dog diet, anyway?).

    The seating area at Pink’s didn’t leave much to be desired, but we were in the minority of folks dining in, so I suppose it served its purpose.

    It afforded a good view of the “kitchen,” anyway!

    I tried a traditional chili cheese dog (the house specialty), which was really, really good, and a Brooklyn pastrami-Swiss cheese dog, which wasn’t as good as it probably should have been. The onion rings, which I’d heard good things about, were tasty, but very greasy.

    In the end, we had some time before our shuttle came to retrieve us (reserving a shuttle in advance cost about a third of what a cab would have, and I had planned for more time in line), so we passed the time by playing ring toss with my leftover onion rings and empty Orange Crush bottle!

    Now, I would have classified In-N-Out Burger (9419 Sepulveda Blvd.) as a fast food chain and not included it in this report… except just a few days ago, I saw it featured on the front page of this site! I rounded out my first day in the Golden State with a stop at the LAX outpost of this oh-so-good regional chain--only my second In-N-Out experience ever and my first in California--and felt the breeze from giant airliners landing at the airport as I downed my burger and fries alfresco.

    Everything here is famously made fresh on site--supposedly some locations don’t even have a freezer. The menu is limited to five items: cheeseburgers, grilled cheeses, fries, shakes and soft drinks.

    Oh, how I wish you could reach through your screen and try this! For a slight fee, you can make your burger “animal style,” which is code for the addition of grilled onions and thousand island dressing. Well, apparently--and this is something I didn’t know--you can also make your fries animal style! I had bacon, cheese sauce and thousand island dressing added to mine, and I can tell you these were hands down the best fries I had in California--and I ate a LOT of fries in California!

    The next morning, I took a 10-block stroll from our hotel to the world famous Randy’s Donuts (805 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA). That giant doughnut on top of that itty bitty building was truly a sight to behold!

    I apologize for the lack of photos of the actual doughnuts; I was too busy holding the bag in one hand and stuffing my face with the other while walking back to the hotel! I can tell you, however, that I opted for a long John, which was pretty good; an apple fritter, which was extremely greasy and made me feel slightly ill; and a buttermilk doughnut, which I’d rank right up there among the best doughnuts I’ve ever ingested.

    We had a sightseeing tour of Los Angeles and its suburbs that day, and our lunch stop was in Beverly Hills. Most people opted for the Subway near where the bus dropped us off. Having done some advance research, however, I hiked a little farther into the city for a taste of Nate ‘n Al Delicatessen (414 N. Beverly Dr.)

    Oh man! Out of all the meals I had in California, this one was the best, and out of all the pastrami sandwiches I’ve ever had, this one was by far the best! The meat was hot and juicy, and the garlic pickles and cold potato salad complemented the sandwich perfectly.
    It’s funny; nearly all the reviews I read about this place said the only drawback was consistently rude waitresses. Well, it must have been their day off because the older woman who waited on me was the epitome of kindness. She came back to check on me repeatedly, updated me on my order, etc. At the end of the meal, I asked her for walking directions to an attraction I wanted to visit, and she not only mapped it out for me on a napkin, but insisted on giving me a lemonade refill in a to-go cup because it was hot outside, and she didn’t want me to get dehydrated.

    After lunch, I spent a few minutes checking out a toy store across the street and stumbled upon one of my favorite not-sold-in-my-region candies, Cherry Mash. Everyone else on the tour was busy checking out the high-end boutiques (where a few of them allegedly spotted Paris Hilton); my “big purchases” in Beverly Hills were a pastrami sandwich and a candy bar!

    One of the last amusement parks we visited on the trip was Knott’s Berry Farm, which, of course, was founded as Knott’s Ghost Town in an attempt to give patrons something to do while waiting for a table at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant (8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA).

    We arrived just in time for the restaurant’s 75th anniversary!

    Thankfully, the chicken we got didn’t taste as much like fiberglass as I’m sure this one did!

    Our chicken dinner was included in the overall cost of our tour package (as most meals during those two weeks were). Because of the size of our party, our meal was served buffet-style in a building apart from the main restaurant. The chicken was everything I’d always heard it was, and the beans were really good, too! That’s boysenberry pie in the upper right-hand corner, boysenberries, of course, being the regional fruit that made Knott’s Berry Farm famous back when it actually was a farm. Not pictured is the boysenberry juice we had to go along with it. Knott’s Berry Farm shares its parent company with Cedar Point amusement park, so I was able to pick up a bottle of Knott’s boysenberry juice concentrate during my visit there a couple months earlier to enjoy all summer long.
    And that just about wraps up the third quarter of my 2009 roadfood adventure. Join us soon for the thrilling conclusion, featuring selections closer to home in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
    • Total Posts : 431
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/31 17:57:43 (permalink)
    Thank you for these superb photos and your informative and entertaining trip reports!!! I can't wait for the "thrilling conclusion!" If I ever plan a Roadfood roadtrip - I want you along! ('course girlfriend-now-fiance may have something to say about that!)

    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2009/12/31 20:42:01 (permalink)
    Dude, you covered an awful lot of Roadfood real estate in just a year--quite an accomplishment, and great pictures and an excellent writeup.  

    I ate at a County Line in Austin TX back in 98 maybe--I have no idea how big the 'chain' was at the time--and the food was pretty good.  I don't remember the meat being oversauced and the sides, while not excellent, were very respectable.  I wonder if they've suffered from inconsistency among locations.

    Looking forward to more from you--don't feel the need to only post at the end of the year!
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/01 07:48:23 (permalink)
    Wonderful report! Sounds like you had a great year!
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/01 08:44:52 (permalink)
    You could have picked some better places to visit in Chicago. Great report otherwise.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/01 10:45:32 (permalink)
    Two comments - I felt exactly the same after my Louis' Lunch experience in New Haven - totally underwhelmed. One of those experiences where "ok I checked the box and don't need to do it again". I am sad for you though, that you were in New Haven and did not include Pepe's pizza! Second comment - YAY for In-and-Out!! I don't get out west much so it's a real treat, and whether you consider it fast food or not am a huge fan of their burgers.  Really enjoying your write up and pics!
    mayor al
    Fire Safety Admin
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/01 11:14:03 (permalink)
    Great job doing this mammoth report ! As A (near) Louisville resident, I appreciate your inclusion of places not normally on the RF agenda for visitors.
      Looking forward to your finale.
    post edited by mayor al - 2010/01/01 11:15:04
    Slim Strummer
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/02 19:23:33 (permalink)
    Super report.  You hit most of the LA mainstays, and Nate & Al's is a good get too.  I have found there that if you are willing to give as good as you get, you can have a great experience there.

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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/02 19:38:22 (permalink)
    That LAX place is called Encounter?

    I've only lived 8 minutes from there for the last 27 years and never knew that.

    I love all the stops that you did in the LA area.  Now I must search out that Cherry Mash candy.

    Not sure what I think of your In N Out fries.  
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/02 20:00:05 (permalink)
    Two words.
    AWESOME JOB!!!!!
    Junior Burger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/03 22:09:13 (permalink)
    Happy New Year, and welcome to the final quarter! Without further ado, let’s get started.

    Our first trip of the final quarter, in October, took us to a collectors’ convention in Allentown, PA, where we just had to stop by Yocco’s Hot Dog King (225 Route 100, Foglesville, PA), a hot dog joint I visited a good number of years ago, before I even knew what Roadfood was.

    It’s an order-at-the-counter place, and these people were eager to please!

    I almost wanted to get a Pic-Nic-Pac just because of this. Almost.

    Apparently Mr. Hot Dog has convinced a whole lot of other people!

    The menu, so you can start planning your Yocco’s experience now!

    Um, thanks… but I think I’ll stick with the dogs.

    And what a tremendous meal it was! Chili dogs, pierogies and birch beer.

    I’m told that the chili cheeseburger and chocolate milk were very good, as well. Even better than McDonald’s (which means quite a lot coming from a 5-year-old). A side note: We attempted to grab some pie for dessert at Wert’s Café (515 N. 18th St., Allentown, PA), but were Travelin’ Manned, as it was closed on Sunday.

    The next weekend, we traveled to an antique shop in Westminster, MD, to purchase a rare coin for my father as a Christmas present. While Westminster has a couple nice greasy-spoon-style roadfood stops of its own, we opted for the family-style comforts of the 1950s-era Friendly Farm Restaurant (17434 Foreston Rd., Upperco, MD). No outside photos, unfortunately, since it was after dark and very stormy when we arrived, but between the gift shop and dinner, we had fun (we had to skip the duck pond due to the weather).
    Traditional starters (included with each meal) are cottage cheese with apple butter, peaches in syrup, sugar beets, sugar biscuits and some very good vinegar coleslaw. Meals ranged from steak to shrimp to fried chicken, and all included fresh-cut fries, country-style green beans, corn and the customer’s choice of about half a dozen flavors of hand-dipped ice cream for dessert (flavors change every few days). They don’t salt anything when they cook it, so be prepared to spice up whatever you order at the table. Otherwise, this is a comfort food paradise, well worth the long drive.

    In November, we corrected a long standing roadfood faux pas on our part, finally making time to stop at the Hopkins Family Creamery (18475 Dairy Farm Rd., Lewes, DE). Opened just a half hour from girlfriend’s apartment in summer 2008, we’d been talking about stopping here for nearly a year, but just never got around to it. We’ve been about half a dozen times since!

    The creamery is a part of Green Acres Dairy Farm. We can’t stop for ice cream without visiting the source--stepdaughter-to-be has taken to referring to this “Moo Town” for short.

    The prices are insanely low (less than half of what the nearby beach resort ice cream stands charge), and every single flavor is churned on site.

    Even the fixin’s are fresh!

    Stepdaughter-to-be seldom varies from her favorite: chocolate chip cookie dough.

    I, on the other hand, try to sample a little of everything. This is the rum raisin, which is pretty good. So far my favorites are coconut and pumpkin. Girlfriend informs me that candy crunch (with chunks of Heath Bar, Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup) is very good, as well.

    Later in the month, we checked out another promising-looking nearby site that we’d passed once or twice, Holiday Chicken (I can’t find a street number, but it’s located on Rt. 5 in Millsboro, DE).

    This is pretty much the full extent of the inside. There were maybe four more tables behind me and a fuzzy TV broadcasting a football game.

    The prices were posted in hardware store-style house numbers!

    It’s the food that counts, however, and the hot, juicy, cooked-to-order chicken was really good.

    The potato salad seemed pre-packaged, but eh, it was fine as a side.

    The fries were really good, as well. Stepdaughter-to-be ordered a cheeseburger. She threw a temper tantrum as I tried to take this photo because I was “taking pictures of her food without asking first.” I calmly (OK, maybe not so calmly) informed her that since I paid for it, it was technically my food, and unless she started behaving, I was going to send it to starving kids in Africa who were hungrier than she was. As you can imagine, that went over well….
    December isn’t always an easy month for me to get out and about between the holidays, work and helping run two major local philanthropic projects (the town’s annual Christmas parade and a charity event that provides a Christmas shopping experience for some 200 underprivileged kids each year), but the day after Christmas, fiancee (we were engaged during Thanksgiving weekend) and I had to take stepdaughter-to-be for her annual holiday visitation with her father, so we used the trip to squeeze in one final roadfood adventure for the year.

    Our first stop was Curtis’ Famous Weiners (35 N. Liberty St., Cumberland, MD).

    Now that’s a promising sign!

    As is this!

    This place was oozing with charm, from the authentic counter to the large amount of vintage kitsch on the walls. We seemed to be the only non-locals in the dining area, but we did run into another couple taking pictures of the building on their way out as we were going in. Fellow Roadfooders?

    This was our “haul”: three original Coney dogs, two orders of fries and three sodas for just $13! That red beverage to the right was a real treat: Cherry Smash, which I’d never had before. I’d go back again just for that.

    The Coney dogs weren’t too shabby, either. The sauce kind of couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be real chili or just sort of a loose meat in broth, but it was pretty good either way.

    We were all in agreement!

    After the drop-off, dinner that night was at a Cracker Barrel near our hotel (with some of the poorest service I’ve ever received at that chain), followed by a very good lunch the next day at the adjacent Waffle House. Since we were, as seems to be a growing trend, the only non-locals there, the waitress asked what brought us to town, and we gave her the Reader’s Digest version of our journey and mentioned that we hoped to spend the day antiquing. She recommended a shop owned by one of her regulars, which not only turned out to be the best antique store we found that day, but also featured a rack of local brochures, which is how we found out about Schmankerl Stube (58 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown, MD).

    They had so many Christmas decorations in front of their front windows (where the name of the restaurant was painted; the sign above is from a side window) that we actually missed it during our first drive-through of the area in search of parking. It was only in seeing the street number of the library two doors down and comparing it to the address of the restaurant that we figured out we were where we needed to be.

    The brochure recommended we make reservations, which we did, though as it turns out, they weren’t absolutely necessary.

    Fiancee got the wurst sampler, and I got the weiner schnitzel, then we halved everything down the middle. It was really good, if a little pricey.

    On the way to a further-flung antique store the next day, I spied Hepburn Orchards Fruit Market and Bakery (557 E. Main St., Hancock, MD) from the highway and insisted we stop on the way back. I’m glad I did!

    Aside from the free apple slice sample at the entrance, we skipped right over the fruit market and headed straight for the bakery. The smell when we opened the door was incredible! This is the cookie and muffin table. Cookie varieties included chocolate chip, raisin-filled, cherry thumbprint, rocky road, snicker doodle, macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, honey oatmeal raisin, gingerbread, sugar, peanut butter, macaroon and chocolate chip macaroon. Muffin choices included apple cranberry, cheese, triple berry, blueberry, carrot, banana nut, chocolate chunk, bran and black-bottom cheesecake. Plus there were whoopee pies: pumpkin, peanut butter, chocolate chip and red velvet.

    And then there were the pies! This truly was a sight to behold, and there were many more than in this picture (and even more types in the back, according to a sign that listed the varieties they didn’t have room to display). The ones in this photo alone include lemon crumb, apple, very berry, fruits of the forest, Dutch apple, cranberry apple, caramel apple nut, strawberry rhubarb, black raspberry, red raspberry, pumpkin raspberry, blueberry, country apple, peach, French apple, blackberry, cherry, wildberry blast, apple raspberry, sweet potato, cherry crunch, cherry vanilla, sweet potato crunch, peach berry, pumpkin, pineapple and peach praline. This is my computer's current wallpaper!

    Our choices: sweet potato crunch (which was OK, but not great)…

    …shoofly (which was amazing)…

    …sponge cake with raspberry liqueur (very good)…

    …two whoopee pies (I got chocolate chip, which I haven’t tried yet; fiancee got pumpkin, which was awesome)…

    …and raisin-filled cookies (which were very good). I also got some taffy, and fiancee got some pumpkin pecan fudge (tremendous) and butter pecan fudge (which we haven’t opened yet).

    Since we hadn’t stopped yet for lunch, we also each got a country ham biscuit. They were exquisite! I tried a Kutztown black cherry soda with mine. She got a cup of hot spiced apple cider with hers, which was the better option, I think.

    By the next evening, though we were back home, we decided we didn’t want the roadfood fun to end quite yet, so we made one more short journey to visit Cactus Café (37 N. Dupont Hwy., Selbyville, DE), a Mexican restaurant not far from fiancee’s apartment that we had wanted to try, but hadn’t yet gotten the chance.

    If you decide to follow in our footsteps, this is the building you’ll be looking for.

    We parked in front of the wooden cactus. There was also a vintage car permanently parked out front, but in the dark, that photo didn’t come out well enough to merit a post.

    Inside, the walls were covered with graffiti; apparently it’s encouraged. There was also a proclamation from the Town of Selbyville, recognizing the restaurant’s owners for refurbishing this particular building. It’s also worth noting that there are some pretty charming contrasts inside. The placemats were cheap paper with ads for local businesses, and none of our silverware matched, but the napkins were cloth and seemed to be fairly high quality.

    We started with the queso fundido, which was very, very good. That’s not cheese sauce; it’s the real melted deal. Our very friendly waiter informed us that our meals would be out “in a Mexican minute… which is a lot longer than a New York minute.”

    When they did come out… oh my goodness! I got the seafood enchiladas in champagne sauce, which were spectacular.

    Fiancee, on the other hand, opted for the prime rib fajitas. We had never seen them served this way! They brought out an entire steak so she could cut the meat however she wanted it, then placed the fixin’s on a separate plate. The results were out of this world, and the fajitas were only $1 more than the prime rib by itself.

    When the bill came, it was more of a candy dish than a check! This was a little pricy compared to some other Mexican joints in this area, but while it might not have been a “value” meal, the food was worth it. Obviously many others agree. We were one of only two parties seated in the restaurant when we got there around 5:30. By the time we left an hour later, the place was packed. It was a great way to end our roadfood travels in 2009. Here’s to more of the same in 2010!
    Fire Safety Admin
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/04 07:55:40 (permalink)
    Congratulations on a great year of travel and all the beautiful photos.  This report was a real pleasure to read.  And Curtis' Famous Wieners in Cumberland really grabbed my attention and I plan on visiting there real soon!
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/04 08:52:10 (permalink)
    a71678, Let me say again, excellent report and pics.  Thank you for taking the time to do it. 
    Have you ever tried Knoebels Amusement Park?  Every year they win the "best park food award".
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/04 09:58:03 (permalink)
    Excellent report and pics!  I ecpecially loved the German restaurants and the scenery at Casa Rio.  You didn't stop at any Chinese places? 
    Thanks for all the detail and wonderful pics!
    post edited by AndreaB - 2010/01/04 10:00:07
    mayor al
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    Re:My Roadfood 2009 Year in Review 2010/01/04 11:12:13 (permalink)
    There's another thread with comments on the German Place somewhere here (done this weekend). Interesting that member's paths seem to cross in that area. 

        Chewing the Fat, you may need a bigger sign to get the attention of the traveling RF clan. All of these guys were reasonably close to you.
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