Quest for Great Food

Although we enjoy using our camping grill, the Dutch oven and the handy microwave, we also love sampling local food. Unfortunately we can't always find a good local restaurant, so we sometimes have to go for a national chain. You can't go wrong with places like P.F. Changs, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or even a Cracker Barrel now and then. However we're often surprised at the varied and sometimes remote places where we've discovered extraordinary local food.

There are lots of online dining guides for specific regions, but few with world-wide coverage like Chef Moz . You can check and see how our ratings match up!
This page lists some of our favorite categories of food - - and our favorite places to dine. Our quest for great food will continue, even if we need to slow down now and then for a diet. We particularly enjoy locating unique and good restaurants in different locations (Photo above - Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery in San Antonio, Texas). While some people seek out fancy city cuisine, we generally prefer the small town flavor. The best is not always the most expensive. And our most reliable sources for information about local restaurants comes from campground hosts and local residents. We hope you enjoy our list; we hope you get to visit a few of these establishments.

Barbecue Bash
Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop in Branson, Missouri. In a town like Branson filled with unremarkable buffets and chain restaurants, this small establishment is a hidden treasure tucked away on Falls Creek Road. Annette discovered it during the off-season by noticing all the noontime traffic of local customers (Find them at 963 Highway 165, Phone 417 337-5527). Here they serve the best pulled-pork and beef Bar-B-Q with plenty of side choices at modest prices. The restaurant suffered a major kitchen fire in October 2002; we are hoping that they rebuild! They have rebuilt, expanded and reopened in early August 2003.

Riley's Bar-B-Que at Dripping Springs, Texas. Texas 'Hill Country' is home to dozens of good restaurants, but if you like barbeque don't miss a stop at Riley's. They have two locations: the home store on the town square at Blanco, TX and our favorite in Dripping Springs. Riley's serves outstanding oak-smoked brisket, pork ribs, pork loin, turkey breast, chicken and more. Save room for their bannana pudding - just like my mother used to make. Find Riley's at 1111 W. Hwy. 290 in Dripping Springs, phone (512) 858-9493.
Salt Lick Barbecue Restaurant at Driftwood, Texas. This is "open-pit" barbecue with family style meals served at picnic tables. The menu features pork ribs, brisket, sausage, potato salad, cole slaw, beans, and more. Located in a hill country ranch setting a few miles southwest of Austin, "The Salt Lick" ranks as the best. Phone: 512 894-3117.
Piggy's of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Located behind the La Crosse Center on the banks of the Mississippi River, this eatery provides great food with a magnificent view. If you love barbeque pork, pork chops, hickory smoked steaks, and are in La Crosse - - this is a great pig-out treat. Find Piggy's at 328 S. Front Street. You may want to order their award-winning baby back ribs.

Breakfast Blowout
Houston's Trails End Restaurant in Kanab, Utah. On this webpage filled with gustatory superlatives, we finally add a recommendation for breakfast fare. I guess we don't eat breakfast out all that often but when you are on your way to hike BLM's Paria Canyon - Coyote Butte and Coyote Buttes - Wave areas, then you need to stoke up on body fuel for your 6 to 8-mile trek. Owned and operated by the Houston family for over 25 years, the food at Trails End is delicious - - home style cooking, it doesn't get any better than this! We loved their made-from-scratch hash-browns. Our group of seven hiking friends (including us) tried everything from biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, to pancakes and sausage. Just bring a big appetite and make this your meal of the day. Find them at on Kanab's main street (132 E. Center) and sit down surrounded by Western paintings and memorabilia. Enjoy a meal at a place "where waitresses wear smiles on their lips and guns on their hips!"
Oak Table Cafe in Sequim, Washington. The Olympic Peninsula has lots of great seafood and other restaurants especially in the "rain-shadow" area, but our highest recommendation is to make sure that you go for breakfast or brunch at the Oak Table in Sequim. You'll find them open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at 3rd & Bell Street, a block off main to the mountain side. The Cafe specializes in what they call "handcrafted breakfasts and creative lunches." We can tell you that after splitting a monstrously-sized, out-of-this world apple pancake (half the order went home with us) and an order of eggs Benedict that came with a side order of delectable potato pancakes, we will be back there again.

Burger Bonanza
Brink's Burgers Drive-In in Torrey, Utah. Known for their delicious 'real' beef burgers and thick-creamy milk shakes, Brink's is a welcome refueling stop after a long hike or a day of back-road adventure in Wayne County. This is a recreation paradise with varied landscapes; nearby national parks, national forests, mountains and aspen groves, red rock cliffs and canyons, desert lands, the Fremont River - - all just minutes away. Brink's is located at 165 East Main, phone: 435 425-3710.

Calamity Jane's near Sandy, Oregon. We usually grill our own and these days it most likely would be a turkey burger, but Calamity Jane's offers your money's worth with their humongous gourmet hamburgers and giant milkshakes. Pick one of over two dozen different specialty burger combinations, sit back and relax in their vintage setting, and let someone else prepare the meal. Located east of town toward Mt. Hood at 42015 Highway 26.

Casual Class
Archibald’s Restaurant Eatery in West Jordan, Utah. Listed on the National Historic Register, an old flour mill in Gardner Village is home to Archibald's Restaurant that serves "country fare with a flair." Archibald's is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Bullwinkle's Saloon & Eatery in West Yellowstone, Montana. We stopped by after spending a day hiking and sightseeing in the National Park, the joint was jumping, and the food was great. The dinner menu has steaks, seafood, pasta, and "wild game" specials. Find Bullwinkle's at 19 Madison Avenue - - a side street off the main drag. Phone: 406 646-7974.

Cafe Diablo in Torrey, Utah. Located in Wayne County (Total population about 2,500, not a stop-light anywhere) and in the town of Torrey (Pop. about 200). Named 'Best Restaurant in Southern Utah'; Cafe Diablo serves 'innovative Southwestern dishes' such as pumpkinseed crusted trout, chipotle baby back ribs, painted chicken, vegetarian torta, rattlesnake cakes (real rattlesnake, we tried them!) and if you have room, delightful pastries - - every plate artfully presented. Pinch me - - where am I, the county with no stop lights? Be advised that this is a pricey restaurant, great for special occasions or just to treat yourself to a first-rate dining experience, but it's not lite on the pocketbook. Open seasonally; April 22, 2005–October 22, 2005. Dining Room open 5–10:00 pm, 7 days a week. Located at 599 West Main Street, Phone: 435 425-3070. Owner and certified executive chef, Gary Pankow.

Ed's Cantina in Estes Park, Colorado. If you want to find a good restaurant, ask a resident whose judgment you trust. That's what we did and what a find! Ed's Cantina is a great place for "Fresh" Mexican dishes (Mexican with a local twist) but they also serve a Philly steak sandwich, barbeque ribs, chicken, and buffalo stew. If the weather is right, you can head out the garage door and sit on the deck next to the Big Thompson river. Find Ed's at 362 E. Elkhorn Avenue. Phone: 970 586-2029.

Moab Brewery in (Where Else) Moab, Utah. The Moab Brewery features a great American and Italian menu with an original or local touch on many of the entrees. Find them at 6876 South Main Street, the parking lot is usually full - - a good sign. And choose from their selections of 'Dead Horse Ale.'

Motor Supply Company Bistro in Columbia, South Carolina. Located in the historic downtown 'Congaree Vista' district in a renovated engine supply building from the late 1800s (listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The Motor Supply Company changes its menu twice a day. One cannot go wrong because they serve an eclectic blend of contemporary American, French, Italian and Asian Cuisine - - there is something for everyone. Our food was deliciously fresh, innovatively prepared, and awesome. Located at 920 Gervais St., phone (803) 256-6687.

Petals Garden Cafe in Sequim, Washington. Located on the south edge of town (mountain side), the Petals Garden Cafe is found at the Cedarbrook Herb Farm, 1345 S. Sequim Avenue. Bordered by fragrant gardens that feature beautiful lavender (Photo to left) in season, the menu at this greenhouse Cafe features Australian foods and brighter fare. Set on the foothill slope, the Cafe grounds provide views back over the town of Sequim and The Straits of Juan de Fuca. Fall 2007, we have received word that Petals is no longer in business. Too bad!

Poppy's Pizza & Grill in Estes Park, Colorado. With verandah dining along the roaring Big Thompson River and a great lunch and dinner menu - - soup, salad, sandwiches, pizza and more, everything fresh and well prepared - - this deserves a return visit. In fact, we have already been back more than once and taken family along. Its located at 342 E. Elkhorn Avenue (Across the street and down from the library and park area) in Estes Park.
Weaverville Milling Company in Weaverville, North Carolina. Just outside of Asheville and a few miles from our stay at the Campfire Lodgings Park, we followed the directions to Reems Creek Road and this restaurant housed in a former water mill building. Renovated by John Smith and operated today by wife and son (Sally and Matt), the historic restaurant's menu features steaks and prime rib plus seafood that includes their specialty of local mountain trout. There is outdoor and indoor seating, crisp salads, fresh baked rolls, and homemade ice cream and deserts (save room for the fresh Carolina peaches and ice cream over a slice of homemade cake). The wine list includes the local vintages from the Biltmore Estate's winery. Everything was so good that we went back again in a few weeks. Although the Smiths welcomed our drop-in visits, on busy weekends and holidays it might be a good idea to call ahead (828 645-4700) with your reservation. Added Note: Nov. 2004 we were briefly back in the Asheville area and made sure to dine again at the Weaverville Milling Company Restaurant. Annette selected pork tenderloin with apple-nut dressing and a delicate plum sauce. Larry had the "field & stream" (trout and steak) special. Wonderful.

Delectable Desserts
Croshaws Gourmet Pies in St. George, Utah. You can take a pie home or have a slice there or do like we did - - both. But this is just not just homemade pie, these are unique and made fresh daily. We can vouch for the banana cream, blackberry, apple, peach, and the sour cream lemon - - out of this world! Find them at 175 W 900 S or call ahead to 801 628-1700.
Jarling's Custard Cup in Champaign, Illinois. When we return to the Cham-bana area and its not midwinter (Sorry, this place is closed from late fall to early spring), we try to swing by 309 W. Kirby Avenue. The "Custard Cup" serves fresh-made frozen custard in sundaes, sodas, shakes, floats and the like. Their custard recipe is a family secret from the original Jarling's of Danville, Illinois. Our favorite is a sundae made with lemon custard and topped by their scrumptious cold fudge topping - - unmatched perfection! And if your go there in October, try their pumpkin pie custard.

Diner Delights
Mick's Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia. While in the 'A-Town' for a busy ed-tech conference, we asked at our hotel about a good eating spot located nearby. We were directed to Mick's at the corner of Linden and Peachtree, a short walk from where we were staying. We managed to get there early enough to grab one of the booths and were extremely pleased with the food and service. Annette ordered chicken pot pie and I (Larry) had grilled pork chops. We shared bites with each other; the pot pie had a delicate flaked crust and was chuck-full of vegetables and chicken baked just- right in a thick cream sauce, the best we have encountered. The tender pork chops were hickory grilled to perfection. Admiring a neighbor's desert, we split an order of peach cobbler ala mode. Every dish was made from scratch; it just doesn't get any better than that! Mick's can be found at three Atlanta locations; our favorite is at 557 Peachtree Street. Phone: 404 875-6425.

Fancy Finds
City Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in town for the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC 2005), we joined friends from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis at the historic City Tavern. Built in 1722-23, the original Tavern was an unofficial hangout for attendees at the First Continental Congress (1774) and was a celebration site for the first anniversary of Independence (July 4, 1777).

Today's detailed replica of the City Tavern was completed for the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration - - the original building was severely damaged by fire and eventually demolished in the nineteenth century. We enjoyed a great meal - - recipes from Colonial days, shared stimulating conversation and witty humor (rum shrub drinks too) with friends and colleagues, and topped the evening off with a carriage ride through the historic district and a stroll through the Chinatown district. It was a fun, relaxing evening!

Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We don't usually go for fancy restaurants, but we made an exception in Hershey, Pennsylvania. While speaking at a local school district, we were invited to eat at the 'Circular Dining Room' of the Hotel Hershey. We're really talking about a "dining experience." Regardless of the food dish selected, everything was wonderful. Seated next to the huge windows, we watched the late afternoon sun against the beautiful, sculpted gardens. And of course, save room for something chocolate.

Italian & Impressive
Mama Rose's Homemade Italian in Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park is one of our favorite locations and over the years, we have eaten at several of the area restaurants. Mama Rose's is one of the area's best. It is a place that we have taken visiting relatives and are never disappointed. They have superb Italian food. We recommend the spaghetti with meat balls, fettuccine Alfredo , veal parmesan, lasagna - - Caesar salad and garlic bread came with your meal. Oh yeah once we found this gem, we returned again and again. Could be that someone really enjoyed those "wine flights" too! Note: Mama Rose's and Poppy's (See below) are owned and operated separately by a wife and husband. Find them in Barlow Plaza, 338 E. Elkhorn Ave.

Sweet Basilico Cafe in Estes Park, Colorado. Two outstanding Italian restaurants in the same small Rocky Mountain town; don't miss the Sweet Basilico Cafe tucked away at 401 E. Elkhorn Avenue. This is a local favorite for made-from-scratch lasagna, manicotti, eggplant Parmesan, and pizza. You can call ahead for reservations at 970 586-3899.

Mexican Mania
Ben's Cafe in Green River, Utah. If you happen to be in Green River, like for their September Melon Festival, search out Ben's Cafe at 115 West Main. Our RV campground manager recommended them. Annette and I ate there our first night in town. She had the carne Asada plate and I ordered the homemade green chili. The food was great - - so much so that our second and last night in town, we came back and switched our orders. Ben's was an unexpected find, spectacular Mexican food in this small Utah city. If you make it by that way, be sure to also check out the nearby John Wesley Powell River Museum.

Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During our six-week stay in Santa Fe, we only ate out about three or four times. However, we were really glad that we chose to stop in at the Blue Corn. The food was great, Their decor is accented by splendid authentic weaving's, and the prices for our meals were moderate.

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill in St. George, Utah. If you're ever in the Dixie area of Southwest, Utah - - be sure to dine at the Cafe Rio (471 East Saint George Boulevard). All their dishes are prepared from scratch, including the tortillas, burritos, enchiladas, and the fantastic salads. This is fun, fast-paced dining with your meal made while you watch using authentic regional recipes and traditional techniques from the Rio Grande Valley.

Castro's Restaurante in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We may have never learned about this place if it wasn't for good friend and RV Park manager, John Brown. When we asked, "where's the best place for Mexican food?," he instantly replied "Castro's." Not a fancy tourist snag, this family-operated eating establishment is clean, busy, and efficient - - this is the best authentic Mexican food that we have found in Santa Fe. Maybe the best we have had in the U.S. Delicious menudo, chicharron, carne adovada, burritos, chile rellenos and every meal topped off with giant sopaipillas (honey is close at hand). H'mmm, looking forward to going back the next time we are Santa Fe. Find Castro's at 3904 Rodeo Road (easily accessible from Cerrillos Road), Phone: 505 438-0146.

La Casita in Alpine, Texas. Find where the locals eat; always great advice! Tucked away on an Alpine side-street at 1104 E. Avenue H, the La Casita was packed on the night we stopped by - - but the wait was worth it as we both ate our fill for under twenty bucks. The food was good, recommend the smothered burrito which had diced meat - - not ground. Its always a good sign to find shredded or diced beef.

Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery in San Antonio, Texas. Mi Tierra, open 24-hours each day, is also one of the oldest and most beautiful restaurants in the city. It's the very best reason to go to Market Square, 218 Produce Row.

There are multiple rooms with lots of seating, so the wait usually is not too long. The food is excellent and also be sure to check out the mural depicting San Antonio's history, the historic photographs, the huge restored bar, and the roaming troubadours (Mexican guitar trios, above right photo) who take requests for Mexican ballads - - all contribute to a fun dining event. In the 1920s and 1930s, Market Square was known as La Plaza del Zacate or Haymarket Square and was the place to hear such famous duos as Rocha and Martínez or the family of Lydia Mendoza sing. These days if the Mi Tierra is too crowded and you can't stand the wait, stroll down the street to La Margarita or Pico de Gallo, also in the Market Square area. All three restaurants are owned and operated by the Cortez family. We understand that some locals prefer the Pico de Gallo because the "tourist crowds" have taken over Mi Terra.

Nini's Taqueria in Durango, Colorado. While staying near Durango, we discovered Nini's Taqueria. Family-owned and operated by Abigail and Andy Snow, Nini's bills itself as a funky, casual Mexican restaurant. We could add that meals are reasonably priced (a welcome find in Durango), and they serve delicious and huge made-to-order burritos. Choose your meat and other filling components and top-them-off with a fesh-made-daily mild, medium, or smoking-hot salsa. Ummmm; that is lip-smacking, tasty eats! Nini's advertises "food so good you won't trust the water" but the water is fine: we also recommend the mango margaritas. It's dry here and you are in the mountains; drink plenty of liquids! We took our son, Ben, there when he and a friend came through for a visit; the food and drinks were excellent every time. There's patio dining in the back. Next time, we'll order another of their specialties; fish tacos - made from haddock marinated in lime and spices, topped with slaw, cheese, and salsa and wrapped in a tortilla. Find Nini's at 552 Main Street. Phone: 970 259-4221.

Su Casa in Fennville, Michigan. Before full-timing, we experienced some good Mexican food in places like the El Matador in Toledo, Ohio and a restaurant in "old-town" San Diego. But we also ate some of the best Mexican food in an unusual location. While speaking in Michigan, we were directed to Fennville, a small town southeast of Holland in the middle of farmland. The entry to the restaurant was through a grocery store front at 306 W. Main Street. In the back was a surprisingly large establishment that serves fantastic Mexican food. Phone: 616 561-5493.

Tosh's Hacienda de Tubac in Tubac, Arizona. O.K., so this listing of Mexican restaurants is beginning to lengthen. But once we had eaten at Tosh's Restaurant, it had to be included. This is absolutely the best Mexican restaurant that we have been to! (Well this was first written before we found Ben's or Cafe Rio or Castro's. . . so now this is absolutely one of the best Mexican restaurants). It's usually busy and crowded but even if you have to wait a while, the food and drink are worth it. Son Benjamin was visiting us, and we sat outside at the umbrella tables. We all three ordered a different meal, and everything was delicious. This is premium Mexican! Also the village of Tubac merits a little extra time to scope out the shops and galleries plus the historic Presidio, once a Spanish garrison. Surprisingly, Tubac later became the first Mormon settlement in Arizona. Also don't miss the nearby Tumacácori Mission. This is a great stopover if you are on a day-trip to Nogales, Mexico. Located just off I-10 at 14 Camino Otero Rd., phone: 520 398-3008.

Pizza Picks
Monroe County Pizza Department in Bloomington, Indiana. A small restaurant in a strip mall in Bloomington, Indiana (West 3890 W 3rd, phone: 812 331-2345) has some of the best pizza around. That's saying something in a great college town with a fair share of competition. Rumor has it that the establishment was started by a group of local firefighters and police. The pizza is always fresh out of the oven and lip-smacking good. Update: (Aug. 1 2007) A fire at the pizzeria destroyed it and damaged several adjacent businesses.

Papandrea's Pizza in Sisters, Oregon. Our motto is "Go where the locals go." As we registered at the campground in Sisters, we asked for directions to a good restaurant. Of course, the camp host directed us to the upscale restaurant adjacent to the RV park. Next, we asked where he would go for pizza and beer. Without skipping a beat, he said, Papandrea's Pizza. At the edge of the downtown area, patrons order at the counter and sit in the small dining room or outdoor picnic tables to wait for their pizza to arrive. Our half Hawaiian pizza (Canadian bacon and pineapple) and half tomato and beef was practically perfect.

Zax Wood Fired Pizza in Moab, Utah. For the best tasting pizza in Moab, make time to eat at Zax's. Just about everything in Moab is located on Main Street, this is near downtown at the intersection of South and Main. The southwestern array of pizza choices are scrumptious. Bring your appetite, get a street side table in the open dining area, and people-watch as you eat. We first ate there during a classic car weekend.

Zion Pizza & Noodle Company in Springdale, Utah. Located one mile from the entrance to Zion National Park in downtown Springdale, the Zion Pizza & Noodle Company occupies a former Mormon church that was built in 1930. On our first visit there, we ordered their Thai chicken pizza with peanut sauce, carrots, onion, and asiago mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses. We found a fantastic crust with great toppings and delicate seasonings - - just the kind of evidence required to make us return again and again!

Rural & Remarkable
Cafe Sonoita in Sonoita, Arizona. Where is that, you may ask? On AZ Hwy 82 just east of intersection with AZ 83. An unexpected find with a varied menu; seafood, local beef & lamb, regional dishes, and menu items added for special occasions. Everything is great; we ate there with RVing / hiking friends, again on Valentine's Day, and will return. Wonderful treat every time. This is worth driving nearly an hour south-southeast of Tucson (near Patagonia, Elgin, and AZ's wine country). Read some reviews online: (1) The Arizona Republic (Oct. 2003) by Howard Seftel and (2) Frommers. Find Cafe Sonita at 3280 Arizona 82, phone: 520 455-5278. Hours: lunch, 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; dinner, 5 - 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. This is a great restaurant in the heart of southern Utah, located at No. 20 North on Scenic Highway 12 in the town of Boulder. Our first visit was in early May after a loop trip with friends from nearby Torrey (37 miles north). We arrived tired from hiking, sightseeing, and driving from Capitol Reef National Park, the Waterpocket Fold, and the Burr Trail Backway. Our meals were outstanding and a great ending to a fine day. The Grill is open for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. till 9:30 p.m. Be sure to call ahead (435 335-7464) for dinner reservations - honest! The place was busy.

Rim Rock Restaurant in Torrey, Utah. Located east of town at the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, the Rim Rock is another great dining establishment in Torrey. This steak-house on the cliff-top serves excellent filets, a local fresh trout, honey chicken, and more. We first ate there in early April, following the advice of a local resident. Though it was off-season, the place was busy, had local musicians entertaining in the dining room, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meals. Read what travel writer, Daisann McClane had to say in the New York Times (Feb. 2003): In Utah, Nature's Skyline. Find them at 2523 East Highway 24, Phone: 435 425-3388.

Rib Race
Carson's Ribs in Chicago, Illinois. Larry first ate at Carson's in mid-eighties, on baseball outings to Wrigley Cubs games with the gang from Parkland College, but since then we both have eaten there when working in the Chicago area. There are three or four locations in greater Chicago plus another in Boca Raton, Florida, but the only one we've been to is the downtown location at 612 N. Wells. Bring a big appetite - - these are the best ribs in town, some say the best anywhere.

Elk Mountain Cafe near Stanley, Idaho. In our quest for the best ribs, we found some of the best only a few yards from our campsite in the Elk Mountain RV Resort outside Stanley, Idaho. The camp store doubled as a small restaurant operated by the owners. Tender ribs and tasty sauce combined for our favorite ribs. Their homemade pies were top notch too.

Front Range BBQ West in Old Colorado Springs, Colorado. We experienced a busy day in Colorado Springs, helping son Ben move into his new apartment. Late in the day, Annette directed us west of the city to enjoy a scenic drive through Garden of the Gods and historic Manitou Springs and Old Colorodo City. We were also looking for a place to eat. We found a great restaurant located at 2330 West Colorado Avenue in historic Old Colorado City. The Front Range provided us a relaxing patio dining experience, and a scrumptious meal too. Both Annette and Larry had the lean and delicous 'naked' St. Louis style smoked ribs while Ben had the pulled pork plate. Outstanding food and they often have live Bluegrass music too!

Seafood Stars
The Blue Marlin in Columbia, South Carolina. In the capital city to present at a state conference, Annette and I ate at a number of good restaurants in the downtown 'Congaree Vista' area. Known for their low country cuisine and surf and turf menu, we gave The Blue Marlin our vote as the best in Columbia. Annette had the Chilean Sea Bass and I had the Sesame Encrusted Tuna, both served with garlic smashed potatoes and spinich. Our meal was delectable. The Blue Marlin is located in the historic Seaboard Airline Railroad Station at 1200 Lincoln Street, phone (803) 799-3838.

Three Crabs on the beach at Dungeness, Washington. If you can get a window seat (we did), you can gaze out to views of varied seabirds, remnants of an ancient pier (Look for cormorants, osprey and eagles on the old pilings), and see the Dungeness Spit off in the distance. In fact this is a great last stop to cap off an afternoon hike out onto the Spit. It is the longest natural sand spit in the U.S. If you travel its entire five mile length, you need to allow about five hours to make it out and back; check the tide tables and wear sturdy hiking shoes - - you are on shifting rock and sand. By the way, the spit reportedly is growing five more feet each year. You will undoubtedly see lots of different shorebirds and waterfowl, seals playing in the current or sunning at the point, and a few large ships passing by in the Strait of Juan De Fuca on their way to Puget Sound harbors.

But be sure to make it to the 3 Crabs, whether you do the hike or not. The restaurant serves only the freshest quality seafood, most of it harvested locally and prepared and served with their own unique touches. One of the most popular sides dishes is their fresh cole slaw -- yeah, we're bragging about simple cole slaw - - but really, this was unlike any other we've eaten. For the main course, Larry had the best-tasting, golden-brown halibut while Annette dug into her Dungeness crab, a whole crab cooked just right. They also are noted for their beautiful desserts, lots to choose from. We split a slice of incomparable lemon cream pie. No wonder the August 7th, 2003 edition of USA Today named this as one of ten great places to eat seafood by the seashore. You will not find this to be a fancy dining place with sparkling crystal, polished silver, and linen dinner napkins. However, it does have the best-tasting food ever in a clean, pleasant atmosphere. Our recommendation comes after spending a few months in the Olympic Peninsula region and eating at half-a-dozen fine seafood restaurants spread out from Port Angeles to Seattle - - none of those are on this list. Finally, our meal here was very affordable. Oh say, how can you find it - - exit the highway 101 at Sequim, head north on Sequim Avenue traveling right through town for four miles, then look for a sign directing you to turn right and head out another half-mile or so to the beach. Reservations recommended in peak season, phone: 360 683-4264.

Pine Lodge in Lamoille, Nevada. You'd never expect great seafood in the dry, Nevada scrublands, so we were surprised when the camp host at the Double Dice Campground in Elko recommended crab legs. We traveled about 40 minutes southeast out of Elko to the small town at the base of the Ruby Mountains. It was dusk and after nearly flattening a mule deer, we decided to ask for directions from a clerk at the local country store (the only store in town). She directed us to the Pine Lodge Dinner House. From outside the place looked like a tavern, not a restaurant. But once inside, we discovered an unusual decor of stuffed animals in natural positions, everything from a bear attacking to a climbing mountain goat. Upstairs our table looked out to the mountains through a huge glass window. When we opened our menu, we saw that all-you-can-eat crab legs was their specialty. We placed an order and ate our fill of the best crab legs around.

Steak Superb a-lous!
Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Steeped in history, the Cattlemen's Steakhouse has been serving hungry ranchers, cowboys, and cattle-haulers since 1910. It's a great place to have a mouth-watering steak cooked the way you like -- comes with salad, baked potato, and hot rolls. They serve tender, delicious, top-quality beef that needs no sauce or marinate for flavor. Also we recommend starting with a serving of 'lamb fries' - a prairie delicacy and as they say "if you don't know, don't ask!" Thanks to our Oklahoma host, Gene Benson for taking us along for our first meal at the Cattlemen's. This is a one-of-a-kind steakhouse, the oldest eating establishment in Oklahoma City located in the middle of the Stockyards City at 1309 S. Agnew, phone: 405 236-0416,

Hogs Breath Saloon in La Junta, Colorado. After a day of hiking and site seeing (rock art and dinosaur tracks are in the area) in this SE desert corner of Colorado, we treated ourselves to a great tasting-steak dinner at a reasonable price. The Hogs Breath also serves lip-smacking barbeque ribs and a mouth-watering roast beef sandwich. This was an unexpected find in this dry and dusty corner of the state - - we quickly saw why this is a local favorite. Unending fresh-brewed iced tea helped clear the dust from our throats, and we saved room to share a slice of homemade pie. The service was excellent and the meal was delicious. If you want, you can leave your mark at the Hogs Breath by tacking a signed money bill on the wall. Located just off US highway 50 at 808 East 3rd Street, La Junta, CO, phone: 719 384-7879.

Theme Time
Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Formerly the St. John the Baptist Church, The Church Brew Works is the only brew pub in a historic church. This combination restaurant and micro brewery offers genuine American cuisine with wood fired pizza, buffalo and wild mushroom loaf, steak, seafood and of course an outstanding array of hand-crafted beers. Eat and drink while surrounded by stained glass windows and the original wood floors and cypress ceilings. The Church Brew Works is in the Lawrenceville borough at 3525 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, phone: 412 688-8200.

Goudling's Lodge Dining Room at Monument Valley, Arizona. If you get a window seat you can gaze out at the majestic pinnacles and buttes where John Wayne was filmed in "Stagecoach" and "The Searchers." More recently this was the location for shooting "Eiger Sanction" and "Back to the Future II." Try the Navajo taco. While you are there, take time to visit the museum and tour the scenic valley.

Mustang Grill in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although we enjoy an occasional stop at a Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood restaurant (those that are still open, that is), our pick for theme restaurants has to be the Cowgirl Grill in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Serving southwestern food, the restaurant is decorated with cowgirl memorabilia.

Samoa Cookhouse in Eureka, California. Located on Humboldt Bay across the Samoa Bridge, this is billed as the last surviving cookhouse in the West. Its been in operation more than a century. Here, they continue a tradition of serving lots of good food in a lumber camp style. You are seated and served at long, checkered oilcloth covered tables, surrounded by historical mementos from the early years of the lumber and logging industries. There is no menu, you get what the cook's are serving that day. But you can't go wrong, the food is great! Bring along a healthy appetite. You can go for breakfast or dinner.

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 6/00. Updated, 6/08.
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