Sam’s No. 3

Travel is an opportunity to get a taste of the local culture and the literal taste of local cuisine. I avoid chain restaurants as much as possible when I travel, choosing instead local joints and small businesses when I can.

This strategy works out great sometimes. Others, not so much.

On my last day in Colorado, we wanted to have a good breakfast and go for a hike before heading to the airport mid afternoon.

Diners are my jam so I was excited to find a nearby diner that had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives.

It was ok.

I know – how arrogant does that sound?

Hear me out. We had some great meals on this trip including a couple of delicious breakfasts with great service, decent prices and terrific atmosphere. This just wasn’t one of them.

We were there on a Sunday morning and it was understandably busy. We waited about 45 minutes for a table, heightening the anticipation that it would be worth the wait. The menu is huge with plenty of variety so that’s good. The look of the place is cool and I always give restaurants brownie points for atmosphere.

But the food wasn’t that good. Bland potatoes and eggs with some sliced American cheese on top didn’t do much for me. The egg to potato ratio was all wrong as it was a ton of potatoes with two scrambled eggs on top. My friend didn’t love hers either.

However, lots of folks around us seemed pretty happy. So what do I know?

I am always hesitant to tell you about the things I dislike and prefer to focus on the positive. However, this was a valuable lesson that what’s popular isn’t necessarily what’s good for me. What’s not featured on tv may still be pretty awesome.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a Colorado breakfast joint I did enjoy immensely.

Adventure Day Close To Home

Yesterday was epic. I didn’t travel far or do anything expensive. Instead, I spent the day being a tourist in my own backyard in nearby Chillicothe, Ohio.

The truth is, I didn’t actually do anything I had planned. The original plan was to go for a walk, hit a car show and eat Donato’s plant based pizza at the park.

None of this actually happened.

The lovely thing about solo adventures is there’s no one to complain when you go off script. What’s even better is that off script is often where the magic happens.

I started my day at Adena Mansion and Gardens, the historic home of Thomas Worthington. He was Ohio’s sixth governor, a founding father of Ohio who did so many things in his lifetime that he and his home will require their own story this week.

Ten dollars buys you a guided tour of the home, admission to a museum and access to explore the grounds. Here you’ll learn about life in Ohio when the state was young, about the life and career of this important figure in our history, and about others like Tecumseh and Henry Clay who visited here.

After that I hit up downtown Chillicothe which has experienced a rebirth in recent years. There are several nice specialty shops and restaurants here and the business community has done a great job of advocating for themselves. They have made improvements in the historic downtown and worked hard to draw in visitors who have money.

Downtown was busy as there were a couple of events in town and some stores were taking advantage of the extra foot traffic with sales. I don’t enjoy crowds so I didn’t dwell here but having live music was pretty cool

I had lunch at Carl’s Townhouse which is a 1939 era dinner that began life at the New York World’s Fair. A quick grilled cheese and fries were just the ticket to provide sustenance for the rest of my day.

Then it was a stroll down the street to Apollo Records where I chatted with the owner about the Flying Burrito Brothers and an amazing up and coming artist named Charlie Crockett. I found a great vintage Aretha Franklin album and a Roseanne Cash that I didn’t know but literally purchased for the cool cover art.

Then it was up the street to Grandpa Joe’s Candy Store for a cold drink and dessert before heading to Wheatberry Books for a new title and a chat with the clerk. She was excited about the Wendell Berry book I had chosen. Wheatberry is a small independent bookstore but their shelves are lined with all the books I either own or want to own. They even have a robust section for kids. Here’s something I once wrote on Wheatberry.

After that, it was a stroll through Yoctangee Park to see the swans, geese and ducks. I followed the sound of music to the ice cream truck because it was hot and humid and everyone’s a kid when the ice cream truck is nearby!

Afterward, it was a quick browse through Chillicothe Antique Emporium where I located a bargain and chatted with the owner about the old time soda fountain he assembled and added to his store. He collected the various pieces over time and from places as far away as Georgia. It is well done and you can sit for a cold drink, some ice cream or fresh popcorn! Click here for something I once wrote about that place.

Chillicothe has a lot of history and there’s much more than you can accomplish in a day. Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is an interesting stop to learn about the mound builders of this region. It has become internationally renowned and we are lucky to have it. In the summer, the outdoor drama Tecumseh tells the story of the Shawnee Chief who promoted intertribal unity to push back against the US Expansion into tribal lands.

Chillicothe has carved out a place for itself for specialty interests. The bookstore and record shop are practically unicorns in this day and age but there are other specialties. There’s an old school bike shop, a music store, a stained glass shop, a dojo and a place that specializes in aromatherapy. Plus antiques, clothing boutiques and a place where you can buy specialty toy soldiers designed for the serious collector. There is literally something for everyone in a tidy space along downtown streets lined with some very cool architecture. There’s even a great bike path and tons more to see and do than you can fit into a day.

Along the way yesterday, I had meaningful conversations with people who I never imagined I needed to meet. My Adena docent was fantastic and I met two retirees on my tour who I could have chatted with for hours. They didn’t bat an eyelash when I struck up a conversation and, as it turns out, they were open to talk about topics that I’ve never quite been comfortable discussing with my own friends.

It was an enriching and rewarding day, not necessarily for what I did so much as who I met along the way. More on that soon. For now, know this: the price of admission will get you into a place. The act of learning comes from talking to people about things that are new to you, talking to people about things that are important to them, talking to people about things that enlighten you.

Always, always, always be open to hearing someone else’s perspective.

Check back this week for stories about yesterday including more on Thomas Worthington and his Adena.

Here’s one more picture from the park.

Isn’t it peaceful?

Pete’s Kitchen

If you’re in Denver and looking for a quick diner breakfast, the local chain Pete’s has an old school diner called Pete’s Kitchen.

Choose from a booth or a stool at the counter. If it’s warm enough you can eat outside too. Wherever you sit, the food is good and comes out quick.

We went for breakfast one day. My veggie omelette, potatoes and toast made for a huge serving and it was all made fresh to order.

My stomach was on Ohio time so I devoured every bite. Prices were reasonable and I would absolutely go back if given a chance. Want to visit or just learn more? Visit their website!

Coney Island Diner

Coney Island diner with bike

It’s been a Mansfield tradition since 1936 and I can see why. The Coney Island Diner in the heart of downtown Mansfield was a highlight of my visit to the city.

It’s traditional American diner fare. That means burgers and fries, ice cream and comfort food. They do breakfast all day so I had a veggie omlette with home fries and toast for just a few bucks. It was a large portion and tasted like something my grandma would have cooked.

The atmosphere is great with dinette tables, booths, a counter and stuff on the walls. And you can tell that it’s a good place because they have regulars. An elderly woman who sat near me waited patiently for the waitress to stop by and confirm she wanted her regular order. And did she want hash browns or home fries today?

Another woman had two children in tow, clearly grandkids, who were having fun sipping milkshakes at the counter. Two men in electric company uniforms kidded with the waitress about her tip over their large platters of food.

My service was great, the food was good and it was delivered lickety split – all requirements of a good diner. If you’re in town for the prison, the carousel park or the host of other fun things to do in the area, be sure to stop by for lunch or maybe just an ice cream treat!

Coney Island Diner is located at 98 N. Main Street and they’re open every day except Sunday. Go check ’em out and let me know what you think!

 

Elliston Place Soda Shop

Elliston's Place (54)

You know that I didn’t drive all the way to Nashville from Ohio without finding a diner or two. Today, I want to tell you about one just down the street from Centennial Park in Nashville.

One of these days I’ll write about Centennial Park and the full scale replica of the Parthenon that resides there.

But not today.

Elliston's Place (46)Instead, I want to show you Elliston Place Soda Shop. This is one of the few stops this weekend that didn’t feel like a tourist trap. In fact, it was busy with a lot of neighborhood folks picking up take out. At one point, a group came in to celebrate a child’s birthday and some teenagers had seemingly taken up residence but I appeared to be the only tourist in the house.

Opened in 1939, Elliston’s feels like a monument to a slower time. A slice of Americana.

The tile and chrome, the booths and counter all appear to be original. Small jukeboxes hang on the wall at each booth and the red and yellow decor is simply happy.

Like any good diner, your food is made fresh to order and comes pretty quick. I was passing by between meals so I settled for a chocolate sundae the size of my head. Seriously friends, this sundae was huge. It would probably be best to share with someone else but, being alone, I took one for the team and ate it by myself. Yup. I ate the whole thing.

I sat for a while, resting after walking miles and miles that day. That birthday party? Some of the kids wanted to see their milkshakes be mixed. There’s a picture below of three little kids kneeling on stools at the counter while they anxiously awaited their treats.

It was just fun to see.

This place is family owned and operated. Their prices skew a bit higher than you might expect at a diner but sometimes you have to pay the price to support a neighborhood joint. You might get better prices at a fast food chain but you won’t find the atmosphere and caring service that Elliston’s provided me.

I’m told it’s been featured in some movies which I need to look up soon. I badly hope it’s still there if I ever go back to Nashville.

Have a look at some more pictures!

Want to know more? Visit their website!