I'll never forget it. The fall I was 15, my dad and I went away for the weekend, just the two of us. We stayed in a hotel in Carmel Valley. We went in the jacuzzi, and we played tennis. We strolled the charming streets of Carmel together, just enjoying time away. But the majority of our time was spent eating. See, we had an Entertainment coupon book that was expiring the next week, and Dad wanted to get his money's worth out of that book. So we ate all the regular meals, as well as stopping for coffee, dessert, and candy...all at different places! It was so much fun to enjoy that wonderful food with my dad, at places where we normally wouldn't eat. I think that weekend began my love affair with finding hole-in-the-wall places to eat. Ever since Matt and I got married, we have built our road trips around finding those unique, local places to eat. We almost never eat at chain restaurants. We've found some awful places. But we've also found some AMAZING gems with fantastic food.
As usual, we built this trip around food stops. This time we had recommendations from our friend Jim, who is a foodie just like we are. We pulled out at 7:15 on Saturday morning and drove for a couple of hours before stopping for pancakes at Cracker Barrel. I know, Cracker Barrel is a chain...but their pancakes are SO good! About an hour east of Oklahoma City, we stopped at a little mom and pop place that is known for its ham sandwiches and beef jerky. We bought some jerky and enjoyed it all the way to Oklahoma City. There we stopped at Del Rancho for lunch. Del Rancho is nothing special to look at. In fact, it's the kind of place I would usually avoid. But oh, the food!!! That chicken fried steak was far and away the best I've ever had. The fried okra was awesome, too. And the garlic salad dressing? Ummm!!!!!About an hour after that, our lunch had settled just enough to leave room for a chocolate milkshake from Braums. Oh. YUM!
We had planned on stopping at the Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas, for a steak dinner. But we were still stuffed from lunch and dessert when we arrived in Amarillo. We opted to keep driving because it was only 6:00 and neither one of us were tired. We ended up stopping for the night in Dalhart, Texas. It is this little, tiny farming town out in the middle of nowhere. Right next door to our hotel was a steak house. By 8:30 we were hungry, so we enjoyed steak, salad, okra, garlic mashed potatoes, and chicken tortilla soup together before turning for the night.
On Sunday morning we woke up and my pants had shrunk in the waist! Ha ha, not really. But I'm glad we were only on the road for 2 days, or the pants would start to shrink! We had breakfast in Raton, New Mexico. The pancakes and mexican potatoes were wonderful, but the town was even more special! It is another small town, but it is clean, pretty, friendly, and tucked away against the mountains. We would have loved to have stayed and explored, but guess what? We had a lunch appointment in Colorado Springs!
Once in the Springs, we met up with our friends Gary and Michelle, who took us out for a sushi feast. If you know me, you know that I love sushi, but am generally afraid to eat it in land-locked Arkansas! Why I feel better about sushi in land-locked Colorado, I don't know. Maybe it's that catfish is not considered seafood here...
Whatever the case, the sushi was fabulous! I broadened my horizons a bit, and tried a roll that had raw yellowtail in it, and a slab of barbequed unagi (freshwater eel). The yellowtail didn't taste bad, but I can't get past the texture. It's not chewy, but is does kind of mush in your mouth. No thanks! But I surprised myself by really liking the unagi!
We finished off our night with blizzards from Dairy Queen.
For lunch today I had potato pancakes at a New York style deli in Denver, and Matt had a ginormous reuben sandwich. Now we're at our conference location, and we'll be eating college cafeteria food for the next 9 days. And honestly, I'm okay with that. This particular college has really awesome food. Tonight my guts are in rebellion at all the rich food I've been eating. Seriously, I'm so bloated and yucky in my tummy. I'm hoping the caf will have yogurt and a nice, fresh salad. Maybe that will help.
Once I get my camera out of the car and pictures downloaded, I'll post the pics so you can see the scrumptuous fare we've been enjoying. Yes, I took pictures of almost every place we stopped, and of the meals we ate. It will make a fun scrapbook page!
If I get time tomorrow, I'll post the other part of our drive out here, minus the food. Two whole days in the car alone with my sweet hubs...bliss! We talked without being interrupted. Our conversation ranged much deeper than it does with children present. We also enjoyed extended periods of quiet, and music that is too mature for 6 and 3-year-old ears.
Speaking of Snapper and Pepper, they are safe and sound in Arkansas with a friend who is nannying for us. They were thrilled to get to stay with her, and they'll be doing all sorts of fun things.
Alrighty, the caf is open and I'm actually feeling hungry. More later.