Alaska - Juneau - Sandpiper by Dave Hileman

What a find for a breakfast. (or lunch I’m sure) We got off the plane and took a bus into town. Our first goal was coffee. We were told about the Sandpiper by Deborah in Sitka - she lived here for a bit, and she was right, excellent food. I had a normal breakfast eggs etc, but the potatoes were Yukon Gold and really good. CJH has a creation, ricotta sourdough pancake with blueberries and hers was superior. I know cause I tried a bite - or three. Coffee was freshly ground and quite good. We were delighted.

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South Dakota - Custer - Black Hills Burger and Bun by Dave Hileman

Our first meal was excellent - it was a very busy little spot in town. The burgers were really good, well prepared and with nice fresh baked buns. Cindy especially enjoyed hers with waffle sweet potato fries. Sometimes on a trip in tourist territory you get fooled but this place would hold its own anywhere. Good service, very good food and nice ambiance. Highly recommended.

https://www.blackhillsburgerandbun.com/#!

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South Carolina - Charleston - Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (3 Photos) by Dave Hileman

Jeni’s is also in Columbus & Nashville that we have tried and a few others around the country. It is in the top five of my favorites but a bit on the expensive side. The ice cream is one of the best and they offer excellent and creative flavors. The Savannah Buttermint is way past average. You can get a sampler of three flavors that is great for those having trouble making a choice. Prepare for long lines but worth the wait and the dollars.

This is to serve as a reminder that a goal of this and every trip is to find excellent ice cream. What place will be the first of the journey?

https://jenis.com

This is my attempt to take a more “artsy” photo. But on your beret to properly appreciate.

This is my attempt to take a more “artsy” photo. But on your beret to properly appreciate.

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Virginia - Williamsburg - Oceans & Ale by Dave Hileman

This is an nice restaurant in an unexpected place, it is located not just in a strip shopping center but in the outlets off Richmond Road in Williamsburg. It is a pretty good place for seafood. I have had two or three different fresh fish and this last time the Maui-Maui fish tacos. They were quite good and the green beans are very good here. My daughter in law had a steak and said it was excellent, so perhaps I should branch out a bit. We were there on some “all you can eat” wings night, for me that would be maybe one, but my son was able to eat four or five orders. They offer lots of different beverages and a skillet size cookie for desert. A decent choice anytime you are in Williamsburg.

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Virginia - Richmond - Burger Bach (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

Burger Bach (pronounced “batch”) is a “New Zealand inspired gastro pub.” I would describe it as a perfect restaurant - at least to me. The burgers are outstanding, the fries even more so, the sides like the sautéed spinach - amazing. They offer a host of homemade sauces for dipping, we had a ketchup, a blueberry and a chipotle mustard so very good. I have had mussels there and again excellent, Cindy had shrimp this time and we all thought they were among the best we have eaten outside of a few very special places. We have eaten at both the Cary Town and the Short Pump locations, I think they have three or four more including one not too far from us in Durham, we definitely need to go. Soon. Love this place - for a very good, well prepared meal of my favorite things to eat. That the ingredients are carefully sourced, beef and lamb from New Zealand, mussels from PEI and super fresh seafood adds a lot to the culinary experience. They have interesting beverages, too. Highly recommended.

https://theburgerbach.com/

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It happened to be Mother’s Day and Cindy was given a flower.

It happened to be Mother’s Day and Cindy was given a flower.

North Carolina - Raleigh - Gonza Taco Y Tequila (3 Photos) by Dave Hileman

Unusual, creative, distinct, different are all words you might use to describe the decor and the atmosphere at Gonza TYT. And they would all be accurate. What they might also describe is the food; it is not your average Mexican fare. While they do begin with the obligatory bowl of chips what is distinctive is that the salsa they bring is excellent. The menu features innovative tacos and a host of other dishes. I am always focused on the tacos. Cindy’s choices vary. They serve three small tacos on a single plate with a side, for me it is usually the cilantro rice. Last time we were here I had the fish tacos that had Mahi-Mahi - excellent. There are 8 or ten different choices including pork, veggie, steak, seafood and chicken several ways.. Cindy had a dish with mole sauce that she loves, Enchiladas Con Mole. The prices are fair, the portions are satisfying the details are well done and the dessert, the one time we had it, was really good. I think they have three locations in the Raleigh area, not sure, because we go to the one near our home on the North side of town. It never disappoints and you cannot say that about many restaurants. And the decor, well, it adds a smile.

https://northraleigh.gonzatacosytequila.com

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If you have to wait for a table you get to pick one of these guys.

If you have to wait for a table you get to pick one of these guys.

South Carolina - North Charleston - Park Circle Creamery by Dave Hileman

Welcome BY Mo! What a nice find and we were able to get to Park Circle Creamery two nights. Park Circle has a lot of story to write yet. It is only three years old and clearly being done on a small budget. I am more than sure this man, Maurice, works long hours. But he is doing things well. First the ice cream, at least the two flavors I ate and the one I tasted are nice. In fact the Lemon Crunch was the most flavorful lemon ice cream I ever had, absolutely top shelf. Second, he greets everyone when they come in, takes his time letting them sample and talk and really appears to enjoy being in the store. Plus ice cream makes you happy. His is a cash only business and the ice cream is stored in lidded bins in old freezers, like I say on a tight budget. Yet he is earning his success with a good product, good location and good service. I hope he keeps things consistent and is able to expand a bit - but great start to an excellent spot for ice cream in Park Circle area of North Charleston. Go order a super cone and say “hi” to the ice cream guy!

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South Carolina - Charleston - Bay Street Biergarten by Dave Hileman

We picked this place a bit at random from the reviews we were reading on places like Yelp. Turned out to be a pretty good choice. We did not want a super expensive seafood meal, there are those in abundance in Charleston, so this restaurant, only a short walk from the dock for Fort Sumter, fit the bill perfectly. And it was close to our desert goal, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.

Choices here were interesting. The usual for this type of place, burgers, large sandwiches and lots of smoked meats. Plus interesting sides, German Potato salad, tater tots and a great pretzel with a very spicy mustard, “lusty monk mustard.” Also very good salads. Reasonable prices and decent food made this a popular spot.

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South Carolina - Charleston - Early Bird Diner by Dave Hileman

I heard about this unlikely looking place from “Diners Drive-ins and Dives.” It is well known for Fried Chicken and Waffles - not two dishes but on one plate. What else is neat is that this former fast food place, that still has lots of leftovers like the floor and the seats and the tight parking lot, does a lot of things really well. We have eaten here four times and every time the food was presented nicely and prepared with excellence. This last trip including our friends Janet and Rusty and all four of us, again, had a good meal, very reasonably priced. They have a lot of homemade desserts and they make there own ice cream. I have had root beer ice cream here and it was good but the very limited menu -five flavors - were all a bit too off the grid for me this time. So leaving Charleston on Rt 17 south you will drive right past the Early Bird and we highly recommend a stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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South Carolina - Pawleys Island - Paradice by Dave Hileman

We have not reviewed an ice cream shop for way too long but I was skeptical because the name is spelled wrong to emphasize the ICE portion and second - they appeared to be trying to do too much. Gelato, ices, ice cream and lots more. Often this effort suffers because it is not focused on a specific product and making that “What We Do” great. I was wrong. Shocking right? I had a great scoop of Key Lime Pie on day one and a Salted Caramel with swirls on day two. Yes, day two, you do have to check for consistency, after all. Cindy had mocha almond fudge. The young ladies working there were engaging and lots of fun. We would highly rate the Paradice as a go to for your ice cream needs on the SC beach. No matter which beach you choose, the drive is worth it.

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These were the reasonable gourmet cones!

These were the reasonable gourmet cones!

South Carolina - Charleston - loLA (4 photos) by Dave Hileman

So let’s just get this out of the way cause if I don’t I will never hear the end of it. Rusty found this restaurant. We ate in the Park Circle area of North Charleston the new trendy area (I know, how did Rusty….). It is a small cinder block building on the back street with the kitchen located behind the building in a food truck. loLA combines the low country style of cooking with a New Orleans twist. It was excellent. I had a great fish n chips that had a hint of heat in the batter, CJH had a shrimp creole that was really good. ( I had half of it for dinner on day the next day.) Rusty had something and Janet had something else likely with shrimp - the details are why you like this blog! So great food, reasonable price, happy servers and lots of people. Can’t miss at loLA. Credit to Rusty for this find.

Welcome to loLA

Welcome to loLA

The fish and the cocktail sauce was excellent

The fish and the cocktail sauce was excellent

shrimp creole

shrimp creole

unassuming start to a great meal

unassuming start to a great meal

Florida - Orlando -Disney - Via Napoli (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

So, I don’t eat pizza, something to do with the cheese they bury perfectly delightful bread under - but I still had a good meal here and the rest of the party were delighted with the pizza. So it is likely pretty good. Via Napoli is, of course, in the Italy section of Epcot along the World Showcase and replaced an older Italian version that we did not like very well. This one is fun, good food, nice environment and not too expensive. Epcot is an eaters delight. I have eaten in Mexico, Morroca, Canada, England, Germany, Norway, Japan and France. Amazing meals in Canada - I am a bit miffed at them because they removed from the menu the Best Hamburger I Ever Ate - but it is still an exceptional place. Loved our meal in France, both times - plus the pastry places in France and Norway are so good. Well this is not supposed to be about Epcot just hard to focus on a single place. Oh, and I think Rusty was here too.

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Hard not to like a place that features ovens like this!

Hard not to like a place that features ovens like this!

New York - NYC - Isabella's (2 photos) by Dave Hileman

I really don’t recall much about this restaurant. I do remember that I liked my food, but not what I ordered. Cindy really liked her meal, not sure what that was either. I do know it was not far from where we were staying and that I did not pick the place. Rusty did. I don’t like to give him too much credit but he did order the dessert as well and THAT I remember. A “paper” bag full of fruit, but the bag was made of chocolate. So cool. OK, so he gets some credit.

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Tennessee - Sevierville - Five Oaks Farm Kitchen (2 Photos) by Dave Hileman

I am a fan of Cracker Barrel, especially when we are traveling and need a decent meal and a fair price. Nothing is great, well maybe the blueberry pancakes qualify, but it is good food usually done well. Imagine the CB with a 700HP big block Ford, supercharged. Welcome to Five Oaks Farm Kitchen. Cindy and I were at Johnson University homecoming and our dinner plans feel through for various reasons and we were not eating in the cafeteria again. So we headed off campus toward Sevierville with nothing in mind. We passed a couple of “maybes” and were just on the road to Pigeon Forge when I spotted this place. Super find. They start by bringing you a cup of potato soup, doesn’t matter what you order. It is a light broth and full of potatoes. And they bring you biscuits. Sound familiar? Forget it, these are huge, really good and served with honey from their own bees. I did not need to order because, biscuits, but I did. Fried Chicken that was, well here is their description: “fresh chicken soaked in whole buttermilk and Tennessee hot sauce then dredged in seasoned flour and Ritz cracker crumbs. Fried in peanut oil. Served with coleslaw and corn on the cob.” Excellent and they gave me two breasts instead of the leg/thigh. Accommodating. Cindy ordered several sides and ate one of the chicken breasts. We wanted Cherry Cobbler but they were out. Guess we are forced to go back. It was not CB prices - but it was definitely not CB food. We both completely enjoyed both the food and the experience. Oh, and the history of the location makes it even better. They have generous portions, a diverse menu, smoked meats, and are open for supper, lunch and breakfast. I just can’t wait to try breakfast. Go!

https://fiveoaksfarmkitchen.com

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New York - NYC - Joe's Pizza by Dave Hileman

This is one you have to trust the other people with me cause I don’t eat pizza. However they, Cindy, Rusty and Janet, LOVED this typical New York thin - fold the crust - pizza. Somewhere in Greenwich Village. Joe’s is a NYC institution and loved by those who fancy a slice.

http://www.joespizzanyc.com

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Tennessee - Johnson City - Southern Craft by Dave Hileman

This was a very nice surprise in Johnson City, a pleasant upscale BBQ place with very good side dishes. And, drum roll, BURNT ENDS! My favorite. I had those the first time in Kansas City and not too often since but they were here and they were good. Cindy had sweet potato souffle, tomato -cucumber salad and fried green tomatoes and ate some of my plate. We had plenty. Six different sauces including a very spicy mustard based one were great with the meat. Nice atmosphere in a old repurposed building with “State of Franklin” featured and homemade ice cream which I cannot really describe very well. The coffee ice cream tasted more like a frozen mousse - good, strong flavor but unusual texture. Still excellent meal.

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New York - Watkins Glen -Seneca Sunrise Coffee by Dave Hileman

We were in need of coffee and found this little spot a block or two off of the main street while walking around the town of Watkins Glen. We love this kind of spot and prefer it to the more corporate experiences that abound. Seneca was the best of these kinds of places: they roast their own coffee, they care about the quality of the coffee using only Fair Trade organic arabica beans and they roast in small batches like our favorite, Rostov’s in Richmond. The shop was small with a nice front porch. They were busy but patient and they had some unusual things such as Cascara, a brewable coffee blossom - which we have yet to try and a Rhubarb Shrub that is delicious. We also came home with a pound of one of their single origin coffees. If you are in Watkins Glen, stop here - if you are in some other town or city look up the small owner-brewer shop and you will enjoy your coffee and your experience better.

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New York - NYC - Juniors (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

Sometimes places are famous for things and everything else pales in comparison. Not so at Juniors, famous for their cheesecake yet the food is fabulous. It is a hectic, crowded, noisy place with servers bustling down every aisle. That’s OK, the food is fabulous. There is likely a long wait to be seated and nearly no where to wait in the tiny alcove by the door. That’s OK, the food is fabulous. I love that they bring pickles to your table, and cole slaw - no matter what you order! CJH had a tuna dish that was nearly as big as she was. I had a much more modest sandwich and fries that actually fit on the plate, or a tiny bit over the edge. Juniors is the archetype of a New York sandwich shop, boisterous, loud, expensive and you don’t really care because the food is fabulous.

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Pickled beets, cole slaw and pickled pickles, love it.

Pickled beets, cole slaw and pickled pickles, love it.

Pennsylvania - Hershey - Hershey Pantry by Dave Hileman

For many years the Eastern Christian Convention was held in Hershey Pa and Cindy and I were able to attend as exhibitors for VEF - later Waypoint. It was always a very nice location for an event and just fun being in Hershey with lots to do in addition to the great program at the ECC. Because we were often there a day early to set up we had more opportunity to explore and visited the Hershey Museum, Hershey World and theme park, the excellent automobile museum, gardens at the Hershey hotel and more over the years. One consistent was a lunch or dinner at the Hershey Pantry. Located on East Chocolate Avenue, the Pantry is a small restaurant usually with a wait to get in - if you can find a parking space. But it is always worth the wait, consistently good food, interesting dishes and outstanding breakfast. I have had well prepared fish and pasta, creative sides and out of the world desserts. They also have an extensive lunch menu with a lot of sandwich choices. Since the ECC is no longer meeting we will have to find another reason to visit Hershey - maybe chocolate! - and end our day with a perfect dinner at the Hershey Pantry.

https://www.hersheypantry.com

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New York - NYC - Ferrara (2 photos) by Dave Hileman

Hitting two notes on my favorite lists in one stop, history and pastry is Ferrara in the Little Italy area of NYC. We have been here twice and ate way too much both times. But after all it was breakfast. (That may be worse.) The history component is that gangsters that met in the basement as told or embellished by a walking tour of the area. This paragraph I found on the internet; “Seedy history: Site of a 1971 burglary in which a crew led by Gallo allegedly stole $50,000 from a locked safe on the second floor. According to Nash, some believe the heist precipitated Gallo’s own murder a few months later.”

The other aspect of the history is that this place started in 1892! The first espresso cafe in US. Amazing shop with constantly fresh pastry and lots more. But, truth is I have only eaten the pastry.

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