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!



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.



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.


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.


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.

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.



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.


New York - NYC - Ample Hills Creamery by Dave Hileman

I read about Ample Hills in almost every article about great ice cream in NYC but it was in the Bronx and I have never been to the Bronx. We never cover everything we want to see and do in Manhattan so the Bronx and the Ample Hills Creamery was unvisited and untried. Until our last trip to NYC. We went to the Chelsea Market for lunch and after, as is my habit, I looked on the iPhone Maps for “ice cream nearby” and Ample Hills was one block away. No New Yorker late for a subway ever covered a block quicker. They had opened here recently and I was delighted. The ice cream more than lived up to the promise. In fact, this is now included in my “Top Five” in the country as I mentioned a few posts ago under the Island Creamery. It is a small space attached to a bar with only a couple of tables and a separate entrance dedicated to the ice cream. They get extra stars because you can get two flavors in ANY size cone or cup, big plus, they bake and make all their add-ins in house (plus plus) and they developed special flavors for Disney’s Mickey’s 90 Birthday. You can get them in the store or at the recently opened kiosk at Disney’s Boardwalk. Finally a reason to go to Disney that I like! Cindy and I had four flavors in two small cones including an oatmeal, butterscotch, chocolate and a speciality flavor a root beer, that is available only in this store (actually each of their now 12 shops have one unique flavor). Seriously great ice cream.

Whew. I really need to get to the Boardwalk- if I skip the ticket to Disney that translates into 20 cones.



New York - NYC - Chelsea Market (4 photos) by Dave Hileman

Wow, did we have a good time here (along with several hundred of our new friends -packed place). There were lots of choices about where and what to eat and we settled on two, the primary one was Miznon featuring Mediterranean street food. I am still not sure what CJH had but it had its origin in Cauliflower and was served on a pita. Whatever it was she thought it was fabulous. We shared a “bag of green beans” weird as it sounds they were excellent and messy. I had a Japanese inspired taco from a shop a few doors away. Fine choice. Lots of fun, noise, color , people, languages, unique foods and choices, sounds a lot like New York City.

The Cauliflower Pita and Bag of Green Beans

The Cauliflower Pita and Bag of Green Beans



My taco emerged from back in there somewhere.

My taco emerged from back in there somewhere.

South Carolina - Columbia - Grill Marks by Dave Hileman

Downtown in Columbia is a stretch of road about a mile long leading up a slight hill from the river that used to be warehouses, factories and railroads, now it is upscale hotels, restaurants and bars. We were here on a Saturday night, early, but I think USC was not yet back from Christmas break because it was not too busy. Still lots of people around. We walked up and back looking at the options and other shops along the way. It was a nice evening, especially as it was January. We finally chose Grill Marks. It features burgers, milk shakes and a large bar. It was busy with two large parties going on but we squeezed in. The hamburger was outstanding made with several different cuts of meat; extremely good, nice brioche bun, lots of good toppings and very fairly priced. CJH had three sliders and a salad. Hers included one with pimento cheese and one with jalapeños. Again really well prepared. I caved and opted for a regular milkshake after the burger arrived as I was enticed by all the fancy ones being delivered right past me. Worth every calorie. I did not try the “adult” ones with various alcohols but they were quite fancy. So, great spot and they have one in Greenville, SC, too. Try it for a burger that is a ten!



North Carolina - Durham - Guglhupf by Dave Hileman

I have zero idea how this might be pronounced but since we were in Durham last time I thought I would post my only other Durham restaurant. Guglhupf is a German, surprise I know, bakery and cafe. It has an eclectic menu but pretty good, the bakery is next door and is outstanding. They have lots of outside seating and an upstairs balcony area so it handles the bigger crowds pretty well but ordering is right inside the door so that was not thought through too carefully. Good place for lunch any day and a great place to pick up a loaf of “not your normal choice” bread or rolls or pastry for a real treat. https://guglhupf.com


North Carolina - Durham - Bull City Burger & Brewery by Dave Hileman

My friend is trying to find the best hot dogs so when we set a meeting in Durham I suggested Bull City. These hot dogs are made to their specs, the buns are baked in house AND they made the pickles, the sauerkraut, the mustard - I don’t know what you get on yours but that is my standard order! Anyway they were super. And so big you needed a knife and fork. recommended. http://www.bullcityburgerandbrewery.com

The RIGHT way to dress a hot dog

The RIGHT way to dress a hot dog

Certainly NOT the RIGHT way.

Certainly NOT the RIGHT way.

Virginia - Chincoteague - Island Creamery (2 photos) by Dave Hileman

This is nearly as good an ice cream as you can get anywhere. When you consider value it may be the best place in US. You get great flavors, generous scoops and extra smooth ice cream. Waffle cones are well made and priced well too. The Marsh Mud is the most intense chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten. The butterscotch is excellent as is the coffee. The Bourbon Caramel Crunch is amazing, mint is minty, well you get the idea. You order a regular cone and they give you a cup to set it in as it overflows the confines of the cone. Love the Island Creamery. There is also a soft serve a few doors away, Mr Whippy, that is quite good for a soft experience. We are nostalgic for this one because we took our grandson for his first ice cream here. Both are good but Island Creamery is more than a cone above the rest. And by the rest I mean anywhere. It is easily in the top five ice cream cones ever (Jeni’s, Ample Hills, Cows and MDI) and consistently good. https://www.islandcreamery.net

Is there a better sign anywhere, Coffee, Ice Cream and WIFI, I would be 500 lbs if it were down the street.

Is there a better sign anywhere, Coffee, Ice Cream and WIFI, I would be 500 lbs if it were down the street.


New York - NYC - Max Brenner Chocolate (two photos) by Dave Hileman

I am not sure this is a good as I think it is, but I love it. A bit expensive (it is NYC) but unique. Superior hot chocolate (Mexican is my favorite) and a full menu with chocolate surprises. CJH and I split an order of chocolate chip pancakes and eggs. Fun brunch. And really very good. This restaurant is just off Union Square on Broadway. http://maxbrenner.com/chocolate-dessert-bar/

Chocolate pouring and caramel too.

Chocolate pouring and caramel too.


Pennsylvania - Lancaster County - Shady Maple (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

There are occasions when your own rules are ignored. I break all of mine at Shady Maple. First, i don’t really like buffets, except…, I don’t often want a lot of food, except…, I try and eat carefully, except…., I never have two desserts, except…, and more. If I go to Shady Maple in eastern Lancaster County I show no restraint. The place is enormous - just the food line is over 100 feet long, plus several drink stands and four grills that cook various things to order. Cindy and I ate our “Thanksgiving” dinner here a day early (we were driving home on Thanksgiving) and it did include turkey (and for CJH - mashed potatoes and cranberry fluff). I had, ahem, salad, broiled cod, buttered whole potatoes (2x), brown butter noodles (3x) fried chicken, the aforementioned turkey, sauerkraut and pork (3x) green beans, garlic bread, grilled pork chop, pickles, ham and a small piece of grilled beef. By then three (or four) desserts seems reasonable and a root beer, a chocolate milk and three cups of coffee rather stingy. What sets this place apart is that the food is generally very good to excellent (I have had a couple of exceptions) and the price is more than fair. We paid a senior rate for lunch - did I mention it was lunch and the menu was more limited - of under $14.00 that includes tax and tip. We veer toward this place if our route is close, say 50 miles and worth it every time. Welcome to the largest buffet in the US. https://www.shady-maple.com

Plate number two

Plate number two

From dessert to infinity and beyond.

From dessert to infinity and beyond.

Maine - Bar Harbor - West Street Cafe by Dave Hileman

Once again as I delve into older places a dearth of photos. However, that is not much of an excuse for this one as we were there this fall. I just forgot. Dolt. (I even have a worse photo coming up soon.) The West Street Cafe is a must eat for a trip to Acadia NP. The tag line on the web site is GOOD FOOD - GOOD PRICES - FRIENDLY SERVICE - RELAXED ATMOSPHERE and surprisingly it is true. The fried haddock platter is wonderful and a good value. Lots of fish. The clam chowder came in first in our rigorous testing AKA, Tom Light’s Rating and the blueberry pie is one of the best. Cindy has tried several different dishes and has liked them all, I stick to the haddock. I took this quick iPhone shot to show our family how they raised the roof to create more space - plus it is really nice. The remodel did not change the menu, thankfully. Add West Street Cafe to your dinning list if you are in Bar Harbor and plan on a wait even in the expanded restaurant. Visit their “gallery” for nice photos at: http://weststreetcafe.com


Massachusetts - Boston - Ristorante Fiore by Dave Hileman

We have eaten three times over the years at three different Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End and they have all been really good. Fiore is a new level of good. I had a Tagliolini al Pomodoro that was brilliant, Cindy chose an out-of-the ordinary Spinacci that had baby spinach, beets, smoked pancetta, white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, goat cheese - and she ate some of my pasta. We did not eat dessert here, not that we were exhibiting some newly discovered restraint but we had picked out a place up the street for that course! On the expensive side for a meal but not in the context of Boston fine dinning. Great service as well super nice setting and extensive everything else lists. http://www.ristorantefiore.com


Maine - Bar Harbor - MDI Ice Cream by Dave Hileman

Sometimes you have to eat healthy for dinner so I recommend dairy! MDI is one of my absolute favorite ice cream shops - in the top three easily. It is right on the village green in Bar Harbor and this year they doubled in size. It is a super creamy, very flavorful ice cream with many unique offerings or at least more choices that the ordinary ones found in most shops. It seems expensive but it is a small batch premium product - the sweet spot (pun alert) is the double cone that allows you to try two flavors and you want to try two flavors! Waffle cones are a reasonable fifty cents. My hands down choice is the Buttermint, but I like a lot of the flavors. There is a second location down the street a bit where the make the ice cream but they are not open the hours nor is it quite as convenient. There are three other shops a short, very short, walk from MDI but after often trying another choice, MDI always wins. Four visits this year in a week is sadly not enough. I did just learn they have a fourth shop in Washington DC near where we started a church in Columbia Heights. I just realized that church needs a visit very soon. https://www.mdiic.com

Sorry for the poor photo, too excited to actually compose a photo.


New York - Hyde Park - The Tavern @ CIA (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park is worth a trip just to see but even better to eat in one of the restaurants. We have been to two of them and chose a different one for our third visit, the Tavern @ American Bounty Restaurant. It is a lighter fare place in the tradition of American Bounty and open at hours that fit our stop. It was, as has been every meal here, excellent. This place focuses on American food from the Hudson Valley. It is somewhat casual but still very nice, superior service and fine food. CJH had housemate buttermilk ricotta on wheat toast garnished with plum and I delicious fish tacos with dill onions and seasoned fries. Plus they bring you popcorn while you wait. Yay.



New York - Skaneateles - Elderberry Pond by Dave Hileman

First, it is pronounced Skinny Atlas. I know, how? But it is. Second, Elderberry Pond is about three miles into the country and more than worth the trip. What a wonderful meal. Super, actually, in a beautiful place. The restaurant is on a farm, Elderberry Pond Farm, and many of the foods served are grown here. Like the potatoes we had, some of the greens, herbs, vegetables and, I believe, some of the meats are raised here. Not ours as we both had seafood. This was a splurge meal, we had three on our trip and each one was really fun and delicious. The building is elegant country with nice views and pleasant atmosphere. We had an apple cider that was pressed on site from apples grown on the farm. Writing this I am unsure why we did not share a dessert but we passed. Likely a big mistake. One of the special memory meals we will remember for a long time. They also have a small store but it was not open when we were there. http://www.elderberrypond.com

My halibut infused with lemon

My halibut infused with lemon

Cindy a risotto with shrimp

Cindy a risotto with shrimp