Thursday, May 19, 2011

Finding Love in a Small Cafe

"Good food ends with good talk." ~ Geoffrey Neighbor, Northern Exposure, Duets, 1993

It's so good to be home after a 10-day road trip to Flagstaff, Arizona.  We enjoyed two days of graduation celebrations with my son and his grandparents, and his wife and her family. A good part of our trip was spent eating out. While I like to eat out once in a while, it gets old by about the 3rd day of it and I'm always so happy to get home so I can cook things I really like, the way I like them. 
However, I have learned how to find really great places to eat while on the road and want to pass on a few tips for those who might just be starting traveling or for those who never gave  much thought about where to eat.
1.  Never, never, never eat at corporate America restaurants unless, of course, we are with a group and it's the group's decision. There are so many fantastic family-owned eateries to frequent. Why eat off the same old, formulated menus created by an industry that loves to fill your food with salt, sugar and additives? 
2.  When searching for a good place to eat, look past the main street you roll in on.  Granted, there may be some really great places on the main street but chances are if you just drive over one or two blocks, you'll find where the locals eat. There you will find much of heaven and local people. Not only will you find a great home-cooked meal, but you'll find out things about the area.
3.  Look for lots of cars in the parking lot. This is the best indicator that you've hit the jackpot when it comes to great food at an affordable price.
4. Go into a store or gas station and ask the locals where they eat. That's where we found this "road treasure" on Monday morning on our way through Payson, Arizona. 
We had stopped at WalMart on the main drag to pick up something we needed. Gene asked the cashier for a great local place and this is where she told him to take me. I didn't go in with him to WalMart so I asked him, "was she skinny?"
5.  Never ask a skinny person to point you to a great local cafe.
6.  If the billboard has hearts on it, you'll likely find love inside the doors.  This particular cafe was no exception to "Susan's rule". We found both waitresses to treat us like family. When Gene left a bite of pancake on his plate, our waitress shook her finger and told him to clean his plate. You gotta love that. 
I don't have any other tips for you. These simple things have kept us finding the most interesting places and people in our travels. This old cowboy was just sitting there having his morning coffee. He had been talking to a younger gent who was on his way to work. 
Take-away: I love being planted in the middle of other people's lives for 30 minutes. And, I love the special attention we get when we eat local. You typically don't get that in corporate America.
Do you have a favorite local place to eat? What's your favorite thing about it?  Do you have any other tips for me? Do tell!
So happy to be home ..... but can't wait for the next road trip.
love, susan 


  1. GREAT tips!! I agree about trying to eat local. We plan on doing just that when we go on our trip to Europe in August. Go off the "main drag", look for lots of cars or bicycles, and ask the locals where to eat. I hope to have lots of spanish and french food pictures to share when we come back! Glad you are home safe too!!

  2. My favorite part about traveling is eating where the locals eat - especially breakfast. Steve and I are big on breakfast when traveling, and we've found that when local folks are lingering over coffee, they are more talkative - especially to non-locals. We've enjoyed some wonderful "off the beaten path" places because of fabulous conversations with locals over coffee.

    Another thing we do is go into a local tavern and sit at the bar with the locals. We've enjoyed some scenic drives, thanks to locals sharing hidden treasures over a bottle of brew.

    Love the tips! Welcome home. :)


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