Let’s face it: food is important, especially when you are visiting new places. Eating becomes not only a necessity of life, but also a part of the overall experience of traveling. For this reason, Mom and I make it a priority to eat at new and unique places throughout the trip. Here are a few of my favorites so far:
Runza is a fast-food restaurant with chains throughout Nebraska. Two years ago I worked as a camp conselor at Nebraska Youth Camp, and one of the campers was related to the founder of this restaurant. I wanted to taste the namesake sandwich, so I knew a visit was in order during this trip. A Runza is kind of like a Hot Pocket–fresh dough stuffed with ground beef, onions, cabbage and seasonings, and then baked to a golden-brown perfection. It is pretty tasty and quick, but still something that you are not going to find in Oklahoma.
2. Jake’s at the Midnight Star Casino–Deadwood, South Dakota
When reading in a guidebook that this restaurant is considered one of South Dakota’s finest, I was a bit skeptical at first. After all, it’s located in a “Wild West” gambling town where people can just waltz into the restaurant in their shorts and flip flops! However, this was some of the best food and the most attentive service I have ever experienced. The food was worth the somewhat expensive price tag, and the waitress didn’t even get fussy when Mom and I shared an entree. And they had the BEST butter I have ever tasted, which is a big plus in my book!
3. The Yellow Church Cafe–Ellensburg, Washington
This is exactly the type of place I would own if I ever caught the entrepreneurial bug. Bright, airy, vintage, this refurbished old church (stained glass windows and all) now houses a delightful little cafe that has such charm. The food was delicious, and the iced tea was so well brewed, it didn’t need sugar. I know you are all gasping since I adhere to the Southern way of drinking tea, but I have to be honest. But don’t worry, I still dumped in a few packets of Splenda just so I could stick to my convictions.
4. The Pink Door–Seattle, Washington
This Italian restaurant is no Olive Garden, and I mean that in a positive way. When you eat there, you get the sense that someone actually put thought into preparing your food and combining the ingredients to create a specific experience. The place has a great hole-in-the-wall ambiance, and the lasagna was perhaps some of the best I ever ate. The tiramisu (one of my favorite desserts) was light and had just enough coffee to give it a punch. And one of the best perks about this place? The view from the balcony. You can see Puget Sound while you enjoy your meal.
5. Jake’s Crawfish Restuarant–Portland, Oregon
This place has been a part of Portland for 118 years, and the atmosphere is sophisticated and established. When I sat down in a wood-paneled booth, I felt like a character in an old black-and-white movie. As a matter of fact, Humphrey Bogart was a regular at this restaurant, and the influence of a more refined era gives this place its charm. It’s known for its seafood, and the menu features fresh fish caught daily plus varieties that are flown in. Fancy! I am not a big fan of fish, but I ate the crab and it was fantastic. Mom also really enjoyed her coconut shrimp salad, which added mango and pineapple for another tropical kick. It may sound weird, but the bathroom at this place was also fabulous. The walls had framed guidebooks to Portland from the 30s, and vintage calendars and coloring books finished out the decor. It was a lovely touch and only added to the vintage feel of the restaurant.