Monday, January 28, 2008

Recent round up

With recovering from the holidays, and other slightly unexpected turns, we haven't been doing a whole lot of shopping and dining out.

Last week we did enjoy a birthday dinner with friends at Paparazzi's in Peoria Heights. I still say they have the best chocolate mousse EVER! I went with the coconut gelato as my dessert, but then kicked myself and ate a few spoonfuls of StfRon's mousse.

Early in the week, we enjoyed lunch at Yen Ching in Peoria. Normally, I do not stray from the Mongolian beef, but, in trying to be a little more health conscious, I tried the chicken lo mein lunch special, with an egg roll. Wow!! I had no idea that Yen Ching had such great lo mein. The egg roll was good as well, and almost seemed less greasy than StfRon's Mongolian beef egg roll companion. I wonder if they cooked it differently due to what I ordered. Either way, it was all very good.

We also had a nice, but chilly lunch at Euro Jacks in Peoria. Lots of patrons, including us, wanted to sit at the booths along the windows and look out onto Main Street, but it was quite a chilly perch. The waitress suggested that we move into the back room with the platform and mural, so several tables of people relocated. It was much warmer in there.
We both had the chef salad with britney dressing. If you want a salad with a lot of meat and cheese, and not a whole lot of lettuce, this is the salad for you! And the dressing is great.
We've also enjoyed a the return of a nice tradition reminiscent of the good old days at the Hofbrau. Regular once a week meet ups with friends and a great bartender is almost like old times. Except we're all a bit older now.

We have also been out of town for a bit recently. One of the things we've enjoyed over the years is looking at great old business signs, many of them neon.
Traveling on Route 32 in Wisconsin, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, you can hardly travel 10 miles without seeing an interesting looking supper club, family restaurant or cocktail lounge, usually proclaimed by some retro neon sign.
We stopped to check out the Village Supper Club, in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
It was odd at first to be in a place that allowed smoking, since Illinois recently went smoke free.
The dining room was small and cozy, with a bar along one wall. The bar was topped with shelves housing bottle after bottle of an interesting collection of vodkas. There was Virgin Vodka, vodka bottles shaped like dolls, even a vodka bottle with a skull on it. Someone has quite an extensive collection. Along the restaurant wall, there is quite an array of beer cans as well.
After this most recent stint driving on 32 from Milwaukee to Chicago, we were discussing how much fun it might be to do a supper club/cocktail lounge crawl in the area, after booking a room at one of the motor lodges nearby.

Further along on our trip, we finally found ourselves in the vicinity of Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, rather than just zipping by the exit sign. The Chicken Basket was built in 1946 along Route 66, in Willowbrook, to be exact. We thought we would have a peek at the lounge, but we were thwarted by a handwritten sign on the door stating they were closed for a private party.
We'll have to check it out next time we're in the area.

Last night, we finally mentioned a story we both noticed in the paper at separate times, but hadn't discussed as of yet, the closing of Andris Waunee Farms in Kewanee, Illinois.
Having had grandparents in the Kewanee area, I spent many years visiting on day trips, and stared out at the building from my back seat perch. I never knew anything about it. The only thing I recalled was a friend of mine from high school telling me her aunt worked there.
Apparently, we have missed out all these years, and now for we've missed out for good.
Andris had a Tiki lounge, of which we knew nothing. Dubbed the Aku Tiki room, there are forums and books documenting the lounge, and it certainly sounds like a sight to be seen.
The man who took over the restaurant in 1953 has recently died, and the restaurant is closed. The contents will be auctioned off in June, and the building will be torn down.
The site is functional now, but I would imagine it will go offline.
I can't help but feel like we missed out on a nearby gem here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Grant's Homestyle Café

In honor of national pie day being this week, I decided to blog about a restaurant we visited a couple of weeks ago.
We had gone in search of a new, interesting place to do some geocaching on a weekend, and ended up visiting Lincoln's New Salem in Petersburg, IL.
I had been here when I was little on a family trip, but I didn't remember the log cabin houses and businesses, rather, I had it in my mind as a place with brick streets and brick three story buildings. I still don't know where I was thinking of.
Anyway, Lincoln's New Salem was pretty deserted on a January Sunday. The visitor's center was open, and after stopping there, we wandered the streets peering into the houses and businesses.
Leaving New Salem, all of the restaurants we tried to hit in town were closed, either for the day, or for the season, not sure which.
Finally, we lucked across a place that was open, Grant's Homestyle Café, 201 S. Main Street in Athens.
The restaurant, located right across the street from the Abraham Lincoln Long Nine Museum, has a slight vintage feel, with black and white checkered floors, retro designs on the formica tabletops and an old jukebox along one wall. The restaurant was silent on this day, though, save for the conversations of the employees and a couple of locals hanging out drinking coffee.
Our waitress was friendly and prompt during our meal.
StfRon chose a burger with fries, and I went with the turkey club with chips. The food tasted homemade, no institutional burger patties or pre-made sandwiches here.
During our entire time in the restaurant, I had been unsuccessfully trying to get the pie selection board off my mind. There were so many great options there, including coconut cream pie and peanut butter pie.
StfRon caved and agreed to share a piece of peanut butter pie with me.
Oh, mama! This was one good piece of pie. The layer of whipped cream on top was at least two inches thick, topping a creamy, rich, cream cheese/peanut butter concoction. The crust was comprised of graham cracker crumbs, which fit this pie much better than a standard pie crust would have.
If you're ever visiting Lincoln's New Salem and have a hankering for some pie, give Grant's a try.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kaldi's Coffeehouse & Tearoom

I spent many years visiting Galesburg, both for work and pleasure, and never knew about a little gem called Kaldi's Coffeehouse & Tearoom.
Located at 124 E. Simmons Street, Kaldi's was brought to my attention by a lady who used to work at the Register-Mail. She informed me that the shop was right behind the newspaper, and that there were wonderful ginger cookies to be had there.
We made it in on a recent weekend, to find a cozy, casual, hip hangout fairly full of patrons on a late Saturday afternoon. StfRon and I ordered our coffees, then perused the pastry selection. I scored by finding a ginger cookie, which I'd been thinking about for many months since I'd heard about it, and StfRon went with a brownie topped with goodies.
We sat down to enjoy the free WiFi for a minute, and to sample our treats.
My ginger cookie was crumbly and delicious, with a subtle ginger flavor, and StfRon's brownie had a layer of white mint near the top, which gave it a York peppermint patty cool mint sensation.
Spending a short hour in Galesburg made me realize how much I miss it, and I made a personal vow to visit every few months from now on. This is a town that respects historical buildings, and has a lot of unique businesses, and it's not far from home.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I have been to Macomb, and all is Bliss

OK, maybe not all, since the majority of the retail establishments on the square were closing their doors at 5:00 on a Saturday. Not that a lot of smaller towns are any better, though.
We did manage to dart into a boutique called Bliss shortly before 5:00.
Bliss, located at 133 S. Randolph in Macomb, carries a sampling of trendy tops, jeans, accessories and shoes for women.
I snagged myself a new long sleeve American Apparel t-shirt, which is something I certainly would have bought from the brand's web site, but this way I was able to save on shipping, and see the real deal, instead of looking at a tiny web site photo to make my selection. I was glad to see Bliss was carrying the brand.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Local biz casualties 2007

I drove by Mocha Joe's former location yesterday, which got me thinking about local businesses lost in 2007. I guess the beginning of a new year is as good a time as any for some reflection.
In 2007 we said goodbye to the following:

Big Easy Café
F. Scott's Whiskey Bar & Grill
The Wine Experience
Cliff's Rod and Gun
Katie's Café
Mocha Joe's
The Paper Moon
Leo's Flowers
Cinco de Mayo

I know of a few gone or on their way out in 2008. Let's hope the new year is good to our treasured local establishments, and that we also see some great new ventures!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jim's Steakhouse

I've never really eaten at Jim's Steakhouse. We did have an office Christmas party there one year, but I think the menu was selected for us.
Jim's location at 100 SW Jefferson in Peoria was suggested to us for our birthday dinner, so we decided it was high time to try it out.
We went in at about 5:00 on Sunday and had a drink in the lounge while waiting for the rest of our dining party. The only table in the restaurant that was occupied when we arrived hosted Aaron Schock and his dining companion.
The bar is decorated in greens and dark wood, with brass accents and wide plank wood flooring. The piano was silent on a Sunday night.
I had a glass of Rodney Strong Cabernet and StfRon had a Sam Adams. There wasn't a wide selection of imports. When my dad arrived, he went with a Newcastle.
The bartender informed us that since they only had reservations for six people all night, they were not serving prime rib.
We decided to go take our table and let the meal begin. Looking over the menu, I saw a porterhouse steak priced at $44, the stroganoff, which my mom assures me is wonderful, priced at $18, and filets priced at around $22. There were also some seafood selections on the menu.
I decided to try the filet medallions oscar, a dish I've enjoyed lots of places, which was $26 and included a soup or salad and a side. I went with the salad with brittney dressing and green beans as my side. I guess there were daily side choices as well, which I heard another server mention later in our meal.
The soup of the day was cream of chicken, which sounded kind of dull to me, but we saw a bowl later, and it looked very good.
StfRon went with the tortellini, prepared in a cream sauce, with bacon and peas, for about $18. He also had the salad with brittney dressing.
My parents both went with a filet, and salads with brittney dressing.
The dressing was quite good, not too sweet, like some brittneys I've tried.
I had ordered my steak medium rare, and it did seem to be more on the rare side, being very red inside, but was hot, as were my green beans and asparagus. The steak also had a brown sauce on top, which took me by surprise, and a huge amount of crab in the middle. The asparagus was topped with hollandaise. The meal proved way too much for me to eat.
StfRon said the tortellini was wonderful.
By this time, there were three more tables of people in the dining room, and the two waitresses were busier. Our waitress became a bit more scarce toward the end of our meal. My parents were out of wine for a while, but we ended up just requesting the bill.
Walking through the bar, I also noticed the bartender was serving food to a couple of tables dining in the lounge.
Maybe if I'd chosen a different entree, I would have been bowled over. We did have a nice time, though, due to good company.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simply Sensational Tearoom

I noticed a coupon a while back advertising a tea room in East Peoria that I had never heard of, Simply Sensational Tearoom. Based on the coupon, I had a hard time imagining where the place was.
This week, my mom mentioned visiting a tea room in East Peoria, so I got out the GPS and off we went.
Located at 520 Bloomington Road, right near the River Trail of Illinois biking/hiking trail that runs near the Fon Du Lac park district building, the tea room would make a good stop when hiking or biking for some soup or a sandwich, and a refreshing beverage.
The decor is not girly tea room, but more like a casual local dinette, with some lattice, silk plants and lace vinyl tablecloths topping floral patterned cloths.
When we stepped into the restaurant, we noticed a sign that said "please wait to be seated". We waited about four minutes, and with the only visible person busily taking drink orders for a larger table of ladies, we led ourselves to a small table by the window.
The waitress finished taking drink orders and came over right away to bring us some menus.
Each day the tea room features a quiche, a sandwich, some soup and desserts, in addition to their regular menu.
The quiche of the day was spinach swiss, the soup was creamy potato, the desserts were bread pudding and peach cobbler and the sandwich was something called spinach feta bundles, the latter priced at $6.95. I asked what these were, and upon hearing the description, spinach, feta and cream cheese bundled up in crescent rolls and baked, I decided to give it a try.
My mom went for the seafood salad.
There was a little mix up when our order arrived, but it was remedied quickly, and the employees both apologized several times and were very friendly about the whole thing.
My spinach bundles were rich and good, served accompanied by a small garden salad with a little dish of dressing and a blueberry muffin. I enjoyed the dressing as well, but only had room for a bite of my muffin.
Both of the employees we saw were friendly and bustling.
It seems like many people have found the tea room, and were enjoying lunch on the day we were in. There were only a couple of vacant tables. And yes, there were even a few men dining there.
I peeked out the other door while we were paying our bill, and noticed a cement patio with a couple of tables on it, and a grill. I'll bet in the warmer months, the grill gets fired up and draws people in with enticing aromas.
Simply Sensational is available for meetings and showers, and also offers catering.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Buying local

Last night we watched the documentary Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop, recommended to me by KateArch1978.
The movie made us think about some things we just hadn't before. For example, we've become more and more diligent about finding locally owned places to dine when we travel, yet it never occurred to us to not stay at the Marriott or Holiday Inn Express, instead searching out a bed and breakfast or local motel.
Over the seven years StfRon and I have been traveling together, we've run across more and more towns like some that Hanson and Heather drove through, with awesome historic downtown districts, all but abandoned for big box stores and chain restaurants near Interstates.
Well over a decade ago, I went to Seattle with some friends and marveled at the coffee shops on every corner. I don't even recall if we saw a Starbucks or knew what one was at the time, but now you can find six locations in Peoria alone.
About six years ago, we laughed on one of our trips after StfRon had to pull over at a Culver's in Wisconsin and ask what the heck a butterburger was. Now you can find one in Peoria, East Peoria and Pekin.
This last trip of ours, we were discouraged to head south, where we thought we would be ensconced in collard greens and fried green tomatoes, only to find location after location of McDonald's, Culver's and McAllister's Deli — home of the sweet tea — which will soon grace our own University Street in front of Schnuck's.
Someone in the documentary commented about shifting just 10% of your spending to local businesses, and what a huge impact it can have. A study was done in San Francisco, and found that this 10% shift could generate $192 million in economic activity and about 1,300 new jobs.
Granted, in central Illinois, the monetary gain would be less, but the impact would still be great.
Driving to work today I was thinking about the 10% local rule. Say you take a chunk of time, like one month, or 30 days. 10% would be only three days out of that 30 day period. So, we're talking about one day a week, considering to make purchases at locally owned businesses, if you purchase things 30 times in a month.
If you just bought your cup of coffee once a month from a locally owned business; had dinner out once a month at a local restaurant; bought that book, magazine or newspaper once a month at a local shop; had your hair cut at a locally owned salon once a month; bought a loaf of bread at a locally owned bakery...there are so many possibilities that could add up to shifting 10% of your business to local places.
It probably wouldn't cost you any more, and could end up saving you money on gas, if your local joint is convenient to work or home.
I find that the cost of not doing this has the potential to be far greater, leading to a loss of stalwart businesses and/or loss of choice in what you can buy, if all that's left is the big boxes and chains.
Actually, I find that over the last few years, I have shifted more than 10% of my spending to local businesses, but I could still make a lot of improvements. Something for me to strive for...

Café 401

I recently enjoyed lunch at Café 401, 401 SW Water Street in downtown Peoria.
I pulled up to a parking meter right out front at about 12:45, which still had 20 minutes on it. Little did I know, my meal would be so quick, another dime probably would have covered me.
The building has a nice urban vibe, and dining in, I almost felt like I was in a big city.
Perusing the board over the counter, I noticed that Café 401 also serves breakfast, and the selection looked nice. Plus, they had cookies, muffins and a full coffee bar, including some daily brews to choose from.
The sandwich menu includes items like a Tuscan chicken sandwich, reubens and more. They also feature homemade soups and even carry Butch's pizzas.
I went with the albacore tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread, priced at $5.50, which included a bag of chips.
My sandwich was ready fairly quickly, and this was the best tuna salad I've had in quite some time. The mix included carrots and raisins (the latter I could do without, but they were not overwhelming) and had a nice sweetness to it, which tasted like honey. The wheat bread was fresh, soft and thick.
With time left to spare after this tasty meal, I wandered through the building a little bit, doing some window shopping, and was pleased to notice that White Buffalo, the shop that used to be across the street from Café 401 (I have blogged about it before), is now open in the 401 Water Street building.
I will keep Café 401 in mind for quality food and a quick meal, especially when I need to make those State Street post office runs!

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Curio Shop

I remember going into the Curio Shop many years ago, when it was located on Prospect Road in Peoria Heights, somewhere near where Carlson's jewelry is now. My mom was looking at some scrimshaw pocketknives as a gift possibility for my dad. The shop was filled with neat collectibles and coins.
Today, the Curio Shop is located at 3923 N Prospect Road, in the same building as Peoria Pizza Works in Peoria Heights.
The shop is still filled with curiosities, from taxidermy monkeys to coins to military memorabilia. There was also a pretty good selection of tribal art and collectibles when we last visited.
I'm sure this is the kind of place where merchandise changes constantly from visit to visit, as trinkets are snatched up, and new ones are put on display.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Redfire Grille

We ventured to Bloomington tonight to check out the Redfire Grille, a family-owned restaurant that opened about a year ago.
Redfire Grille, located at 1605 South Morrisey Drive, serves a wide variety of fare.
On a Saturday night, I was a little concerned we might need to see if they take reservations, but when we arrived, we were seated as soon as someone came by the podium. They were not overly busy at 7:30.
We considered selections like the hardwood smoked brisket, cider reduction pork, tender beef with sundried tomato butter and thai curry orange roughy. The menu also features salads, burgers and sandwiches.
We started with appetizers of bruschetta and baked brie. Both were quite good.
I settled on the tilapia florentine, StfRon went with the prime rib, our brother-in-law had the seared sashimi tuna and his lovely bride had the smothered flat iron steak.
The tilapia was served in a ceramic boat, which was piping hot. The fish was smothered with jack cheese, and paired with a vegetable medley. The fish was OK, but I guess a jack cheese is a bit mild for my taste. The vegetables retained some of their crispness, and were very good. I also ordered the soup of the day, a seafood bisque, homemade, which was good.
StfRon had ordered his prime rib medium rare, and asked for a more rare piece when his meal came out. Our waitress returned with the most rare piece they had left, which was also the last piece of prime rib for the night. It was a little late for dinner, and the prime rib was a special feature that night. He said the prime rib was dry, and not quite as rare as he had hoped for.
The smothered flat iron steak was said to be very good, and it did look tasty.
We also partook of some desserts. I couldn't resist trying a gelato, and went with the coconut flavor. The gelato was creamy, filled with coconut shreds, and the coconut flavor was not overpowering.
StfRon tried the cheesecake, which was OK.
Our companions split the apple crisp, which was huge, served hot in a boat, topped with ice cream and plenty of oat topping. The crisp had a great cinnamon flavor.
I noticed signs throughout the restaurant touting take and bake features, and also live music some nights.
Our waitress did a good job of taking care of us.
I would check out the Redfire Grille again. I'd like to sample some of their other fare.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Returning to Illinois

We had another whirlwind trip over the past few days, enjoying some nice temps in the mid 60s, only to return home to a big snowstorm, and the news that Sullivan's has been sold. We had heard rumors that someone was trying to buy the place, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but we've made the place a new hangout of ours as of late, and change is threatening.

On the travel front, we had a very difficult time finding nice local places to dine on our trip. I told StfRon that the next time we plan a big trip, we're going to have to do some serious research before we go.
We did find some gems, and some stinkers on this journey.
Our first memorable local meal was lunch in the burg of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, which dubs itself as Missouri's most historic town. We saw a billboard on the highway that drew us in with the promise of the historic town, so we pulled off in search of food.
We had to drive a bit to find the historic district, and once we arrived, we found some of the restaurants closed. We did find one open, Stella and Me, so we went in for a bite.
The dining room was tiny and brightly colored, with a chalkboard along one wall listing the menu. I decided to have a 1/2 cranberry walnut feta salad, and a cup of clam chowder, most certainly the healthiest meal I had on this trip.
StfRon went with a ham sandwich served with chips, and a great orange garlicky chip dip.
Everything was very good, and our meal was about $13.
Sainte Genevieve was neat, and reminded me of Bishop Hill. If we lived closer, I would definitely visit on a Saturday, poking around in the shops and trying the restaurants.

Our next memorable meal was that night, at Rendezvous in Memphis. We did plan to visit this place, so we used our GPS to get us to the street, parked and got out to look for the restaurant.
As we were waiting for the crosswalk signal, a jolly gent bopped up and asked "Where y'all headed?" We told him we were looking for Rendezvous, and he said "I'll show ya where it is. This is what I do." Turns out he was apparently quite the Memphis "ambassador" and was just jonesing for a tip. Having just received some holiday money, the smallest thing I had was $100, which I didn't want to flash on the streets of Memphis (or give to the ambassador for walking us a half block to an alley), and we had just plugged all of our silver change into the parking meter, so he didn't get much in the way of a tip from us.
Rendezvous has been serving up charcoal ribs since 1948. The basement restaurant was interesting, with room after room of tables and a mosaic tile floor, which we saw repeatedly during our travels this trip.
I had a chicken breast, and StfRon went for the famous ribs. Both meals came with cole slaw and baked beans. The chicken was OK, the beans were great, and the slaw was unusual, with lots of curry mixed in. StfRon liked the ribs, prepared with just a dry rub.

We hit the road the next morning, and went in search of some local southern breakfast along th way. We struck out in several towns, and finally pulled into a place in Grenada, Mississippi that said breakfast on the front.
If we had not been so frustrated after driving around so much, we might have turned away when we noticed that the place was also a bait shop, but we forged ahead.
I have no idea what the restaurant name was, but it will forever be known to us as Pro Lures Tackle Yard, as that's what came up on our credit card statement.
Some granny was smoking in the dining room, watching TV with the grandkids. Several people wandered in while we were there, most roaming back behind the counter. One even came in sporting some PJs.
The server asked us if we wanted breakfast or burgers, as she was picking up some menus. We said breakfast, and she stopped to put the menus back and said, "Let me just tell you what I've got left". I had some toast, grits, bacon and a glass of milk, since she said they had no orange juice. StfRon had toast, the last biscuit and gravy and a piece of smoked sausage.
The food hit the spot, and didn't hit the wallet, at $7.35.

Our next memorable dining experience was McGuire's Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida. I had seen the restaurant on the web, and at least wanted to stop there for drinks to check the place out.
McGuire's is dubbed one of Florida's great restaurants, and opened in 1977. This restaurant, too, was room after room of tables packed with diners. One of the coolest rooms was the wine cellar, with room for 8,000 bottles of wine. The wine list features a huge selection of Chateau Mouton Rothschild Artist Series, pick your vintage year and they probably have it. We could have ordered a bottle of wine from the year of my birth for a mere $2,000.
The bar and lobby ceiling, plus parts of the restaurant are covered with dollar bills bearing names and messages from patrons of Irish descent. There are well over half a million dollar bills hanging in this place.
For dinner, I ordered yellowfin tuna with a side of asparagus. StfRon decided to try the hickory smoked prime rib. Our meal was preceded by a delicious loaf of warm brown bread drizzled with honey, and some great garden salads. The tuna was excellent, as was the prime rib. We also split a bottle of wine, a $25 Pinot, instead of the $2,000 bottle. Our meal with tip was about $90.
Our enjoyment continued when an Irish chap took the corner stage and played some tunes, so we hung out for a bit longer.

The next morning, with our hotel coffee failing to hit the spot, we went in search of a good local coffee shop. We asked a jogger where we could find a coffee shop, who pointed us to Crema Coffee and Baking Co. in Pensacola (but not until after he mentioned Starbucks).
Crema says they roast their coffee in small batches. The coffee was very good, and the servers were friendly. They also had some glass cases filled with great looking pastries, but I had already taken advantage of the continental breakfast at our hotel.

We went exploring along the coast, and when we saw Flora-Bama, we decided to stop for a drink.
Flora-Bama is a roadhouse/package store near the Florida/Alabama state line.
Walking into the place was like walking into a hillbilly house party gone awry. We had a drink, had our picture taken and hit the road.

That night, after checking into a couple of seafood places that didn't seem very enticing, we ended up back at McGuire's Irish Pub.
This time I had the hickory smoked prime rib, again with asparagus and a great salad, and StfRon tried the ribs. These ribs were covered in thick meatiness. There was no way to finish this rack. My prime rib was excellent.
For dessert, we split some bread pudding, which was delicious.

After dinner, we decided to try Seville Quarter, a complex of bars we had noticed on the web.
The building is an old brick structure, with wrought iron decorative balconies, reminiscent of New Orleans.
All of the bars/restaurants are attached inside, so you can wander from place to place to see what's going on.
We found deuling pianos in one location, 80s music and aviator's decor in another, a live rock band in one, and a nice outdoor courtyard with gas heaters in back. There was a small oyster bar location as well, which seemed to be our speed, but the place was full up.
There was a place to play billiards and video games, and all of the locations allowed smoking, which was something we had not seen anywhere on our trip.
Seville Quarter really is a sight to see, with gates from the governor's mansion in New Orleans, chandeliers from England, French doors also from New Orleans, brick flooring from a theater in Pensacola, old train station benches, bar stools from an 1870s café, ship's doors, the list goes on and on. It's really quite stunning, and seemed to be the place to be as the night wore on, more and more people piled in.

The next morning, StfRon said he could go for a good everything bagel. Remembering our search for restaurants the night before, I had seen a place called Bagelheads. We found our way there and each ordered a bagel with veggie cream cheese. The coffee of choice was Seattle's Best. The counter staff warms and butters up the bagels, then delivers them to the tables. These bagels were slathered with about an inch of cream cheese. There was so much, we went in search of knives to scrape some off. The bagels were good, but not quite as good as our local coffee shop's offering.

Another dining place of note was in Louisiana, Ponchatoula, to be exact, called Hi-Ho #2. The restaurant touted burgers and BBQ.
Don't go, unless you like really weird BBQ pork sandwiches. I don't know what the deal was with the BBQ, but it was odd. Watery, thin sliced pork without a hint of sweetness or vinegar. The only thing I can come up with is that it might have just been some creole seasoning, and not a typical barbecue base. After a couple of bites, I started to wonder if it was gator and not pork.

Our last meal in Memphis was at Coletta's Restaurant.
I saw Coletta's listed on the Food Network's web site, and it is also Memphis' oldest restaurant. They also claim to be the home to Elvis' favorite pizza, the BBQ pizza.
There are two locations, but we chose the original 1923 location. The restaurant was probably quite nice in it's heyday, however the floors and ceiling could use some real work now.
We both decided to try pizza, but not the Elvis special. I had an Italian spinach pizza and StfRon went with sausage.
The pizzas were very good, with a nice crisp crust and salty, buttery browned cheese on top. The spinach pizza was covered with tons of spinach, so much so that I started pulling it off after a while.

On the road again, we drove through Osceola, Arkansas looking for a place to have some breakfast. We ended up going back to the first place we had driven by, after passing through the rest of town and finding nothing interesting open, the Cotton Inn. It wasn't much to look at from the outside. The inside was sort of 1980s style, but clean.
Our friendly waitress greeted us, and I ordered grits, toast, bacon and a scrambled egg, plus a cup of coffee. StfRon went for biscuits and gravy and toast with eggs over easy.
The coffee was good, which is always a plus in my book. The bacon strips were some of the longest strips of bacon I've ever seen, and were very savory.
This meal set us back about $14 before tip.

After all of this, it's nice to be home. Right now we've vowed not to travel anywhere new for quite some time, but it seems like our memory usually fades, so who knows. In any case, it's always an experience.