Road Food

We drove yesterday for about 9 hours on our trip to Rochester. We stopped in Fargo for lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant, and proceeded to Rochester without any other food stops. Our only other major stop was in Freeport, where we bought 20 lbs. of specialty flours at the Swany White flour mill.   It seems our travel patterns preclude leisurely noshing at interesting roadside eateries.  We usually have an agenda or deadline to meet, and we drive and drive until we get to our destination.

How do you eat when you travel? Tell about some memorable road food.

58 thoughts on “Road Food”

  1. Well, road food for us is rarely memorable. It usually ends up being fast food or simple sandwiches that we pack along. Road trips are just too hard now. I have a really hard time being in a car for more than an hour or two. Not carsick or anything, just the boredom, not being able to move around, don’t feel like reading, looking out the windows isn’t always interesting, can’t watch a movie, etc. Car games are annoying. I guess I will never be a world wide traveler — I just prefer being home.

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  2. Traveling for us means really long distances to get anywhere, and few places to stop. We really liked the Norke Nook in Osseo, WI. There were terrific pies there. The Cowboy Cafe in Medora is fun place, as is Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport, MN.

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    1. Norske Nook is a popular place and often crowded, but in my opinion it’s over-rated. I think it used to be better but success has spoiled it. The food is generic and unexceptional. The pies tend to be over-sweet. What character the place has is in the decor, not the food.

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  3. Used to be between Duluth and Cities you stopped at the one cafe in Hinckley, Tobies, even before it moved out onto 35, or even before there was a 35. Everybody stopped there. Then it grew and grew and the food got less and less good. Then it was Cassidy’s across 35. It has faded too. Same with Emma Krumbees in Belle Plaine. Gordy’s High Hat in Cloquet, even though it is off the route a bit, demands a stop.. Our grandkids are now hooked.

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    1. I know about Gordy’s, but the drive to Duluth is short enough that we don’t usually feel like breaking it up with a stop. In Duluth, especially if we are just passing through, we usually go up the hill to At Sara’s Table.

      The Driftless Cafe in Viroqua, Wisconsin is exceptional and I see the chef/owner was nominated in 2017 for a James Beard Award. It’s worth going out of your way for, but check the hours first.

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      1. Gordy’s and At Sara’s have both been on the show on food channel. Dinner, drive ins and dives. Gordy’s is a sort of famous stop on that show because there was little to show of exceptional interest. The old couple who own it were sort of lost about what to say and do, but Guy rolled with it well, made it fun.

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  4. Of course, I don’t travel now, but when I did I mostly spent time in tiny towns in rural areas. I had two eating strategies.

    When pressed for time, I’d grab a meal at a fast food operation. The virtues of such places are that they are cheap, fast and predictable. But I mostly avoided them. That was easy because the places where I hunted and fished weren’t prosperous enough to offer fast food. There is no McDonald’s in Cornucopia. Wisconsin, and no Burger King in Plankinton, South Dakota.

    My strong preference was to eat in small town taverns and corner cafes. I have fond memories of the pie from a cafe on the square in Clarinda, Iowa. The pasties were great in Iron River, Wisconsin. We loved the burgers from a little general store and tavern in Lake George, Minnesota. Honestly, the food wasn’t always terrific in those tiny places, but we loved joking around with the folks who lived and worked there.

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  5. For years in TH it was one dinner, the name of which my old brain cannot pull up. One loop with chairs at the counter. It thrived despite small space. Great meats. But the traffic made it expand and then he died. Now the town has almost all chains, 3 fast food places.
    The Blue Line or Life or something in Grand Marais was still good a couple years ago. Angry Trout is exceptional. Betty’s pies always made mew gag, so sweet and stolid, I thought, unlike the rest of the world. Now an industry, not a dinner. The only local restaurants here are bars.

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    1. We might have covered this once before, NS. Betty’s Pies was a commercial success despite selling lousy pies. I think you told me there is new management and the pies are now edible. It interested me that a place that only sold pies–bad pies–could be a revered tradition so long.

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    2. I think it’s the Blue Water Cafe in GM. The Scenic Cafe is pretty good, though usually crowded and, like the Angry Trout, kind of pricy.

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  6. Three memorable in-the-zone drives. in which I bought bread, cheese and lunch meat and chips and ate on the move. One hour west of Wichita to Mankato in a straight drive of how many hours I forget. Passing along by Emporia in the dark the fields looked odd, but I was in a zone and noticed little. Later found out a torrential rain had passed through, even delayed MNF in KC. Fields were flooded. Supposedly 35 was closed. Stopped only for gas and bathroom twice.
    Another from three hours west of Wichita. Three stops for gas and bread and meat and cheese and bathroom. Got to Owatonna at 5 in the morning. In another zone. Decided I better stop and sleep. Gave up trying after two hours and was in TH by noon.
    This one for Renee. Daughter was moving back from Rhame ND to where she now lives. I drove Sandy out to take care of the 6 month old child who just got her permit. I loaded up the Olds station wagon with pictures and such and bread and meat and cheese and chips and bottled water. Took Hwy 12 to across MN border. Stopped for bathroom and gas in Mowbridge and at Hwy 29 in eastern SD. Dropped off load at house where they now live. And went home to Kato.

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        1. On one of my father-in-laws visits to the States, Hans took him on a road trip to show him the sights. They never got along all that well, so being cooped up in a car for hours on end, proved to be quite the challenge. I’d get nightly reports of their latest skirmishes. One of them involved a chicken fried steak.

          F-i-l didn’t speak English well, and in reading the menu he had gotten hung up on the “chicken-fried” part. When the waitress, an older rather matronly woman, had brought his food he looked at it with dismay. Pointing at the plate he demanded, “what is that?” His tone of voice, according to Hans, was one he’d use when scolding a dog for having pooped on the floor. (Hans’ dad was an old restaurateur and was often extremely rude to waitpeople.) Hans was hoping that the woman would let him have it, but she didn’t. Perhaps she realized that he spoke little English and attributed his rudeness to that, so she kindly brought him something else more to his liking. But to this day, when either of us see “strange” food we’ll point to it and say “what’s that?”, and we’ll both crack up

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  7. We were regular customers at the Rainbow Cafe in downtown Chamberlain (SD). The place was sustained by local farmers who would come in and eat the same food from the same chair of the same table every day. The guys all wore seed caps and overhauls. They’d play a dice game with a little leather dice cup. The loser would pay for the food at the table that day.

    Once a year, in late October, the waitresses would slip updated menus in the plastic protectors. The new menus were exactly like the old menus, only the prices had been jacked up considerably. That was done to make a little money from all the out-of-state guys who came to hunt pheasants. The visitors didn’t know they were paying extra. I asked one of the waitresses if they regulars (who knew the menu prices by heart) ever paid the inflated menu prices. She just snorted.

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      1. Seed caps vs feed caps: I think they are one and the same, only varying because of regional custom. Both are a baseball cap that bears the logo of an agricultural product. Wearing one is part of the uniform for all garmers. Farmers I’ve known would NEVER step outdoors without one of those iconic caps, and one result is the famous “farmer tan” effect.

        We should ask Ben which feed cap/seed cap he favors. I’m betting John Deere.

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        1. Well, since you asked.
          There’s a lot of thought behind my caps.

          I have a regular cap that I wear every day when going to work or town.
          At the moment it’s a Pioneer Seed cap.
          It’s OK if it gets dirty or sweaty. It’s my normal, everyday hat.
          Then I have a hat from Meyer’s Seeds and it’s a nice looking cap; kind of neat colors; black with green stitching. It’s my ‘dress’ hat for going to town. But I don’t want to get it dirty or sweaty.
          Once my regular cap gets too dirty, it moves into the mudroom to become the regular ‘farming’ everyday cap. It will get dirty and sweaty and covered in sawdust or it might fall in the dirt or mud and that’s OK.

          I have 6 caps that hang in the closet and they’re sort of the current favorites.
          When we went to town tonight to meet friends for pizza, I choose the black and red ‘USITT’ hat.
          I also have a black and yellow John Deere hat that’s a favorite.
          I have another green and yellow John Deere hat with the local dealers name on it, but it’s still really a prime hat and I don’t wear it often. I got that when I bought a different tractor last summer. So it’s pretty special as John Deere doesn’t give away hats very often.
          I can get a new Pioneer or Meyer’s cap anytime I want. Usually every spring when I order seed I get a new cap. And the old one moves down the line.

          Next week we’ll travel to Pennsylvania for a wedding. I’m guessing I take the Meyer’s Seed cap. I like the company, I like the look of it and I like to advertise for the little guys.

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  8. Ouside of Marshalltown, IA, is Cecil’s Café – a truck stop that’s been there since the 60s. You can still get a down home breakfast or lunch, including a (breaded) pork tenderloin sandwich or meal.

    In the center of Marshalltown is one of the remaining Maid-Rite shops, a loose-meat steamed hamburger that can’t be duplicated without the recipe. You can get them mailed, frozen, to you, they are that unique. Steve and I have both mentioned them before, since Ames had one too, back in the day. I just looked, and discovered there’s one in Lacrosse! Next trip…

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    1. Can you get a Commercial at Cecil’s?
      I don’t know if you remembera, Barbara, but there was briefly a Maid-Rite in Robbinsdale. I went there once. It seemed like a bad sloppy joe to me.

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      1. You’re right, Bill, but they never did it right there, for some reason. You really need to pile on the meat… Wasn’t at all what I can still get in M’town. It is also< I think, an acquired taste. : )

        I don't see a Commercial on the menu (what is that?).
        Menu on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cecils-Cafe/1055109581186665

        They do still have on the wall a (tongue-in-cheek) framed Road Kill Cafe menu: “You kill it, we grill it.”

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        1. A Commercial is what they used to call a hot roast beef sandwich, open face on white bread with mashed potatoes and gravy.

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      2. “seemed like a bad sloppy joe to me” . . . yup, that’s a Maid Rite! If we examine them carefully I think the Maid Rite is a sloppy Joe with less tomato sauce and more onion. And BiR’s probably right about it being an acquired taste.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Traveling with my Dad was always interesting. His standard line when asked, “How was the meal” was “It ruined my appetite”. Many wait staff would start to apologize but catch themselves when they saw that he had eaten everything which “ruined” his desire to eat anything more. He would also order a single grit. That worked well down south at Waffle House. When he had not been given eating utensils, he would pile it on with, “I can’t eat this!!!!” “Why?”” I just can’t eat this!!” “What’s wrong?” Obvious. I love his act.

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  10. I remember a place in LaCrosse, Wisconsin called Bodega. I seem to remember it had tin ceilings. Funny what you remember about a place. I think at the time I was there I had recently bought my house and was enamored of tin ceilings. Eventually put one in the bathroom. I don’t remember that much about the food, but I’m pretty sure I had a good malt there. From the info I can find about it online, it looks like it is now a brew pub.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I also remember a place called the Angus Supper Club, also called Jones’ Black Angus, in Prairie du Chien. So many years ago I don’t remember all that much, but it was an old fashioned supper club with lots of woodwork. Comfort food, I seem to recall.

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  12. Colfax Wisconsin had a little cafe that was called something like Begga Cafe. Colfax was once the site of a large rutabaga farm, and was known for its “beggas”. I don’t find anything about the cafe now. Might have gone under.

    Wisconsin has many fine locally owned eateries. Lena’s Lucky Star in Stockholm is another.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. When I was regularly driving to Iowa down I-35, there were a number of places over the decades. In the late 70s-early 80s a Nickerson Farms in Owatonna had the best bread pudding, and a pretty cute gift shop that sold local honey. Owatonna also had a Bridgeman’s Ice Cream…

    Anyone else remember King’s Food Hosts? There was one in Stadium Village by the U – you could order from your table via intercom, had Cheese and Tuna Frenchees – Yum!

    Liked by 2 people

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