Recently I was lucky enough to take a road trip to the west coast with my daughters. As with most vacations once you are in the middle of everything it becomes clear that the trip is really about one thing – where is the next meal coming from. We were lucky enough to stay with friends in places and they would help with this problem, but for much of this trip we were on the road. In our search for nourishment we ate fast food, fine food, and forgettable food. Here are a few of that not so forgettable places.
Waverly Cafe – Home of the Stuffed Hashbrowns
We got a very early start our first morning out. the plan was to stop for some coffee and maybe a pastry once we got out of the cities. I had designed a route along the backroads with the hopes of finding interesting places to eat. About the time I was going to give up and start looking for a Starbucks I saw the sign for the Waverly Cafe, boasting $1 cinnamon rolls and stuffed hashbrowns (whatever those might be). I hadn’t thought to stop for a full breakfast, but once I was inside I knew I had to try some of the local cooking. I got plenty of regular hot coffee and a great meal. I was tempted to order the stuffed hashbrowns, but I wasn’t quite that hungry so they will have to remain a mystery. Sarah grabbed the last cinnamon roll and Melanie caught the waitress off guard by ordering tea. She developed a taste for tea while in England this summer. I’m not sure the basket of tea bags she got was quite what she was hoping for.
Our first day of driving was a very long day. We hit a detour on my back roads that added about 2 hours of driving. Not fun. I was prepared to stop anywhere for dinner, even McDonald’s. It was getting later and we needed to eat when we crossed the state line into Wyoming. The first town we hit was Beulah. I pulled off the freeway thinking we might need to just grab some random stuff at the gas station, when I saw the sign saying Buffalo Jump Saloon 1/2 mile –>. We headed over and as we entered I saw the & Steakhouse part of the name. It was a great atmosphere and the food was some of the best I had on the whole trip. I got a half rack of ribs that melted off the bone and Sarah was able to get Fettuccine Alfredo. I think Melanie got the Fish and Chips, but I’m not sure. My only complaint would be that the service was quite slow. For being in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming they were very busy. Our food came at a decent pace, but we waited over 20 minutes after our meal was finished before they brought us a check.
Our second two days of driving didn’t yield any interesting meals. We must have eaten, but I can’t remember where. Once we reached our friends in the Bay area we had great home cooked meals. While visiting we made a trip into San Francisco proper and had lunch at Fisherman’s wharf where Melanie and I both had a sour dough bread bowl filled with clam chowder. It had to be done. Sarah had a pizza with a sour dough crust. We then topped it off with a trip to Ghirardelli Square for some world famous chocolate and ice cream.
Our next leg of the journey took us down the California Coast on Highway 1. We ended up with a late lunch at the sandwich stand at the Rapped Point Inn. The drive was beautiful that day. Even thought the view was obscured by a lot of fog it was still amazing. I don’t know if the sea air just made me really hungry, but I had what I would say is one of the best grilled ham and cheese sandwiches ever.
Nothing tastes like southern California more than an In-N-Out double double. If either of the girls liked hamburgers we would have stopped here more than once.
Touted as Claremont’s oldest pizzeria this was a great stop for lunch between touring Pomona College and Scripps College. We walked down to the Claremont Village without a plan, but pizza sounded good to all of us and we had enough time. It was delicious pizza and awesome service.
While I was in Southern California there were a lot of people I had to see and since we have to eat I asked Sarah’s godfather to pick a place. I said Italian or maybe seafood and he came up with Il Fornaio. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember having eaten there before. We set a time and met for an excellent meal and some reminiscing. Under the name of the restaurant the sign read “Authentic Italian Restaurant and Bakery”. Before we ordered any food we were treated to some great breads from the bakery half. A very good start. Melanie ordered a lobster ravioli that she has mentioned a couple times since. Sarah found a salmon dish that she enjoyed and I ate the grilled zucchini that it came with. I ordered the Pennoni all Vodka, which was large pasta tubes with a cream sauce and bacon.
We saved our best meal for our last night in Southern California. Hidden in the middle of the California Adventure theme park, inside a reproduction of a 1940’s hollywood movie theater is an elegant restaurant that serves amazing food. We started in the downstairs lunge with some appetizers and beverages. They serve a perfect Manhattan that includes a really cool ice sphere. After we were seated and met our serving team we ordered some more appetizers and a bottle of wine. We got two baskets of their signature biscuits, a sort of bread donut hole filled with molten cheese and bacon. I think I ate six of them. For my main course I ordered a pasta dish with fresh grilled vegetables and hunks of braised lamb that melted on my tongue. If I am honest the food at Il Fornio probably had better flavor, but the wine we got at Carthay was a grade above and overall the dining experience was wonderful. It may just have been the juxtaposition of expecting theme park food and switching gears to fine dining, but I really enjoyed it.
On our return trip our dining was more about necessity than about enjoyment. We ate at a McDonald’s in Death Valley (seemed appropriate), we ate Fresh at Subway in Colorado, and on our last day of driving we decided that having ice cream for lunch was no worse than eating fast food. I found a great little ice cream place in Waukee, IA. I was tempted to get some actual food when I saw they severed hot dogs and fries, but it was Sunday and on Sunday they only serve ice cream. Because of god I guess. I got blackberry ice cream because it had berries in it and that seemed healthy.