Regional American Dining  
  ...A List Of Superb Examples  

Enjoying a good meal is an integral part of any travel experience. Fastfooding has its place, particularly on a long distance Griswold-style journey. Fast food is cheap. It provides sustenance and satisfies the young'uns. Plus you can drive 60 or 80 miles while eating on the road, versus the time your family would spend seated at a full service restaurant. However... ten years after the fact... you won't remember much about that Big Mac or Whopper... and neither will the kids. For us, the restaurants and eateries that have made a lasting impression are the ones that that are unique to their regions, cities or communities. They are typically locally owned and operated. They are not necessarily the slickest, fastest or even the cleanest. There are those who scoff at American cuisine. And there are still those who even deny that there is such a thing as "American" cuisine. Those folks should try any of the restaurants on this list. Here are the loosely-applied criteria for the restaurants included here:


1. The restaurantís menu, decor, atmosphere and attitude must be reflective of the local culture.


2. They must welcome tourists, but still be popular with the locals. These restaurants all welcome outsiders, but do not exclusively cater to tourists.


3. Although it should go without saying, they must have good food and service. Notice I didnít include "cleanliness"... just good food and service.

  4. I must have actually dined there. I have read many wonderful reviews of restaurants with local food and character. You may know of other places that deserve to be on this list, but if I havenít eaten there, I have no experience on which to base my comparison.  

Most of these restaurants meet all four criteria, but a bit of leeway is allowed if the other criteria are strongly met. I did not give extra consideration for "slick", "shiny" and "trendy". Itís all about true, honest character. A few of these restaurants look aged and a bit run down. Some have cramped dining rooms. Three or four (including #1) are downright grimy. I have listed my top ten favorites as well as a long list of "honorable mentions"... so if youíre looking for some good American food while immersing yourself in the local culture, you canít go wrong with any of these restaurants.


LEGEND - Approximate Dinner Costs Per Adult Including One Drink Plus Appetizer or Dessert

  $  - Less than $10 per person  
    $$  -

$10-20 per person

    $$$  -

$20-30 per person

    $$$$  -

$30+ per person




The Top 10


#1 - NO NAME PUB - Big Pine Key, Florida ($$) (FULL REVIEW + PHOTOS) (WEBSITE)



           The No Name Pub is located off the beaten path on sleepy Big Pine Key, Florida... about 35 miles from Key West. Make no mistake... this place is not exactly spic-and-span... and it's quite cramped. Even their website says that they have "lousy service", and it's not really family-friendly. So how could I rate this place as numero uno? Easy. The No Name Pub has the best bar food you'll find anywhere, plus it has incredible character and an unforgettable signature gimmick.  Their huge, diverse menu includes an outstanding grouper sandwich... and the tastiest, cheesiest pizza that's guaranteed to rival the best you've ever had. The prices are quite reasonable by Florida Keys standards. Beyond the outstanding food... the one thing that makes the No Name Pub so unforgettable is the $80,000 worth of dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling. You'll probably have to wait for a seat, but the No Name Pub is worth it. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: GROUPER SANDWICH, PIZZA)  
  #2 - THE MASON JAR - Colorado Springs, Colorado ($$)   (FULL REVIEW  


           So you're a meat 'n' potatoes person? Then the Mason Jar is the place for you. This unpretentious restaurant features a wide menu including steaks, prime rib, seafood, mashed potatoes made from scratch and homemade desserts. Their house specialty is the chicken fried steak. The big, open dining room has a large fireplace for those cold winter days. The decor is tasteful, but not flashy. The service is fast and attentive, but not overbearing. And the food hits the "meat 'n' potatoes" bullseye.  (RECOMMENDED DISHES: PRIME RIB, CHICKEN FRIED STEAK, BLACKBERRY COBBLER A LA MODE)  
  #3 - THE COWBOY CLUB - Sedona, Arizona ($$$$)  (MORE INFO)  (WEBSITE)  


             As the name implies, The Cowboy Club features western decor, a variety of meat dishes and other western cuisine. But make no mistake... this is fine dining. Although the staff wears jeans, they are very knowledgeable, professional and prompt. The food is prepared perfectly and the impeccable plate presentation is especially noteworthy. They'll give you a dab of lemon sorbet to cleanse your palate before your main course. The extensive menu features an wide variety of beef and buffalo steaks, lamb, ribs, prime rib, salmon and chicken. They also have a nice selection of unusual appetizers. Make sure to try their appetizer sampler which includes buffalo, rattlesnake and cactus fries. It's as tasty as it is unusual. Like just about everything in Sedona, The Cowboy Club is quirky, upscale and expensive... but if you feel like splurging, this is a great place to do it. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: APPETIZER SAMPLER, ANY STEAK, LAMB FLANK, VANILLA BEAN CREME BRULEE)  
  #4 - CUNNINGHAM'S FAMILY RESTAURANT - Mackinaw City, Michigan ($$)     


           Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula actually boasts two signature regional dishes... pasties and whitefish. Cunningham's Family Restaurant serves them both up well. Located on the main drag in downtown Mackinaw City, Cunningham's has a wide selection of sandwiches and rural favorites like meat loaf, fried chicken, liver & onions and pork chops. The fried fresh Great Lakes whitefish is very good. The fish has a light texture and flavor. The best way to  describe a pasty (rhymes with "nasty") is a pot pie without the pot. It consists of beef (or chicken), and vegetables (including rutabaga) baked within a folded flaky pie crust. The pasty is served smothered in gravy if you desire. The tables are close together at Cunningham's and the restaurant has an old-fashioned look and attitude. 312 W. Central Ave., Mackinaw City , MI (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BEEF PASTY WITH GRAVY, DEEP FRIED WHITEFISH)  
  #5 - KENNY'S SALT WATER TAFFY - Onset, Massachusetts ($$)   


           Located at the water's edge of Buzzard Bay, Kenny's Salt Water Taffy has actually been around since the 19th Century. Over the years it has morphed into an open air eatery serving a little bit of everything. They have a wide variety of burgers and other sandwiches. They also serve all of the food commonly associated with New England like lobster rolls, clams and chowder... all at reasonable prices. Kenny's is not a full service restaurant. It's more like a super-sized version of one of those little cement block ice cream and burger places you see in small towns. You place your order at the counter and they holler out your name when your order is ready. Seating is entirely alfresco. You'll be seated on patio furniture on a large wooden deck, so you'll want to visit on a warm sunny day so you can enjoy the great view of the harbor. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: FRIED SCALLOPS, HOMEMADE CLAM CHOWDER)  
  #6 - THE GUMBO SHOP - New Orleans, Louisiana ($$$)    (WEBSITE)  


           Arguably, no other American city is as closely associated with its regional cuisine than New Orleans. And the area is dotted with great cajun and creole restaurants. The Gumbo Shop is located on St. Peter St. in the heart of the French Quarter. The historic building is typical of the Quarter's distinctive architecture with its large second floor balcony. The interior has a stone floor and brick walls which lend to its historic feel. A portion of the dining room is three stories high with a glass ceiling, creating the illusion that you are dining outdoors. The creole cuisine is prepared by a professional chef. The menu has something for everyone. Choices include seafood okra gumbo (and other gumbos), jambalaya, crawfish etoufee, alligator sauce piquante, several fish and chicken selections, filet mignon, a variety of po' boy sandwiches, praline ice cream and pecan pie. And the prices are reasonable for New Orleans. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: CRAWFISH ETOUFEE, SEAFOOD OKRA GUMBO, PRALINE SUNDAE)  
  #7 - PRIMANTI BROTHERS (Original Location) - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ($)   

           Primanti Brothers is a small chain of restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. This recommendation is for the original Primanti Brothers location in Pittsburgh's strip district. Primanti Brothers is a uniquely-Pittsburgh dining experience. Their menu features a huge selection of giant sandwiches... served on deli paper, not on plates. Here's the kicker... all of the sandwiches are made with sliced, chewy Italian bread and come with cheese. The french fries and cole slaw smashed within the sandwich, between the bread and the meat. Although the idea may be disconcerting to some, the messy six-inch thick sandwiches are really quite delicious... and very filling. Although I'm sure the newer locations are fine, they couldn't possibly match the charm of the original location. The small restaurant has a lunch counter in front of the grill and a few wobbly tables on its tile floor. A 13-inch black and white TV is perched above the grill just below the menu board. The large mural of famous Pittsburgh natives and variety of neon beer signs adds to its blue-collar charm. The sandwiches are all between $4.50 - $5.50, so you can have a meal and a couple of beers and still get change from a ten. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: CORNED BEEF & CHEESE, ROAST BEEF & CHEESE, CHEESE STEAK, "ALMOST FAMOUS" CHILI)  
  #8 - SONNY'S FAMOUS STEAKS - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ($$)     
        If you visit Philadelphia... ya gotta have a cheesesteak sandwich... the city's signature food item. Problem is... All of the best cheesesteak places are in south Philadelphia... a pretty good hike from the historical / tourist district. Most of the places in or near the historic district are trendy-looking places with average cheesesteaks. Located at 228 Market Street, just a 5-minute walk from Independence Hall, Sonny's Famous Steaks is an exception. As you wait in line to place your order, you'll pass the grill where you can watch the cook fry up the thinly-sliced steak and onions... top it with Cheez Whiz and place it on a warm chewy roll. There's not much seating in this tiny restaurant, and they really ought to wipe off their tables more frequently, but if you want a delicious "authentic" Philly cheesesteak... Sonny's is your place. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: YOU'RE ALREADY GOING TO CLOG YOUR ARTERIES WITH THE CHEESESTEAK, SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL ORDER SOME CHEESE FRIES, TOO)  
  #9 - NORTHWOODS BREWPUB - Eau Claire, Wisconsin ($$$) (WEBSITE)  


      The Northwoods Brewpub is a popular Eau Claire restaurant where they brew several varieties of their own fresh beer on site. The lively restaurant is outfitted in rustic decor with log beams and furniture and plenty of wood trim... giving the appearance of a northwoods lodge. A huge stone fireplace keeps visitors warm during the winter months. The rec room is filled with pool tables, TVs and video games. The beautiful unpainted walls are decorated with mounted animal heads, hunting and fishing gear, neon beer signs and Green Bay Packers banners. Their award-winning handcrafted beers include Floppiní Crappie, Mouthy Muskie Ale and Prickly Pikeís Pilsner. Their diverse menu includes several steak choices, including elk. They feature local fare including fresh walleye, trout and bluegill... and battered, deep-fried cheese curds, a regional favorite. The servers are friendly and attentive. Visitors can take home souvenirs like t-shirts, beer steins and half-gallon growlers of their favorite Northwoods brew. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BEER BATTERED BLUEGILL, FRIED CHEESE CURDS, FLOPPIN' CRAPPIE ALE)  
  #10 - PIG'N PANCAKE - Cannon Beach, Oregon ($$)   (MORE INFO)  (WEBSITE)  


      Pig'N Pancake is a small chain of restaurants located in four communities along the northern Oregon Coast... Astoria, Cannon Beach Seaside and Lincoln City, plus Portland. Each restaurant has a slightly different menu and its own distinct character. Breakfast is the star of the show at Pig'N Pancake. The Cannon Beach location actually closes at 3PM and doesn't even serve dinner. They have a wide breakfast menu with all of the usual breakfast dishes as well as some specialty omelettes and dishes with a local flair. The waffles and pancakes are made from scratch. The Cannon Beach location is built into a wooded hill. The picture windows present the illusion of dining in a big treehouse. The service is great, but this place is always crowded. If breakfast is your favorite meal, then don't miss Pig'N Pancake in Cannon Beach. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: DUNGENESS CRAB & CHEESE OMELETTE, RAZOR CLAMS & EGGS, PORK CHOPS, ANY PANCAKES OR WAFFLES)  

Honorable Mention (in no particular order):


  PEGGY SUE'S STEAK AND RIBS - Newcastle, Ohio ($$)  
   Newcastle, Ohio is nothing more than a wide spot on US Rt. 36 near the Coshocton-Knox County border. There's no traffic signals, no gas station, no stores... nothing but a few houses, a church and Peggy Sue's. When you pull into the gravel parking lot, you'll notice a soda machine and ice machine near the restaurant's entrance. The dining room is decorated with deer heads. The menu features steak and ribs, of course, but also includes many other choices like farm fresh chicken and pork chops. But what really keeps people coming back again and again are the homemade pies. All of the pies are meticulously made from scratch by a team of 5 local bakers... whose only job is to make sure the pies keep on a-comin'. There are well over 20 pie choices and you can see the pies proudly on display near the front door. You'll definitely want to save room for dessert at Peggy Sue's Steak and Ribs. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: RIBS, HOMEMADE SOUP, RAISIN CREAM PIE)  
  CRAB CAKES RESTAURANT - Oakhurst, California ($$)  (WEBSITE)  
  Nestled in the Sierra Nevada, Crab Cakes Fun Family Seafood is a refreshing stop before or after the difficult drive to Yosemite... especially if you're traveling with kids. Crab Cakes Restaurant has plenty of toys (good ones!), puzzles and a large aquarium to keep the kids occupied as the staff prepares your meal. After dinner, your kids may pick out a prize from their big treasure chest. They have an "award-winning" children's menu featuring kids favorites like burgers, pizza, chicken fingers and spaghetti. As for the growups, they have a huge menu featuring all kings of seafood dishes and steaks. Their outstanding homemade New England clam chowder is a must. They have an extremely wide range of prices... from $5.50 for the fried clam lunch platter to $27 and up for the king crab, lobster dishes and seafood buckets, however, the menu is so extensive that there is a variety of choices in all price ranges. Parking can be difficult as Crab Cakes shares a building and small parking lot with several other businesses. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER, ESCARGOT, CALAMARI, FRIED COD,  
  PINK CADILLAC DINER - Natural Bridge, Virginia ($$)    
  The Pink Cadillac Diner is an enigma. It's an authentic-looking 50s style diner, complete with Wurlitzer jukebox, checkerboard floor and gingham-vinyl tablecloths... think of Arnold's from "Happy Days". The menu is just what you'd expect... burgers, fries and shakes. The food is quite tasty, but it's the nostalgic theme that makes the Pink Cadillac special. The Pink Cadillac is not new and shiny. The building was constructed long before anyone had ever heard the name "Elvis Presley". It's like walking into a time warp. The exterior and interior are painted pink and pastel blue. The rooms are chock full of nostalgic memorabilia and 50s pop culture references. You'll see a 10-cent Coke machine, an old Texaco gasoline pump, an old Harley, a statue of Elvis and tons of other Elvis memorabilia. But the thing that strikes me odd about the Pink Cadillac is its rural location about a mile north of I-81, Exit 180 (Natural Bridge). It just seems out of place there. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: HAMBURGER, FRENCH FRIES, MILKSHAKE)  
  BULLWINKLE'S SALOON & EATERY - West Yellowstone, Wyoming ($$$)  
  Located in the coldest town in the 48 states, Bullwinkle's is just a few yards from Yellowstone National Park's west entrance. The restaurant's two dining rooms have a decidedly rugged, rustic look... with wooden walls, big wooden beams, sturdy log-style wooden chairs, wooden trim and an occasional dead animal on the wall (including a moose). The bar and small casino lend to Bullwinkle's western charm. The menu includes a variety of steaks and game. They serve buffalo, elk burgers, Idaho trout, pork ribs and more... all professionally prepared and presented. They also have a wide selection of appetizers and bar food, both traditional (hot wings, nachos) and unusual (baked portobello with basalmic marinade, steamed mussels in white wine sauce). The restaurant's menu and ambiance is in perfect sync with its location and surroundings. And despite it's slightly roughneck atmosphere, Bullwinkle's is fine for the youngsters. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BUFFALO FILET MIGNON, HOT CHICKEN WINGS)  
  PHEASANT DINING ROOM - Custer, South Dakota ($$$$)    
  Rustic but elegant, the Pheasant Dining Room is located in Custer State Park's State Game Lodge on US 16A about 15 miles east of Custer. The lodge's claim to fame is that they were the "summer white house" for President Coolidge in 1927. Despite its quiet remote location, the Pheasant Dining room is a fine dining establishment. The menu features wild game like pheasant, quail, buffalo, elk, and rainbow trout. It's expensive, but different. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: THE MENU CHANGES REGULARLY, BUT I'D RECOMMEND A PHEASANT OR QUAIL DISH)  
  LOU'S BILLOW BEACH - Ashtabula, Ohio ($$$)   (FULL REVIEW + PHOTOS)  
  Big steaks, large portions and fresh bread on the Lake Erie shore... Lou's Billow Beach is very cozy and is popular with the locals. The big stone fireplace will warm you up after trudging through the lake-effect snow. The walls are covered with celebrity memorabilia and pictures depicting local history. Lou's Billow Beach has a wide menu featuring pasta, chicken, pork, seafood (including lobster) and nine different steaks. Their "controversial spaghetti & meatballs" is said to have created fistfights in the dining room. Your meal comes with three side dishes and the portions are generous. There is also a nice selection of appetizers. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: PORTERHOUSE STEAK, FILET MIGNON, FLAT IRON STEAK, CHICKEN WINGS, ONION RINGS, SALAD WITH THEIR HOMEMADE BLEU CHEESE DRESSING)  
  BIG PINE RESTAURANT & COFFEE SHOP - Big Pine Key, Florida ($$)  
  This regular olí local American restaurant has the typical sounds of clinking silverware along with the lively background chatter of the other patrons. It does have some distinctive aspects, though. Beyond the usual American dishes, the Big Pine Restaurant has some quirky local dishes, especially seafood. But most importantly, the Big Pine Restaurant and Coffee Shop has that laid-back Florida Keys attitude that makes the whole area so relaxing. It's not fancy... It has a lunch counter with a TV behind it and tables fairly close together. It has a high ceiling, ceiling fans and wood paneling. The friendly staff wears shorts and t-shirts. The menu is very diverse with something for everyone. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BBQ RIBS & CHICKEN, SCALLOPS OVER RICE, CATFISH NUGGETS, POTSTICKERS, ANY OF THE BREAKFAST BOWLS)  
  JASPER'S RESTAURANT - Ellsworth, Maine ($$$)   (WEBSITE)  
  A lobster dinner is compulsory for anyone visiting the state of Maine. But lobster is soooooo expensive, right? Well... yeah it is. But Jasper's Restaurant is more affordable than most. Plus they have a kid's menu, so you can feed the kids for five bucks while you indulge yourself. Not only is Jasper's relatively affordable, they serve lobster ten different ways! The building looks like an old Ponderosa Steakhouse. The interior is reminiscent of an old LK Restaurant... comfortable and functional, but not fancy. As an added bonus, the restaurant is adjacent to an inexpensive motel. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: LOBSTER)  
  BICE GRAND CAFE - Sedona, Arizona ($$$$)   (MORE INFO + PHOTOS) (WEBSITE)  
  Bice Grand Cafť is perched on a hill in Hyattís Shops at Pinon Pointe. The dining room is very artsy and modern-looking and is adorned with art and plants. A giant east-facing picture window affords a magnificent view of Sedona and its signature red rocks. Bice Grand Cafť has a diverse menu including steaks and seafood, but they are known for their pastas and gnocchi (potato dumplings). Bice Grand Cafe has an air of sophistication, so have a glass of wine with your gnocchi. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BEEF CARPACCIO APPETIZER, LOBSTER RAVIOLI, GNOCCHI)  
  BJ'S GRINDER KING - Rapid City, South Dakota ($)   (MORE INFO + PHOTOS)  
  BJís Grinder King is a delightful mom and pop pizza and grinder restaurant with booths, tables and a jukebox. I once believed that the term "grinder" was obscure, but it really isn't.  Itís a New England term for a sub sandwich, only with shredded cabbage instead of lettuce... and it's toasted. They have ham, roast beef, turkey, meatball and several other varieties of grinder (including eggplant). The outstanding pizza is thick and gooey. Bruce, the friendly owner of 20 years, has dubbed it "New England style pizza", though he confesses that he coined the term himself. Prices are extremely reasonable, especially when the huge portion sizes are considered. BJís Grinder King is in downtown Rapid City, but they have their own parking lot and itís very easy to reach. (605) 348-3166 (RECOMMENDED DISHES: PIZZA, GRINDERS)  
  THE FRANKFURTER - Seattle, Washington - Waterfront ($)  (WEBSITE)  
  The Frankfurter is not really a restaurant... I'll call it a "hot dog stand"... a very good hot dog stand. Two of their three locations are in food courts. The third (where we visited) is outdoors on the waterfront near the famous Pike Place Market. The Frankfurter is no ordinary hot dog stand, though. They have eleven different sausages... and DON'T call them "hot dogs". (only two of them contain the word "dog"). You can choose from old fashioned, kosher, cheese dog, kielbasa, Italian hot, bockworst, kid dog, southwestern, Thai chicken and sundried tomato. You can add your choice of a variety of condiments... ketchup, three varieties of mustard, sweet relish, dill relish and kraut. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: OLD FASHIONED SAUSAGE, BOCKWURST)  
  LESTER'S DINER - Fort Lauderdale, Florida ($$)   (WEBSITE)  
  This is a very large diner. It has a stainless steel facade with neon and checkerboard tile trim. The interior is classic diner-style, with booths, a lunch counter and cakes and pies on display in a refrigerated cabinet. Lester's has a huge menu filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites. They also feature a few Greek selections, including the biggest gyro sandwich I have ever eaten. The dessert menu is also quite extensive. The clientele come from all walks of life.  Oddly, during our late-evening visit, all of the patrons except two were men. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: GYRO PLATTER WITH FRIES AND GREEK SALAD)  
  SPACE ALIENS - Bismarck, North Dakota ($$)   (MORE INFO + PHOTOS)  
  First off, this place does not reflect North Dakota culture in any conceivable way... so Space Aliens is somewhat out of place on this list. But it DOES have character and was a hit with the kids, so I believe it belongs here. From whatever direction you are driving, Bismarck will be the first city you have run into for hundreds of boring miles, therefore the mere sight of civilization will be inviting. Space Aliens Grill & Bar is a colorful theme restaurant featuring an outer space theme. The dining room is meant to resemble the interior of a flying saucer. The restaurant is filled with memorabilia from space movies and TV shows, interesting space-age gadgets and pictures and models of aliens, astronauts and space creatures. The food? Well, it's OK... and surprisingly inexpensive. But I would recommend Space Aliens primarily because it's a sensory blitz after driving across hundreds of miles of nothingness. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: RIBS, FRIES SERVED IN A SPACE-AGE CONE)  
  RAMS HORN CAFE - Worland, Wyoming ($)    
  Worland is a small town in the middle of a sparsely populated part of Wyoming. (Well, what part of Wyoming is not sparsely populated?) There's really not much in Worland for the tourist. The Ram's Horn Cafe is a rather typical hometown American mom and pop restaurant. It has padded booths, a few tables and modest, understated decor. You need to park on the street in front of the restaurant, and you'll have no problem finding a spot. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with the typical American fare. It's a nice, pleasant homey place to enjoy a meal on the road to your next destination. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BACON AND EGGS)  
  WERNER'S PORK HOUSE - Wilmington, OH ($$)    
  Located next to a sleepy Ohio interstate highway exit (I-71 and U.S. 50), this small family-owned restaurant features outstanding BBQ, rivaling the best that Kansas City, Memphis or Texas have to offer. The decor and furniture is very modest, the dining room is quite small (40 seats, tops), and the restaurant ain't much to look at from the outside... but as you know, this is the type of place that you'll remember fondly for years. I especially like their souvenir t-shirts. They feature a smiling cartoon pig sporting a chef's hat and a bib while holding a knife and fork... apparently prepared to happily cook and devour those of his own species. Werner's also features homemade soups, salads and pies. Most of the prices are very reasonable, but a full rack of ribs is in the $15-18 dollar range.  (RECOMMENDED DISHES: RACK OF RIBS)  
  GRAYLING RESTAURANT - Grayling, Michigan ($)  
  This is the classic small town restaurant where the tables are close together, the air is filled with the aroma of bacon grease, the waitresses call you "honey" and the locals read their morning paper and chat about the local goings-on. To tell you the truth, I can't even remember what we had to eat on that sunny summer morning. I just remember that the Grayling Restaurant was a nice, casual place to have a relaxing breakfast before our long drive home, and it was bustling at 7 AM. (RECOMMENDED DISH: COFFEE)  
  THE HEARTLINE CAFE - Sedona, Arizona ($$$$)   (MORE INFO + PHOTOS) (WEBSITE)  
  Warm, elegant, cozy, homey, old-fashioned. The elegant linen-covered tables are set amidst a dining room with lots of plants and a wooden wine rack and trim. The flower designs on the plates are reminiscent of Great Grandmaís good holiday china. Every one of the Heartline Cafe's entrees is considered a specialty. They have steaks, chicken, duck, pork, seafood, pasta and vegetarian dishes. I highly recommend the pecan crusted local trout. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: PECAN CRUSTED TROUT, GARLIC SAUTEED LOBSTER CHUNKS)  
  RUBY HOUSE RESTAURANT - Keystone, South Dakota ($$$)  
  With its high ceilings, dark 19th century wallpaper and staff clad in period costume, the Ruby House Restaurant is a facsimile of the stereotypical Old West saloon. It's elegant and showy... and definitely western. They have a wide menu featuring several steaks (including buffalo), seafood, smoked pork and ribs, chicken, pasta... even some Mexican dishes. The Ruby House is completely family-friendly and is a fun place to enjoy a good meal. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BUFFALO SKEWERS, FRIED CHICKEN, BUFFALO STEAK, PRIME RIB)  
  CASA MOLINA - Tucson, Arizona ($$)    (WEBSITE)  
  A trip to Tucson must include a Mexican meal. Mexican restaurants are abundant in Tucson and I suspect you cant go wrong with most of the family-owned Mexican restaurants. I chose Casa Molina (Campbell location) at the recommendation of the hotel's front desk. Casa Molina has many Mexican choices. The portions are large and the side dishes are plentiful. If you're into "hot and spicy", then get the hot salsa to go with your chips. It is hot, hot HOT, pero es muy delicioso. Casa Molina's Mexican decor is very nice, featuring arched passageways between rooms and several large murals. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: BEEF FAJITAS, HOT SALSA)  
  MILLER'S DUTCH KITCH'N - Baltic, Ohio ($$)    (WEBSITE)  
  Down home country cooking in Ohio's Amish country. Their extensive menu features broasted chicken, Swiss steak, pork chops and a variety of sandwiches. You won't leave hungry because all meals come with three side dishes and the homemade pies are hard to resist. Now... why do they use an apostrophe to remove a single, very necessary letter? (RECOMMENDED DISHES: SWISS STEAK, BROASTED CHICKEN, HOT TRAIL & SWISS SANDWICH, HOT ROAST BEEF SANDWICH)  
  MANGOES - Key West, Florida ($$$$)    (WEBSITE)  
  Everything is expensive in Key West and there's no way to avoid it. There are countless terrific restaurants there too. Mangoes is located on Duval Street, Old Key West's main drag. Their eclectic menu features fresh local seafood and other Caribbean dishes. If the weather's nice, dine on the patio under the big old banyan tree. (RECOMMENDED DISHES: ISLAND PAELLA, JERK PORK, FILET CHIMMICHURRI)