Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Two Chicks Restaurant, New Orleans

Google “best breakfast in New Orleans” and you will come up with some delightful possibilities, one of which is Two Chicks.

First, Two Chicks is not as easy to find as you would think. The address is 901 Convention Center Boulevard, but as it turns out, there is a sort of square OFF the boulevard, with other shops and restaurants around a kind of square, and, close to the Mexican consulate, is a small mall, in which is 2 Chicks.

Life is irrational. I love this place. I had a Cafe breakfast, like eggs and sausage, with fruit, and I didn’t eat a croissant; I wish I had.  The food was delicious, fresh and well put together. From the minute I walked in I had an immediate emotional response:  Edith Piaf was belting out “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the waitress, who knew all the words, was singing right along with her as she folded cutlery into napkins. I was beside myself with quiet joy.

The wall paper is French. The music is French, and from all eras. The coffee is really good. The food is French in that it is lovingly and thoughtfully prepared. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss France?

You have to have a key to use the restroom in the little mall, but what a surprise the ladies room is – 15 foot ceiling with marble walls, and gorgeous tiles. Who puts this kind of attention and lovely finishes in a restroom? The whole experience was irrational and lovely.

Service was attentive and efficient and we have eaten well and are out the door just in time to find a parking place at the Museum and be among the first inside.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hot drinks, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

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June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Denver, Damascus and Pensacola

We are leaving Santa Fe, but we have time for one more Santa Fe experience: Harry’s Roadhouse. It’s on the road out of Santa Fe, and hey, we have to have breakfast anyway. We are so glad we stopped here. This is a very cool place.

 

There are lots of rooms. This is the room we ate in, below. They have all kinds of wonderful breakfast foods, and the furnishings are all different colors. It is a colorful restaurant, sort of like it breaks the rules of taste and it doesn’t care. It’s kind of freeing 🙂

We are making really good time on the way to Denver when all of a sudden, on a not so busy freeway to this point, everything stops. “What on earth???” AdventureMan asks, and I have no clue. “Probably rockfall,” I say. It’s happened to me before on Colorado roads. Sometimes a huge boulder will just dislodge and fall on the highway. It can really hurt somebody if it hits them – of if they don’t expect a big boulder in the middle of the road and they hit it.

We are stuck for around 30 minutes. When we drive by the bottleneck, one lane, the rockfall has been mostly cleared. It takes massive equipment to get the rock off the road.

 

We pass Trinidad, a town we’ve stopped in before, but we aren’t hungry yet. An hour later, we need gas and we need to eat, but there is a whole lot of nothing near the road. As soon as we see anything, we head for it.

 

First gas. Then – another Barbecue. LOL, it’s not as if we don’t get BBQ in Pensacola, but as it turns out, this is pretty good barbecue.

 

We hit Denver just about prime traffic time, and worse, Denver has just been hit by a heavy rain and sleet storm. We recognize a street name we know, exit the interstate and in very short time find my sister and her husband and happily settle in. Tonight we are all having dinner together over at Little Diamonds, with the kids; AdventureMan and I still have the remains of our BBQ, and we split a salad. Dinner is great, the conversation is even better, and the children are delightful.

The next day is so much fun, my sister has tickets for the Viking exhibit AdventureMan has wanted to see at the beautiful Denver Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a great exhibit, full of treasures and wonders, beautifully exhibited. We have such a great time.

This is my very favorite part of the entire exhibit, and I am sorry my photos are blurry but we can only take photos with no flash, and the light is very low in the exhibit to protect the artifacts.

There are people associated with the exhibit who are character actors. This is Tova, an older, still beautiful, much married woman, who tells us about her three marriages, her husbands, her life, her wealth and property, all the while holding a spindle with which she spins thread while she talks to us. She interacts with her audience, asking questions, but never straying from her character. She was enchanting, and even better, she was convincing. We learned so much from her.

I wish you could see how beautifully made so many of these articles are, and read all the descriptions. This was well curated.

Another of my favorite exhibit, and almost impossible to photograph. These are nails, exactly in the positions they were found. An entire Viking ship had been found, buried in dirt and mud. The wood all rotted away, and disappeared, but the nails stayed exactly where they had been, and in the exhibit, thin, nearly invisible lines hold each nail in its place. Together, the nails form the shape of a ship, but you have to find the right perspective to see it. I tried, this was the best I could get.

A tombstone put up by a wife to honor her dead husband – and to determine, also, her property lines 🙂

 

Another character actor helping the students find the answers to their worksheets.

 

 

 

The exhibit was full of school groups, with booklets to find the answers to. These kids were having so much fun, and learning so much. This group donned Viking helmets for a photo, but were in constant motion (sigh) in the low light.

Probably the very best gift (from his perspective) our grandson got was one of these paper Viking helmets; our grandson wore it all the next day, after we got home, even to choir practice!

We had lunch at Sams #3, wow, so much selection and every dish was wonderful. Then, home to pack up and have a rest before we all meet up again for dinner. Dinner is a lot of fun, we’ve all been to Damascus, so we are eating at a restaurant near Denver University called . . . Damascus!

Things did not start well. “Mike” greeted us and told us he was not really the waiter, but the waitress had quit and he was the dishwasher, but tonight he would try to be the waiter while the owner trained a new cook. They couldn’t promise that everything on the menu would be available, but . . .

The good news was that as much as we all love Middle Eastern, particularly Damascus, cuisine, more than anything we wanted time together, sitting, talking, laughing, telling stories, so we just rolled with it. We ordered and it seemed nothing was not going to be served.

First out was hummus, and mohammara, and a big basket of hot hot hot fresh pita bread. Oh! I had forgotten how good it tastes, fresh out of the oven, and so plentiful. We were so happy, we stopped even thinking about the rest of dinner.

A while later, our dinners appeared, and they were each wonderful. AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich, which I failed to photograph. I had ordered this wonderful vegetarian platter, which I was happy to share with everyone.

My brother-in-law had chicken on the bone, with rice and salad. Perfect!

Little diamond had fattoush and grilled mushrooms.

My sister had a cucumber soup. We all had lots of mohammara and bread. As we ate, the restaurant filled. Mike explained to each table that things might not go well, but every table seemed to get a great dinner. It’s the old adage, Under Promise and Over Deliver. Makes customers happy every time. 🙂

 

 

This was the BEST way to leave Denver, full, happy, having time with family.

We leave early the next morning for Pensacola. Not everything goes smoothly, but we arrive in Pensacola little worse for wear. It’s been a great trip.

And we’re off on our next adventure! 🙂

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cooking Up That Angry Food

I have a friend that helps me keep my house clean. I started out as her employer, and now we have become friends. She lives a very different life from me, and I learn from her. Sometimes her perceptions will catch me by surprise.

As we were talking about volunteers and volunteering in churches, we found our churches to be very similar – and I am betting these experiences are universal.

“I’ve always liked washing dishes,” I tell her, “because nobody else wants the job, nobody is telling me how to do it, and I can just keep my head down and stay out of the uproars.”

“Yeh,” she says, “arguing over the little things, cooking up that angry food.”

“Angry food?” I ask.

“”Yeh, you know, you can taste it. When people are calm and happy, they cook differently, and the food comes out good, you can taste the love in it. When they in a hurry, or upset about something, food come out angry.”

Yep. I’ve cooked an angry meal or two myself. It’s a waste of good ingredients. You might as well just open a can of soup as cook angry food.

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Advent, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Survival | Leave a comment

Monday is Homework Day

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This is not the life we expected – it is so much better. Before we retired, my husband asked me what we would do, and I said I knew what I would do, but I didn’t know what he would do; he would have to figure out what he wanted to do. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I would be doing.

Life evolves. One decision leads to another, down paths you can’t foresee.

I had no idea I would love my grandchildren so much. I had no idea how much joy being close to our adult son and his wife would be, watching them mature, seeing them parent so lovingly and patiently. The other day, he spotted a photo of a time we were on our way to a German Military Ball; he said “How old were you in this photo?” and as we figured it out, we were almost exactly the age he is now. That was a moment of wonder to all of us. It helps us to remind ourselves that he no longer needs parenting, no more than we did at his age. He needs respect, and the support of a loving family that can mind their own business unless asked for input.

Doing kindergarten homework is mind-numbing. Q, who is a smart little boy, looked at me and said “when you do the same thing over and over, it is really boring.” He loves new words, so I said “when you do the same thing over and over again, that is called ‘repetitious’,” and he said “Yes, so it is repetitious and BORING.” We both laughed.

While it IS boring, what he is doing now is also crucial, mastering his numbers and how they work together, and his letters, and distinguishing “b”s from “d”s, and “g”s from “q”s and a lot of learning just requires that repetition to engrave it in your mind. He is learning to write, and he is adept at reading books above his level – but it all takes work.

We have some break activities. He can run laps around my first floor, running a circle which I make him change direction every now and then. He can jump on my running trampoline. He can play hide and seek with his Baba. We are working on jig-saw puzzles, and for fun, he gets to play one of Baba’s computer games requiring strategic thinking skills.

We still do our volunteering, our church activities, our house things. We have lunch out almost every day; we are free until after school.

While the homework is for the whole week, we have discovered that dragging it out is just that – a drag. Get it done! Just do it! We are learning to focus, and the work is not that hard. When we finish the homework, we have the rest of the week to play!

Today I was exploring online, looking for an old African recipe I have for African Gingerbread. This is a really old recipe; what I liked about it is that when you add the baking soda and molasses, it fizzes and bubbles. I looked in all my books, but in my never-ending quest to get rid of, get rid of, get rid of, not to burden myself with too many THINGS, I must have given away that particular book. But as I was looking for the recipe online, the only place I found it . . . was here. On my own blog! Old Fashioned Gingerbread. It makes me grin, thinking of how thrilled this five year old will be when we make old fashioned African gingerbread and it all starts fizzing. Woo HOOOO!

When the homework is done, the fun begins!

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cooking, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Recipes, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 5 Comments

Business in New Orleans

Once we discovered how easy it is to go to New Orleans, even just for the day, we are hooked. When Zito’s Metal Polishing & Plating called to tell us our pieces were finished and offered to mail them (free of charge) to us, AdventureMan said “Oh no, we’ll come get them” and set the date. We invited a friend who also has some pieces that need re-tinning to be usable, and off we went.

You may think this is trivial, but for us, it is beautiful:

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Gas is so much cheaper in Louisiana. Of course, it takes nearly half a tank to get there, so I don’t suppose we are saving so much, LOL.  When I saw my old friends, my copper pots, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think they looked this good in Damascus, where I bought them, on The Street Called Straight. Who knows if we will ever be able to walk the streets of Damascus again?

 

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Zito’s was able to replace a handle on the brass piece we bought, oh so long ago, in the Khan al Khalili in Cairo.

 

These pieces are, I believe, more beautiful now than when I bought them! I had the pots re-tinned because I have used them cooking many many times over the last 35 years, but now I am afraid to use them, they are so beautiful!

 

We stayed out of the tourist areas with Mardi Gras madness in full swing, and found a fabulous Thai restaurant, La Thai, on Prytania, (voted Best Thai in New Orleans,) when our two Ethiopian restaurants were both closed. It was a wonderful happenstance; we had a great meal (scallops!) and we also were able to finish our day in New Orleans with a tour of City Park and ice cream at the Creole Creamery. Oh wow. Flavors like King Cake Ice Cream, and Red Velvet Ice Cream and 5 Spice Ginger. It was a great day.

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nile: Ethiopian Food in New Orleans

It’s just not fair. There are NO Ethiopian restaurants in Pensacola, but there are two, on the same street, Magazine,  in New Orleans, and not far from one another. We ate at one in late October, when we were in New Orleans for the day getting a new passport, Cafe Abyssinia. We would have gone back, but they were closed for the holidays, and we decided to try the Nile, just up the street.

Oh. We are so glad we did!

 

From the outside:

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The menu; short, sweet, everything you need.

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The interior is light and bright, even on a cloudy day. I loved the high ceilings and the spacious feeling.

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But best of all is the food. We ordered the vegetarian assortment (on the left) and the Doro Wat, a mildly spicy chicken dish, sometimes called the National Dish. I first heard about Doro Wat in Vargese’s Cutting for Stone, and have been ordering it whenever I could. This time, it was just spicy enough (we like spicy). I like the sauce so much, I don’t even care about the chicken, or the hard boiled egg. Just the sauce is so delicious. It is messy, you eat it with the spongy bread, injera, and even if you are very delicate, you usually have a mess. I use a lot of napkins, and even when you wash your hands, hours later you will still smell the spices on your hand (in a good way).

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There is a whole basket of the rolled injera in the upper left corner, as well as more underneath the vegetarian selections and the Doro Wat.

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Palais Medina and Spa in Fes, Morocco

We were delighted to get to our hotel in Fes, the Palais Medina and Spa Hotel. Our room was very comfortable, but my shoes were muddy from Volubilis, and I forgot to take a photo of the room because I really, really needed to wash my shoes off and hope they would dry by the next day as we hike around Fes.  It was very large, very beautiful, had a seating area and a huge bathroom. The bed was marvelous.

 

The Hotel had some quirks. As we were about to board the elevator, others from our ship were getting off and saying “We are NOT going to stay here!” and we wondered what that was all about. On our floor, the hallway was so dimly lit that we struggled to figure out where the card went into the door. But the room was lovely, comfortable, quiet, and it had a wonderful view.

 

We hurried down to dinner, seeing a sign that said “group dining” we knew where to go.

 

(I didn’t take this photo; I lifted it from the hotel website, but it looks like the room we stayed in)

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From the elevator area into the lobby area:

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View at night from our balcony looking left

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View early in morning looking out

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More view. It really was a lovely room.

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This has to be one of the worst experiences of the tour, tied with trying to get through Charles DeGualle to catch our Atlanta flight. The dining room was chaos.

“Grab a place, quickly; they are already starting to take the food away!” one fellow passenger urged us. We found places with friends, then went to search the inevitable buffet. There were still plenty of salad-y things, but entree pickings were slim. People in this hotel were elbowing one another out of the way, as if they had never seen food before, and this food was not worth elbowing anyone out of the way. It was buffet food, and the message it sent me was “this hotel takes groups because we have to in order to stay afloat, but we hate groups.” Dinner was purely awful. I can’t even remember what we found to eat, but except for a pumpkin soup, it was not good and not memorable food except for being not-good.

You’d think it would be hard to screw up breakfast, but breakfast was worse. They had those two little coffee maker things, and long lines waiting for both tea and coffee. Worse – there were no coffee cups! Not one! After a while a few showed up, and what happened when fewer coffee cups than coffee drinkers were available showed us just how very thin the veneer of civilization is. This was our experience at this ultra-first-class hotel. Horrors!

Lesson learned: I did spot a restaurant separate from the group dining restaurant. Knowing now what I know, I would choose to pay for a good Moroccan meal at the private-dining restaurant. Morocco just isn’t that expensive, and Moroccan cuisine is delicious, worth paying for! I would never settle for a mediocre meal, paid for as part of our tour, just because it was paid for. Life is too short!

 

On the other hand, it was late, we had a long day, I still needed to make sure my shoes were cleaned, and we just wanted to grab a bite and go. This was a nice hotel, but not a stellar experience.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Restaurant, Travel, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Houseguests and Rabies and Wedding Anniversaries

We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.

One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.

Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.

Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.

But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.

So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.

As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.

This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.

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We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.

I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.

How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.

I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.

But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.

We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.

It has given us a lot to think about.

Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan 🙂

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cooking, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia | 6 Comments

The MidPoint Cafe on Route 66

It’s one of those long lonely Texas roads, one with few stops along the way and it is time to eat. It is also Easter, and who knows what will be open and if there is any room at the inn, so to speak.

I spot a large CAFE sign near a gas station in an otherwise unpromising tiny strip of town. It is surrounded by cars, so we exit and head over to where the signs are.

Great choice.

There was a large chain-foods-with-greasy-selections at one of the gas stations, but the cafe was one of those home-cookin’ kinds of places, and full of tables of folk just out of church and looking to have an Easter meal out.

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The Mid Point Cafe is exactly halfway from the beginning of Route 66 to its end.

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After two large groups (the Baptists and the Methodists, I think) departed, the owner, Dennis Purschwitz, had some time to talk with us. He had recently bought the MidPoint, talked officials into helping update the MidPoint signs, got all kinds of people to donate labor and supplies to make an interest point happen.

And he wasn’t even from around there. Now, he has retired (mostly) from engineering and is living his dream, running the MidPoint Cafe. He brought life back to a town with no dining out places, and gave people a place to gather. He is busy helping a community remain viable.

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The food was excellent; the home made pies even better. A couple were already sold out, so AdventureMan reserved a piece of Coconut Creme before we even ordered lunch. This was one of those great stops that happen on a road trip; we didn’t know it was there and now, we are so glad it is.

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 1 Comment