One of the promises we made ourselves before we headed out on our trip to North Tonawanda, NY was to eat at locally owned, non-chain, non-fast food restaurants whenever possible. I think we kept our promise half the time. We like to patronize these kinds of establishments not only because the food is more interesting but the decor can be quite original. Let’s be honest, MacDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, etc. are just predictable and boring. We didn’t get to stop at Balyeat’s (pictured left) but I couldn’t resist their sign, which by itself is more interesting than any fast food restaurant I’ve ever been in.
What follows is a brief visit to a few of the eateries we found on our road trip.
Knightstown, Indiana (Hwy 40) Frosty Boy
Definitely a smalltown diner/hamburger place. And it was just one of those stops where we’re hungry, in a town that really doesn’t have any chain restaurants, I point out the sign and Curt says, “Sure!” and pulls in. We ordered at the little counter and they brought the food out to our table.
We used to eat here when we were living and teaching in Valparaiso in the 70’s. They had the greatest salad bar. Every week it was different depending on what salads the chef created. There were always a few basics like potato salad and coleslaw but there might be pickled beets, corn salad, sweet/sour green beans, garbanzo salad. It was always a treat to see what was on the bar. This visit, many years later (2009), they just had menu items. The salad bar was no more. The food was good but not as great as the memory of that salad bar.
We took a real chance on GENII’S II: Chinese-American and Thai and Buffet Lunch in West Branch, Michigan. After driving past a few other places that I thought might be good but Curt vetoed, we settled on this place. This decision might have back-fired on us because the buffet of meatballs, corn, mashed potatoes, fried rice, was pretty beige and limp looking. We decided to order off the menu and chose the Thai dishes since we could see from our table that there was an Asian cook in the kitchen. The food was pretty good but the best part of this restaurant was the picture on the wall above the door to the kitchen. We asked our waitress what that was in the picture, she had no idea. If I worked there I would have asked on the first day, maybe even before I accepted the job. When we were done eating we went for a closer look. There was a caption above the picture in Thai and English.
It read “Queen of the Nagas, caught by US military, Mekong River, Laos. 1973, 7.8 meters long.
” Wow! That got our vote for best and oddest restaurant decor.
There aren’t a lot of places to eat along highway 2 in Upper Michigan so when we saw a billboard for the Swedish Pantry in Escanaba we plugged it into our GPS as our lunch destination. What a great place. The front has a bakery counter where we got muffins for breakfast and cookies for the remainder of our trip. Behind this counter was the dining area, about 20 tables set in a smallish room. The walls were covered with pictures, crafts, and clocks (all set differently so they chimed, lit up or played little tunes at various times). For lunch I had the Kottbullar Plate: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, lingonberries, a spiced apple ring and a slice of oatmeal bread. Curt had the Swedish Sampler: Swedish meatballs, potato sausage, ham filled dumpling, lingonberries, cole slaw and a slice of oatmeal bread. Hardy, to say the least. I don’t think we had much for dinner that evening.
There are probably a lot of places like this in your own town. Take a chance, find them and enjoy! Then share them with us. We are always looking for a new dining experience.