Category Archives: Restaurants

Metropolitan Coffee House, North Conway, NH: The House Rules!

The Metropolitan Coffee House and Fine Art Gallery in North Conway Village, New Hampshire

Met Coffee House 

(5/5)

Pros: Location.  Friendly atmosphere.  Extensive beverage menu has something for everyone.  Best coffee east of anywhere.  Their Limoncello Custard Cake alone is worth the experience.  New management now features luncheon fare.  Situated within the best piece of real estate in the village.

If you’re fortunate in this life, you have experienced a comfortable place where the real world abates and allows you some space.  For reasons to which no mere mortal can attest, the Metropolitan Coffee House provides me with just such a spot of sublime intervention.

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Situated adjacent to Schouler Park in the heart of North Conway Village, this tall brick Victorian melds the elegant bones of a former bank with the soul of a Neapolitan bistro – from espresso to gelato to the heavenly croissant, the Met enables an international pause to the diverse attractions found amongst the bustle in this walkable, year-round New England experience.

Coffee Lovers And Others

New proprietor Larry Flaherty is the Michelangelo of Met renaissance. Note the chandelier halo.
New proprietor Larry Flaherty is the Michelangelo of Met renaissance. Note the chandelier halo.

Of the numerous dark and medium-roast coffees dispensed, the Met‘s Community Blend is the holy grail of this life-long java-quaffer. With its mellow attitude and chocolatey demeanor, I can sip all day and never get enough.  If you like a blue-collar cup, Regular Joe is the meat-and-potatoes of the coffee world.  The house Decaf borders on the dark side, so swig accordingly.  Nearly a dozen Artistic Lattes are just a barista away.

If whole-bean is your scene and you brew at home, all varieties of coffee served-up at the Met are available for purchase in-house.  Grind it yourself, or let the Met do it.  Ask about the Met Card – present it with each purchase to access special offers.  Their buy 10, get 1 free deal is sweet when you check-out and hear the words: “this one’s on us!”.

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Several varieties of tea (both hot and iced) appear on the menu, along with a number of Fruity Smoothies – plus their chocolate and vanilla cohorts.  This being New England, Apple Cider is a menu must – straight-up or with ginger, cinnamon, caramel or maple.

Child Prodigy?

What better way to live large than by indulging in a Met delight!
What better way to live large than by indulging in a Met delight!

The pastry showcase represents Christmas, year-round.  I’ve witnessed admiring patrons perplexed by the prolific prospects presented – their Limoncello Custard Layer Cake is so good, I was compelled to duplicate this tangy treasure in my very own kitchen.

If it were a French delicacy, I could Youtube Julia Child for its secrets within, but Italian was just not her gig.  Thanks to my efforts and the Met‘s motivation, my favorite lemony layers are nearly as memorable as theirs.

Met For Lunch010

There is no shortage of eateries in the village – but none exist with superior mood, location or attention to detail.  The Met‘s new management brings to the table a trio of sandwich specials.  Your selection of Ham, Roast Beef or Roast Turkey can reside upon a bagel, roll or multi-grain croissant.  Threes are wild with accompanying cheeses – sharp Cheddar, American or imported Swiss can be yours.  Toppings include lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.  This and a crisp pile of chips for just $6.95 (US).

Gelato

Gelato room can be accessed from the side entrance or the coffee shop.
The Gelato room can be accessed from the side entrance or through the coffee shop.

Everyone’s frozen Italian delight occupies its own section of the Met.  The current menu lists nine flavors – including those both traditional and exotic – should Banana Caramel Swirl fit the definition.  Of the four Sorbet flavors that appear, Strawberry Balsamic sounds most avant-garde – if not bordering on madcap.

The Fine Art Part

The Met‘s high ceilings provide ample wall space for the display of available work by local artists.  An assortment of framed oils, watercolors and photographs reflecting the area’s natural beauty vie for the attention of appreciative patrons and a small slice of their vacation budget.

Update Update

Caffeinated vocabularians can invent new words now that Deluxe Scrabble is in the House!
Caffeinated vocabularians can invent new words now that Deluxe Scrabble is in the House!

Since assuming proprietorship, Larry Flaherty has reclaimed the interior’s wood-paneled, centurial grandeur with new paint and updated lighting.  Intimate and inviting, the upstairs lounge now assumes game room status with the likes of chess, checkers and Deluxe Scrabble.  Watch incoming and departing trains on the Conway Scenic Railroad from the room’s comfy window seat.

If you enjoy lazy summer days with your cuppa’ Joe, the outdoor seating with a view of the park is a Met staple that remains unequaled.

Location Times Three

Photo shows Free WiFi - and a free plug for the local 5-and-10.
Photo shows Free WiFi – and a nod for the local 5-and-dime.

The Met is a short walk from anywhere in the village.  Adjacent to the common (Schouler Park) via Norcross Circle, it neighbors the train station, plus numerous shops and attractions.

Five stars for the experience that is the Met.  If you knew a place where your planets align when you walk through the door, could you rate it anything less?

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The Metropolitan Coffee House and Fine Art Gallery is located at the intersection of White Mountain Highway (Route 302-16) and Kearsarge Road in North Conway, New Hampshire.  For more details and hours of operation, click on the above link.

The Met006
2680 White Mountain Highway
North Conway, NH  03860
(603)-356-2332

Planets Image:  pekiwiki-loja.wikispaces.com.
All other images generated by the author.

Feasting at the Pinoy Palace In L.A.

The Park’s Finest BBQ

Approaching taste bud delight.
Approaching taste bud delight.

theparksfinest.com

(4.5/5)

Pros: Unique blend of Filipino home cooking and American BBQ, friendly staff, daily specials, several  gluten-free selections

Cons: Small menu/limited choices, cornbread biblingka is addictive

Guy Fieri might just be my more gregarious twin from another Mother.  We are both huge Foodies, could talk cooking and noshing and snacks ad nauseum and still keep on ticking.  So it is, that with a new head’s up via Triple D, or any of the Peroxided Bambino’s ways of getting The Word out, I am so on it, or as often as vacation dollars will allow.

Case in point, following a recent Panama Canal cruise ending up in San Diego, we repaid a visit to Hodad’s, an outstanding pagan to Cheeseburgerly Excess, and one where I actually outfoxed Guy and indulged 6 full months before either his clue-in or production schedule allowed.

Now it was time to head northward, the city of Angels and Dodgers, Kings and plenty of perfectly coiffed Queens beckoning with a new bucket list dive, The Park’s Finest BBQ.  Building upon memories of Filipino comfort foods and all American BBQ, the resulting mélange yields a small but flavorsome menu, plus some budget-stretching Daily Specials.

Small  but winning menu
Small but winning menu

Monday, for example,  offers up a filling special of fried rice with tidbits of Tri tip, hot links, coconut beef and spare ribs, a good way to sample the outdoor Smoker’s true capabilities for less than five bucks.

My choice?  Mama Leah’s Coconut Beef, with toothsome and tender bites of lean beef bathed in a slightly sweet and spicy coconut milk, (Thai style), curry. This is a generous portion, and equally fine the next day, reheated with some of the steamed white rice.

The ribs are mostly lean but not dry, and fall off the bone tender; just lightly smoked.  The star of this meal turned out to be Ann’s winning Cornbread Biblingka, subbing sweet rice flour for the more typical wheat, (gluten), variety,  coconut milk  for the cow kind; with  4 tasty pieces per order, see if you are willing to share!

Mama Leah's Coconut Curry and Cornbread Biblingka.
Mama Leah’s Coconut Curry and Cornbread Biblingka.

They make a mean sandwich.

New York Grilled Cheese Co

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(4/5)

Pros: Great sandwiches.

Cons: Service can be slow. limited selection.

I’d heard about the New York Grilled Cheese co for a while. But hadn’t got around to checking it out until now. I’d always been curious about it so I decided to give it a try.

It took a little searching to find it at first. The way Fort Lauderdale is laid out can be confusing even to longtime residents like yours truly. And this is a small restaurant. But the outside is unmistakable as you can see in the picture above.

It isn’t quite fast food. But it is a more or less seat yourself type operation ala Steak and Shake. It can take a while to get your food. But that’s not too big a deal if you’re not in a hurry.

Menu wise, New York Grilled Cheese Co lives up to its name. Menu items include Blue Buffalo, which is Blue Jack & American-Cheddar cheeses with buffalo chicken on toasted country loaf, SoHo Sweet Cheeses, which works well for those wanting something sweeter and consists of Brie cheese, caramelized onions, crunchy bacon and berry marmalade on toasted oatmeal wheat bread, The Brooklyn Porkster which consists of American-Cheddar cheese, homemade BBQ pulled pork with bbq sauce, caramelized onions, and crunchy dill pickles on toasted country loaf and Manhattan Grilled Mac ’n Cheese which consists of Gooey American-Cheddar cheese and homemade mac and cheese stuffed between two slices of toasted country loaf. For those in the mood for a standard Grilled Cheese, there is The Broadway Classic which is American-Cheddar and Swiss cheeses on toasted sourdough bread with melted garlic butter. All of the sandwiches are cooked on a waffle iron and served with a small cup of tomato bisque for the purpose of dipping. Sides include regular fries, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese and bacon lollipops. The fries are all waffle fries in keeping with the waffle theme of the sandwiches.

As far as drinks go, they have beer, wine and sodas.

I opted for The Broadway classic and fries.

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The restaurant isn’t the largest I’ve been in. But it’s spread out widely enough not to feel crowded. There are a variety of different pictures on the wall giving it just enough atmosphere and music usually plays via Pandora. This afternoon, it was contemporary R&B.

The only real problem I can think of people might have with this place is the somewhat limited menu. It’s pretty much all grilled cheese with a variety of different variations as I noted above. I don’t mind at all. But this is not the place to go if you’re looking for a burger or chicken nuggets. Also it can be a while before getting the food. But they do have call ahead.

If you like grilled cheese (and who doesn’t) and live in the Fort Lauderdale area and still haven’t checked out New York Grilled Cheese co, I’d suggest you do so as soon as you get a chance. It’s heavenly comfort food done in some ways you might not have thought possible.

A Plantation Florida Mainstay For A Reason.

Landlubbers Raw Bar And Grill

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(4/5)

Pros: Reliable, good quality food, good choices.

Cons: Crowds (especially on game days), menu items can change unexpectedly.

It’s had its ups and downs. But Landlubbers has been a staple of my diet since the mid 1990s.

The Plantation Florida Raw Bar And Grill used to be a place where one could get a basket of fried clams, fries and a soda for about $7.50. The prices have gone up since then. But it’s still relatively cheap in terms of overall pricing.

Depending on how you look at it, this is the place you go to either for wings or seafood. I tend to lean more towards the seafood. But the wings are pretty good. They also have sandwiches, ribs, tacos, burgers and so on. Pretty much enough for even the pickiest eater to find something that he or she will like.

As far as side dishes go, if you have had it up to here with french fries never fear because they offer waffle fries, rice, onion rings and other choices.

Lest I forget to mention, the pretty good clam chowder.

SO yeah, the food here is usually pretty good. There have been instances of things overcooked or under-cooked. But that can happen at any restaurant and they don’t happen here too often, unlike when going through the drive-through at McSuck for instance.

But I do have a few complaints to register:

1: Being that it is a sports bar, it can get awfully crowded, especially on days when there is a game.

2: Menu items tend to disappear. Nothing wrong with making changes to the menu. But when something you like goes, it can be frustrating.

When I first started eating at Landlubbers on a regular basis, one thing I would get often was the Catfish. Then suddenly they didn’t have it anymore. Nowadays it’s back, complete with both the blackened and the fried Cajun variation. Delicious. But why did it have to go away for a long period of time, almost two decades.

Likewise, for a while they had the Fried Grouper Fingers. Now they’re gone. There have been times where I’ve wanted to say “Look, this is supposed to be a seafood place. Quit putting so much time into inventing chicken wing combos nobody knew they needed until now”.

Even so, I still can’t find any reason not to go to Landlubbers. There’s a reason it’s been a mainstay of Plantation Florida for so long.

Welcome to Mucky D’s, home of the best heating lamps in the business.

McDonald’s

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(0/5)

Pros: Supposedly it’s made from actual food.

Cons: According to Dick Cheney.

Bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Who sells more records: Sleater-Kinney or Katy Perry? But which one is actually better? You see my point.

Likewise, McDonald’s is the biggest fast food restaurant in the business. But is it the best? I think not.

McDonald’s is fast food and thus not offering gourmet options. That’s not the problem. It’s not exactly the healthiest fare either. But nobody goes to any fast food restaurant expecting the healthiest food. No, the problem is that McDonald’s seems to think that fast food=crap food and crap service.

Where does Mucky D’s fail?

1: Service

Seeing as McDonald’s serves to target kids who don’t know any better by offering cheap toys that will entertain them for a while only to eventually wind up in the trash, it’s not surprising that the place is often crowded with screaming kids (unlike Wendy’s which offers way better food but is often crowded with senior citizens). On one hand, nobody goes to McSuck expecting to enjoy a t-bone steak and white wine by candlelight. But if you just need a few minutes to relax while you eat, this is not the place to go.

This does not mean that I recommend going through the drive-through instead. Just here what Joe Pesci has to say (warning: Strong language):

In addition, the drive-through is often the place where garbled communication occurs. McDonald’s seems to either have small microphones that can’t pick up what people on either side ore saying. Or when the mics do work they put people on them that have not mastered any form of communication.

So I do not recommend using the drive-through because you run the risk of getting McScrewed.

Anyway, you make it through the line, past all the running and screaming kids and make it to the counter. Time to order. You want a burger with no mayo. You tell them this. Do they say “no problem”. Do they just take your order? Nope.

Heart attack time.

Not because of the grease and cholesterol. No, because the food is pre-made in advance and either kept warm under heating lamps or microwaved when people order it. That’s why the burgers often taste dry as dust. Which brings us to the second point:

2: The Food

I’m not sure what kind of beef McDonald’s uses to make its burgers. It’s definitely not grade A. More like the kinda beef that would get a D in Phys Ed.

The cheese is this kinda horrible processed one that makes Velveeta look and taste good. It’s the kinda cheese food that people buy because they don’t want to spend a couple dollars more for real cheese. And this type of cheese does not want to melt the way real cheese does. Hence you end up with a burger made of low quality beef complete with a piece of so-called cheese that’s like a you-know-what in dire need of Viagra.

Now a show of hands. How many times have you unwrapped your McDonald’s burger and it looked like someone had taken it in the back room and stomped on it a few times? Nearly all of you. Not surprised.

As for the chicken nuggets, I’m not sure what kind of chicken they use in them. It doesn’t taste like the chicken you get anywhere else. Most likely they use pieces from the areas of the chicken that are cheapest to cut off. Wendy’s chicken nuggets are way better.

But they have salads. Yeah and so does Wendy’s. Plus one could easily make their own salad at home for about the same amount.

Then there’s the fries and shakes….ahhh nevermind. The fries and shakes are the one thing they do right.I bet if Wendy’s had their fry recipe and offered shakes, they’d have em beat.

Then again, maybe not. After all, McDonald’s target audience is kids. Kids don’t really care about the quality of the food. They just want the happy meal toys and to play on the playground.; You may recall that years ago, McDonald’s tried to appeal to adults by offering an “adult hamburger”. Yeah an adult hamburger. But what was supposed to be adult about a hamburger? Was it slathered in McSex sauce?

“Come to McDonald’s for our new adult hamburger. Eat it and you’ll go down like Arnold Schwarzenegger with the nanny”

“Welcome to McDonald’s”
“Yeah I’d like that new adult hamburger”
“Lemme see some id!”

But that wasn’t it obviously and the attempt at appealing to adults failed as badly as Battlefield Earth. So it was back to targeting the toddlers.

But is McDonald’s the worst fast food of all? Well it’s not as bad as the food served in my high school’s cafeteria. I’m pretty sure that came in two barrels: one labeled “toxic waste” and the other labeled “nuclear waste” and it was always random as to what was served on any given day, And one time I ended up picking up some Chinese food at the local grocery that I’m convinced our soldiers died at the Yalu during the Korean War to prevent from getting into the United States. So, no, McDonald’s doesn’t make number one on worst eating choices. It is in the top 5. If you gotta do fast food, see Wendy or make a run for the border.

Goody’s Cafe – a delightful, inexpensive treat in Southern California

Goody’s Café

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(5/5)

Pros: Inexpensive, tremendous variety of delicious food

Cons: A bit sloppy on the delivery system

I wouldn’t call it pretty.  It’s definitely not fancy.  But it is very good food at a very reasonable price.

I’m talking about Goody’s Café, a restaurant with a few locations in Southern California.  On a recent trip to Indio, we ate there several times.  Why?  Inexpensive, delicious food, and such a wide range of items that everyone wanted to try several different things.

Step up to the counter, to place your order.  It’s best if you study the paper version of the menu before you get there, though.  The place is small.  The counter area is extremely crowded.  And if you’re trying to read through their gigantic menu board posted on the wall behind the counter, you will be in the way.

Breakfast time?  Two column’s worth of items from which to choose.  Every kind of egg, pancake, breakfast meat and bread is available.  Pancakes are delicious – as good as Ihop.  Nothing costs more than $11 – not even their gigantic meals consisting of pancakes, toast, potatoes, eggs, and meat. 

Lunch/Dinner?  Every kind of sandwich, burger, and salad is available.  For a couple bucks, go for the combo, which will add potatoes or soup, and a drink.    And when I say “burger” I mean one of about 20 different types of burger.  Bacon, avocado, cheese, veggie, etc.  If you can imagine it, it’s probably on the menu.  And it’ll be big, and delicious. 

Hot dogs are also available – with our without toppings like chili and cheese.   

Or, turn to their “South of the Border” menu – this is where you’ll find nachos, fajitas, quesadillas, and tacos…  I loved their fish tacos.

Pay up front – plenty of people were using 10% off coupons.  They’ll give you a plastic number board.  Help yourself to the free chips and salsa, then sit anywhere and wait for the food to come to you.  This is probably the weakest part of the Goody’s system.  The people who bring to food don’t really look for the number boards.  Instead they walk around, like deer caught in headlights, while people shout out “That looks like mine!”.   Or, they’re walking around saying “Bacon burger with no pickle – who’s got the bacon burger with no pickle!?!?!”   I wasn’t a fan of the food-delivery system.  However, the rest of the experience was terrific. The food was hot, delicious, inexpensive, and plentiful.  The restaurant was clean.  Best of all, the selection is huge and varied enough that everyone can find something good at Goody’s!

 

Comfort Food

Old Towne Diner in Orange, California

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(3/5)

Pros: Friendly, helpful wait staff.  Familiar food, fun atmosphere

Cons: Bland food

This small diner in Orange, California has the aura of an old-fashioned 50s/60s diner with a few modern additions such willingness to substitute chicken, turkey or veggie patties for beef in hamburger sandwiches.  They also offer built-your-own omelet and build your own burger selections that would have gotten you frosty looks back in the day.

The décor features old ad for Coca-Cola, with women who used to be called “bombshells” dressed in modest swimsuits with a refreshing (but sugar-laden) bottle in their hands.  There are also miniature front ends of ‘57 Chevys and such protruding from the walls.  Ever the music is the popular music from back in the day.  (I SO wanted to hear “Running Bear.”)

One can order either at the counter or at the table.  Take out service is available and seemed to be a large part of their business, as available seating is fairly small.  The menu consists of not only the aforementioned omelets and burgers, but salads, hot dogs various hot and cold sandwiches, malts, shakes ice and ice cream.  Sides include fries, fruit, pasta salad, and a curious mix of potato and macaroni salad.  Breakfast is served all day.  One can order pancakes, waffles, eggs dishes, and several types of breakfast burritos.  Happily for people like me, they serve also oatmeal.

The diner is named for the area of Orange where it’s located, that is, Old Town, an area that’s undergone a wave of restoration and is, as of 1997 (according to the city of Orange website) on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built in the late 19th century centered around a traffic circle (Old Town purists insist it be called “the Plaza”) at the intersection where Glassell St. and Chapman Ave. cross.  The Old Towne Diner is barely a block away from the traffic circle on North Glassell.

Most of the menu items are named after local streets, such as the Chapman Avenue Burger which features buffalo sauce, crumbled blue cheese, frazzled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise.

Which brings me to the food.  While there is nothing wrong with it, I can’t say that I found it particularly enjoyable.  Perhaps the worst I can say was that it was on the bland side.  The first time I ate there I order a grilled cheese sandwich (Pine Street Grilled Cheese).  The second time I had a build-you-own burger and deliberately chose the spiciest items I could.

Mr. Siduri, on the other hand, found everything very much to his liking.  The prices are reasonable (Most items are $7.99) and the portions just right.  He ordered rueben sandwiches, which I don’t care for.  He enjoyed the mac and potato salad.  I wanted to douse it with vinegar and pepper.

Both times we’ve been there the wait staff has been friendly and efficient.  Parking in back is limited, but there is a large public parking lot a couple of blocks away so this shouldn’t be an issue.

 The Old Towne Diner
Orange, CA
714-532-9600
http://otdiner.com/

photo:  from the Old Towne Diner website

Rick’s White Light Diner – Frankfort, KY.

 Rick’s White Light Diner

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(4/5)

Pros: Great food, fun, one of a kind diner

Cons: This nifty little joint isn’t in my home town

 My friend Martha called me recently and told me she was going to Frankfort to see Delbert McClinton the following day and asked if I would like to go along – I jumped at the chance for a variety of reasons.  First, I have been a Delbert McClinton fan since 1979 when I first heard his “Keeper of the Flame”  LP. Secondly our weather here in the Ohio Valley has been positively arctic this winter and I had a really bad case of cabin fever.  Third, Frankfort is only 55 miles from Louisville and Delbert doesn’t perform in our neck of the woods very often.  Finally, I had two cameras that I was testing for digitaslcamerareview.com and a concert trip seemed like a fun way to put the cameras through their paces.

Martha and I arrived in Frankfort just before 1:00 pm – six hours before the concert started – so we immediately went in search of somewhere interesting to eat.  Frankfort is Kentucky’s state capitol, but it is really a small (population 25,000) town.  After a quick tour of the city and a brief stop at Daniel Boone’s final resting place we discovered Rick’s White Light Diner at the south end of the Singing Bridge near downtown Frankfort.  From the outside Rick’s doesn’t look like much and the inside doesn’t really look a whole lot better.  This place is tiny – two (4-spot) tables right by the front windows and six red naugahyde and chrome stools at the obligatory diner counter.  Rick’s is basically a Cajun diner transplanted seemingly intact from some quaint Louisiana village like Nachitoches or Abbeville or New Roads to this old Kentucky River Valley town. Rick the proprietor is very opinionated and loves to engage his customers in political debates.  This makes for some very interesting conversations since Rick is a liberal and Frankfort is the seat of Kentucky’s very conservative red state government.  The folks who come to Rick’s aren’t really looking for answers to today’s pressing political questions – they are looking for good food and even though most of them disagree with Rick politically – they love the food.

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I had wanted to try the Crawfish Pie or an Oyster Po’boy on homemade French bread, but it was too late when Martha and I arrived (30 minutes before closing) so we opted for a couple of Rick’s famous 1/3 pound organic Kentucky beef cheeseburgers and an order of the White Light Diner’s signature fresh French fries.  The cheeseburgers were served hot off the grill on a custom baked bun with the works (fried onions, thin slices of raw onion, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, pickles, and mayonnaise) with a slice of organic Kentucky Colby cheese.  The French fries have to be tried to be believed – Rick first boils the potatoes (with their skins on) and then slices them into thick strips and fries them in peanut oil to a golden brown.  They are crisp and flavorful on the outside and soft, like mashed potatoes, on the inside.  You won’t want or need any ketchup with these French fries. Burgers, fries, and two large cokes added up (with tip) to about twelve bucks each for Martha and I.

Rick’s White Light Diner has been a fixture in Frankfort for many years and was recently featured on the cable reality show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” here’s the link if you want to see the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSVg_XpZunI   It is short (less than 7 minutes) and very entertaining.  If any of you find yourselves in Frankfort, Kentucky or on Interstate 64 (going through Frankfort) you’ll kick yourself forever if you don’t stop and check out this charming piece of Americana, plus the food is great too.  Rick’s White Light Diner is open from 8am to 3pm every day except Sunday. 114 Bridge Street – Frankfort, KY 40601 (502) 330-4262.

BTW, Delbert performed for 2 ½ hours and it was a great show.  The pictures were taken with an Olympus Stylus 1 and a Samsung WB350F.  The Stylus 1 review can be found at http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/default.asp?newsID=5531&review=olympus+stylus+1+compact+camera and the Samsung review should be going up later this week on the same site.