Dick’s Drive-In and Driving Around Seattle

The point of this article is to showcase Dick’s Drive-In’s amazing rotating, partially neon sign. Look at this sign. Just look at it.

Dick's Hamburgers

The rest is a ramble about driving around Seattle in a rental car:

The week before last I found myself in Seattle, Washington on a business trip. The rental car was a Toyota Yaris, a peppy sub-compact that gave me the odd feeling of driving while sitting on a bar stool — higher up that expected, never quite comfortable, ever feeling like I could topple off at any moment. I never felt like the Yaris was my car — I felt like Hertz could remotely eject me from the vehicle at will or whim. This is fine. A rental car should remind you that you’re only visiting, and not here to stay (and perhaps not welcome). Yaris — weird, but fun to drive.

Every big city likes to brag about their traffic. L.A. takes an hour to move 5 miles. NYC has its gridlock. Atlanta has drivers who refuse to use turn signals. Seattle has bad traffic for its own reasons. Reason number one: it rains a lot. Rain is annoying as-is, but the accompanying foggy windows and tire-swallowing flooding are even worse. I imagine Seattle’s hilly streets can be quite treacherous on icy winter days. Number two: much of the area looks rural, but it is actually a city; hilly, tree-lined neighborhoods of bungalow-style homes quickly transition to congested highways — unexpected and jarring. Number three: the high-traffic times seem to last longer than expected — like from 5pm to 8:30pm. I wonder if this is due to folks working in the tech industry, where 12 hour days are the norm (Microsoft, Amazon). Think you’re going to avoid traffic by leaving at 7:30pm — NOPE! Number four: Seattle-area drivers are not courteous. I live in New Jersey — a state that celebrates its rudeness; we call it “unhöflichkeitstolz” — Seattle is just as rude. If you see someone in the lane to your left who has signaled that they want to merge into your lane, give them space and let them in. Combine this set of challenges with an abundance of residents and visitors because of the tech industry, and driving around Seattle can be miserable. Seattle residents seem to take pride in their miserable traffic. “Elendstolz” or “misery pride” in German (I made that up).

Combine Seattle traffic with a less than accurate GPS, and a half hour trip becomes an hour and a half. If you’ve read my Maryland trips this year, you know I enjoy when my demented GPS takes me to places I otherwise would have never known. When time is a factor, however, a GPS that continually thinks you’re driving 1 street to your right can be both bemusing and vexing. You’re going to miss a half dozen exits, and make 100 wrong turns, but you’re also going to accidentally see the tent cities, shipyards, the first Starbucks, the Fremont troll and dozens of other sights the typically visitor will miss.

The Dick’s Drive-In I spied was on North 45th street, which also features the tentacle neon of the Octopus Bar, and the brick and mortar manifestation of Archie McPhee. The Dick’s Drive has no servers on roller-skates or food trays that hang on your doors — this is not the 1950s. Instead you find parking, wait in line, you watch workers prepare burgers, fries and shakes in bright, medically-white clean conditions, place your order, your order appears in about 10 seconds, you pay, and then you leave. Very efficient. No sass or insincerity. After an hour of Seattle traffic, simplicity and efficiency is what you need.

The “B-Side” of the rotating sign.
Dick's Drive In in Seattle WA

Kentucky and the Wonders of Limestone

The limestone rock of Kentucky provides the world with two natural wonders: caves and water for Bourbon.

Caves, of course, are amazing subterranean geological formations often created by the seepage and flow of water through soft stone like limestone. Bourbon, of course, is an amazing American alcoholic beverage made from limestone-filtered water and corn.

I visited southern Kentucky in the spring of 2014, after documenting the emergence of Brood XXII cicadas in the northern part of the state. I had a few days to kill, so I headed south for a tour of the Jim Beam distillery, and then Mammoth Cave National Park.

Jim Beam

The Jim Beam distillery welcome center & tour is as perfect as you might imagine. When you visit, you’ll first notice the massive black barn-like buildings. These are used to hold the barrels of bourbon as the liquor matures.The buildings are spaced far enough apart so that if one catches fire, the flames won’t be able to reach the other buildings. Bourbon, like most booze, is highly flammable.

Jim Beam Distillery, Kentucky

The welcome center, emblazoned with the famous Jim Beam logo, resembles a cross between a country store and an old West saloon. The interior is essentially two floors of gift stores where you can purchase tour tickets, all varieties of Jim Beam bourbon, and many souvenirs. I was tempted to get the $200+ used Jim Beam barrel, but it wasn’t going to fit in my car. I chose to get the Jim Beam Maple, which the cashier recommended pouring in my morning coffee. The bathroom was modern (it did not resemble a barn) and very clean.

Jim Beam Distillery, Kentucky

Jim Beam samples.

The tour (spoilers ahead) takes you through the bourbon making process, from grain and water, through to the final product. The highlight was I got to pour my own bottle of Jim Beam Single Barrel. Along the way I was treated to the sights, sounds and smells of a working distillery — lots of tanks for fermenting the mash, massive pipes, barrels, lots of wooden structure binding & framing it all together — all the stuff you might expect. The tour culminated with a tasting session, where I got to try three varieties of Jim Beam. I think Booker’s was my favorite.

Overall it was a pleasant afternoon, well-spent learning American booze history, and obtaining fine bourbon whiskey from the source.

Mammoth Cave & Travel Lodge

My retro hotel room, Mammoth Cave Park, Kentucky

Later that same day I arrived at Mammoth Cave National Park, too late for a cave tour, but early enough to book a room in their on site hotel. I had the choice of a cabin, or a room in the building attached to the tourist center. I opted for the later, and was rewarded with a room that seemed like something out of the 1950s, or maybe early 1960. Definitely pre L.B.J. Brick interior walls, no wi-fi, old black and white photos of the cave. “Lodge” is the word I would use to describe it. It felt like an interior scene from the TV series Twin Peaks. I fantasized about winning the lottery and living there for the rest of my life (I’m sure I could get Wi-fi at the local Cracker Barrel… I think.)

Part of the fun of staying at the lodge was watching the antics of other people staying there. The best was watching people try to get a cell phone signal. I watched four guys each take turns helping each other climb a tree in hopes of getting a signal. They would boost their friend up, and invariably he would tumble to the ground. Guys, you’re in the middle of a National Park — no cell phone signals here. Actually, not being able to get a signal was nice — it is so rare to go a day without email, web, twitter, instagram, etc — it was like a two-day vacation from the 21st century.

Before sunset I walked the nature trail surrounding the tourist center. It was fantastic and refreshing to walk amongst the nature. Not too far from the “Lodge” I discovered the rear exit of the cave, and sneaked in un-guided. The exit was about 40′ in circumference, and went down at an angle of about 35 degrees for a few hundred feet before reaching a point that was blocked off. Cool air flows from the cave exit, which is quite refreshing and awe-inspiring on a warm spring day.

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

After a solid night of sleep in my amazing room, I had southern breakfast (grits, biscuits and white gravy) in the tourist center dining room. Breakfast was not free, as it was in a dining room (remember the rule: breakfast is only free if it is in the lobby). It was here that I had my first mind-blowing experience, which was hearing the southern-Kentucky accent. I’ve been to about two-thirds of the States, and southern-Kentucky has the most distinct accent I’ve encountered. It was thrilling — I kept asking for more coffee and water just to hear the waitress’ voice again.

Next, I booked the longest cave tour available. About 80 people and I boarded busses, and set off for the cave. At the entrance of the cave, the ranger/tour guide laid out the rules of the tour, all of which were violated hundreds of times, by my observation:

  1. “Keep your child with you at all times.” Kids buzzed around in manic figure-eight patterns out of reach of their parents control.
  2. “Do not take photos and hold up the tour.” People took a million photos, causing the tour to be broken up into unreachable segments, or piling together like the arch of a caterpillar’s back.
  3. “Do not imitate Golem and say ‘My Precious’ when we turn the lights out to show you how dark the cave is.” Okay, this last one wasn’t really a rule, and I did it.

The long cave tour (spoilers ahead) takes you down hundreds of feet of cramped, jagged limestone on slippery steel stares. Then you travel, mostly horizontally, though the cave, until you reach the end and ascend. Only the end has drip-stone formations (stalactites and stalagmites), but it is worth the walk and wait. The tour guide told the story of the men who discovered, explored and dynamited open the cave, all to exploit is as a tourist attraction. Back in the day, their intent was to exploit the local caves for revenue. Sustainability and environmental impacts were not known or considered. Still I have to admire the moxie and bravery of the men who blasted open the caves for future tourists and researchers.

The final stop of the tour had us wash our shoes in a special solution, to destroy a fungus which is killing the local bat population.

I spent the rest of the day hiking the woods around the tourist center. When I think back over the past few years of my favorite experiences, this was definitely one of them. Hiking the trails, stopping to stare in awe of the sun setting over a lush green valley. It is my “happy place” so to speak.

Salamander. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Green River. "The cave maker". Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Cave City and other local towns

Driving to Mammoth Cave National Park you’ll see an abundance of signs for antique stores and rock shops. You’ll also see a lot of people selling geodes on their front lawns — geodes being those ball-shaped rocks with (hopefully) crystals inside. People just set up tables and blankets on their lawns and sell geodes.

I visited the rock shop with the most billboards, which was Big Mike’s. Big Mike’s rock complex featured two shops, a “mystery house”, and a yard loaded with bins filled with hunks of colored glass. The colored glass is pretty to look at, and catches you eyes from the roadside, like tennis ball-sized hunks of rainbow. I bought two crystal formations (no clue what they are) from one shop, and various Mammoth Cave souvenirs from the other.

Big Mike's Rock Shop

After the visit to Big Mike’s I headed for local antique stores. Along the way I discovered the wonder that is the combination souvenir/fireworks/knife store. I visited several, and bought plenty of souvenirs, but no knives or fireworks. You see, I do have some self-control.

Barrel Dog, Cave City, Kentucky

Next I hit a strip of antique stores on Broadway Street in Cave City. I ended up scoring an inexpensive Mandolin and many vinyl records. The most memorable store was Magaline’s Antique Mall, which is staffed by Magaline, who dresses in the style of “Hello Dolly” Levi, and a guy who looks remarkably like Donald Rumsfeld. They noticed my lack of a Kentucky accent, which led to a conversation about “Super Storm” Sandy, how Chris Christy would never be elected as president, and how the biggest problem with Washington is the influence of big business.

I visited Cracker Barrel for dinner ordered a half-dozen sides and nearly exploded with excitement over the waitress’ thick Kentucky accent. I left a way-too-large tip in appreciation.

One more night in the Lodge, and I left for New Jersey — a 15 hour ride fueled by Red Bull, candy and Powerman 5000. I got back in time to see the sun rise, and then I slept until 4pm. But when I woke, I had some of that fine Jim Beam Maple Bourbon in hot coffee.

Jungle Jim’s: the Greatest Supermarket in America

Jungle Jim’s (4450 Eastgate South Drive, Cincinnati, OH) is the greatest supermarket in America.

Jungle Jim in Wizard Mode.

Imagine waking up one day and thinking: “you know what, I’m not satisfied with the boring local supermarket.” “I want a market that has the most diverse selection of foods & beverages imaginable, including exotic foods from faraway lands, and I want the experience to be fun for the entire family.” I imagine that is what Jungle Jim thought when he got the idea for the Jungle Jim’s supermarkets in Fairfield and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now imagine a food store as huge as a Walmart, featuring every type of food you can imagine (and some you cannot), decorated with gorillas, rhinos, real airplanes, 50′ dragons and 1960’s cultural icons. Imagine a Whole Foods + a Wegmans + a Trader Joe’s + a liquor store + a cigar store + Disney Land, and that is Jungle Jim’s.

Don’t believe me? Check these stats:

  • Five isles of hot sauce, with a real fire engine parked amongst it to get your attention.
  • Two or three long isles of soda pop (they call it pop in Ohio).
  • A candy section as big as a house.
  • Isles and isles of craft, international, and big-brand beers, and wines.
  • Five or six isles of International foods.
  • Need candy shaped like a toilet from Japan? They got it.
  • Need Jelly Babies from England? They got it.
  • Need Licorice Cats from Holland because that is the old thing that cures your gout? They got it.
  • Need some “century eggs” or bird nest soup from China? They got it.
  • Need some lollipops with crickets or ants inside them? They got those.
  • Need a hookah pipe? They got those too.

Whenever I’m in the Cincinnati area I fill my entire car trunk with unusual foods, snacks and pop from Jungle Jim’s. It makes the 10 hour trip all the more worth while.

Foodie Entrance:
Foodie Entrance. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Restrooms:
Jungle Johns. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Why, yes, they do have 5 isles of hot sauce:
Hot sauce. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

A random display devoted to 1960’s musicians? Sure, why not:
1970s themed trailer. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Coke R2-D2:
Coke R2D2 in Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati OH

Augusta, Georgia: golfers, cookies & grits

Augusta, Georgia is for golfers…

If you stay at a hotel in Augusta, Georgia, you will get to sleep around 1am, and then you will wake up around 5am. Why? Golfers. Southern golfers party hard into the night, and then wake up before the crack of dawn.

I should have known. If you see a truck like this in the parking lot of your hotel, you can rest assured that you won’t get any rest…
Champagne Statement Monster Truck

This past summer I stayed at the Augusta Double Tree, which is a truly magnificent hotel. Sure, the view from the window of my room faced a hallway, but I kept the curtains shut, so no one saw me sleeping.

Typically people stay at Double Tree hotels for two reasons: Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) & warm, complimentary, chocolate chip cookies.

  • Mitch Hedberg was a very funny comedian who had many jokes that referenced Double Tree hotels.
  • Double Tree hotels provide their guests with warm, complimentary, chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and they are delicious — they take the cookie out of the tiny cookie oven behind the desk, and it’s like Christmas and your Birthday and a hug, all in one. Their bus shuttles are even decorated with cookies — they are very important to their brand image.

Check out this “Sweet Ride” advertising their delicious, piping hot, complimentary cookies:
Augusta Doubletree Sweet Ride

I couldn’t bear eating dinner from the hotel vending machine, so I cruised the surrounding area for a restaurant. My two choices were a Twin Peaks, which is a strip bar/bar/restaurant…

Twin Peaks of Augusta

… or a Waffle House.

Augusta Waffle House

The first time I encountered a Waffle House was on a road trip to New Orleans back in 1995. So mysterious! A restaurant, open 24 hours a day, catering to road-weary travelers, and serving only waffles. Of course, I quickly learned that Waffle Houses are essentially diners serving a variety of foods, and at the time I was let down. Like finding out that Santa is just your parents, or that school lasts 13 long years.

Now, in 2015, there was no mystery. It was late. I knew I was hungry, and I wanted to eat. I did not want to eat at a strip bar.

Approaching the W’House, a teen called me out: “where you from, New Jersey?” “Yes”, I replied, without pride or fear. She followed me inside — my waitress. My waitress — lets call her Miss Amazing Eye Makeup — was an amazing human being, with amazing iridescent blue, green, sliver & black eye makeup. To say her eyes looked like some rare species of Costa Rican butterfly would not be an exaggeration! Miss Amazing Eye Makeup sat at my table (or did I sit at her table) and proceeded to grill me about fast food restaurants in New Jersey. We came to a conclusion that Georgia and New Jersey shared about 75% of the same eateries (the English language needs more words for “restaurant”). The whole time I felt like she was a cat, and I was a mouse — her eyes could control me — her stare, like a puppeteer’s strings — I didn’t want a large portion of grits at 10pm, but she willed me to order it. And of course she got a 50% tip.

I woke the next day, at 5am. Thank you, golfers. Once the golfers discharged from the hotel (with the reticence & grace of a herd of angry cattle being washed through a gorge by floodwater), I was able to sleep again for a few hours. The hotel breakfast was expectedly bland, and a little pricey (should have gone back to the Waffle House), but satisfying. They should just serve a bottomless platter of their chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Thank you Double Tree, Waffle House, and Miss Amazing Eye Makeup for a memorable 12 hour stay in Augusta.

Chapel Hill and Snack Cakes

Little Debbie

Earlier this year I visited North Carolina to meet a famous cicada expert (Bill Reynolds of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC). While I was in the Raleigh area, I decided that it would be a good idea to visit Chapel Hill, NC. I had not been to Chapel Hill since the 1990s, and at the time I had a blast, so I felt it was worth a second visit.

Chapel Hill has spawned many interesting music acts, but perhaps their most iconic is Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS). SCOTS is a perfect mix of elements of rock, psychobilly, country and novelty music — it’s like they took parts of each, and made something better than the sum of the parts. One of my favorite SCOTS songs is Camel Walk, which features the lyrics:

OWWWW WEEE, Little Debbie, Little Debbie
I’m a comin on home, baby, ’cause you make me wanna walk

The problem is the Little Debbie, Little Debbie part. Problem you say? Yes, because I became momentarily obsessed with Little Debbie snack cakes. The problem with that is when I eat too much Little Debbie snack cakes, it saps my energy. Realistically speaking, you should only eat one dessert a day — and not buy two or three boxes of snack cakes, and some Pabst tall-boys, and then spend the majority of your vacation watching YouTubes and napping in a hotel room (a little hyperbole, but close enough to the truth).

So, to recap, you can see how my unrestrained mind works: 1) Visit North Carolina, 2) think about visiting Chapel Hill, 3) think about Chapel Hill’s best band SCOTS, 4) think about their song Camel Walk and its lyrics about Little Debbie snack cakes, 5) go to Walmart to buy a USB cable but leave with Pabst and boxes of snack cakes, and 6) hang out at the hotel — instead of Raleigh or Chapel Hill — because I ate too many snacks.

My North Carolina Breakfast of Champions

Learn from my mistakes: no matter how delicious banana cakes are, limit yourself to one a day. You will appreciate them more, and you will get more our of life.

That was a massive tangent. Back to Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill is the perfect college town. They have all the right ingredients.
√ Music venues.
√ Music stores.
√ Brew pub(s).
√ Museum(s)
√ A variety of non-chain restaurants.
√ (I will assume) book stores.
√ a College (UNC).
√ better weather than most states north of North Carolina.
√ an interesting local culture featuring unique art, music and food.
√ College students.

Visting Chapel Hill for the second time was like visiting a movie set after watching a really awesome movie about it. So what do I mean by that? Well, last time I visited I was with friends, we partied, drank, played cards, went to amazing local restaurants, bars and music events — heck, my friends and I even danced on stage at a SCOTS show! SCOTS drummer David Hartman (dating a friend at the time) took me to a favorite BBQ joint. You couldn’t ask for a better Chapel Hill experience.

Visting in 2015, all the right elements were there: the Local 506 bar, CD Alley, the brew pubs, the restaurants with their painted goats, colorful band flyers and stickers festooning every vertical surface. I’ll say it again: it was like visiting a movie set of a movie I’ve already seen. (Now I’m thinking of the NLP technique where you step outside a memory and view it objectively, but lets not go down another tangent.) Sobriety, daylight, time limitations, and a lack of companions made my visit decidedly different — but I still had fun.

Goats and Music in Chapel Hill

What I enjoyed about Chapel Hill this time around:

  1. CD Alley (405-C W Franklin St): a great little record store, with a good selection. Appropriately, I bought a CD of SCOTS’ Zombified album (which is great Halloween rock n’ roll music). CD Alley feels like an authentic record store: cramped, dark, decorated outside with stickers and fliers of local bands — for a music obsessive, it feels like home.
  2. Carolina Brewery (450 W Franklin St): good brewpub. I had the Firecracker lager (I think), which was tasty.
  3. Local 506 (506 W Franklin St): they were closed, but it was great just to stand outside the door and take in all the interesting, multi-colored band flyers
  4. All the interesting stickers and band flyers all over town. Some people don’t like graffiti, especially when it is done to their property without their consent, but in a college town it just makes sense. Light poles and mail boxes would look naked without it.

Stickers and Band Flyers of Chapel Hill North Carolina

Even though my second Chapel Hill visit was not as “epic” as my first, there was one thing that made it special — one thing that I would not have experienced the last time around, and that is the Ackland Museum (101 S Columbia St,). Ackland was around last time I was in town, but leisurely enjoying a well-curated museum was not on my agenda in the 1990s.

Ackland is a wonderful medium-sized museum with an well-balanced diversity of art spanning many centuries and styles, from the ancient…

Lion art hasn't changed much in the past 4000 or so years.

… to ultra modern…

Glitter Deer in the Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill NC

And in-between.

Nam June Paik

A video posted by Dan Mozgai (@danmozgai) on

So what did we learn:

1) Go easy on the snack cakes, but do enjoy them from time to time.

2) If you return to a place you’ve been in the past, don’t expect it to be the same, but do enjoy it for all that it is.

3) Sometimes you get more out of life when you take it fast, but it is also enjoyable when you take it slow.

Dickies’ Peanut Patties

Indy discovers Dickies Peanut Patties

I drove into Arkansas and I was exhausted. I needed something to WAKE ME UP, so I rolled the Silver Muffin towards the first food store I saw.

As I rambled through the isles of the food store looking for Red Bull, I remembered to look for local foods or beverages: stuff I can’t get in New Jersey. Food & beverage brands are pretty much the same from California… all the way to Maine, but every now and then you can find a local brand that is so unique and POWERFUL that it doesn’t get pushed from store shelves by the BIG BRANDS.

On this occasion I discovered Dickies’ (not sure where to put the apostrophe) Peanut Patties in the 6 count “Family Pack”. I know what you’re thinking: “has Dan had his glucose levels checked recently?” Yes, and they’re a-okay. But seriously, you’re thinking “what is a peanut patty”? A peanut patty is a disc-shaped disc, about the diameter of a hockey puck and the height of the width of a #2 pencil, made of de-shelled peanuts suspended in what seems to be solidified meat-colored sugar. And even though I don’t have a family, I bought that entire family pack.

My original intention was to bring the family-size pack to New Jersey to show off to people, like Indiana Jones bringing back an artifact from some far-away haunted ruins… but I ate them the next day within an hours time. Yes I realize I ate a portion meant for an entire family. I was hungry.

So, what did they taste like? They tasted like Beer Nuts, or if you don’t know what Beer Nuts are, they tasted like peanuts suspended in subtlely-sweet sugar. You know how a persimmon fruit is sweet but not crazy sweet like a ripe pineapple? It was that kind of sweet: a gentle, classy, refined sweet. Getting the patties out of their wrappers was a unique experience — each patty is shrink wrapped and you have to scrape away at the plastic until an opening is created allowing you to access the candy. If you’re driving while eating the family pack, I recommend breaking them in half using your thigh for leverage. You will also notice peanut patty crumbs covering your tshirt when you are done eating the entire family sized pack… grab a pinch of your shirt between your thumb and forefinger and SNAP IT, sending all the peanut patty crumbs flying all over the cab of your vehicle…

I give Dickies Peanut Patties a rating of 4.2/5.

Louis Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut

Imagine you were a cow. A meat cow. Now ruminate 😉 on what is the one moment in time that led to billions of your species being butchered and eaten every year. According to legend that moment came sometime in 1895 when Louis Lunch served the first hamburger sandwich.

Louis Lunch, established in 1895 in New Haven, Connecticut, claims to have invented the hamburger sandwich. Perhaps ironically, Louis did not invent Lunch (but if he did, they’re passing up on perhaps a more impressive claim to fame).

They serve their hamburger sandwich today the same way they did over a century ago: a ground beef patty on toasted bread (not a bun) with NO KETCHUP (caps added for emphasis). They also have Foxon Park Soda — a local favorite.

Outside, you’ll wait online to get in. Inside, you’ll quickly learn that there are no buns or ketchup, and you’ll place your order. You’ll find a spot along the tiny, tightly packed hallway-like rooms — hopefully not around the corner by the restrooms where you won’t be able to hear your order announced. You’ll likely see tourists from places like Japan and Germany; you’ll think “perhaps I’ll try to start a conversation with them”; and then you’ll think “why take the chance”. The kitchen area is tightly packed with the machines that toast bread, and these archaic mechanical meat searing devices that make the patties. The interior, as insinuated before, is microscopically small, and features brick walls and 18th-century wood furnishings (like most of New Haven).

It is a unique experience — even if you’re just getting a Foxon Park soda. If you love eating cattle, this is your Mecca.

Louis Lunch

Last visited: March of 2012.

Kuttawa, Kentucky Huddle House

Huddle House

While staying at the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn, I developed a strong hankering for nourishment, and whatever candy bars or snack crackers the hotel vending machine offered would not suffice. Certainly the near-by gas stations had plenty of snacks, but I wanted a meal, and hopefully a meal that had a little bit of local flavor. Fortunately, there was a Huddle House in the same parking lot as the hotel.

A Huddle House is similar to a Waffle House or Denny’s in that they serve hot, delicious, stomach packing food, however the Huddle House has its own unique vibe. It is decorated like a stereotypical 1950s diner, using the colors red, white and chrome. The kitchen is open (not behind a wall) and you can see it from any point of view. The visibility of the kitchen and the bright, sparkly colors, provide the diner (me) with an overall feeling of ease that the Huddle House care about cleanliness and order.

What really made my Huddle House experience shine was Rusty the maitre’d/waiter/restaurant manager/cashier. Rusty was like the operating system of the Huddle House: seating people, taking orders, checking on the status of orders, doing his best to keep everything flowing. It is kind of fascinating being able to watch all the employees work together to make your dining experience as perfect as possible. It is like removing the back of a fine watch and observing how all the parts work together to provide the time.

I had the fried green tomatoes. They are the perfect combination of sour and crispy, and the Huddle House prepared them perfectly.

Last visited: May 23rd, 2015.