Summer road trip stories: Discovering tasty local restaurants
By Robert Niles(We're enduring the winter with thoughts of summer, with occasional posts on last summer's family road trip across America.)
Published: January 20, 2011 at 12:27 PM
One of the fun parts of any road trip is having the chance to try a wide variety of local restaurants around different parts of the country.
I have already written about Burgerville, the local chain around the Portland, Oregon area that we loved on our family road trip vacation last summer.
But Burgerville was just one of many different local and regional chains that we sampled on our trip.
When we drove across the Great Plains, we stopped in at Runza, a Nebraska-based chain that specializes in the Russian/German ground-beef-and-cabbage-filled stuffed sandwich from which the chain takes its name. (It also serves pretty good burgers and fries, too.) The kids were a bit perplexed when they were given their kids' meals, only to be told that they had to return to the counter to claim the "prize" after finishing their lunch. They figured at first it was a cheap way for the chain to get out of giving those cheap plastic toys to every child who ordered - since some kids might not come back up.
But when they discovered that the "prize" was actually soft-serve ice cream cones, they became big fans. And I did, too. A fast-food place that makes the kids eat their meals before getting dessert? Give them a parent point from me.
In Evanston, Illinois, Laurie and I took the kids to one of our favorites places to eat when we were undergraduates at Northwestern: Buffalo Joe's. I fell in love with buffalo wings, thanks to Joe. But in the years since I graduated, my enthusiasm for the ubiquitous game-time munchie has waned. But, what the heck, let's give it a go for old times sake, right?
A few minutes later, after Laurie and I demolished two baskets of wings, we'd realized that it wasn't just buffalo wings that we'd loved. It's Buffalo Joe's buffalo wings. I haven't a clue what makes these so much more edible than any other wings I've tried. They just are.
We felt obligated to introduce the kids to Chicago stuffed pizza, too, so we stopped for dinner at Giordano's, just south of campus. (We insisted on the spinach-stuffed pie, to puzzled looks from our kids. They tried, but still don't get it. Sigh.)
In Indiana last year, we took the family to our all-time favorite pizza place, Mother Bear's. Driving across the Indiana Toll Road, we were surprised to find an outlet from our second-favorite, Noble Roman's. That chain's been through several owners and formats over the years, and now's found mostly inside food courts, convenience stores, bowling alleys and the like. But we found a stand-alone store in South Bend, thanks to a tip from my sister. The pizza was good, but the big attraction at Noble Roman's is the fluffy breadsticks served with spicy cheese (think nacho) for dipping.
Laurie's family moved to Cincinnati while she was at Northwestern, but she's learned enough about the city to know that if you want ice cream, you go to Graeter's.
We're split on Cincinnati's cinnamon-spiced Skyline Chili, though. Laurie likes their coney dogs, but I think it might be possible that they have too much cheese:
What's your favorite local or regional restaurant chain? Tell us in the comments.
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