Doug and Lil's

Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch (Deland, FL)

As I mentioned in my review of Smoke Shack, I always enjoy a trip to the South for some culinary treats, one of these being a classic Southern breakfast joint. We were visiting Daytona Beach, which doesn’t have the greatest selection of the breakfast joints, but on a previous trip, I had discovered Deland, FL. While driving out of town after a splendid dinner at De La Vega, I had spotted a rather charming little place on the south end of downtown Deland called “Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch”, and made a note to check it out on my next trip. So, this time, I made it a point to go over there on my last day in town for breakfast.

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Betty's A1A Cafe

Betty’s A1A Cafe (Ormond Beach, FL)

Back in my recent review of The Gnarly Barley, I met up with my friend Leslie from My Adventure Bucket, who used to live in Ormond Beach, Florida. Ormond Beach, being essentially a one block wide town on a barrier island, doesn’t have a lot of restaurants, but Leslie spoke quite highly both of Betty’s A1A Cafe, and its friendly owner, Betty. So, my coworker and I decided to do the short drive up there from Daytona Beach to get some dinner. Interestingly, in my last review, I mentioned that one of the things I like about traveling is getting different cuisine than at home, so, ironically, I arrive at Betty’s to find two things: (1) that, sadly, Betty passed on in 2015, although the restaurant is alive as well, and (2) that Betty’s actually features “New England Cuisine”. While “New England Cuisine” is definitely a thing (baked beans, brown bread, clam strips, Lobstah rolls, etc. Mmmm.), it’s not one that usually gets a lot of love outside of New England, so I’m actually happy to see that someone so far south is offering it up. Indeed, the night’s specials were meatloaf and New England clams with bellies.

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Smoke Shake

Smoke Shack BBQ (Daytona Beach, FL)

I’ve always been a big fan of barbecue (heck, it is one of my top categories), but one of the drawbacks of living far in the Northeast is that almost nobody up here understands good BBQ. For every rare place up here that can make a decent barbecue with some tender texture, good moisture, and a nice smoke flavor, there are dozens that serve up truly mediocre barbecue, usually some sort of overcooked, tough meat (or even worse, boiled meat) served up with a cloying sauce. It’s happened to me enough that I treat any sentence containing both “New England” and “BBQ” in the same sentence with extreme skepticism. But when I’m traveling, it often gives me a chance to actually score some decent BBQ, since I can get down South where folks actually understand that “barbecue” means “smoked” and not “grilled” or “sauced”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also important to do some research: the various BBQ regions of the US all have their specialties (Brisket and sausage in Texas, pork in the Southeast, and ribs in Memphis and St Louis), and that’s usually what they do best. So with that in mind, a recent trip to Daytona Beach had our group searching out lunch, and we decided to try out the Smoke Shack, across from the Daytona Speedway.

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Zaza New Cuban Diner (Orlando, FL)

Much of my recent business travel has been to Florida, and that generally gives me a chance to get one of my favorite cuisines: Cuban food. However, while Orlando is a relatively short drive from Miami (which is loaded up with Cuban places), it only has a smattering of Cuban places itself, but there’s at least one small, local chain (~3 restaurants) that’s attempting to remedy that… enter Zaza New Cuban Diner.

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The Gnarly Barley (Orlando, FL)

My work has had me traveling a lot to Daytona Beach to meet with a collaborator at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and it’s always a bit enjoyable traveling down there (usually via Orlando), since while I’m not always the biggest fan of large metro areas, the greater Orlando area has a lot of things going for it. First of all, it’s a distinctly different climate (half of the year, that’s an advantage). Second, it has a relatively good selection of ethnic restaurants, especially for things like Cuban food and Southern food that aren’t really around in NH. And, on this trip, it was also a good opportunity to meet up with fellow traveler, in this case Leslie from My Adventure Bucket. While she’s often away touring the world in the way only a retired funeral home director with a random number generator can, for our visit, she was still in town prepping for an extended trip to Sri Lanka. So, after arriving in the early evening, we decided to meet with Leslie at a nearby joint: The Gnarly Barley.

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Poor Thom’s Tavern (Meriden, NH)

One of the notable things about living in a rural area is that, with relatively few restaurants, when a new place opens, it generally gets noticed right away. Just over a year ago, I was driving through the relatively quiet town of Meriden, NH, and noticed that in addition to their Deli Mart (which does serve up some pretty good fried chicken, sandwiches, and snacks), that the house across from the library was getting a major remodel, including a sign announcing the soon-opening Poor Thom’s Tavern. Finally, a real restaurant in Meriden. While it took me until recently to get there for a visit, I was quite happy to see a new place showing up.

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Phnom Penh Sandwich Station (Lebanon, NH)

A few years ago, my coworker Nick invited us to his house in Lebanon for a summer party, and in addition to coworkers, a lot of his neighbors were in attendance, and there was a pretty good spread of food. One thing that everyone was commenting on was that someone had brought two giants trays of food: one was fried spring rolls, and the other was beef skewers, and both were really good. Talking to Nick, he said that was his neighbor Sarin, who was a Hypertherm worker who did some catering on the side, and he was looking to start up a food truck. Well, a few months later he pulled it off, and a “Phnom Penh Sandwich Station” food truck started showing up at different spots around the Upper Valley, usually at the Lebanon green around noon, and the Hanover green for the late evening crowd. The food was quite good, mostly involving either rice dished or banh mi sandwiches served up out of the truck, often as a lunch special with some minted tea. The service wasn’t always fast, but that was for a good reason: for the main dishes Sarin doesn’t cook anything ahead of time: order a pork sandwich, and the marinated pork goes onto the grill right as you order, and it takes a few minutes to cook. Well, people didn’t mind the wait, and business was brisk. Enough so that, last Fall, Phnom Penh Sandwich Station opened their brick-and-mortar location.

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The Shopping Bag (Burlington, VT)

When it comes to “Offbeat Eating”, one of my delights is finding particularly good food in places where you wouldn’t normally expect it. But sometimes there are little hidden gems hiding away in quiet neighborhoods outside of the normal shopping or dining districts. One of these is hiding in plain sight in Burlington, Vermont’s Old North End (not to be confused with the New North End about a mile away to the Northeast): on a fairly quiet cross-street halfway between the Battery St and Winooski Ave thoroughfares, is a quiet little building that looks like it’s a neighborhood convenience store. That’s because it is a neighborhood convenience store. The Shopping Bag is mostly a convenience store, with a selection of snack foods, beverages, light groceries, and even a small meat counter. But nestled into the front right corner of the store is a grilling station and a large menu board, and it’s actually one of the better places in Burlington to score a burger.

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Melaza Bistro (Woodstock, VT)

One of our occasional favorites on the local dining scene is a tapas place: Candela Tapas Lounge in Hanover (you can read my review of them here), but it’s not the only place in the area doing “Pan-Latin inspired tapas”. Melaza Bistro over in Woodstock, Vermont, serves up “Caribbean tapas & entrees”, and has been a perennial item on our “places in the Upper Valley to check out” (early in its history, there was some involvement from the current owner of Candela, but the businesses are completely separate now). So when we recently had to celebrate a birthday, we decided to finally check out Melaza.

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Omelette and Waffle Cafe (Plymouth, MI)

Every time we head out to visit the extended family in Michigan, one of our traditions is to take a morning and go out to lunch with Carol’s father, which usually means a chance to explore a different breakfast place in the western suburbs (for example, this is why we visited Bode’s a few years ago. Over the last several visits, I had noticed that one place in Plymouth was routinely getting fairly busy, including occasional lines out the door, and I decided that on my next visit, we’d take Carol’s father there: the Omelette and Waffle Cafe.

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