Baumgartner's, Monroe, Wisconsin, 2013Entering Baumgartner's Baumgartner's, Sep 2013. Located on one of the most beautiful courthouse squares in America, Baumgartner's Tavern in Monroe, Wisconsin, is 100 years old this year. The old menu is printed on Menu on napkin holder, Baumgartner's tavern, Monroe, Wisconsin, 2013Baumgartner's Menu the left-hand side and consists of cheese, salami, or cheese and salami sandwiches on dark bread - we had our limburger and braunschweiger with slices of raw onion and horseradish mustard.

Every table was full for the weekday luncheon rush, so we browsed the cheese store at the front of the restaurant while waiting for a table. The Swiss immigrants started making and aging their famous cheeses here in the Dairyland, long ago.

Aside from hundreds of dollar bills thumbtacked to the ceiling, Baumgartner's is decorated with banners and maps of Switzerland, and a shelf full of serious strategy board games.

We took time after lunch for a stroll around the beautiful square, now decorated with gaily painted statues of cows, sheep, and other farm animals. The cow in front of Baumgartner's featured a miniature display of the war between the beers and the wines, which forms the backdrop for the bar.

Bogies Cafe, San Rafael, California, 2009Inside Bogie's Cafe Bogie's Cafe, Sep 2009. Across the street from the golden spire and swimming-pool-blue dome of Frank Lloyd Wright's final public building, and behind Zig Zag Bail Bonds, sits a wonderful hole-in-the-wall cafe known as Bogie's. Our photo shows the interior, with the tiny counter, the adjacent dining room, and the oilcloth-topped tables. Board games are stuck to the ceiling and movie posters, dolls, photographs, toys, most with a Humphrey Bogart theme, are everywhere.

But we didn't come for the decor. The food is scrumptious: bursting omelettes fried in butter, Old Car at entrance to Bogies Cafe, San Rafael, California, 2009Entrance to Bogie's everything bagels loaded with cream cheese, capers, lox and tomatoes (or even melted brie), and the best home-made potatoes fried with onions and tomatoes. Everything we've tried is great.

The people are great, too. Early on a Friday morning the staff is one cheerful waittress / cook with an uncountable number of friends who stop in to chat or ask directions. One luncheon a gentleman with a guitar made space on a stool to play and sing a repertoire of classic ballads.

Take the San Pedro exit off the 101 freeway, head east, and turn right before the gas station. An old car will guide you.

The Washoe House, June 2007. The Washoe House, near Petaluma, California, 2007The Washoe House The Washoe House, near Petaluma in the southern end of Sonoma County, is a roadhouse built in 1859. Judging from the sag in the porch floor and the interesting patches here and there, it is the original structure. We ate lunch in the dining room, because the front room, or bar, was fully occupied. It had better wall decorations, including a cribbage board and many old paintings and illustrations. In our room, the ceiling had long since disappeared under the layers of dollar bills, business cards, post cards, little scraps of paper thumbtacked up above us. We ordered the special prime rib sandwich and that is exactly what we got: meat on a roll. The large portions of tender prime rib melted in our mouths.

The parking lot is large and filled with pickup trucks (our first clue that we will like the food). Some of the diners have presumably come because the building has been the site of movies -- Clint Eastwood has made at least one film here. Others have heard about it from friends living in the Petaluma area, just as we had heard about it from our Windsor friends.

Tony Packo's Cafe, December 2006. Tony Packo's Cafe, Toledo, Ohio, 2006.Autographed hot dog buns With a long, chatty lunch in mind, we met our friend Kaye half-way between her home in Michigan and our hotel near Cleveland. The target city was Toledo, a city which was unfamiliar to both Kaye and ourselves, so we relied on the Internet and some guidebooks for the choice of restaurant

We made a lucky choice. Tony Packo's Cafe is in the heart of the Hungarian neighborhood of Toledo. The neighborhood, Birmingham, is identified as a Historic Ethnic Neighborhood, and it isn't hard to determine which ethnicity, because one street has a Hungarian Club, the Catholic church is Hungarian, with a statue of Saint Stephen in front, and our cafe lists stuffed cabbage as a special.

Tony Packo's Cafe is large and bright with red and white checked tablecloths and an army of young servers who make sure everyone is happy. It is a place for families, probably because the children, especially, must love the hot dogs. These are really sausages, cooked by dipping them in boiling oil, served with fries. At our table, we sampled the Fried Pickles, Outside of Tony Packo's.Outside Tony's Cafe the featured appetizer, thick slices of battered dill pickle served with three dipping sauces: salsa, ranch and we forget. For our lunch, we stuck with the Hungarian specialities and found them very tasty. The stuffed cabbage was made with the traditional meat and chopped cabbage and rice filling, and the rolls were so large that the cabbage heads themselves must have been enormous.

The truly unique part of the cafe, though, is the exhibits covering the walls: autographed hot dog rolls. Carefully preserved under special clear plastic covers, these hot dog rolls carry the signatures of sports figures, television celebrities, politicians -- just about anybody with a recognizable name is probably here. Our photo captures Gerald Ford, Peter Paul and Mary, and Jerry Glanville (a former NFL coach).

Joe's Deli Restaurant, December 2006. Our hotel is located in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake, filled with all the standard chain restaurants. Occasionally a chain restaurant can have a great chef (like Richards on the north side of Fort Wayne, for example), but usually not. We tried one mom and pop restaurant and were not thrilled, but hope springs eternal, so yesterday for lunch we tried to "eat at Joe's."

Joe's Deli Restaurant.Joe's RestaurantJoe's Deli Restaurant, on Hilliard at Wooster Road, near the border between Rocky River and Lakewood, is a pleasant and inviting restaurant. The bakery counter just inside the door offers loaves of bread, giant cookies, pastries and magnificent cakes, while the restaurant tables are brightly lit and plentiful (a requirement because of the number of customers). We came first for lunch and had deli sandwiches (one braunschweiger and one homemade corned beef) which looked just like the sandwiches last seen at the Stage Deli in New York -- too much meat, which makes the sandwich just about impossible to eat, but the meat is fresh and tasty, and the rye bread home made. We returned this morning for breakfast, enjoying corned beef hash made from yesterday's leftover corned beef, and a "Naples Cocktail", a tall parfait of two flavors of yoghurt plus granola, walnuts, cashews and fresh fruit slices, accompanied by a freshly-baked cherry muffin.

We have decided that this will be our preferred breakfast location, so we photographed the entrance for our website. A woman just arriving looked at our camera and laughed. "I do that too," she said. "I have photos of Joe's in my album. We live here, and I take the photos. You can't beat Joe's." You can add our votes to hers.

Mountain View Diner, August 2006. Text Mountain View Diner, Port Jervis, New York.Mountain View Diner, Port Jervis, NY The Mountain View Restaurant, Deli & Pizza is at least two restaurants in one. We can't say much about the standard menu, which featured Italian dishes and subs, because we were adventurous and tried “A Taste of the Caribbean.” The owner's wife, also a chef, wants to introduce the special flavors of Puerto Rican and Dominican cookery to the residents of Port Jervis, New York. The daily Caribbean specials included three choices: yellow or white rice, red or black beans, and two kinds of meat in sauce, all for $8 - $10. But we were there on a Thursday, when seniors and handicapped customers could eat for $5.

Mountain View does it all.Mountain View signs

We tried all the choices and shared our dishes. We even ordered side dishes of fried plantains, green and yellow. We liked it all, especially the Carne de Res Guisada, which was a kind of beef stew with onions and green peppers. The portions were hearty and the green olives stirred into the rice added color and flavor. The beans had simmered a long time, and were delicately seasoned. The yellow plantains are served along with a dish of raw minced garlic for dipping -- be careful!

It always seems to be the case that our favorite restaurants are inexpensive, with good cooks and not very impressive exteriors; the Mountain View is no exception. But you will enjoy meeting the chef, a lovely lady with a beautiful voice, well-behaved children, and a good knowledge of Caribbean cuisine.

Frannie's, July 2001. We had been directed to visit Frannie’s, a restaurant in Yates Center, Frannie's Door, Yates Center, Kansas.Welcome to Frannie's Kansas, by the Ellsworth librarian, who had gone to school with Frannie.

It’s a second-floor walk-up catercornered from the courthouse. You can have lunch for $1.00 or a sandwich for $1.00 or a piece of pie for $1.00. Iced tea or lemonade is gratis. We had the lunch, which today was chili cheese dog with corn and a green salad, and introduced ourselves to Frannie. She was accustomed to fame, and made sure we signed the guest book.

As we carried our lunches, Frannie's menu.Frannie's Menu we noticed that all the tables were full, so we asked a grandmother, who was treating her two grandsons to lunch, if we could join them. It turned out she was a genealogy buff (she has a real problem -- her mother and father were both Smiths and she married a Brown.) She gave us the name of her sister, who had been one of the founders of the Topeka genealogical society.

Things were going so well we got two pieces of homemade pie -- one rhubarb and one custard. You just take a plate and serve yourself from the pies which are laid out on the counter. After lunch we carried our dishes to the lady who was washing up behind the counter, and then walked over to the open cash register, where we paid for lunch, making change. It seemed like most of Yates Center was eating at Frannie’s, walking down the stairs after lunch at Frannie’s, or walking up the stairs to have lunch at Frannie’s!

Our feeling is that it’s worth a detour of a couple hundred miles to eat lunch at Frannie’s. Plan to be there just before noon on a weekday, she’s closed on the weekends. As we left, she was peeling apples for tomorrow’s pies. Yates Center is sort of in-between Wichita and Topeka, and going there helps you avoid the Kansas Turnpike, which is filled with people going from Santa Fe to Minneapolis in 31 hours.

Deacon's Restaurant, November 2003. Driving through eastern Wyoming, under a brilliant blue sky, with just a few traces of crystal-white snow on the fields, we stopped for lunch at Deacon's, in Torrington, Wyoming. It's a sprawling building, complex inside with a couple of banquet rooms, a lounge-looking room, a cafe-type room with austere booths, and a short counter facing some of the tables. At noon on Saturday most of the rooms were full, the men in baseball caps or huge black cowboy hats, their sons dressed as miniature copies. Deacon's Restaurant, Torrington, Wyoming.Deacon's Restaurant, Torrington, Wyoming

As we munched away, we enjoyed watching Merle, a bearded gent in a flannel shirt who sat at the counter and held court. First a policeman wandered by to talk about hunting, then a couple of other men exchanged a few words, then Merle shared a favorite newspaper story with the waitress, and asked about her plans and opportunities. The owner wore a green polo shirt, and managed to appear at the cash register whenever someone was ready to walk out. The cashier's place was at a little counter and the customers could just as easily walk up behind as in front. You got the feeling that somebody might have just put his payment in the till if the proprietor was busy. Deacon's was the kind of place that had just two signs on the awning: Restaurant, and Entrance. They had homemade potato with bacon soup, and homemade beef noodle soup, both excellent. We'll remember Deacons for the next time we're passing through Torrington at lunch time.

Rutt's Hut, 2006. Rutt's Hut, Clifton, New Jersey.Rutt's Hut, Clifton, New Jersey Rutt's Hut has been serving hot dogs for more than half a century childhood experience) and hasn't slowed down or changed. The preferred method of eating hot dogs here is to give your order at one of the three Please Pay When Served stations. (we can testify from personal Almost immediately your grilled hot dog, crispy on the outside and chewy inside, appears on a paper plate. Mustard and chili sauce can be found in the large tubs at each station (the chili sauce is also sold i n bulk). French fries are also available -- good but not comparable to the hot dogs. You eat standing up, alongside the construction workers, bakery truck drivers, insurance salesmen and other regular customers. There's an inside dining room for the more refined. Rutt's Hut is at 417 River Road in Clifton, New Jersey.

Sichuan Spring, 2006. Sichuan Spring Chinese Restaurant is located at 1167 Raritan Avenue (NJ Route 27), Highland Park, NJ, in an area rich in ethnic restaurants. Sichuan Spring Chinese Restaurant, Highland Park, New Jersey.Sichuan Spring, Highland Park, NJ The exterior is unprepossessing. What catches your eye at once is that there are a bunch of newspaper reviews posted in the front window (lots of restaurants do that) and only one of those newspapers is in English. The rest are in Chinese. We grinned, and knew we had a good lunch coming. (Another good sign was that in the completely filled little dining room, we were the only non-Asians). We ordered double-cooked pork and ants climbing trees, but they were pretty familiar dishes to us, though not common on Chinese buffets. The waiter had a lot of trouble understanding our English, but we pointed to the number on the menu and said the English names and he repeated them carefully.

After taking our order, he directed us to the soup bar in the room next door, where we had our choice of egg-drop, wonton or hot and sour soup. Two large hungry young men at a nearby table made several repeat trips!

The soups and Chinese "pizza" bread were self-served, and after a while they served our lunches. No forks here, and the excellent Oolong tea was included. We were embarrassed the whole bill came to only $12.60.

The waiter looked at us incredulously when he served our lunches. "You like Chinese food?" he indicated the back of the menu filled with spicy Sichuan delicacies. "Yes, yes!" we replied happily and he grinned in reply. "This is not American style", he said. With the strings of silk peppers and garlic hanging from the back wall, we suspect they plan to postpone American-style as long as possible.

The menu is large and there are plenty of "American style" Chinese dishes for the less adventurous.

Indian Cafe, 2006. We recommend the Indian Cafe at 1665 Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. It just happened to be across Indian Cafe, Brookline, Massachusetts.Indian Cafe, Brookline, MA the street from the travel agent who is helping us go to Slovakia and just happened to be across the other street from an Emack & Bolio's Ice Cream shop, a Boston tradition. We looked at the menu in the window, and the excellent restaurant reviews on display, and agreed that we should take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy Indian food.

Our main dishes, a curry and a kind of stew, were tasty and filling and attractive, but we were especially pleased with the extra touches: we were each served a bowl of mulligatawny soup, thick and hearty with lentils and aromatic herbs, and when we asked about the bread (extra, $3.50 per order) our waiter recommended a radish-filled bread, rather like a thin pancake which had been cooked on the grill. Just about every bite of the bread contained a little shredded radish, nice and juicy and mild. Another variety of this bread is filled with cauliflower. As with many cuisines, the bread is a necessary adjunct to Indian food, and this was the finest we have ever eaten, worth every penny! Now we need to find an excuse to return to Brookline.

Rein's Deli, 2006. It's getting harder and harder to find good old-fashioned Jewish delicatessens these days; they are disappearing from their traditional urban locations and popping up in suburbs and in the country, as Jews, like everybody else, follow the direction set out by the housing developers. Rein's Deli Restaurant, Vernon, ConnecticutRein's Deli, Vernon, CT So it was perhaps not too surprising when Bob's cousin Marilyn recommended we stop at her favorite Jewish deli located at 435 Hartford Turnpike, Route 30, Vernon Connecticut (Exit 65 off I-84). Even with those directions, you need to noodle around to find the right shopping center, because there's no big sign in front saying REINS. Probably they don't need a big sign because there are always people lined up to eat or to take home pastrami or fresh pickles or chicken liver.

The menu is comprehensive. Bagels are fresh, whitefish is tasty, stuffed derma they have, along with borscht, matzoh ball, and kreplach soup. You can eat kosher or not. There are delicious cheese blintzes, and wonderful deli meats, sandwiches come in regular and fresser sizes and then there are the combos, with Russian dressing and cole slaw that may only be eaten whole by a person with an oversized jaw. But if you can't get your mouth around that wonderful rye bread and huge sandwich, you can have the makings put on a platter. There's a huge dish of pickles and good delicatessen mustard. Rein's has hot food, too, liver and onions, brisket, stuffed cabbage, roast beef, you name it. You may of course wash it all down with Dr. Brown's CelRay Tonic or Cream Soda, or they will make for you a chocolate egg cream. You can still get Two Cents Plain for just that price. And they will cut a piece homemade halvah for dessert.

Rein's is open 7 days, 7 a.m. to midnight, but we have only visited it at lunchtime. We have taken some food out, when we know our motel room will have a fridge. Definitely their bread is better than what is served in any motel breakfast room.