the road | the food | a new direction

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The Peppermill Restaurant, Rochester NY


Every good-sized town, in the Northeast at least, needs a dependable diner. Not one of those new-fangled upscale diners with real-restaurant culinary aspirations (though those are fine in their own way), but a regular Joe kind of place, where one can enjoy burgers and club sandwiches, meatloaf and liver and onions, and, best of all, breakfast all day. The food need not dazzle; all that’s necessary is competence and reasonable cleanliness. It’s not, admittedly, a high bar, yet you might be surprised (or not) at how few diners measure up.

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Grizzly’s, Duluth MN


Grizzly’s is a twelve-location Minnesota restaurant chain – a few of them can be found in the neighboring states of Wisconsin and North Dakota. Even with its small size, they have the soul of a national chain, which is to say no soul at all. This location in Duluth’s Canal Park would seem to be ideal for them – Canal Park is well-dotted with restaurant chains as well as hotels filled with travelers who love to eat and drink at them. The evening we were there, however, did not bode well for them. Having walked over from packed and bustling Canal Park Brewing, we found Grizzly’s to be subdued and mostly empty.  Continue reading

Snotea Caffe, Groton CT


Ice cream, frozen custard, sherbet, Italian ice, water ice, snow cones, sorbet, New Orleans sno-balls, Hawaiian shave ice, Mexican paletas, Filipino halo-halo… we’d thought we pretty much exhausted the lineup of frozen treats available in the U.S. But there’s been a new player on our shores for the last couple of years, and we finally gave it a try: snow, also known as snow ice or shaved snow. In Taiwan, the birthplace of snow ice, it’s called xue hua bing. Continue reading

Esposito’s Pizza & Restaurant, Mahwah NJ


We found Esposito’s, not far from the NJ/NY border, to be a thoroughly ordinary New Jersey pizza joint with one exception: service is unusually attentive and caring. Nothing we sampled was less than OK, mind you, but neither did anything rise above that level, although the food looked particularly good. Better ingredients would do wonders for the place. As it is, if we lived nearby we might stop in on occasion, but it doesn’t rise to LAF levels. Continue reading

Vermont State Fair, Rutland VT


The Vermont State Fair’s origins go way back to 1846, when it was known as the Rutland State Fair. Thirteen years later the fair moved to Rutland County Park, where it’s been held ever since. It didn’t become known as the Vermont State Fair until 1972, 126 years after that first fair! The owner of the fair property deeded it to the fair under the condition that an agricultural fair be held every year on the grounds. Otherwise, the property reverts to the heirs of the original owner. But the Vermont State Fair has been in trouble lately. Continue reading

Bissinger’s, Saint Louis MO


The original Bissinger’s store in St. Louis, a dark wood-lined jewelry store of a chocolate shop, is no more. There are other, more modern branches in the St. Louis area, but it’s not for the St. Louis bricks-and-mortar chocolate shops that we sing our highest praises. Continue reading

Eaton’s Sugarhouse, South Royalton VT


Eaton’s is a tourist restaurant. Let’s state that right up front. Yes, almost anywhere in Vermont that specializes in things maple receives plenty of tourists but (and maybe we’re wrong here) we can’t imagine the local who would walk through Eaton’s doors.  That doesn’t have to imply that there’s nothing good to eat under Eaton’s roof. In fact, there is, but you’ll have to choose carefully. Continue reading

Green Mountain Smokehouse, Windsor VT


We were a little surprised by the Green Mountain Smokehouse. We’d read about it elsewhere and were expecting something more than what we found. The smokehouse has a small retail room, but they’re really geared towards their wholesale business. Oddly, we found very little selection among the smoked sausages. Most of what they offered were fresh, and frozen at that. The aroma was truly intoxicating, however. The kid manning the retail area told us he couldn’t even smell it anymore! Continue reading

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