North Carolina - Durham - Bull City Burger & Brewery by Dave Hileman

My friend is trying to find the best hot dogs so when we set a meeting in Durham I suggested Bull City. These hot dogs are made to their specs, the buns are baked in house AND they made the pickles, the sauerkraut, the mustard - I don’t know what you get on yours but that is my standard order! Anyway they were super. And so big you needed a knife and fork. recommended. http://www.bullcityburgerandbrewery.com

 The RIGHT way to dress a hot dog

The RIGHT way to dress a hot dog

 Certainly NOT the RIGHT way.

Certainly NOT the RIGHT way.

Virginia - Chincoteague - Island Creamery (2 photos) by Dave Hileman

This is nearly as good an ice cream as you can get anywhere. When you consider value it may be the best place in US. You get great flavors, generous scoops and extra smooth ice cream. Waffle cones are well made and priced well too. The Marsh Mud is the most intense chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten. The butterscotch is excellent as is the coffee. The Bourbon Caramel Crunch is amazing, mint is minty, well you get the idea. You order a regular cone and they give you a cup to set it in as it overflows the confines of the cone. Love the Island Creamery. There is also a soft serve a few doors away, Mr Whippy, that is quite good for a soft experience. We are nostalgic for this one because we took our grandson for his first ice cream here. Both are good but Island Creamery is more than a cone above the rest. And by the rest I mean anywhere. It is easily in the top five ice cream cones ever (Jeni’s, Ample Hills, Cows and MDI) and consistently good. https://www.islandcreamery.net

 Is there a better sign anywhere, Coffee, Ice Cream and WIFI, I would be 500 lbs if it were down the street.

Is there a better sign anywhere, Coffee, Ice Cream and WIFI, I would be 500 lbs if it were down the street.

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New York - NYC - Max Brenner Chocolate (two photos) by Dave Hileman

I am not sure this is a good as I think it is, but I love it. A bit expensive (it is NYC) but unique. Superior hot chocolate (Mexican is my favorite) and a full menu with chocolate surprises. CJH and I split an order of chocolate chip pancakes and eggs. Fun brunch. And really very good. This restaurant is just off Union Square on Broadway. http://maxbrenner.com/chocolate-dessert-bar/

 Chocolate pouring and caramel too.

Chocolate pouring and caramel too.

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Pennsylvania - Lancaster County - Shady Maple (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

There are occasions when your own rules are ignored. I break all of mine at Shady Maple. First, i don’t really like buffets, except…, I don’t often want a lot of food, except…, I try and eat carefully, except…., I never have two desserts, except…, and more. If I go to Shady Maple in eastern Lancaster County I show no restraint. The place is enormous - just the food line is over 100 feet long, plus several drink stands and four grills that cook various things to order. Cindy and I ate our “Thanksgiving” dinner here a day early (we were driving home on Thanksgiving) and it did include turkey (and for CJH - mashed potatoes and cranberry fluff). I had, ahem, salad, broiled cod, buttered whole potatoes (2x), brown butter noodles (3x) fried chicken, the aforementioned turkey, sauerkraut and pork (3x) green beans, garlic bread, grilled pork chop, pickles, ham and a small piece of grilled beef. By then three (or four) desserts seems reasonable and a root beer, a chocolate milk and three cups of coffee rather stingy. What sets this place apart is that the food is generally very good to excellent (I have had a couple of exceptions) and the price is more than fair. We paid a senior rate for lunch - did I mention it was lunch and the menu was more limited - of under $14.00 that includes tax and tip. We veer toward this place if our route is close, say 50 miles and worth it every time. Welcome to the largest buffet in the US. https://www.shady-maple.com

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 Plate number two

Plate number two

 From dessert to infinity and beyond.

From dessert to infinity and beyond.

Maine - Bar Harbor - West Street Cafe by Dave Hileman

Once again as I delve into older places a dearth of photos. However, that is not much of an excuse for this one as we were there this fall. I just forgot. Dolt. (I even have a worse photo coming up soon.) The West Street Cafe is a must eat for a trip to Acadia NP. The tag line on the web site is GOOD FOOD - GOOD PRICES - FRIENDLY SERVICE - RELAXED ATMOSPHERE and surprisingly it is true. The fried haddock platter is wonderful and a good value. Lots of fish. The clam chowder came in first in our rigorous testing AKA, Tom Light’s Rating and the blueberry pie is one of the best. Cindy has tried several different dishes and has liked them all, I stick to the haddock. I took this quick iPhone shot to show our family how they raised the roof to create more space - plus it is really nice. The remodel did not change the menu, thankfully. Add West Street Cafe to your dinning list if you are in Bar Harbor and plan on a wait even in the expanded restaurant. Visit their “gallery” for nice photos at: http://weststreetcafe.com

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Massachusetts - Boston - Ristorante Fiore by Dave Hileman

We have eaten three times over the years at three different Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End and they have all been really good. Fiore is a new level of good. I had a Tagliolini al Pomodoro that was brilliant, Cindy chose an out-of-the ordinary Spinacci that had baby spinach, beets, smoked pancetta, white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, goat cheese - and she ate some of my pasta. We did not eat dessert here, not that we were exhibiting some newly discovered restraint but we had picked out a place up the street for that course! On the expensive side for a meal but not in the context of Boston fine dinning. Great service as well super nice setting and extensive everything else lists. http://www.ristorantefiore.com

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Maine - Bar Harbor - MDI Ice Cream by Dave Hileman

Sometimes you have to eat healthy for dinner so I recommend dairy! MDI is one of my absolute favorite ice cream shops - in the top three easily. It is right on the village green in Bar Harbor and this year they doubled in size. It is a super creamy, very flavorful ice cream with many unique offerings or at least more choices that the ordinary ones found in most shops. It seems expensive but it is a small batch premium product - the sweet spot (pun alert) is the double cone that allows you to try two flavors and you want to try two flavors! Waffle cones are a reasonable fifty cents. My hands down choice is the Buttermint, but I like a lot of the flavors. There is a second location down the street a bit where the make the ice cream but they are not open the hours nor is it quite as convenient. There are three other shops a short, very short, walk from MDI but after often trying another choice, MDI always wins. Four visits this year in a week is sadly not enough. I did just learn they have a fourth shop in Washington DC near where we started a church in Columbia Heights. I just realized that church needs a visit very soon. https://www.mdiic.com

Sorry for the poor photo, too excited to actually compose a photo.

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New York - Hyde Park - The Tavern @ CIA (3 photos) by Dave Hileman

The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park is worth a trip just to see but even better to eat in one of the restaurants. We have been to two of them and chose a different one for our third visit, the Tavern @ American Bounty Restaurant. It is a lighter fare place in the tradition of American Bounty and open at hours that fit our stop. It was, as has been every meal here, excellent. This place focuses on American food from the Hudson Valley. It is somewhat casual but still very nice, superior service and fine food. CJH had housemate buttermilk ricotta on wheat toast garnished with plum and I delicious fish tacos with dill onions and seasoned fries. Plus they bring you popcorn while you wait. Yay.

https://www.ciarestaurantgroup.com/new-york-restaurants/

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New York - Skaneateles - Elderberry Pond by Dave Hileman

First, it is pronounced Skinny Atlas. I know, how? But it is. Second, Elderberry Pond is about three miles into the country and more than worth the trip. What a wonderful meal. Super, actually, in a beautiful place. The restaurant is on a farm, Elderberry Pond Farm, and many of the foods served are grown here. Like the potatoes we had, some of the greens, herbs, vegetables and, I believe, some of the meats are raised here. Not ours as we both had seafood. This was a splurge meal, we had three on our trip and each one was really fun and delicious. The building is elegant country with nice views and pleasant atmosphere. We had an apple cider that was pressed on site from apples grown on the farm. Writing this I am unsure why we did not share a dessert but we passed. Likely a big mistake. One of the special memory meals we will remember for a long time. They also have a small store but it was not open when we were there. http://www.elderberrypond.com

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 My halibut infused with lemon

My halibut infused with lemon

 Cindy a risotto with shrimp

Cindy a risotto with shrimp

Massachusetts - Hingham - Stars (2 photos) by Dave Hileman

Reason number 1136 to go to church: recommendations from local folks about where to eat. After service I asked three men standing together where to get breakfast and they answered with one voice, Stars. So we went. 30 minutes to get a table. We waited. It is a small building across from the waterside park and harbor in Hingham Center. Once seated we ordered cinnamon french toast, with a side of bacon, eggs, sausage and coffee, of course. Also CJH ordered a muffin and yogurt with fruit - maybe to offset the french toast? Anyway the very best french toast I ever ate was shared with Cindy, along with some eggs and bacon. What an amazing place. Breakfast is a Star for sure. Another person told us all the meals were good at Stars. We were not able to test that theory but if we are back here, well it is breakfast for me again. Stars on Hingham Harbor is the full name but just ask anyone for the best breakfast in town, they will send you here. StarsHingham.com

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 There are no photos with out cars, if you came at 3Am likely someone is sitting here to be first in line.

There are no photos with out cars, if you came at 3Am likely someone is sitting here to be first in line.

Tennessee - Leipers Fork - Country Boy by Dave Hileman

I don't think I could have taken a poorer photograph. Well, that may not be true but it would have taken some work. And you would not have seen this if the food was not so good and the atmosphere so cool. You absolutely will not know who may be enjoying breakfast (or other meals but I have only been here twice for breakfast) musicians, producers, farmers, writers all haunt this place. Great food, good coffee, and often live music. The tiny town has some excellent art galleries and you will share trying to find parking with tractors and sports cars and everything in between, Fun place - and sorry for the quick iPhoto I only took to recall the name. Poor planning. 

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North Carolina - Kinston - Chef and the Farmer by Dave Hileman

Among very special memorable meals the CIA, Commanders Palace, Burning Tree and Angus Barn are joined by Chef and the Farmer where we were able to enjoy a superb meal with great friends. CJH and I have watched many of the C/F shows on PBS over the last three years but we pale as fans compared to our long time friend who went with us to dinner. She had a ball. Actually we all did. She brought her cookbook that Vivian Howard wrote and several of the staff on duty that evening signed her book. Nice touch. We arrived for our reservation and were seated promptly. The menu was sufficient and unique but not one of those with 10 pages to navigate but we still took a long time with our orders. The staff person taking care of our table was knowledgeable and answered lots of questions. We had three small plates, two salads and three large plates. One of the small plates was flash fried collards, lightly salted. Really good. But the fried green tomatoes - amazing. We all loved those, a lot. We had three different main meals: two of us choose Amber Jack a deep sea fish, bone in pork chop that was huge and a vegetarian risotto style dish with grains, almonds, parsley and while it sounds so-so it was quite delicious. Dessert was a dish of fresh strawberry ice cream and a deconstructed so'more. The Chef and the Farmer is simply a treat from beginning to end. Kinston, NC is not where you would first travel for inventive dinning but you should.

 http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/

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 The pork chop

The pork chop

 Fried Green Tomato - now I am hungry again

Fried Green Tomato - now I am hungry again

North Carolina - Raleigh - Sassool by Dave Hileman

I did not even know I liked Mediterranean food until I ate here. Sassool has become one of my favorites and is so close to home that we can stop often. They offer inside seating and take home - I would guess more than half of the folks I see are taking dinner home. The menu is varied and among my favorites are the autumn root salad, tabouli, spicy hummus, green beans and several of the main dishes, like a chicken an rice dish. The kabobs are excellent. CJH loves the Vegetarian Lasagna. Every dish is good, the service is quick and friendly and, the big deal for me is just out of the brick fired oven, pitas. Amazing pitas. Somehow the number that arrive at home is not equal to those I left Sassool with! Go look at the site here, http://www.sassool.com, then call and let us know when to meet you there!

 iPhone photo

iPhone photo

North Carolina - Julian - Homeland Creamery by Dave Hileman

Homeland Creamery is always high on any list of ice cream places in NC. We had it one time in Old Salem but never had been to the farm, until last week. It is not too far south of Burlington in a crossroads community called, Julian. The creamery is not showy nor is the area geared to tourists and lots of traffic, both making this a nicer stop. There were some things for kids to do and places under a grove of  trees to sit at tables but why you come here is for fresh ice cream, period. CJH had a wonderful cone of peach that she loved. Mine was a So'more and a bit too full of add-ins for my taste but it was an excellent cone. I tasted the lemon ice cream and, well, must go back!  Check out their site here: http://www.homelandcreamery.com

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Nevada - Las Vegas - Peppermill by Dave Hileman

So, the first time I was in LV my hotel was a block away. I thought I would go for breakfast -not my normal experience! The place was hopping, a woman in a slinky dress offered to get me a cocktail - it was 7:30 in the morning, another came bye to see if I wanted a photo taken and the food, amazing. I want back two more times in three days at different times and the same experience. Always fun to do something completely different and a bonus when the food is better than you ever expected. CJH and I were able to go three years later and the same reality. Maybe this is the norm here but I found it quite fascinating. And great food 24 hours a day. 

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North Carolina - Rocky Mount - The Prime Smokehouse by Dave Hileman

OK, two smokehouse restaurants in a row, but this one is pretty special. You will find here a surprising menu. It has items you would expect, ribs, pulled pork (mine was excellent, not fatty and a generous serving), brisket, and chicken but goes way beyond that with nice salads, burgers, seafood, deep-dish spinach lasagna, and oven roasted turkey to name but a few. And sides, actually really good sides! I had green beens that were excellent, french cut, properly cooked and nicely spiced. Cindy had outstanding Mac & Cheese - I think we had five sides between us and they were all well prepared. They have an extensive bar, nice location and a cool vibe with a jazz theme. The owner/chef's father (Ed Wiley, Jr. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Wiley_Jr.) was a well-known jazz musician and the back story to the restaurant and the memorabilia make a nice backdrop to your meal. Finally, amazing service. Really attentive and everyone was out-of-their-way friendly. Imagine driving 95 headed to wherever needing a place to eat and this gem is only a few minutes off the the interstate past scores of less than desirable places to merely eat. It is worth the extra five minutes, worth seeking out something great instead of the insipid chain food at an exit off 95.

http://primesmokehouse.com

 iPhone photo

iPhone photo

Virgina - Abingdon - Bone Fire Smokehouse by Dave Hileman

I was not sure about posting this one. It is not the best restaurant in Abingdon, not in the top few. But it was good. This building was once a hardware store, then a couple of different restaurants and now, Bone Fire. They did not even fix up the front of the building and it remains a mis-mash of the other endeavors here. But the food was good. They smoke meats here and have a lot of choices. The ribs ostensibly won a national contest. We had pulled pork and pork loin, they were good, the loin a very good choice. What I really liked were the sides. Green beans, cornbread, diced spiced apples and more were excellent. Also there were five or six sauces all homemade in a sauce bar that was both fun and different. I really liked the berry and the peach. So, give it a try when in Abingdon if the more expensive choices, The Tavern, Rain, Martha Washington or the Peper Mill are not what you want, you will get a good meal at a great price at Bone Fire. 

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Florida - Gotha (Orlando) - Yellow Dog Eats by Dave Hileman

This is not the front of the restaurant but it is where you park - trust me there is a big house behind all that green stuff. It is a most unusual place with great food. YDE is in an old house, built in 1910. The VW bus is one of the many sitting areas - this one for a very small group. They smoke meats on premises - note the smoke over the VW - (i have had pulled pork and bacon, yum), have excellent bread, substantial portions, and a diverse menu. We loved our two trips to Yellow Dog Eats, I am sure you will too. www.yellowdogeats.com 

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California - Disneyland - Carthay Circle by Dave Hileman

We were not going to eat here. In fact we were advised that none of the restaurants in the theme park were really as good as the ones we were used to at Disney World in Orlando. So we made our plans to eat at counter service places. Then, waiting in line for the park to open, the lady in front of us, who was an experienced Disney patron, said that we really should try this place because the food was great and the atmosphere really nice. Her favorite. So we did, and we were really glad we listened to her advice because it was, excellent and the service impeccable. If you are at Disneyland, do not hesitate. 

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