Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top 7 Restaurants on US Route 6; 14 States Coast to Coast

Suffice it to say, I ate very well along all of US Route 6's 3,652 miles.  So it was tough winnowing down hundreds of restaurants to just seven.  But that's what lists are all about so.....

Here they are, according to me, in ascending order:

Museum Cafe - Joslyn Museum
Omaha, NE
#7 - The Museum Cafe, Joslyn Art Museum; Omaha, NE: Staffed with graduates of Omaha’s Metro Community College Institute for Culinary Arts, the food is terrific.  Even the potato chips are hand-sliced and ethereal.  Sip on home-made soup and enjoy those lighter-than-air chips while sighing in appreciation at a sky-scraper-tall Chihuly glass sculpture.  Ultimate bliss.

Noodle Bowl - Red Rose Cafe
Palisade, CO

#6 - Red Rose Café in Palisade, CO. In a nondescript storefront, in a town acclaimed for it abundance of peach trees and vineyards, the Red Rose Cafe features an eclectic menu; Italian, American, and inexplicably, Vietnamese.  Owner Rose is from Vietnam and she and her husband, Tom Casabona turn out some of the best Asian dishes I've ever tasted. Order the excellent Noodle Bowl - a perfect combination of piquant marinated grilled meat, noodles and greens. Red Rose Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lola Restaurant
Cleveland, OH
#5 -Lola; Cleveland, OH -  Owned by Iron Chef Michael Symon, first champion of Cleveland’s now thriving culinary scene, Lola is THE high-end place to dine and be seen.  Funky linear crystal chandeliers lend flattering candlepower to the dark, atmospheric room where a dressed up mid-age crowd (read: those who can afford this kind of fine dining) talk low over comfort dishes with a twist.  Beef Cheek Pirogues are not like your Polish Grandma used to make, but are tasty in their crème-fresh way.  The bone-in, moist and crisp-skinned chicken breast sits on a mound of white beans and sausage, juicy and perfectly seasoned.  Worth the splurge.

A trio of menu items
Belfry Inn and Bistro
Sandwich, MA
#4 - Belfry Inn & Bistro; Sandwich, MA - sitting down to dinner in the (former) sanctuary of a Gothic church – with its towering arched ceiling – is a lofty enough experience, but attentive wait staff and sumptuous farm-to-table cuisine live up to the surroundings. Homemade chowders (clam and corn), fresh-picked greens and comfort foods like four cheese mac and cheese draw a steady stream of locals.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Bin 707 Foodbar
Grand Junction, CO
#3 - Bin 707 Foodbar, Grand Junction, CO; A contemporary NY-Style bistro with a Western twist, Bin 707 dishes out terrific skinny seasoned fries (wow), and simple, but toothsome pleasures like seasonal "Watermelon-Gazpacho" cold soup - spicy and refreshing at the same time.  This is a relatively new restaurant in town and I wish them many years of success. With this kind of inventive cuisine, pulled off extremely well, they should thrive for a long time.

Incomparable "Beet and Grain Burger"
Birdsall House
Peekskill, NY
#2 - Birdsall House – Peeksill, NY –declared one of 19 “Hottest New Restaurants in Westchester” by Westchester Magazine.  Don’t let the dive-pub exterior fool you.  This is a serious foodie joint; farm-to-table, seasonal. The glory goes into the food, not the décor which is Early Linolium.  Lunch was up there with the greats.  Try the “Beet and Grain Burger”  smothered with sautéed onions, goat cheese and wilted spinach.  I’d drive hours for that dish alone. Appreciated roundly for its craft beer on tap, the Birdsall House motto is  “Beer is Good” and the menu proclaims, “Thank you for your beersness.”  Who wouldn’t love a place like that? Birdsall House on Urbanspoon

Drumroll please:

The Numero Uno Dining Experience on US Route 6;

Brewster, MA
#1 - Chillingsworth Restaurant and Bistro; Chef/owners Nitzi and Pat Rabin believe in transcendent experiences when it comes to dining.  And they sure deliver.  Zagat’s deemed Chillingsworth “worth the drive from anywhere.” I’ve had haut meals the world over and I’d rank mine here among the best.  If you want to rush or catch a movie, ask to be seated in the bustling Bistro – causal and less expensive - which has its own kitchen.  For a meal to savor, reserve a table in the original home built in the late 1600’s.  Each intimate room is dressed in French and Early American finery.  The couch in the single table “Library” has seen many a bended knee according to Pat; it is a popular spot to propose marriage.  I held court in the Empire Room where portraits of French Royalty adorn the walls.  Black/White Truffle Mac and Cheese, perfectly balanced tuna taretare ringed by mango puree, a trio of ambrosial soups (refreshing cold melon, piquant lobster bisque and tomato clam broth) perfectly seared Cape Scallops sitting on a bed of fresh corn risotto, a cloudlike lemon custard for dessert – this is a special meal – made even more special when owners come out to greet each guest when the rush is over.  Outstanding, transcendent and worth the splurge.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Best Lodging Bang For The Buck on US Route 6; Would You Believe $85 Per Room Per Night In Desirable Resort Region?

US Route 6 begins in the spot where the Mayflower Pilgrims first landed (and where Drag Queens now reign) - in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod.  "The Cape," as residents and frequent guests call it, overflows with tourists in the summer.  In July and August all of Cape Cod is particularly crowded and, following the seasonal resort formula for supply and demand, hotels, inns and B&B's jack up prices to extraordinary heights.  Even Motel 6 type places can command upwards of $200 per night.

Old Sea Pines Inn
Brewster, MA
So, it is my pleasure to announce the most beautiful, well-run "Bang For Your Buck" Inn on all 3,652 miles of US Route 6 - which happens to be in the high-rent district of Brewster, MA in the center of Cape Cod; The Old Sea Pines Inn.  

Back in May - I had this to say about the Old Sea Pines; 

Steve Rowan, Owner
Old Sea Pines Inn
Brewster, MA
Old Sea Pines Inn;  I could look for months (or years) and not find inn owners more low-key and NICER than Steve and Michel Rowan who have kept a “resort of a former era” vibe alive at the Old Sea Pines Inn.  The name itself evokes steamer trunk stays on the Cape, and in fact this 24 room B&B used to be a boarding “Charm School” for young women.  I felt at peace as soon as I walked into my room – the Rowantree -  on the 2nd floor.  No TV.  Small sitting room, burnished wooden floorboards, floral quilts on the sleigh bed –I just felt the presence of many happy vacationers.  Each room is different, clean, and beautiful. Old Sea Pines is not on the beach.  It is not high tech or “stylish.”  “It is what it is, and we want it that way,” Michele told me. And it works. During the summer, the Rowans host a Sunday Evening Musical Dinner Theater ($58 includes dinner and a show) in the bright enclosed patio where a hot breakfast is served every morning.  Four family suites are “designed for young, happy, vibrant families,” said Steve.  And during weekends in warm months, there’s bound to be a wedding on the property.  This place is a rare find; a nurturing and “resort” getaway at more than reasonable rates. ($85 for shared bathroom - $185 per room in season, includes breakfast.)

Front Porch of Old Sea Pines Inn
Brewster, MA
Let me reiterate; if you'd like to stay in an adorable two-twin dorm-sized room (with three shared full bathrooms just steps away) and enjoy a hot breakfast for two in the morning in an inn located just a few blocks from the 22- mile Cape Cod Rail Trail and an expansive beach - for less than $100 per night per room - chose the Old Sea Pines Inn in Brewster, MA.  Family suites are also available for under $200 per night per room in season.  Best bet for a lazy early evening on the Cape; enjoy a glass of wine ($6) or a beer ($4) on a rocking chair on the porch.  

Best Lodging Bang for Buck Runner Up: Nevada Hotel, Ely, NV

Hotel Nevada
Ely, NV

Lobby of Hotel Nevada
Ely, NV

I covered the Nevada Hotel in this post back in June.  Favored by bikers and gamblers, its lobby fogged in by incessant smokers, rooms at the Nevada Hotel are better than expected; especially the "Suites" which are clean, nicely decorated and cheap.  Roughly $70 gets you a theme room, a free Margarita downstairs and a complimentary brewski across the street.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

CBS, Los Angeles; Route 6 Gets It's Moment in the Sun

US Route 6 Writer, Malerie Yolen Cohen
Fred Hann, California Route 6 Tour Association Director
At Inn of Lancaster
Lancaster, CA

For those who missed this CBS LA segment about my Route 6 cross-country trip, here's another chance to see it.  Ironically, I was interviewed in Lancaster, CA - not a current Route 6 town, but definitely on the original alignment (now the Sierra Highway).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nevada Magazine Has Got My Number; And It's (Route) 6, Of Course

Slowly but surely, the word is rolling out about US Route 6.  No, not Route 66!

Tonopah Mining Museum
Tonopah, NV

Tonopah Mining Museum
Tonopah, NV

Sidewinders Cafe
Tonopah, NV
Though the most barren of all fourteen US Route 6 states, Nevada has some of the coolest, most unique attractions, which I itemized for Nevada Magazine's Sept/Oct 2011 Web Issue.  Here it is....

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Love You, Warren Buffett; Omaha, NE Fixture Tells Off Our "Billionaire-Friendly Congress"

Many of my readers know that Omaha, Nebraska was one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) US Route 6 towns.  I documented some of the best attractions in this blog post when I visited in June.  Impressed by the midwestern sensibility and aura of civic pride and generosity ( Sarah Joslyn and Charles Durham among others endowed millions to create museums for public enjoyment, and Father Flannigan established a haven for at-risk kids called Boys Town), I fell in love with Omaha.

Joslyn Art Museum
Omaha, NE
Today, I turned to the Op-Ed section of my daily paper, The New York Times, and was reminded all over again why I felt such affection for that Nebraska city.  Omaha's poster child, down-to-earth billionaire Warren Buffett wrote a politely scathing letter to our government; telling Congress to back off the poor and middle-class and tax the Super Rich more.  As a member of that rare super-rich fraternity, Buffett has the authority to finger-wag:

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Buffett goes on to recommend that tax rates be raised on taxable income in excess of $1 million and even more on $10 million plus. He himself is in that category.

This advice might raise the hackles of some folks in my hometown of Greenwich, CT; Hedge Fund Alley, where wildly out-of-whack incomes yield plenty of Lear Jets, personal helicopters and fourth and fifth homes but not many Public Art Museums.

Replica of Ernest Buffett's Grocery Store
Durham Museum - Omaha, NE

But it seems that Omaha has a history of the wealthy giving back to the community - and Warren E. Buffett, of modest origins (go to the Durham museum to see a mock-up of his father's grocery store) is just the latest rich man there to recognize his blessings and bounty (yes, from hard work, but also from luck) and a duty to return the favor. 

Warren, you are my hero!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who Needs Italy and Greece When We've Got Route 6?

I just returned from a two week excursion to Venice, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, and though these foreign cities are historic and beautiful, they are also sweltering and overcrowded this time of year.  While plying the  gondola-packed canals of Venice, fighting a great number of oiled bodies on the beaches of Mykonos and Santorini for a lounge chair and sweating out ancient history lessons at the Acropolis and Agora in Athens, I thought to myself; the sites on US Route 6 may not be as studied, grand or old, but they certainly worth seeing and surely not as crowded.

So, here are a few alternatives to the wonders of Europe that can be found if you drive across the USA on Route 6:


Vermillion, OH
Vermilion, OH; It's not a large city, but Vermilion has charming canals, nevertheless.  Instead of a Disneyesque tourist vibe, the town offers a quiet yachting center, some beaches, fun burger, hot dog and shakes restaurants and is just a short drive to either Cleveland or Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky.

Moline, IL: In Venice, you have to take either a water bus or water taxi to get where you need to go.  In Moline, the Channel Cat Water Taxi is a perfect way to move around the Quad Cities in order to avoid the traffic-jammed bridges that cross the Mississippi River into Iowa.

Channel Cat Water Taxi
Moline, IL


Cape Cod National Seashore, MA: OK, so the water may not be crystal clear and the beaches aren't lava-black, but over 40 miles of clean, Atlantic Ocean, broad sandy shoreline beat the shoulder to shoulder drink-sipping tourist magnet Greek seasides any day (at least in my upcoming book).  For those who enjoy a nearly solitary beach experience, even in the height of summer, the Cape Cod National Seashore is an unsung gem.
Cape Cod National Seashore


Hyatt Arcade
Cleveland, OH
The Hyatt Arcade, Cleveland, OH: "Agora" means "Gathering Place" in Greek and this ancient landmark was the site of the very first documented Shopping Mall in history.  The Arcade in Cleveland, built in 1890, is one of our country's first indoor shopping malls and is now owned by the Hyatt Corp.  Ancient Greeks used to assemble at the Agora to discuss and debate the issues of the day, and you can do that, too, over a great Chocolate Martini at the Chocolate Bar.

State Capitol Building
Lincoln, NE
The Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, NE;  The Agora was also the government center and considered to be the birthplace of Democracy.  While Route 6 runs through five US State Capitals, the Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska is arguably the most stunning. It took ten years to complete the art-deco mosaics that cover almost every inch of the vast interior and is more colorful, cooler (in temps and aesthetics), and wondrous than that Greek seat of Democracy.