soon to Kapolei. For those of you planning your Christmas vacations on the mainland, here’s some suggestions to spur your dining imaginations.
This neon-lit, diner style restaurant lures visitors inside with the promise of comfort food. Besides regular diner offerings of burgers and hot dogs, you can order fried egg sandwiches with bacon or sausage, mushrooms, fried green beans, and frozen custard. Don’t be put off by the feature item, known around the region as the “garbage plate”. This Rochester, New York creation, is found in restaurants all over the city, made popular by hungry college students salivating over the huge plate of food. Basically, it’s the hamburger or hot dog, piled with French fries, baked beans, cole slaw, eggs, onion, and gravy. It’s a smoosh of food, messy, mingling flavors you normally would keep separate, but its prevalence in restaurants around upstate New York shows how popular it is.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, RI, TX, VA, WI, WY
Boston Market is food to go on the elegant side really. Chicken isn’t fried here, it’s rotisserie, all nice and plump, moist and juicy. Rotisserie turkey is served, too, along with pot pies, St. Louis rack of ribs and meatloaf in place of burgers. Meals come on a plate or you can buy it family sized, with the whole chicken or rack of ribs or big meatloaf, and three or four sides, plus cornbread. Sides complement the entrees: rotisserie potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, sweet potato casserole, creamed spinach, southwest rice, cinnamon apples, squash casserole, vegetable stuffing, cornbread, and if you can’t make up your mind, the sampler. Chicken soup or salad round out the meal. For desserts, choose from carrot cake, chocolate cake, chocolate chunk cookie, brownie, pecan pie, or apple pie.
All except Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Vermont
Say “Chick-Fil-A” to someone from the mainland who’s eaten there, and you probably get a satisfied, smiling sigh as they remember the meal. This is the one with the mooing, white with black spotted cow on its TV ads. Breakfast choices, besides the usual muffin or biscuit offerings also include crispy chicken in a biscuit, not a bun; chicken, egg, and cheese bagel; scrambled eggs piled with tater tots, sliced chicken strips, & cheese, all on a plate or in a burrito. After breakfast, there’s a variety of chicken sandwiches, wraps, and salads. For sides, Chick-Fil-A offers fruit cups, waffle fries, chicken noodle soup, and yogurt parfait. For dessert, you can try frosted lemonade, frosted coffee, milkshakes, cookies, and ice cream. Sauce options include “Polynesian sauce”, which we in Hawaii probably wouldn’t call Polynesian, but….
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia
This Southern chain features both indoor and outdoor dining, and take out. There’s over 40 milkshake flavors, including pineapple, Hi-C Punch, caramel fudge, chocolate cobbler, cheesecake (5 different kinds), besides the traditional and candy flavors. Choose your fixings on the burgers and what style you’d like Out West (BBQ & bacon), Cook Out (chili, coleslaw, mustard, & onion), Steak (A1 & grilled onions), and Cheddar (cheese, bacon, & grilled onions). Choose your burger size small, regular, huge, big double. There’s also chicken, BBQ pork, grilled hot dogs, chicken wraps, bacon wraps (BLT), and corn dogs. For sides, choose among hushpuppies, Cajun or regular fries, cheese fries, sweet jumbo onion rings, and quesadillas. Cook Out’s “Tray” gives you two sides, the entrée, and a large beverage, including floats. Putting coleslaw, bacon, and onion rings on a burger makes it messy and a handful, but the crunchy addition is interesting.
All states except Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming
Shrimp and grits just doesn’t get any better than at Cracker Barrel. Its version is buttery, with smooth, creamy grits, full of flavor, and in a portion size that fills you up, served with your choice of sides like a slice of juicy ham or baked apples. If sausage gravy on biscuits is your thing, here’s the place to get them. The food is so fresh and healthy that your stomach feels satisfied and content without feeling full. Cracker Barrel is conveniently located along major interstate highway exits, so travelers can see the sign in time to pull over and eat. If you’ve never been there, the rocking chairs on the long, front porch are for sitting in and enjoying the view just in case you have to wait and don’t feel like browsing the charming country store with its lovely country fragrances.
Amish life is marked by simplicity, and that freshness is what makes the taste fabulous. Salads include both the chicken-topped and fruity, including Strawberry Poppyseed (spinach, romaine, sugared pecans, strawberries, feta, and charbroiled chicken). You can eat broasted chicken that was fed a vegetarian diet. Roasted turkey is on the menu, along with roast beef, Swiss steak, chopped sirloin, roast pork, cod, salmon, shrimp, and if you’re homesick, tilapia. Sides include noodles, stuffing and gravy, waffle fries, sweet potato soufflé, Amish potato cakes, real mashed potatoes, and more. The scene stealer is on the breakfast buffet: Amish breakfast casserole. If you like fried corn mush, sausage gravy with biscuits, home fries, and apple crisp, go for breakfast.
All states except DE, HI, ME, NH, ND, OR, RI, VT
Golden Corral is such a popular buffet, make sure you get there early to get into the restaurant. The buffet is divided in sections. Pace yourself and take small portions so you have room to try out everything. There’s fish, turkey, chicken, pasta, casseroles, beef, pork, soups, a salad bar, rolls, vegetables, potatoes, and a dessert bar with all kinds of treats and even soft-serve sundaes and cotton candy. Yes, you can buy a take-out, sold by weight. If you’re on vacation and you feel like pigging out, this is the buffet for you. Your choices are mind boggling. For Sizzler fans trying to imagine it, don’t even try. Think of the Sizzler layout, double the pans, and multiple by four or five the size of the course sections and the options in each.
Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah
Okay you California visitors, you know you all rave about In-N-Out Burger. A respectable distance outside the LAX airport, a fellow conference attendee was kind enough to walk me to it to try it out. The charm of the diner is matched by the enthusiasm of the standing room only crowd inside. Then you see the cost of the food and Hawaii people, you have to see the prices yourselves, and try not to fall down when you do. Hint you can feed the whole family full and still not hurt your wallet. Thin, crispy fries, milkshakes, juicy burgers stacked with as many patties and cheese slices as you can handle, are all there on the menu for you to enjoy.
Ivar’s offers 24 casual seafood bars, three waterfront restaurants, and concessions at the Safeco Field, CenturyLink, Cheney, and Alaska Airlines Arena stadiums. The chain focuses on seafood, serving salmon, halibut, mussels, shrimp, claims, crab, calamari, lobster, and cod prepared in scrumptious sauces like white wine, coconut, curry, or in salads, tacos, or sandwiches. How does a salmon BLT sound? You can even get a steak to go with it. Make sure to try the cioppino or Ivar’s famous chowders.
All states except Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont
Eating at Sonic can be a treat for either kids or old-timers. Sonic is a car hop. With the amazing variety of flavors to choose from, it all fits on a flat, car hop menu board. The amazing thing is with all the varieties of flavors you can choose from, the menu is a flat, car hop menu. Located on the driver’s side, you push the button and speak into the intercom to order, then slide your bank card to pay (no cash). When your order is ready, the car hop brings your food out to you. You can eat it in the car or drive away with it. There’s no waiting in a drive through line. Each parking stall has its own menu and intercom. There’s no need to take the kids out of the car, except for those Sonics with playgrounds (like the one in Tyler, Texas).
Ask someone who has been there, and they probably will mention the well-known cherry limeade slush. Sonic is known for its slushies, frozen limeades and lemonades, frozen soft drinks, with a wide range of flavors to mix in. You can even have your coffee in creamy slushy form, in flavors like French vanilla chocolate or caramel twist, praline pecan chocolate twist, and others. Fifties style food matching the car hop setting include burgers, hot dogs, chicken wraps and sandwiches, boneless chicken wings, popcorn chicken, chicken strips, and coney dogs and toasters. Coneys are hot dogs topped with a meat sauce, mustard, onion and sometimes cheese. Toasters substitute thick slices of Texas toast for the bun and add an onion ring and BBQ sauce. For sides, choose from chili cheese fries, popcorn chicken, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, tater tots, fries, and jalapeno cheddar bites. For dessert, choose from an array of ice cream in “blast” (think mcflurry), waffle cone sundaes, regular sundaes, plain waffle cones, ice cream custards (candy blended in with the ice cream), and ice cream slush.
Steak ‘n Shake
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MS, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN
Cinnamon Crunch, Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Flakes, Caramel Frappe, and Honey Smacks why just eat cereal and milk when you can drink your breakfast as a milkshake? Eat inside in the comfortable diner setting or drive through. After breakfast, milkshake flavors include Nutella, turtle caramel nut, KitKat, peanut butter cup, chocolate peanut butter, Butterfinger, chocolate covered strawberry, Oreo mint, Oreo cookies and cream, birthday cake, and M&Ms. You can even get the usual flavors side by side, two in one glass (half vanilla, half banana for example). The steak refers to burgers in a whole variety of flavors (garlic, western butter Cajun, jalapeno crunch, and more). The Prime Steakburger is made of a beef brisket and chuck steak blend. Other choices are salads, soup, chili, or baked beans. Kid meals come with paper cars (like paper dolls of old) are fun for kids for playing.
Tim Horton’s Café & Bake Shop
CT, IN, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NY, OH, PA, RI, WV, VA, FL At Tim Horton’s, you can get breakfast until 5 p.m. every day: breakfast sandwiches, grilled wraps, oatmeal. After breakfast, there’s grilled panini, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, chili, and yogurt with berries. Soups are served in your choice of a regular bowl or a bread bowl: turkey & wild rice, roasted red pepper gouda, vegetable, broccoli cheddar, chicken noodle soup, clam chowder, or potato bacon cheddar. The bakery features scrumptious bagels, pastries, cookies, and muffins. What Tim Horton really is known for is donuts and coffee (several flavors), specialty hot and cold beverages, and donut holes called Timbits. Donuts and Timbits comes in about two dozen varieties. Timbits are the perfect size for your baby or toddler. Let them have a couple and see how fun it is in their curious hands before they discover it tastes so yummy. Dine inside or drive-through. Many locations are open 24 hours and some operate combine the bakery and cafe with Cold Stone Creamery.