It’s been a while since I’ve posted any trip reports; be they old or new. After going through my online photo archives, I unfortunately determined that I don’t have any other vacations documented well enough to do a comprehensive report. But I do have some odds and ends from various trips and decided to combine them into a single post. I also have a number of photos of noteworthy meals in the Philadelphia region and will write a separate post on those in the next couple days.
In the summer of 1969 my parents, grandparents, and I hit the road for the Canadian Niagara Falls. I have vague memories of doing the usual touristy things, like a boat ride near the Falls and going into a cave that afforded us a spectacular, close-up view of them. But the only photo I have from that trip is this one of my mother and me in our motel room. She chose my outfit!
A year or two later, I visited New York City for the first time with the same grandparents.
I had a deep love for the original King Kong in my formative years and recall going up to the top of the Empire State Building, where my movie hero met his ultimate fate. I don’t think we actually visited the Statue of Liberty, but my grandfather did manage to take this photo of me with it in the background. Again, I doubt I’d have worn a tie and jacket if it were up to me, but things were a little less casual back then, at least for some segments of society.
I’ve been back to Canada a few times since that early trip to Niagara Falls, but the only one of those vacations for which I have photographic documentation is a jaunt to Montreal my wife and I took in 2011.
A highlight of that trip was our visit to the site of the 1976 Olympics, which were the first games of which I still have pretty vivid memories. While at the Olympic Park, we took advantage of the opportunity to visit the observatory at the top of the Olympic Tower; the tallest inclined tower in the world, at 165 meters with a 45 degree angle. The views were spectacular, and I took these photos of both the Olympic Park and much of the city.
We also toured the Olympic Stadium, which was domed at some point after the Games and was also the longtime home of baseball’s Montreal Expos. The swimming and diving complex from the ‘76 Games is in a side section of the Stadium and was still in use as of the time of our visit.
I’m lucky to have a photo of what had to be the most unusual thing we saw in Montreal. While we were walking along one of the city’s major streets, what appeared to be a small gasoline or oil truck pulled up in front of a restaurant. The driver got out, linked a hose up to the side of the truck, and took the other end inside the restaurant. We discovered that he was collecting the restaurant’s used cooking oil. I imagine he went from restaurant to restaurant until his truck was full. It was actually quite brilliant.
We also spotted this sign for a musical based on the city’s best-known Jewish delicatessen. I regret to say we neither saw the play nor ate at the deli.
Montreal is also famous for their unique style of bagels, and we did manage to eat at St-Viateur Bagels, which has been cooking them in their large brick oven since 1957. My bagel with lox was fantastic. And I’m pleased to report that since we took this trip, a couple Montreal-style bagel shops have opened in Philly.
Perhaps my most eagerly anticipated meal in Montreal was at a now closed steakhouse called Moishes. It was one of the classier restaurants I’ve been to. The decor was the picture of elegance, while customers were treated like royalty.
Meals began with a spectacular bread basket, pickles and health salad.
If I had to pick a single favorite food photo from my years as a frequent visitor to the roadfood website, it would be the drool-inducing one of Moishes’ bone-in Filet Mignon. So there was no doubt as to what I would be ordering for dinner there. It came with an extremely hefty twice-baked potato, and I ordered cream corn as well.
We had another memorable meal at a nice French restaurant called Bonaparte in the old section of the city, but unfortunately, the only photo I have from it is one of me in front of a small statue of the wrecker of Europe that sat above our table.
I’ve reported on a couple trips my oldest friend, John, and I took to see Eagles road games. Our first such venture was in 2014, when we flew to Wisconsin to see the Birds take on the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Wisconsin, and especially the Milwaukee region, is the frozen custard capital of the United States. While we didn’t do much eating that is worthy of appearing here on this trip, a notable exception was a pair of visits we made to Kopp’s Frozen Custard, which is in Glendale, just north of Milwaukee. They are another place I had been reading about for years on the roadfood site. While my main interest at Kopp’s was their custard, I was extremely impressed with the cheeseburger I had there, although the photo I took of it is a bit too blurry to post. But I do have a couple shots of my custard. I tried both a turtle sundae and a scoop of plain vanilla during our two visits. I can say without hesitation that this was the best frozen custard I’ve ever had. Anyone who finds themselves in the Milwaukee area should definitely try it.
But food was secondary to the opportunity to see a football game at storied Lambeau Field on this trip. It was a late-season game and I correctly figured it would be very cold, so I bought all kinds of items to keep me warm before heading up there. I had extra-thick socks and gloves, hand and foot warmers, a couple winter hats, and many layers under my heaviest coat. I didn’t even give serious consideration to wearing a jersey; but John did.
The most interesting thing about Lambeau Field is that it sits right in the middle of the most typical-looking middle class neighborhood you can imagine. It reminded me of where I grew up, and the thought of a large stadium being on my block seems absurd. But that’s what it was like. In fact, most of the home-owners rented out their yards to people driving to the game. We took advantage of that opportunity, as it was cheaper than parking at the stadium lot.
While the Eagles were clobbered by the Packers, we still managed to have a great time before the game. There were thousands of tailgaters and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. Yet their friendliness was probably topped by Lambeau’s staff. As we walked along a concourse after entering the stadium, two employees at a food stand who weren’t busy at that moment shouted out to us, “Hey guys; welcome to Green Bay. Enjoy the game.” Anyone from the Philly area who is reading this knows that would never happen at an Eagles home game. Visiting fans who wear their team’s jersey are lucky to get out of The Linc without any seriously unpleasant experiences. In that sense, it almost felt like we were in an alternate dimension while at Lambeau Field.
My wife and I hit the road for one of our state capital trips during the summer of 2017. This time around, the destination was Albany, New York. Of course, getting from Philly to New York state involves passing through New Jersey, and we stopped in Bloomfield to have lunch with our friends, Bernadette and Tom. They just happen to live right down the street from Holsten’s, a very old-school ice-cream parlor, candy shop, and restaurant.
If you are a fan of The Sopranos, you may be familiar with Holsten’s. It’s the sight of the popular TV show’s final scene, where Tony Soprano met his fate. In fact, a tour group of Sopranos fans stopped in and checked the place out while we were there.
In the final episode, Tony asserts that Holsten’s serves the best onion rings in Jersey, so I felt obliged to order them. He may have been right. They were outstanding.
I also washed down a grilled cheese with a Black & White malt and snapped a shot of Bernadette’s very attractive cheeseburger plate.
Our food outings in Albany must not have been anything special, as I don’t even recall what we had and don’t appear to have photos of it. But the state house was a beauty. It was much different than any of the other capitol buildings we’ve seen over the years in terms of architectural style; looking more like a grand old mansion than a government building.
We also ventured out that weekend to the Albany Capital Center to see the Philadelphia Party Dolls destroy the Albany All Stars in a thrilling roller derby matchup.
On our way home, we stopped off in Poughkeepsie, New York, for lunch at the now-closed Morty’s Kosher Style Delicatessen. I’m sorry this place didn’t stay in business because they were one hell of a deli. I’ve posted here about my love for corned beef on rye, and I haven’t had many better corned beef sandwiches than the one at Morty’s. It may look a little dry in the photo, but it wasn’t. And the flavor of that meat was to die for. The latkes my wife and I shared were also excellent.
I’m closing out this post with a couple baseball-themed weekend road-trips I took with my buddy and brother, Abdel.
A few months after the jaunt to Albany, I headed back to New York state; this time to Cooperstown, home of the baseball Hall of Fame. It was the off-season for baseball, so there were no crowds to speak of. In fact, a number of the shops in Cooperstown were closed while we were there. But the lack of people made for an extremely pleasurable, unrushed experience at the Hall itself.
Naturally, I was particularly interested in anything related to the Phillies.
The Sultan of Swat and the Say Hey Kid were also big draws for me. I had a baseball card with the two of them as the all-time home run leaders when I was a kid and developed an attachment to both. In fact, I was fortunate enough to see Mays play in person near the end of his career.
But my single favorite item at the Hall of Fame was this incredibly life-like sculpture of former Yankees and Mets manager, Casey Stengel. I couldn’t get over the extent to which it captured the essence of the man and must have spent a good 10-15 minutes examining it from every angle.
Just a little ways down the street from the Hall of Fame stood the Cooperstown Diner. This gem had to be the smallest diner I’ve ever been to, but we were able to easily get a table due to the time of year.
My pancakes and corned beef hash were mighty fine.
A couple years later, in September of 2019, Abdel and I were back on the road to see the Phillies play the Indians in Cleveland. Perhaps it’s no surprise to you that I did some online research before-hand to pick out a spot where we could stop for lunch on the way. If we were taking the PA Turnpike, the Summit Diner would have been the obvious choice. But we decided to take I-80 to Cleveland, which gave me the opportunity to pick out somewhere new. I settled on the Arrowhead Restaurant in Milton, Pennsylvania.
This small-town cafe has an American-Indian theme with plenty of interesting art-work and artifacts on its walls.
The double cheeseburger I ordered for lunch was right in my wheelhouse, and, much to my delight, they had a selection of pie flavors posted on a board at the front of the restaurant. I settled on peach.
The Phils game wasn’t until the evening after we arrived, so we walked from our downtown hotel to Cleveland’s leading tourist attraction, the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, during the afternoon.
Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that my favorite musical genre is classical, but I went through a rock period in my teens and twenties and was a huge Beatles fan. Not surprisingly, there was plenty of space devoted to the Fab Four in the Hall.
But the highlight of our visit was the opportunity for Abdel and I to do our best rock star impersonations for the cover of Rolling Stone.
I was an extremely gifted air-guitarist in my younger years; before moving on to air-conducting.
It turned out we had one more Hall of Fame to check out on this trip. The Indians, which is what they were still called at that point, have a beautiful display devoted to the team’s history behind the bullpens at Progressive Field. My wife’s cousin, Michael, and his son, who live in the Cleveland area, joined Abdel and I that evening and gave us the grand stadium tour.
The stadium is right downtown, something I’ve always fruitlessly hoped would happen in Philadelphia. We had seats up high, behind home plate, which afforded us an excellent view of the field and the Phils’ victory over the Indians.
We hit the highway again to head back home the morning after the game. This time around, we did take the Turnpike, which meant lunch at my beloved Summit Diner in Somerset, PA. I went with one of my standards there; a basic breakfast plate, which included the Summit’s wonderful hash browns and house-made sausage patties.
I finished the meal and this trip off with a slice of very good blackberry pie.
That’s it for this mish-mash report on my various travels. As I indicated above, I’ll be back in the next couple days with a similar report on meals of note I’ve enjoyed in my region over the years. Thanks for reading.