Sep 24, 2019

Scenes from the Grant Hills Motel, Galena, Ill.

Galena, Ill., has long been one of my favorite nearby destinations for a weekend getaway.  It’s tucked into the northwesternmost point of Illinois, just four hours from my hometown of Springfield.  And it seemingly has something for everybody:  history, small town charm, shopping, good food and drink (the nearby wineries in particular are very popular), and spectacular scenery more reminiscent of Vermont than Illinois. 

Where you choose to stay in Galena is a matter of taste.  Nearby accommodations vary from cabin retreats to high-end resorts and ski lodges to an abundance of Victorian-era bed and breakfasts.  The B&B rooms are always in high demand for those romantics who want a stronger sense of the town’s historic charm from its 19th Century heyday.  But if you don’t mind your road trip to Galena sending you back to the 1970s rather than the 1890s, may I humbly suggest more suitable – and a lot more affordable – accommodations on the outskirts of town – the Grant Hills Motel. 

Sep 8, 2019

Going for the dogs (and fries) at Nicky’s

Whenever the words “Chicago style” are mentioned in a conversation about food, two things inevitably come to mind – pizza and hot dogs.  And as with pizza, every Chicagoan has their favorite local fast food joint that serves up not only dogs, but other favorites – burgers, Italian sausage, Italian beef, gyros, and even pizza puffs.  The choices are seemingly endless, but I’m always up to the challenge of trying a new hot dog joint every time work takes me to the Chicagoland area.     

Sep 5, 2019

Heavenly hash (and other delights) at Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville, N.C.

When Punky and I scheduled a layover in Asheville, N.C., on one of our road trips through the south a while back, I knew we had to stop at two places in the brief time we had – Burial Beer Company and Buxton Hall Barbecue.  I was already aware of the quality craft beer and fun outdoor day drinking vibe at Burial through a friend of ours who had moved to Asheville (Hi, Kristin!).  Buxton Hall Barbecue, on the other hand, stood out on an appearance on “Bizarre Foods” for its real-deal Carolina-style smoke whole hog.  I don’t know Andrew Zimmern personally, but I figured I’d give his strong recommendation a shot anyway. 

Fortunately, both were conveniently located within stumbling distance of each other in Asheville’s revitalized South Slope District just south of the city’s crowded downtown area.  It was a bit of a climb uphill from where we parked, but we followed our noses to the entrance and soon found ourselves taken aback by the restoration job that turned a one-time roller rink into one of the country’s most celebrated barbecue joints in recent memory.   

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...