I am addicted to restaurants while travelling and since we spend a lot of time in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, I have three favorite restaurants, and a grocery store.
Crabby Bills: Every morning I walk a mile and a half down the beach to Crabby Bill’s, which has been family owned since its founding in 1983. The morning crowd consists of older patrons who are vacationing. or living, near the beach. It is a sports bar, restaurant and hang-out for the under 30 crowd the rest of the day and until 2:00 AM.
The All-American Breakfast is my choice, with 2 eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon and toast for $6. Then it is a mile and a half walk back to the rented condo. In the evening, you can get the menu to go.
Guppy’s: A short walk and excellent food with daily specials; indoors or out. Great fish. The Grouper is expensive as it is over-fished. Small plates and you can share. I get three sides; grilled octopus, spinach and Caesar Salad. Octopus is available thanks to the large Greek community. New Mexico restaurants tend not to serve octopus, so it is always a treat.
A small French restaurant in the edge of Belair and next to Largo and Indian Rocks Beach. Run by a French couple, it is always good and one of our favorite stopping places each time we come.
The lamb shanks can’t be beat. Not always available but when they are, well worth ordering.
If you want to do your own thing with food prepared for you, take a look at Publix Grocery Stores which now have prepared meals that you cook. There is salmon, meatballs, etc. We tried chicken breasts with feta cheese and spinach and it was great. Cheaper than a restaurant meal and it can be eaten with a glass of wine on your rented condo balcony. The sunset over the Gulf of Mexico is better than any restaurant; and quieter.
TWO (Traveling While Old) requires food. I don’t eat in fancy restaurants; and, I am cheap and dress “old.” McDonald’s is good for the “senior coffee” and the free Wi-Fi, but there are lots of other places that you might find more interesting than fast food hangouts.
Off-the-wall alternatives are available. Here are ten to consider. Use the internet to find times and locations.
1. Hospitals: Long hours, usually healthful food, but almost always a fried option. In Albuquerque try University of New Mexico Hospitals, cafeteria.
2. Universities: They have to feed students, faculty and staff and have a variety of food and long hours. The prices are reasonable and it is fun to see what you looked like fifty years ago. You can also find cheap movies, lectures and other activities. Parking is a pain, consider the bus; many have free shuttles to free parking. Certainly out of your comfort zone.
3. Museums: The US is catching up to Europe with museum cafes and restaurants. Visit exhibits and discover special events. When you search for the museum, check for cafes and menus. Plan a meal there; and, look for unique menus and specials tied to art. It may surprise you. And, frequently they have wine.
4. Cooking Schools: Every large town has a cooking school; attend, learn something and eat what you cook. I took my 14- year-old granddaughter to Paris and the thing she seemed to like best was the cooking school. She learned to make macaroons and received a box to take home to her parents. In Paris, sign up in advance.
5. Food Trucks: You can spot them parked on vacant lots, along the street, or at shopping centers. They are fancier than the usual hot dog carts found in downtown areas. Web pages list food trucks and give you a location and time. In Albuquerque on Wednesday noon they gather at the Talin Market, in the International Zone. The market is worth a visit just to see the variety of foods. Don’t be afraid. Move outside your comfort zone. Food trucks offer a variety of foods, often cooked by creative new chefs who can’t afford a fixed site.
7. Senior Centers: All towns have Senior Centers. You can usually find a cup of coffee, breakfast and lunch, although you may have to order lunch a day in advance. You can eat cheap food with other old people. There is usually a bulletin board that lists things to do; day trips, computer help, etc. You may have to join, but that is usually cheap. I have never had any problem just walking in and looking around; having a twenty cent cup of coffee and a twenty-five cent box of popcorn. I have also discovered cheap trips where I don’t have to do the driving. Think Crown Point rug auction.
Here is my $1.75 breakfast with a 25 cent cup of coffee eaten at my local Senior Center:
8. Whole Foods: Groceries, but also – sandwiches – salad bar – prepared foods and a place to sit and eat. The food is good, varied and available all day. Good for a coffee and a bagel in the morning; sandwiches for lunch, salad bar, and a whole variety of food for dinner, to eat in or take back to your motel room, along with a bottle of wine in Albuquerque and Tucson. At 73 you don’t want to be picked up for DWI after a few glasses of wine at a restaurant. Watching a movie in your hotel room with a good bottle of wine, and a variety of food from the deli is not all bad; besides they have nice deserts. Most motel rooms are quieter than restaurants.
9. Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: This show on the Food Network takes you to places all over the country. Interesting to visit, a mini-goal for your trip, and, you can always check them out on-line. I have enjoyed the ones that I have visited, both in Albuquerque and Florida.
10. Costco: If you have a card, you can’t beat the hot dog and drink for $1.50.
Look beyond the restaurants in the guide books. Experience the community and learn something new while getting interesting food at a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant. Besides, all of the above places are usually fairly quiet, have no music playing, and are convenient. Important if, like the geezer, you are old and deaf.
A final, tongue-in-cheek idea. Large Assisted Living facilities will usually give you a free meal if you listen to the sales pitch and take the tour. You should really take a look at a few of these as they are closer than you think.
Above all, consider sharing a plate; even if it costs you $3.
We are retired and eat out frequently; especially when on vacation in Florida. I got to thinking about what I liked in restaurants, given my age of 78. I like small French, Mexican, Italian and Chinese restaurants. I like table cloths, cloth napkins and water. I also realize that I am inconsistent, so you should take this list of a baker’s dozen with a grain of salt. Trust but verify, a senior’s mantra!
- Quiet – The app Soundprint registers noise in restaurants. I, like many old people, am deaf and it is hard to hear in a crowded restaurant where the tables are close together or where you are seated near a large group of people.
- Share a plate – We don’t eat as much, so if we can share a plate, even for an extra charge, that is great.
- Smaller portions – We don’t need huge portions, or all you can eat buffets.
- Water – some of us drink a lot of water, and I, at least, judge a waiter by whether or not my water-glass is kept full.
- Parking – easy access and spaces wide enough to get in and out of the car with ease.
- Uber or Lyft – Uber or Lyft is great for old people. They are fast, convenient and allow us to have a glass of wine, without worrying about drunk driving. Nothing like a newspaper article that describes me as “elderly.”
- Enough light to read the menu – Not only am I deaf, but I have trouble seeing in dim light. My i-Phone, with its built-in flashlight, has been a boon to my old age. Until you are old, you don’t realize how hard it can be to see in dim light.
- Simple choices – My mind is not as quick as it used to be, so the fewer, easier, and simpler choices, the happier I am.
- Doggy bags – if we can’t or don’t share a plate, a container to take half of our food home is great; even if we don’t have a dog.
- Non-fried preparation – Digestion can be a problem; and, of course I am very conscious of the life expectancy tables. I like to keep my options open.
- Easy access – I need to get to my table and to the men’s room. Stairs, rugs, close tables, servers, folding tray tables, and using the hall to the men’s room for storage can lead to falls and always makes me nervous. Remember, falls are the leading cause of …….. for seniors.
- Bargain – a price I think is fair,
- Non-processed food – Too much food today is processed – at my age not only do I not need it, it is bad for me.
One French restaurant that I like is Chez Colette’s in Belleair Bluffs, Florida, which meets all my criteria.
Walking on the beach and breakfast at Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.
I was raised in the mid-west and have lived in New Mexico for over 50 years, so the beach has always drawn me.
My wife’s family lived in Largo, Florida and Indian Rocks Beach has been a place she has been familiar with for over 50 years.The attraction has rubbed off on me.
Our life there is simple. We rent a condo overlooking the beach, we rent a car through Costco, we use Uber, we go to the library and frequent consignment stores. We have wi-fi. Good restaurants are within walking distance.
My morning routine is what makes my day. I wake-up early and walk a mile and a half on the beach to Crabby Bill’s, a restaurant/bar that awakens at 7:00 AM. It is simple, indoors and outdoors, and caters to different customers depending on the time of the day. At 8:00 AM there is a smaller more mature crowd. At noon and in the evening they serve great fresh fish and beer at long communal tables.
Prior to breakfast is a stop at the CVS Pharmacy next door for the New York Times, a habit I have even in New Mexico. (Today, the first time in years, they didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked for the NY Times.)
As an aside, since old people always have something wrong with them, don’t forget that CVS Pharmacies have a “Minute Clinic.” They can handle all sorts of minor health problems; and, if nothing else triage you and get you more help if needed. You can get a place in line on-line, but I have always found them to be quick, helpful and professional. Why go to an emergency room unless it is an emergency?
I read the times while eating the All American Special with crisp bacon for $6.00. I then walk a mile and a half back to the condo; hopefully with a new blog topic.
Fresh air, great breakfast and the news by 9:00. What could be better?
I have been coming to Tucson for over twenty years and have never tried a Sonoran Hot Dog. Recently I have been reading Anthony Bourdain’s books, Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, in which he advocates seeking out the authentic cooking of the place you are visiting.
It was raining, unusual in Tucson, but we parked behind the cart and the tent that covered it and ordered our hot dogs with everything. It was one of the best hot dogs that I have ever eaten; even better than those at The Dog House in Albuquerque, of Breaking Bad fame.
Two hot dogs, two drinks came to $6. We ate in at picnic tables. There was one cook who turned out hot dogs in minutes, complete with hot peppers.
The hot dog wrapped in bacon and in a special bun has onions, tomatoes, salsa, mayo, mustard and cheese. The Sonoran Hot Dog is unique to Tucson with over 200 places serving them; mostly from carts or food trucks parked in vacant lots. I have discovered a few in Albuquerque, but have not tried them yet.
Well worth the trip. Now, every time we come to Tucson, a Sonoran Hot Dog will be on the menu.
To find a Sonoran Hot Dog near you: Google “Sonoran Hot Dog”+ name of your town. or, if you live out of the Southwest, Google “Sonoran Hot Dog”+recipe, and make your own.
And, of course, mine turned out:
Last year I attended the Matanza in Belen, NM where I ate my fill of roasted whole hog, beans, chile, and tortillas. This year it is scheduled for January 27, 2018 from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Eagle Park in Belen, NM, about 30 miles South of Albuquerque, NM.
Matanzas involve roasting a whole pig overnight in a pit dug in the ground. It is a celebration for all your family and friends. It involves a lot of home-made food and too much drinking. The first one I attended was when I came to Albuquerque over 50 years ago and was held on Thanksgiving Day. Lou had obtained a 300 pound hog and the night before it was placed in a pit in his backyard, wrapped in wet burlap, and laid on top of a huge bed of coals. The hog was then covered with coals and dirt and left to roast for twelve hours.
It was hoisted out of the pit, unwrapped, and the meat fell off the bones. More beer, pinto beans, tortillas, salad and pork made the Thanksgiving Dinner one that I remember to this day.
The one in Belen is more organized, raising money for charity. It costs $15 and is preceded by judges determining who made the best red chile, pork, tortillas and chicharrones. There are long lines and no shortage of beer. It is best to come early.
You can read about the “World’s Largest Matanza” in the January 2018 issue of New Mexico Magazine. The article, “Whole Hog” by Gwyneth Doland is worth reading. The article also contains recipes if you want to create your own Matanza, and tells you where to buy a whole hog. Go for it.
The 2017 Belen Matanza was the first I attended:
For instructions see the Weekly Alibi
When we travel, we try to seek out non-chain places to eat; and, our recent trip to see our son in Waynesville, NC, led us to MOE’s Barbecue in Asheville, NC, for the third time. It is in an old building, near the Biltmore Mansion, with a large gravel parking lot and is always crowded. There are only about 20 tables inside, you order from the counter, and they call out your name when the food is ready. It has always been good, simple and tasty. You bus your own tables.
This time we shared a brisket sandwich with two sides and a drink. Our son had the rib plate with two sides and a drink. We had to wait for a table and borrowed two chairs for our table. It was out of our comfort zone, but we were with our son who knew of the place and he had taken me there before when I visited.
As usual, I took a few pictures, enjoyed the food and the crowd and thought it would be a good subject for a brief blog post. After lunch, I googled Moe’s Barbecue and much to my surprise discovered that even though Asheville is apparently the original Moe’s, it has expanded. The three boys from the University of Alabama, have expanded this Moe’s to 60 Moe’s around the country, including one in Albuquerque that I was not aware of. So, next week, I will start off the new year by eating at Moe’s in Albuquerque, aware that it is a big business that came out of North Carolina.
You can become a franchisee; the franchise office is in Vail, Colorado; or, you can just order a t-shirt and a hat from the retail site.
I will continue seeking out places out of my comfort zone, but will also check them out.
Trust but verify!
Just because it is a chain, does not mean that it is not good. And, of course, I satisfied myself at the meals there, thinking I was out of my comfort zone, not realizing that there was a Moe’s just a few blocks from me in Albuquerque.
Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.
Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s, SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.
Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.
The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:
The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.
We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.
Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.
Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.
The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.
If you are traveling to Albuquerque you should visit the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on Saturday morning.
The growers’ market is a weekly event, though many towns have different markets on different days.
In Albuquerque, there are several, but my favorite is the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on North Rio Grande. There are farmers (maybe urban) selling peaches, onions, beets, berries, etc. There are also a number of bakers and several vendors of meats. The mix changes weekly and what is offered changes as crops are picked. Always fresh, never shipped in.
There are also dozens of local crafts people selling jewelry, hats, canes, clothing, etc. Almost anything someone could make at home; especially if they are old and retired. A number of our friends have set up sales tents to sell things they have made. You might even want to consider a new career. Want to sell hats?
Take a look at Hat Academy to learn how. You don’t just have to be a buyer; you can also be a seller. The same goes for any other craft. If nothing else, these markets are a source of creative ideas.
The best part for me is the food. I always stop for a breakfast burrito. For $4.00 I get the # 1 which is a large tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon and Hatch green chile. Another dollar gets me a cup of coffee and there is a table and a few chairs where I can sit and watch the people go by.
I know that it sounds strange to go to a growers’ market when you are travelling, but it is an interesting bit of local lore and even when you are on the road you need to eat and you may want some fruit to tide you over. I have been to such markets in Taos, Tucson, Waynesville, NC, Washington, DC; not to mention Bulgaria, Armenia and Belgrade. Each has been an interesting experience.
How to find a growers’ market near you; wherever you may be:
On Sunday, my son walked a few blocks in Washington, DC to pick up his box of vegetables and fruit from Hungry Harvest, a non-profit that collects excess food from grocery stores and distributes it to people who pay $15 per box.
Each box contains surplus, not spoiled, food; and, for each box sold, an identical box is donated to a food-bank to be distributed to people who can’t afford fresh vegetables and fruit.
Today’s box contained 4 oranges, 2 large carrots, head of cauliflower, 3 avocados, asparagus, onions, 3 pears, kale, and 2 ears of corn. Enough to feed two people for 5 meals or so
My thought is that it could be a good system for old people. Either for $15 or for free through a food bank. Either way, seniors get needed fruits and vegetables close to where they live.
Maybe other parts of the country should try it.