Located in a city at the east most point of the thumb knuckle of the mitten-shaped state of Michigan, Port Huron, at the mouth of Lake Huron, Palm’s Krystal Bar Restaurant is the only remaining restaurant in the country to serve “Chicken in the Rough,” one of the very first franchised fast foods, appearing as a business possibility even before McDonald’s did. The recipe remains as secret as the Colonel’s, but many – including visitors from nearby Canada who to flock the restaurant after a hard day of shopping – say the broasted-style fried chicken served here is truly one of a kind, and much better than you’ll find anywhere else. The shoestring French fries it comes with match it perfectly, and are complimented by a dinner roll and a packet of honey, which many pour on the fries for a sweet and salty treat. And the Canadians who flock here do so even though the only other two restaurants in the world still selling Chicken in the Rough are in Sarnia, Ontario Canada, the city at the other end of the Blue Water Bridge, an international border crossing that connects Port Huron with Canada.
Palms Krystal Bar itself is interesting too, and features an art-deco interior in the older part of the building, which probably hasn’t changed much since the restaurant’s opening in 1936. The bar is in the older portion, with a more modern minimalist dining room attached.
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The Chicago area, as you might expect, has more than its fair share of hole in the wall restaurants, many getting high marks with those in the know. One that gets its fair share of rave reviews is Cheesie’s Pub & Grub in Evanston, Illinois. Though you might guess Cheesie is the owner, you’d be wrong, the cheesie here is all in sandwich form, in just about as many styles as you can imagine. If you want a grilled cheese sandwich, this is the place to go. If you want macaroni and cheese, on its own or as a sandwich, this is the place to go. If you want – insert pretty much any meat here – and cheese on the perfect bread for them, this is the place to go. If you simply want unique cheesy tater tots, this is the place to go. If you like all kinds of cheese used in delicious cheese sandwiches, this is the place to go.
Note: If you are lactose intolerant, or don’t like cheese, this is not the place to go.
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Never hesitate to take a break from burgers, sandwiches, ribs, and other more American offerings, and never hesitate to try out the Korean food at St. Louis’ U-City Grill. Located in the Delmar Loop, U-City offers authentic Korean fare in a speedy, on-the-go atmosphere with no frills attached. It’s run as a one-man operation, with the guy who takes your order then cooking it, and serving to you at the counter. Their menu is limited; in the morning, it’s meat, eggs and potato-heavy, and once lunch time hits it’s burgers and greasy-spoon basics, with Korean all the time. And who doesn’t want a fried egg to go with an order of bibimbap, a Korean dish of vegetables and rice? Be sure to try the bulgoki, a delicious dish of marinated beef served over vegetables and rice. Or have a BLT, if you like to live a conservative food life, either way, you’ll enjoy the place.
Dix’s Coney Island in Denton, Texas may not fit the “traditional” image of a hole-the-wall restaurant, in that it’s easy to find, and Coney Island restaurants, and restaurants serving similar family-ish menus in themselves aren’t especially rare. But, for a person from Michigan, it’s an oasis in the wall kind of place that’s open 24 hours. That’s largely because what is considered a “Coney Dog” or a chili dog in Michigan is different from what’s common in other states, mostly because of the style of thick, meaty chili topping used in Michigan. There are no beans, there are no vegetables, and the sauce is there only to provide a way to keep the meat tightly swimming together. Just a crisp, all-beef hotdog with snap when you bite into it, onions, mustard, and Detroit-style chili. On paper, that might not sound like much. But to a stray Michigander, it’s a one-of-a-kind treat from home rarely seen outside of the mitten state, served by owners and employees who hail from Dearborn, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.
Next time you’re cruising down Route 66 in your convertible corvette, don’t just park and stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, find the Brown Mug Café, instead. Beloved by the locals, it’s the kind of place that proudly mentions that Harrison Ford once ate there, while serving everyone else the same great things with just as much pride, even if they’re less star-struck by the regulars. Stepping inside, you’ll find it to look much the same as it did when the place opened around 1958, although the family that opened it and has passed it through a few generations has lost track of when they officially opened. Besides long-standing décor and a feel that is somewhere between stuck in time and timeless at this point, inside also features exceptionally good food, including enchiladas, burros, Navaho nachos, and sopapillas, along with a collection of other of Mexican and Native American favorites sure to please anyone, and likely to offer a few new things they haven’t tried before.
It might sound like Las Vegas is a place where nothing would be a hole in the wall, but it’s easy for a place to get overlooked in a neon-lit world full of high rollers, dreamers, strip bars, booze, and gambling everywhere. But there, along the Las Vegas strip – and strip is the word, Diamond Cabaret is next door, and the Spearmint Rhino is right down the street – is Rollin Smoke Barbeque, offering up Southern-style dry-rubbed meaty goodness slow cooked over hickory. Whether your mouth waters over the house specialty beef ribs, the unique smoked meatloaf, or pig meat and chicken are your thing, you will leave satisfied and wanting to come back again. And they serve soul food, too. No booze is served here, but since it’s Las Vegas, you can stroll in with a cup of beer or wine in hand and enjoy it with your meal.
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You might not think of Canter’s as a hole in the wall, with the bright signage and the location in the Los Angeles area, but it really is, in its own way. It’s still small, it’s certainly unique, and even if a bit better known, it easily gets forgotten among the glitzier, more glamorous, and more trendy places people are always on top of, and that are on top of people’s minds. But Canter’s has been around much longer – since 1931 – than most currently talked about places will ever be. It features what Canter’s bills as a “true Jewish deli experience,” and offers up a host of deli sandwiches heaped with meats and other ingredients that end up making the sandwiches almost too big for most mouths to handle, and matzo ball soup is on the menu, too. The breads are fresh baked, the pickles are made on-site, and eating such deliciousness is available 24 hours a day in the dining room, which is has a look that evokes the 1950s and today’s modern design combined in a setting of laid back frenzy. In true Jewish deli-fashion, there are even sandwiches named after movie stars, like Marilyn Monroe and Danny Kaye.
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