30 Mar

RVFTA Episode #135: Ready, Set, Road Food!

RV Family Travel Atlas Podcast Episode #135:

Ready, Set, Road Food!

On this episode of the RV Family Travel Atlas Podcast, we are checking off a bucket list item and interviewing Micheal Stern, co-author of Road Food: An Eater’s Guide to More than 1,000 of the Best Local Hot Spots and Hidden Gems Across America. The 10th edition of this classic book was just released, and we asked Michael to come on the show and talk about his forty years of traveling around the country and reporting on the best road food joints out there.

We have personally traveled with Road Food in each of our campers since day one, and it has led us to some of the best BBQ joints and lobster shacks in America. If you don’t have a copy yet, we don’t know what you are waiting for.

In Segment One, we chat with Michael Stern about the evolution of food writing over the last forty years. He takes us back to the beginning, when they struggled to get publishers to buy into the idea that readers would be interested in ‘regular’ food.

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03 May

6 Standout Restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina

6 standout restaurants in Charleston SC

We enjoyed one mouth-watering, belly-filling meal after another during our recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina. And we are still in recovery.

I knew before our arrival in the Holy City that we had to taste all the stars of Low Country Cuisine…think shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and Charleston red rice. What I didn’t know was that this region has experienced a food renaissance over the last 30 years, transforming itself into a world class food destination. Depending on which local you ask, you will get a completely different top 10 restaurant list. And they will probably all be equally delicious.

So here is a run down of 6 Standout Restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. To hear more about our whirlwind culinary tour of low country cuisine, listen to the upcoming episode of RV Family Travel Atlas (#87), and look for our article in an upcoming issue of Trailer Life Magazine.

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12 Oct

Recipe of the Week: Julie’s Michigan Sauce

Michigan hotdog

We are huge fans of Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood book, a wonderful collection of American roadside restaurant recommendations. No matter where we are traveling, we always consult the book before we leave to see if there are any gems in the region to which we are heading.

Before we took off for Lake Placid last month, we cracked open Roadfood and found that every Adirondack entry referenced the “Michigans” on the menu.

A Michigan? What’s a Michigan?

So glad you asked.

First things first. A Michigan is not from Michigan. It is a dish unique to upstate New York although different versions with different names are found all over the country. Legend has it that a couple who owned The Michigan Hot Dog Stand in Plattsburgh, New York were trying to recreate the Coney Dog when they first introduced it to their menu.

This is the kind of recipe where everything get thrown in the big pan and then you cook it down for as long as it takes, or as long as you have. Here are the ingredients for Julie’s Michigan Sauce:

  • 2 pounds ground meat
  • 4 cups ketchup
  • 2 chopped onions (some reserved for toppings)
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons vinegar
  • 8 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons Worcester sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard

After browning and draining the meat, add the remaining ingredients and stir until incorporated. Cook at a simmer until the sauce has the consistency of a chili or sloppy joe.

Serve over a hotdog in a bun. Traditionally the hotdogs would be boiled (dirty water dogs!), but grilled ones work just as well and might be preferred by some. Top with chopped onions and extra mustard if desired.

Eat up and go back for seconds.

Thanks to Julie Grundon, manager of the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain for not only making us this yummy dish, but sharing her recipe as well. She was definitely the hostess with the most-ess. 

To learn more about our visit to the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain KOA, read our article here or listen to podcast episode #57: Greetings From Lake Placid.

18 May

Road Food Gone Wrong: An Almost Perfect Day in Awendaw, South Carolina

Our last day in the Myrtle Beach area was perfectly planned. In fact, it was shaping up to be the quintessential RV Family Travel Atlas kind of day, including our favorite types of activities paired with the promise of amazing, local food.

We have a bit of a formula for travel. We start with the great outdoors because our family is always a heck of a lot happier when we have a little room to roam. Then we look for an activity that is truly engaging and interesting to both kids and adults. Finally, we shamelessly beg the locals to recommend the most amazing food joint they know of with outdoor seating. See? There’s the whole outside thing again.

So I had followed these steps precisely and ended up with a pretty exciting day trip itinerary. We were headed south of Myrtle Beach to the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, South Carolina. This Avian Conservation Center does amazing work both in rehabilitating injured birds and in educating the public about native bird populations. They also use a vintage Airstream as an office.  Pretty cool, right?

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I was scheduled to get a private tour of the medical clinic (normally closed to the public) and then we were going to tour the grounds with the director of the facility. The icing on the cake? Our plans for an early dinner at SeeWee Restaurant. The staff at the Center for Birds of Prey told us this was their top pick for local eats. Then, to our delight, we also found it recommended in our travel bible, Jane and Michael Stern’s culinary classic Roadfood. Yup, pretty awesome itinerary.

But then, right after we parked the truck, we encountered the fire ants. More specifically, Max and Wes encountered the fire ants. We told the boys not to go near them then made the mistake of turning our backs for five seconds.  It was our first introduction to this southern phenomenon and there was a lot of screaming and wailing and water bottle dumping. There was outfit changing and a couple of more rounds of general freaking out. Suffice it to say that by the time it was over we had missed out on our window for off-book tour opportunities.

We joined in with the next available tour and it was still nothing short of amazing. Our tour guide, Stephen, had the ability to convince this girl that the vulture is the noblest animal on Earth. He also did a whole lot of owl hooting and gave us more information about Bald Eagles than I have ever heard before. The tour was long, at least an hour, and our six year olds were engaged the entire time.

Then came the real spectacle. The flight demonstration featured falcons, hawks, and vultures and demonstrated the birds’ unique hunting and flying techniques. The six year olds were still enraptured. It was stunning, educational, and inspiring. Wes, our two year old, was the only one not wildly excited.

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We left the Center for Birds of Prey impressed by their facility and praising our boys for their behavior during the two hour program. We had overcome the fire ant hiccup and still had an amazing experience.

Onward to food.

The SeeWee Restaurant should have been the perfect spot for our family to enjoy an early dinner before heading back to Myrtle Beach. The hush puppies arrived immediately, and shortly afterwards a parade of southern standards filled our table with smells and tastes almost too perfect to believe.

Jeremy and I started with oysters and fried green tomatoes, which were among the best we have ever tasted. Then we just had to sample the chicken fried steak for our main course. The macaroni and cheese, butter beans, sweet potatoes, and collard greens were everything you would want from the perfect southern roadside joint.

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Our children, however, were not so perfect. It was one of those meals. The toddler had to be taken outside. There were mid-meal bathroom breaks and under-the-table wrestling events. Food got cold and beer got warm. At a certain point, we cried uncle. Pack everything up, we said. Check please.

The Center for Birds of Prey was perfect. The SeeWee Restaurant was perfect. Our kids? Not so perfect. But that’s okay. They are just little kids, and we take them to a lot of new places to see a lot of new things. Sometimes you can follow all the rules and still lose the match.

Lucky for us, the food tasted just as good later on that night by the campfire. The collard greens were hot, the beer was cold, and the kids were in bed.

Campground heaven.

 

 

24 Apr

RVFTA #32: Camp Food Rules!

Camp Food rules

On Episode #32 of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are dishing on how we manage to feed our crew while traveling over 40 days a year in our RV. Listen to hear our 5 rules for Camp Food!

We love to eat, but planning, preparing, and cooking while on the road with the little guys can be a challenge. We talked about this topic during our presentations for GS Media, and it always started tons of conversations. So on this episode, you’ll discover the camp food rules that we have come up with over the last five years to keep bellies full and bodies healthy.

A sneak peak at the rules…

Eat outside whenever possible.

Eat Outside

Make pancakes breakfast a special occasion, not a regular event.Pancake breakfast

Go ahead…reward the kids for being great travelers.camp store ice cream

We also have a great interview with one of the founders of the Toas-Tite, a product we included in our Spring Gear Guide episode last week. Jan tells us all about the history behind this camp cooking gem, and shares some of her favorite Toas-Tite Recipes.

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Fair warning, you WILL have the munchies after this segment.

And for our recommendation of the week, we are talking about a TV show that keeps Jeremy up late at night, Rollin’ on TV. If you need your fix of RV news and info in between listening to our podcast each week, this is the place to go.

One of the co-hosts of Rollin’ On TV, Evanne Schmarder, is also the awesome camp chef from RV Cooking show who always has great tips for making fresh, delicious dishes in an RV kitchen.

All of this, and so much more on Episode #32 of RV Family Travel Atlas, Camp Food Rules!
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01 Jan

A New Name for a New Year: The Lively Little Campers are now RV Family Travel Atlas!

About five years ago we bought our first RV (a pop up camper) and decided that traveling and camping with our kids was just about the best thing ever. We also started writing a blog about the experience, mostly to humor ourselves and our close friends and family. There was no Facebook page…no social media at all. It was a minor miracle if you stumbled upon us out there on the world wide web.

A little over a year ago we realized that we had a whole lot of content, and there was nothing we loved doing more than RVing and writing about it. So we got a bit serious and actually developed a website, joined in on the social media thing, and went out and landed some freelance writing gigs.

2014 was a big, big year for us. We launched our website in January and by August we had worked with Jayco RVs, Jellystone Camp Resorts, the AmeriGo RV Club, and Kampgrounds of America.

Oh, and then in September we decided we had better start podcasting. RV Family Travel Atlas was born.

We were the Lively Little Campers for four years, and if you know our boys and have been reading our stories then you know that is the perfect euphemism to describe the insane amount of energy and enthusiasm our kids have on any given day. But they are not going to be little for long, and you know what? It’s not all about them anyway. We want to give all families the inspiration and the know-how to have their own amazing RV adventures. We want to encourage all our readers and listeners to get out and discover this great, big, beautiful country.

We want to be your RV Family Travel Atlas.

So thank you for reading and thank you for listening. Thank you for emailing and liking and commenting. Thank you for coming back again and again and letting us know that what we do is useful. There is no greater compliment to us.

Happy New Year from RV Family Travel Atlas and our own Lively Little Campers. Let’s have some great adventures in 2015.

01 Nov

RV Family Travel Atlas: Our Love Affair With Roadfood!

We love food, but with three young kids in tow, eating while traveling can be a challenge. We have learned that roadfood is the secret to successfully enjoying a local food culture. Join us for this week’s episode where we discuss our philosophy of roadfood and the great culinary classic of the same name, by Jane and Michael Stern.

Our campground review this week is actually of two different campgrounds in Swananoa, North Carolina. Mama Gertie’s Hideaway and Asheville East KOA are only a few miles away from each other, and both are great for very different reasons.

All this and more, on Episode 7 of RV Family Travel Atlas!

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13 Aug

A Perfect Day in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

If you have only one day to spend in Crawford Notch State Park, then it can be a pretty tricky feat figuring out what you will do with it. In the course of a five minute conversation with any of the locals, we were told at least seven things that we just could not miss. There are beautiful waterfalls and stunning views galore and, quite frankly, you don’t have to work very hard to enjoy many of them.

So here is our guide to the perfect day in Crawford Notch. Bring a couple of changes of clothes for everyone, because you are going to get wet.

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The Silver Cascade and the Flume Cascade

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These waterfalls are directly off of Route 302, the highway that runs a north/south trajectory through the length of the state park. Start your day off early—before the tour buses arrive—and you might have these falls all to yourself. This was the perfect way to get our boys into the spirit of adventure for the day. There was lots of splashing and rock throwing, but no one was around to mind. Cue first outfit change.

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Hiking Option #1: Elephant Head Trail

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If you are looking for a short, fun hike with rewarding views, this is your best bet. The trail was very rugged, with lots of logs laid over marshy ground. This made it all the more fun for our boys. Nothing like a bunch of balancing beams to garner interest among the youth. Once you emerge out onto the bluff, you will be amazed that this brief climb could have such an amazing payoff. We hung out on Elephant Head for quite awhile, enjoying our snacks and drinks and peering over the ledges.

Hiking Option #2: Arethusa Falls

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This is the harder hike and will require more snacks and at least two hours. We took the Bemis Brook Trail that loops around and connects with the Arethusa Falls Trail.

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This meant lots of wonderful opportunities for wading and getting wet. It also meant a rather steep climb to meet up with the main trail.

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This short detour was very fun and well worth the effort, but be prepared to work a little.

Arethusa Falls is the highest waterfall in New Hampshire, and even though it was a tough hike with young children, we were so thrilled that we made the effort. Be prepared to take off your shoes and watch as your kids get soaking wet. Cue second outfit change.

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Lunch and Play: Appalachian Mountain Highland Center

If any single moment of our travel has reinforced the importance of talking to locals, it was when I asked the young ladies at the AMC Trail Center where we should eat lunch. They enthusiastically pointed us to the cafeteria at the Highland Lodge, an amazing gem you would never find on Yelp. The girls were excited to emphasize two points: there was a playground and one could enjoy a beer. You had me at…well, both of those.

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It is difficult to describe how remarkably beautiful and simultaneously entertaining the Highland Center is. After a delicious lunch of soups, salads, and sandwiches (and yes, a beer), the boys spent hours on what was simply the most creative and enjoyable playground we have ever seen.

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The play space was built to be a sort of adventure training ground, encouraging the children to scramble up rocks and wobble over rope bridges and move lots of logs and rocks from one place to another.

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We have never seen a playground so seamlessly connected to the landscape. And our boys could have played there all day. When we travel, we try to see and experience as many different places as possible. It is a testament to the design of this lodge that we returned on another day for lunch and play. And it was just as hard to leave the second time around.

After all of this adventure, it was time for us to head back to the campground, swim in the pool, and eat dinner. But if you have a bit more spunk left, the locals kept mentioning the free scenic lift rides at Bretton Woods just north of Crawford State Park. I would have loved to do this, but with a 15 month old, it was not in the cards on this trip.

There is always a next time…

 

06 Aug

Casual Eats and Yummy Treats: Road Food in the White Mountains, NH

If you have been following our adventures for awhile now, you know that we love a good road food joint. When you have young children, there is one rule of dining: In and out, and nobody gets hurt.

Since we don’t eat out a ton when we are RVing, it is important to us that the places we do try are truly worth the hassle of braving a restaurant with three young kids. For this reason we always consult Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood and look for some great, casual eats in the area we will be visiting. We also grill the locals and other fellow travelers. There were definitely fewer food options in the region of New Hampshire that we traveled this summer, so we were very excited to find a couple of treasures worth sharing.

Sunny Day Diner, Lincoln

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We visited the Sunny Day Diner for breakfast and it delivered on all of the diner basics: good coffee, great pancakes, crispy hash browns, and a very solid, no frills eggs benedict.

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The service was fast and friendly. This restaurant is located right down the street from Clark’s Trading Post, making it the perfect alternative to theme park fare.

Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, North Woodstock

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We ate at The Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery after a long, rainy drive down the Kancamagus Highway. The warm, inviting restaurant was perfect place to dry off and fill up.

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The brewery offers a great and tasty variety of beers, if that is up your alley. In the food department we recommend sticking to the basic cheeseburger and french onion soup pub fare. If you pick some of the more creative menu offerings, you might be disappointed.

Littleton Diner, Littleton

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Turns out the Littleton Diner is one of those places in New Hampshire where the politicians eat pancakes during the presidential primaries. We can see why. Everything about this restaurant is small town eating, from the friendly and efficient service to the potato chips and pickle slices.

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We all cleared our plates quickly and then had a lovely conversation with the family sitting at a nearby table. That is just the kind of place it is.

Chutters, Littleton

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In case you ever wondered where the longest candy counter in the world was…we have the answer for you. Chutters has 112 feet of glass candy jars that offer a greater variety of gummy animals than we ever thought could exist.

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The boys had a marvelous time filling up their brown candy bags and the price was not prohibitive given the fun experience for the kids. This is the type of thing you can use to get your children through a tough hike…promise them Chutters.

By the end of our trip, it seemed to us that this is what you should expect when you visit New Hampshire: hearty, traditional fare from small town eateries. If you focus on what a place does best, you will never be disappointed…

15 Jul

Cape Cod Family Trip Planner: Beaches, Biking, Baseball, and More!

Planning a trip to Cape Cod? We spent a magical week there this summer and can’t wait to return. Here is our list of suggestions for where to stay, what to eat, and how to have tons of family fun.

Where to Stay

 

Atlantic Oaks RV Park

A great campground at a great price with super-clean facilities. Direct access to the Cape Cod Bike Trail.

Where to Eat and Drink

 

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Get in line early for Cape Cod’s best breakfast splurge. The Glazed Old Fashioned? Yum.

Beanstock Roastery

Buy enough for your whole trip. Then buy some more to bring home. We love the Wellfleet Blend and the Bali Blue Moon Organic.

Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar

Try the hot lobster roll. Please. Bring extra cash for ice cream after lunch.

Friendly Fisherman

Let the kids romp on the playground while you enjoy lobster rolls and crab cakes. BYOB.

MoJo'sP-TownSeafood Shack

The town librarian told us this was the quintessential Provincetown lunch. We couldn’t agree more.

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Perfect for lunch after hiking at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Ask for Janine for your waitress. She’ll recommend the Cape Cod Reuben. Order it.

 

Family Fun

First Encounter Beach

This bay beach is perfect for low-tide exploration. Bring the kites and kayaks for a perfect day on the Cape.

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The five dollar entry fee is the best bargain on Cape Cod. Hike around one of the kettle ponds or just settle in at Flax Pond for a family swim.

Cape Cod National Seashore

The visitor centers alone are full of fun activities and educational resources. Our favorite feature was the Nauset in Eastham Bike Trail that brought you within steps of the beach.

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Our boys are still learning to ride bikes and this was a wonderful way for us to embrace this fun family activity. We can’t wait to return without the training wheels.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife sanctuary

The landscape and trails here are stunningly beautiful. The nature center and educational activities are an added bonus. Make sure you go during low tide so you can enjoy the Boardwalk Trail.

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Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? This one is conveniently located in the National Seashore just north of the popular Coast Guard beach.

Provincetown Public Library

We had to drag our boys out of this library because it was long past lunchtime. It is just simply a beautiful and fun place to spend a few hours.

Baseball League

Nothing beats the crack of a wooden bat. We recommend that you skip the hotdog and buy a cup of clam chowder. Admission is free, but a donation is recommended.

As always, we love to hear from our readers. If you go to Cape Cod, please let us know any other places that you recommend. We can’t wait to add to this list when we return next June!

 

 

03 Jul

A Tale of Three Lobster Rolls in Three Towns: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Every summer when we head into New England, we systematically work our way through the local seafood shacks. This tradition started four summers ago in Maine, where we happened to eat the best lobster roll of our lives at Marriner’s Restaurant in Camden.

Then the quest began. We couldn’t help ourselves. Every lobster roll thereafter has been compared to that exemplar. Many have been delicious, but none have measured up to the memory. At this point we don’t even know if we are being fair. Perhaps our nostalgia has gotten the best of us. Nevertheless, there are worse things than feeling compelled to sample lots of lobster rolls in New England, so I have a feeling the search will continue.

We tried the lobster rolls at three different seafood shacks in Cape Cod last week and all three were delicious. You can’t go wrong at any of these road food joints, but your own favorite will probably depend on personal preference in the age-old ‘perfect lobster roll debate’.

Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, Eastham

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This is the place that comes up again and again when you ask people for recommendations or read about this particular area of Cape Cod. It has a reputation for being the ‘go-to’ place for seafood and for good reason. You can get all of your staples here–clams, scallops, oysters, and lobster. You can also get the standard burger and fries fare for those in your party not keen on the bounty of the sea.

We ordered the hot lobster roll here and it was ridiculously good. There was so much lobster on the bun that I actually questioned (only for a moment) if I would be able to finish it. I liked the mix of claw and body meat, which gave it perfect texture for my taste. Overall, it was a rich and satisfying lobster roll.

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There is an attached ice cream parlor and miniature golf course which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. All food and activities are cash only. Oh, and it was a convenient 500 feet or so from where we were staying at the Atlantic Oaks campground.

The Friendly Fisherman, North Eastham

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While the tourists flock to Arnold’s, it seems that the locals head to The Friendly Fisherman. This seafood shack was recommended to us by local relatives, and then we met a few year-round residents of the Cape while we were eating there. The lobster roll here is overflowing with claw meat and done in the traditional northern New England style, with mayo but none of the other add-ons (celery, etc.). It was another delicious experience that left us simultaneously stuffed…yet considering ordering more.

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The restaurant is BYOB, and there is a liquor shop right next door. We loved the outdoor picnic tables, and the staff was very friendly. The best part? If you have children, you will love the small playground right next to the eating area. Let them play while you finally give in and decide to try the stuffed quahogs with that beer.

Mojo’s, Provincetown

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While we were hanging out in the Provincetown library, a kindly librarian told us where she would eat lunch in town. This happened to be Mojo’s, a seafood shack with picnic tables and seats that look straight out on a beach where it seems a lot of kite flying takes place. Here you will also find a wonderfully surly and simultaneously chatty couple swinging barbs behind the counter for added entertainment.

The lobster roll was excellent, but definitely had less meat on it than the other two we sampled. In all fairness, though, it was notably cheaper. The fish and chips and the fish sandwich were absolutely the scene stealers for all of the boys here, and Max and Theo shared with their father remarkably well.

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I’m going to be honest and admit my favorite item on the menu. The homemade onion chips were perfect and abundant…I was able to pack up leftovers and heat them up later over the campfire. Yum. Yum. Yum.

We know we will be returning to Cape Cod soon, so tell us if there are any other lobster rolls we absolutely must sample. We are always up for a challenge!

Happy eating…

01 Jul

Dear Janine (Lovely, Long-Suffering Waitress at Marconi Beach Restaurant)

Dear Janine,

You probably don’t remember us.

The minute we pulled out of your restaurant, when calm and quiet was once again restored to the Marconi Beach Restaurant in particular and the entire Wellfleet area in general, I’m guessing you willed yourself to forget that staggeringly awful 45 minutes of your life that you simply would never get back at any price. I bet you looked at the long shift ahead and thought, let me just block that particular family out of my mind so I don’t wind up rocking back and forth in the corner of the kitchen muttering strange things about coleslaw.

But just in case you didn’t successfully erase our family dining event from the annals of your waitressing career, I wanted to write you a letter of thanks. I initially thought about writing a note of apology, but then I realized that might focus too much on our atrocious behavior and not enough on your angelic posture and dignity in the face of utter absurdity and chaos.

So Janine, thank you.

Thank you for welcoming our circus into your establishment with a warm smile and kind tone, assuring us that you had the perfect table for our family. Thank you for knowing that the perfect table was next to the kitchen where the clanging and banging of pots and pans might do us the favor of blocking out the intermittent screeching noises that Wes was experimenting with at that moment.

Thank you for bringing Wes an extra box of crayons even though he is clearly far too young to color. You knew they might save all of us from just a few of those screeching sounds. Thank you for not looking at the ground pointedly and with judgmental eyes when he proceeded to hurl those extra crayons on the floor and scream for more. Oh, and thank you for politely looking the other way while my 5 year olds were fighting over a blue crayon…even though there were two in plain sight.

Thank you for offering me–and no one else at the table– a beer, and silently letting me know that you understood how a cool, refreshing sip of heaven would transport me, if only for a second, to a restorative place far, far away from the loud, messy mob at my table.

You see, we don’t usually get ourselves into these predicaments. We take our children out to eat, but only when they are well-rested and have some fighting chance at decent behavior. Yesterday we ran our kids ragged biking and hiking and, oops, it was almost 2 o’clock and no one had eaten or napped. There was your BBQ smoker outside, and the restaurant smelled good and looked cozy. We couldn’t resist.

But I digress.

Thank you for barely blinking when you walked up to the table and found me nursing Wes in the hopes of stopping all of that awful screeching. You didn’t miss a beat when you asked me if I wanted some milk for him, despite the uncomfortable irony.

Thank you for cleaning up the entire cup of milk that one of my older children spilled. Of course, it was bound to happen and you just swooped in with rags and towels and told us it wasn’t your rug and you didn’t care. There was no sighing, no huffing and puffing, not even a sideways eye roll.

Thank you also for recommending the best ever comfort food for our particular situation. You let us know that the Cape Cod Reuben was indeed messy, but completely worth it. Seriously, you recommended the most messy item on the menu to the most messy table in the restaurant. And the sandwich was amazing.

Thank you for being in cahoots with me on getting broccoli onto my children’s plates despite the inconvenience of substitutions and additions. Everything was no big deal to you and you even whispered to me conspiratorially which made me feel really, really normal even under the circumstances.

Thank you for not looking at my husband oddly as he ate his sandwich while fiercely bouncing a baby over the half wall behind our table. We took up far too much space and air and yet you just kept bringing napkins and extra silverware to replace whatever was hurled onto the floor.

When I thanked you at the end of the meal, you told me it was no big deal because you are a mom. Well, Janine, there are plenty of moms out there who would not have the same grace and dignity in the face of our obnoxious lunchtime assault.

The restaurant was cozy and adorable. The food was delicious. But you, Janine, were divine. SImply the best family waitress out there. You made me really happy in spite of my children’s ridiculous antics.

I wish I would say we would be back. Unfortunately I think the only way we can truly repay you is to never return.

We shall see. I think the Cape Cod Reuben will draw us in again. And then you can kindly and graciously find us the perfect table. In someone else’s section.

With Gratitude,

The “Lively” Little Campers