I-90. This highway starts in Boston, Massachusetts, and ends all the way across the country at Seattle, Washington. It’s one of the few highways I know of that goes straight across the country without turning into another interstate. And I had the great pleasure of driving almost the entire of this long, long stretch of road just recently.
I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this part of my trip. To be honest, I probably put more effort into getting it over with than anything else. Which is probably a shame. I probably missed some cool thing, I admit. Like the Kalahari Indoor Theme park, which had a giant lit up ferris wheel I saw as I drove by at 9 o’clock at night.
Or even Rapid City, SD, and Mount Rushmore. Yeah, of course I should probably have stopped and gone seen this testament to human ingenuity. After three days of driving in arid July weather, the last thing I wanted to do was detour. No, I was determined to keep on truckin’ on!
In all of the hundreds, thousands of miles of black tar pavement and striped yellow lines, there is one place that stands out vividly above all the rest on this road trip of mine, one place that took my breath away the minute it came into view as I came down I-90. Coeur D’alane, Idaho.
I swear, there is this one curve around the Rocky mountains where you go from seeing nothing to BAM!, beautiful lake, sparkling in the noon day sun, with a little port city sitting at the base of this mountain valley. It was the definition of picturesque. Of course, the one time you *want* a scenic overview, there is none to be had. Obviously.
Split second, I made my mind up. I had to explore this city, even if it was only to stop for lunch. So I turn off at the Sherman Avenue exit, the main street of the city, hoping that maybe it will take me down to the lake side without too much trouble.
About two or three miles down, I see a sign that instantly catches my eye.
Sweeet. This place looks AWESOME. Ok, I got drawn in by the motif, but hey, how else do you catch some ones eye? Well, appearances aren’t everything, ’cause when find a parking spot and meander over to the restaurant, I see they have a menu up on the the door, and sadly, this is not my kind of place. :-\
Now I’m dejected… and hungry. What to do, what to doooo.. Oh well, this was right across the street.
Small town, all american diner, and I still have a couple hours of lunch service left? Sold! So I hop, skip and jump across the street. Now may be a good time to mention that I am a big fan of the Travel channel (maybe that should be obvious) and the Food Network and particularly shows like Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover or Adam Richman’s Mad Vs. Food.
So I step inside, and of course, it’s a great, iconic pitstop diner, with license plates and art like the set of American Graffiti on the walls. it’s also packed, so I sit at the bar.
I get greeted by the owner himself, in his sharp polo shirt, and with a smile seated at the counter where my waitress greets me with a smile, despite being run ragged. She takes my order, and we chat about the crowd, and with a wink and a squeak of her sneakers she’s off again. I like her already Definitely getting a big tip.
Now, I wait. Through the port window, I could see at least two line cooks, aprons and all, smiling and chatting with the line of waitresses that kept hustling back and forth, hands never stopping. Behind me, I hear two guys talking to each other, one mentioning how they recently saw this joint featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Wha?! I looked up on the wall, and sure enough:
There it is, signed pictures of Guy Fieri with guests, waitresses, and the owners themselves. Holy cow! You know, you watch these shows, see that the food looks pretty decent, and say, “Yeah, hey if I’m ever in the area, I should totally check that place out.” But of course you forget, or don’t plan ahead, and never really do. What are the chances, astronomical I’m sure, that I would randomly pick this place for lunch! It’s crazy.
And of course, it goes without saying that the food was crazy good. I didn’t get one of their HUMONGOUS southern pecan rolls, cause I was on a budget, but oh man, was it close.
Well, that’s my story about Coeur D’alene and my accidental brush with culinary fame. Of all the places on I-90, I can say for sure that this is one stop I will be hitting again.
Image sources: jimmysdownthestreet.com; media.spokesman.com; www.idahobyways.gov