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 11 Places of 2011: beautiful, unusual, unlikely, and otherwise interesting eateries

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Michael Stern

11 Places of 2011: beautiful, unusual, unlikely, and otherwise interesting eateries Wed, 12/28/11 8:38 AM (permalink)
In recent days, I've reported on favorite dishes and some favorite people encountered while hunting things to eat in the last year. Here are 11 places from 2011 that are etched in memory not only for their food, but for their location, their good looks (or extreme lack thereof), or other Roadfoodly charms.
How I managed to not know about Lobster Landing in Clinton, Connecticut, for so long is vexing. I knew I was going to like it at first sight when I visited in October ... and its hot lobster roll did not let me down:

Lobster Landing shows that in the Roadfood world, dilapidation often is a sign of good eats. There are few better examples than Bolton's of Nashville:

On the other hand, frilly and pretty can be good, as I found at a cute little cupcake bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan, named Cake Nouveau:

Sometimes, lack of charm is charming in and of itself. Take Darrell's Place of Hamlin, Iowa. No, it is not a farm utility shed! It is a restaurant that happens to serve one of the best tenderloins in the state:

Then there is the high style of the California coffee shop, exemplified by Pann's of Los Angeles:

As history-minded travelers, we could not resist visiting the Chocolate House in England's Lake District, located in a 17th century stone building. Up a very narrow flight of stairs in the extremely cozy tea room, we feasted on ginger cherry brownies and drank what's known as a Highwayman, which is caramel-based hot chocolate finished with cream and burnt sugar nibs:

Talk about tight quarters, Medieval England has nothing on Chicago's Donut Vault, the entire interior of which is visible here:

While at the Minnesota Fair, I revisited one of my long-time favorite extremely-cramped restaurants, Al's of Dinkytown:

Although the Lakeside Diner of Stamford, Connecticut, is, like Al's, a real diner with real diner prices, it offers windowside donut-lovers a million-dollar view:

But our favorite location of the year has to be that of The Red Barn cafe in Exira, Iowa, in the shadow of heartland grain elevators:

I end my ode with a tip of the hat to a landmark restaurant that closed in 2011, the wild-and-crazy Super Sunday biker hangout (and home of really good roast turkey sandwiches, hot and cold), Marcus Dairy Bar of Danbury, Connecticut. This photo was taken on Marcus's last day, February 6, 2011. The place was packed.

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