What is the best food you ever found in unexpected places?

I took my daughters to a very nice Cumberland Farms gas station today strictly for the food. It certainly isn’t gourmet fare but it gets the job done for an unbelievably low price. We got a loaded hotdog for me with sauerkraut, two 32 ounce slurpies and two slices of cheese pizza for $4.67.

I am a connoisseur of gas station food around the U.S. Cumberland Farms is one of the most consistent winners but it isn’t the best.

My #1 winner is some large truck stop in Oklahoma with an Indian casino inside of it. I honestly wish I knew how to locate it so that I could give it 5 stars but everything looked the same around there. We ordered three cheeseburgers and were told that we would have to wait because it would take 10 minutes to make them. I wondered what the holdup was because I was expecting just something pre-made hours ago under a lamp.

The cashier explained that they were special cheeseburgers and well-known because they used pickle juice to make them. I was thinking that was complete bullshit until we bit into them. They were among the best cheeseburgers that I have ever had in my entire life. Total cost = $6 and something cents for all of them.

What is your best unexpected food finds? Both value and quality are good answers.

The best falafel I’ve found here in Austin is at a place in the mall food court called Potato Club. I’ve gone to three middle eastern restaurants here in Austin and eaten horrible falafel (one place I didn’t even eat it). I had noticed Potato Club had falafel as well as some other middle eastern food but I thought well how good could that be? Well it’s very good. They even make a pretty plate. (The potatoes are pretty good too for the rare occasion when I’m not in the mood for falafel.)

Indian food in Uganda (unexpected for me, anyway).

French croissants in Bamako, Mali. It was a former French colony, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a French bakery still operating, especially considering that the local food was very iffy.

Recently stumbled across Butch’s Red Mill in Milwaukee. For those of you who know Milwaukee it’s run by the same Butch who used to run the now-closed Butch’s Old Casino. The menu is tiny but the steaks are far better than they should be for the meager price.

There is (was?) a pizza place in Oslo called Papa’s that was fabulous. The crust was croissant-like. It was so different from American pizza, and so damn good.

In Nordeast Minneapolis, there’s a small bar/ polka place called Mayslacks. They serve the best roast beef sandwich I have ever had. Garlicky, juicy, tender. Heaven. My mom and dad used to go there, too, back in the late 50’s.

Years ago, they set up a Korean restaurant in an old Wetson’s fast food place. Somehow, they had remodeled it and got rid of the glass entry, but it looked liked a rundown/abandoned fast food place. The interior, however, had been nicely remodeled and the food was great. Alas, they closed down after a few months. I’m sure their dumpy exterior didn’t help.

*Wetson’s was a hamburger chain, which served the worst friend fries I have ever eaten, and the worst anyone could conceive of.

In SW Minneapolis, a bit north of Uptown I think, there was (maybe still is?) a place called The Leaning Tower of Pizza that served some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, topped with big chunks of homemade Italian sausage. I remember it well because I went there with my dad and brother after seeing Goldfinger in late 1964.

Freakishly delicious Swedish meatballs in a crock pot at a divey strip club in the middle of the valley.

From an earlier thread:


The pizzeria was (very likely) identified on the next page.

Actually, Uganda has (or had, anyway) a very large Indian expatriate community. One of my college friends was of Indian descent but was born in Uganda, and came here with her parents as a refugee in the early 1970s. So no, not surprising to me although I’ve certainly never been there.

Damn good diner food at the Frosty Freeze in Salt Lick KY. Great burgers and chicken sandwiches and all manner of fruit shakes with real fruit. Best diner food evar.

There was another diner in Ravenna KY. The food wasn’t the most outstanding I’d ever eaten, but about 15 years ago my dad and I got a decent meal for both of us for under ten dollars.

I was passing through Sea-Tac Airport once and had time for a meal. I had fish & chips at Anthony’s and the coleslaw had little pieces of fried ginger in it. I’m not usually a massive fan of coleslaw, but that stuff was tasty.

One of my favorite spots.

In St. Augustine, Florida there is a tiny Jamacian restaurant in a strip mall called Taste of Jamaica which is fantastic. I am an ardent fan of Jamaican cooking and this very low key place does it right.

If I have things rightly (I’ve checked with Wiki): in 1972, Uganda’s eccentric (to put it politely) ruler Idi Amin – in office from 1971 to '79 – expelled from Uganda, all the country’s inhabitants of Indian ethnicity – a decidedly ugly business. I’d be interested to learn, Chefguy – did you encounter there, anyone Indian? – now that Mr. Amin is no more, I wonder whether some Indians have returned to Uganda. Or was it local Africans, cooking in Indian style?

The pizza served at the snack bar at the Ellis Island museum and memorial is baked there, and is delicious. It is not the very best pizza in New York, but it is in the top 10.

As a general rule, there are no true bagels outside New York City; however, in Bloomington, IN, there is a coffee house called The Runcible Spoon that makes its own desserts, and they have bagels that are so damn close to New York, it’s unbelievable. They are overpriced, but I’d get nostalgic, and buy them once in a while. My aunt makes her own bagels, but I swear there is something particular about New York, because she doesn’t do anything different, but when she makes them in New York, they turn out much better than when she makes them in Indiana.

I read somewhere it’s the NYC water that makes all the difference. I can believe this, since one of the first things I noticed when I visited there in 1964 was that the tap water tasted different from every other place I’d been to (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia), and I still think so today.

Yes, the NYC water is great, but not as good as it used to be, due to growing amounts of pollution in the upstate reservoirs.

I was in the small French Riviera town of Menton, near the Italian border, and discovered a tiny shop that sold “kouignettes.” I’ve had kouign amann (which are basically the same thing, but bigger), but these little ones were spectacular … just the right balance of buttery and sweet. They came in different flavors, and I bought a couple of each … and ate them 'til I was sick. I even brought some home for my cousins, who are pastry chefs, and the kouignettes got rave reviews.

Yeah. I don’t live too far from it but only went in there once. It’s a lot better than it was under the previous owners. Butch also took over Stevens Steakhouse over in West Allis. But I miss Butch’s Clock Restaurant.

My entry here is the Asian Slaw at Cafe Lulu in Milwaukee. First time I had it I thought it was just col slaw. But it’s scrumptious and goes well with an order of their homemade chips.

How the hell do they make money selling a 10 oz. filet for $18.95? I know cost of living is lower in the Midwest than in my neck of the woods, but I’d expect a meal like that to cost maybe three times that price.