Old Mesilla Village

Just on the other side of I-10 in Las Cruces lies Old Mesilla Village.  The village was incorporated in 1848, after the US/Mexico border was moved farther south, due to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  It suffered frequent attacks from the Apache, served as the Confederacy capitol of Arizona during the Civil War  and frequently had visits from Wild West legends like Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa.

Even though it is part of the larger Las Cruces area, it retains its small village heritage.

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On every street corner surrounding the central plaza, historical markers dot the walls.

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The shopping is wonderful.  You can find everything from woven serapes and ponchos to handcrafted jewelry and everything in between.  And after all that shopping, you’re going to want to stop at one of the many great restaurants in the area.

We opted to have lunch at the Double Eagle Restaurant.  It was suggested by our AirBnB hosts, Todd and Beth.  I’m glad we took their suggestion, because it was delicious.

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Situated in a former Spanish governor’s residence, we were seated in the courtyard, next to a bubbling fountain and surrounded by potted palms and ferns.

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The colorful chairs and tables, with the sun filtering down in the air-conditioned restaurant, gave it a very cozy feel.  We took several minutes to debate on what we would have.  Mom decided to go with the burrito, in keeping with the Mexican flare, along with their house margarita.

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Due to my food allergies, I opted to have a Benedryl with a side of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.  Both of our meals were so big, we had to doggy bag it.  I’ll admit, that doesn’t make me unhappy, because everything was delicious.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we stopped to listen to the bells of the parish church of San Albino.

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All in all, a wonderful place to visit for some local shopping and dining.  I’d put it on your definite don’t miss list when you’re in Las Cruces.

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Rudy’s Country Store BBQ

This afternoon, we were introduced to Texas BBQ by one of Mom’s childhood friends who lives in San Antonio, Janet Kinnunen.

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She picked us up from our hotel and drove us to just outside of San Antonio to the original Rudy’s Country Store BBQ in Leon Springs.

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If this is the worst barbecue that Texas has to offer, then the rest must be awesome, because it was delicious.  The parking lot was full in front, so we had to park in the empty lot next door to get in line.  It reminded Mom of the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, having to be quick with your order.  They gave us samples of the cream corn that had us all drooling.  It was amazing.  You get your sides then your meat and are offered slices of white bread.

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Seating can be either inside or outside.  We opted for in the air conditioning.  There are large cartons of salt and pepper and large bottles of their signature barbecue sauces (or sauses, per their advertising).  Your plate is a sheet of wax paper and you get little paper bowls for use for the sides when sharing.  The brisket, turkey and sausage were flavorful and of course, the cream corn so good!

Mom and Ms. Kinnunen told stories of their childhood and caught up on life while I tucked away quite a bit of the food.

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It was a fun, delicious time to be had by all, and we’ll definitely be looking to have it again next time we’re in Texas.

The Ohio Club

For lunch today, Mom and I headed down the road into the heart of Hot Springs to try out the burgers at the Ohio Club.  These were recommended by one of the staff at our hotel as a can’t miss.  Who are we to argue with the locals?

One thing that I really commend Hot Springs for is the free public parking facility in downtown.  The location is central to the shops and Bath House Row.  The shops on Central Avenue are eclectic and welcoming.  It was fun just strolling down the street, looking in the windows.  What we didn’t expect to find was a small park between two buildings.

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The Kenneth Adair Memorial Park is a quiet oasis in the middle of this shopping and historic district.  It has a little stage area and benches and a waterfall feature that gives it a soothing feeling.

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We took a few minutes to enjoy the tranquility before moving off down the street in search of lunch.

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Upon entering The Ohio Club, we found ourselves in a cozy restaurant/bar with a 1930’s feel.

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We were quickly greeted by our server and allowed to choose where we wanted to sit.  Once again, Arkansas’ citizens proved to be some of the friendliest we’ve ever encountered.  After asking our server for her recommendations on beverages, Mom decided to try the house beer, known as Madden’s own, named after former gangster Owney Madden.  They brew it right across the street in an old bathhouse, using water from the hot springs.

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We put in our orders soon after our drinks arrived.  When I ordered the “Big Al” burger, I mentioned that I’m allergic to onions.  Our server got real serious then, asking a few more questions before going into the back to talk to the chef.

Now, in our time on the road, I’ve noticed that, at restaurants, I get two different reactions to my onion allergy.  Either I get a shrug and, if I’m lucky, they keep from giving me raw or fried onions, but don’t check to see if there is cross contamination.  Or, I get someone who is serious about making sure I can enjoy my meal.  This time, it went beyond that.

The chef came out and informed me that the meat is pre-seasoned and fries and onion rings cooked in the same fryer.  I couldn’t touch any hamburger and they couldn’t guarantee I’d be safe with chicken either.  But, they could make me a grilled cheese and a side salad, which they checked the dressing to make sure it was safe.  Now, normally I’d be bummed not to get my hands on a burger, but my grilled cheese was pretty darn awesome.

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Mom, of course, doesn’t have this issue, so she enjoyed a patty melt with grilled onions and a fry/onion ring side.

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My grilled cheese was cooked to perfection.  The combination of cheddar and swiss on rye, pulled apart with ooey, gooey strings of cheese.  Just the right amount of butter on the bread and the side salad was fresh with blue cheese dressing.  The chef said it was on their ‘secret menu’, but I think it should be on the regular one.  It was delicious.

If you’re in the Hot Springs area, I’d definitely check out The Ohio Club.  Between delicious food, great microbrewery beer and in the evenings, live music, it is a great place to go back in time and have a great meal.

Delightful Downtown Dunedin

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Today, Mom and I decided to enjoy some time in downtown Dunedin.  Originally settled in 1852, the name Dunedin is from the Scots Gaelic for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann.  It is pronounced ‘Done Eden’.  There is a heavy note of Scottish pride in this Florida town.  Just last weekend, the Pipe Band (Bagpipes) of Dunedin took 4th place in the world in the World Pipe Band Championship.  There’s even a few kilt shops in town.

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Dunedin is often listed in the top 10 small towns in Florida to visit.  It is the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays.  And being situated just north of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, its the perfect place to call a home base when in the area.

Running right down the middle of town is the Pinellas Trail, a 38 mile biking and walking trail that runs from Tarpon Springs to the north all the way down to St. Petersburg, on the tip of the Pinellas peninsula.  There’s any number of things to do in this delightfully off-beat town.

Since we were in the area, we opted to have lunch at Casa Tina’s, an authentic Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown.

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On our way in, the sandwich board outside caught Mom’s eye.

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As some of you may know, I have an allergy to all things onion.  So you may be asking yourself, “Shiloh, what in the world could you eat in a Mexican restaurant except for the tortilla chips?”  The answer is a cheeseburger.

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I know that might seem sacrilegious to some people, but when you have food allergies, you have to be flexible.  But do not worry, since Mom more than made up for my food issues with her lunch.

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Casa Tina’s is family owned and operated, run by a husband and wife team of Javier and Tina (hence the name).  Even their kids have worked there.  The daughter has been known to perform on the silks in the dining room on the weekends.  The decor is based around the skeletons and sugar skulls that are associated with Dias de los Muertos.  The food is made fresh daily and is delicious.  Everyone is always friendly and accommodating and we’ve yet to have a bad meal there.

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After lunch, Mom decided she wanted to do a little shopping.  As you might guess, she did partake of the margarita special.

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Lunch on the Rainbow River

After taking a ride around the area, Mom and I decided to stop at the restaurant our AirBnB’s host, Jim, recommended to us when we arrived.  Swampy’s Bar and Grille is situated right on the bank of the Rainbow River in downtown Dunnellon, Florida.

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We opted for the outside seating next to the river.  And what a view we had.

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The water is so clear, you could see the bottom.  What looks like silt in this picture is actually the clear bottom of the river.  The way Swampy’s is situated, pontoon boats, kayaks and paddleboards can pull up to the dock, tie up, and get out to have some tasty food.

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Since we’re on the river, we had to have something water related, so Mom had the fish and chips while I went with their surf and turf.  Mom’s fish was lightly battered and flaky.  She said it was delicious.  My steak was seasoned with blackening seasoning and my shrimp were grilled and both had wonderful flavor and the steak was nice and moist.

As we were eating, we watched several boats go by, though with the first one we were nervous, since there is a bridge over the water next to the restaurant.

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We’re happy to report it is high enough for the boaters to get through easily.  And even though we were right next to the road, it was peaceful enough to have a conversation.  The waitstaff was quick and efficient.  I never had to wait around for my iced tea to be refilled because as soon as I was close to the bottom of my glass, a new tea appeared.  This is a great little restaurant, with good food, good atmosphere and great views.  I would recommend this place to anyone.