So much of our traveling lives are spent eating. Think about the really memorable occasions and places that stand out in your mind – I bet many revolve around meals.

We eat with friends, we make friends while we eat, and we remember those great meals.

Some time ago my daughter and I did a 4 day backcountry hike with a couple that we sort of knew.  We all still remember eating dehydrated blueberries and sharing the same spoon as a way to commemorate our epic 4 day hike and friendship  on the last evening.

I fondly recall a little hole in the wall place in Charleston, SC on the Tailrace canal; you walk in and they give you sweet tea, hush puppies, and fried catfish. No choices on the menu; no menu. If you go there, you are there for hush puppies and catfish.

ys-cdt1There is one restaurant that really sticks in my mind.  I’ve had my share of high-class, five star restaurants, and they’re just not me.  I drive a Roadtrek because I seek out of the way places; anyone can get to 5 star French cuisine by flagging down a cab.  I prefer the places where the taxis don’t go, places that taxis don’t even know exist.

Silver Lake, OR is a small unincorporated settlement in the Oregon high desert.  It sits where a giant lake used to be, a lake that dried up some 7,000 years ago.  The native Americans used to fish out there before the lake dried up.

Later, much later, when the white settlers came, they used to drive cattle through the area.  They would arrange to meet at a particular tree for dinner, and thus the Cowboy Dinner Tree started.

ys-cdt2Today, the Cowboy Dinner Tree is a throwback to the old days; the restaurant itself is a ramshackle collection of shacks in the desert.  It’s 4 miles off the highway, down a side road.  A faded dusty sign points the way.

ys-cdt3The restaurant itself is in a little depression and it’s barely visible off the road.  Once inside, the decor is definitely hillbilly chic – except in this case, it’s real.  The current owners are the third generation, and most of the decor is stuff that came from the local farms.  The building is built of pine logs and left over planks.

The flatware is cheap, the plates chipped and mismatched.  The glasses are mason jars.  The menu has two items: Chicken and Steak.  That’s it.  You tell them what you want when you make the reservations.  Oh yeah – you have to make reservations or you don’t get in.

ys-cdt5And they’re serious when they say “chicken” – the dinner is an entire chicken.  Not a portion, not half, not a drumstick, no “white or dark meat”, but the entire chicken.

The steak is a bit more modest in that it is not an entire cow; it falls just short of that.  But it’s still a honking big chunk of beef, cooked to perfection.

You get bread, beans, ice tea, with your giant chunk of meat.

All in all, a dinner you won’t forget.  And a place you don’t find downtown, and a taxi won’t get you there.

What memorable places have you found?