Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, March 22, 1999

Dining in all kinds of places

By MYRON HEUER

Over the years and all over the country, my wife, Betty, and I have patronized many restaurants.

Most were along the interstate highways or in shopping centers. We favor eating establishments that have a theme ­ one that gives you a different atmosphere than a regular restaurant does.

One of our favorites is a chain of restaurants called The Machine Shed. About 10 years ago, we had a meal at the original Machine Shed outside of Davenport, Iowa. Now they are all over the Upper Midwest.

The theme is the farm. Usually there will be a windmill outside and a tractor in the parking lot. The food is served family-style in bowls. The decor is all farm. Farm artifacts and feed signs on the walls. You actually feel like you're on a farm. The only thing missing is the smell of manure.

In eastern Iowa are the Amana colonies with their restaurants carrying a German theme and the food is also served family-style. Whenever we've traveled through the Amana's, we'd stop to eat.

Another theme restaurant of note, near to where we live, is Mel's Diner in Oconomowoc, Wisc. There's also a Mel's in Milwaukee and Skokie, Ill. The theme is from the movie "Alice's Restaurant" and from the TV show of recent years featuring Mel, Alice, and sharp-tongued Flo.

The place is loaded with signs such as, "No, Alice doesn't work here." "Our coffee is hot, not our waitresses." "Sorry, we're open." "For fast service, eat at McDonald's."

The restaurant we visited has life-size plastic statues of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. There's posters advertising "I Love Lucy," and an Elvis concert. Ticket price was an unbelievable couple dollars. An old gas pump stands against the wall.

Trying to be smart, I asked our waitress if she was Flo, expecting her to say something about kissing grits, but she said, "No, my name is Bobby Sue."

I don't know if that's really her name or if she took it from an old song from the past.

All the places mentioned here served us excellent food. It was also nice to spend some time in a different atmosphere.


Be nice to your kids. They'll choose your nursing home.


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