A few weeks ago, Meredith and I found ourselves needing a good excuse to leave the house and do some last minute Christmas shopping, so we did what all food-loving Portlanders should and decided to make a brunch date out of it. We already have a number of go-to brunch spots in town, but given that every other experience we’ve had at Central Provisions – from drinks through dessert – has been outstanding, we thought we’d see if the same held true for my own favorite meal of the day, the coveted breakfast-lunch tweener spot. To be honest, it wasn’t even a contest. Warm and gooey skillet cornbread, crispy and savory scrapple, and a ham and cheese slider that absolutely blew my mind helped make our meal one of the best brunches I can remember, moving Central Provisions right to the top of our favorite Portland brunches, alongside Piccolo and a handful of others. Now, it’s only a matter of finding another flimsy excuse to return soon…

Central Provisions



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Palace Diner Tuna Melt

We’re finishing up our Best of 2014 posts with the most challenging to whittle down and write – our favorite food (and drinks!) from our home state of Maine. There are plenty of spots in Portland and beyond that we wish we could include on this list, these are simply the dishes and restaurants that stood out to us and kept us coming back for more in 2014. Of course, we’d love to hear about some of your Maine favorites in the comments below!


Michael: It’s going to take a lot to remove Hunt and Alpine from its seat of Maine cocktail supremacy in my mind,  and when you add the Deviled Smoked Trout to snack on, competitors might as well just throw in the towel.
Meredith: Lately, I’ve been a fan of the Fancy Gin Cocktail – Bread & Butter combination at the downstairs bar at Central Provisions – a prime place for people watching on the corner of Wharf Street.


Michael: The seasonal fall Roast chicken and pureed buttercup squash from Central Provisions is one of the better dishes I can ever recall – we order it every time we’re there and it’s on the menu (and sometimes more than once in a sitting).
Meredith: I’ve never met a rice bowl variation from Long Grain that I didn’t just love.

Small Plate

Michael: I’m going to go ahead and double up on the Central Provisions… try the spicy beef salad, the combination of flavors, spices, and textures is hard to beat.
Meredith: I was introduced to the roasted vegetable cassoulet from Lolita during a shoot for Down East this year and after sampling a bit (job perk number one!) I made it a priority to return to Lolita for one of my very own soon thereafter.


Michael: Mmmm… donuts. The Urban Sugar food truck turns out bite-sized gourmet donuts with an assortment of creative toppings (like their Cap’n Crunch glazed, breakfast cereal variety) that are sure to impress the Homer Simpson in each of us.
Meredith: Four months later, I remember exactly how deliciously decadent the salted butter semifreddo was during our chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland this summer. Crunchy, sweet, amazing.


Michael & Meredith: This one’s a toss-up between our tried and true neighborhood heavyweight, Scratch Baking Co., with its amazing bagels, cookies, and coconut creme cake, and the relative newcomer, Tandem Bakery, where every bite of the savory scones or sweet cinnamon rolls is better than the previous (it doesn’t hurt that they’re paired with the best coffee around).


Michael: Taking the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see  why Palace Diner has caught the attention of so many. Get anything on the menu, it’s all amazing.
Meredith: There’s nothing cozier than ducking inside Piccolo on a chilly day for a tasty, comforting brunch that always includes the zeppoli.


Michael & Meredith: This is one of our precious neighborhood secrets, but for the better part of two years, Scratch Baking Co. has somewhat quietly been producing some of the most consistently creative and delicious sandwiches that we can find anywhere – Maine or not.


Michael and Meredith: We enjoy most any meal outdoors with Orvis by our side, but when the food is truly exceptional, the whole experience certainly stands out. This is why we make a point to visit The Well at Jordan’s Farm multiple times over the summer and early fall. It’s a must in our books – even if you aren’t lucky enough to dine alongside your dog – their farm-fresh ingredients and mastery of simple yet classic dishes makes The Well one of the best meals in Maine.

Food Truck

Michael & Meredith: Even though the truck is up for sale and they’re moving their business into a brick and mortar restaurant next year, the meals we enjoyed truckside from Small Axe – at Congress Square Park (or Tandem Coffee in the early days) – will always be some of our favorites from a food truck.


Michael: “Experience” seems like the perfect descriptor to define our Chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland late this past summer. Between courses and entremets, sixteen delightful dishes came together to create a truly outstanding experience.
Meredith: We dined at Nebo Lodge two nights in a row during our October trip to North Haven and both nights we could haven’t been happier with the flavor and atmosphere. To enjoy such quality food on an island thirteen miles from the mainland is truly exceptional, in my opinion. A meal at Nebo Lodge is well worth adding to your dining bucket lists!

Off the Beaten Path

Michael & Meredith: Brunch at Crissy’s in Damariscotta is part of every single weekend trip we make up to Wiscasset during the winter. We’re big fans of the huevos rancheros, the veggie hash’n’eggs, and the famous blueberry coffee cake, of course.

Overall Meal

Michael & Meredith: Central Provisions might seem like the popular choice for this one, but never before have we, time and time again, had meals where every bite of every dish is its own fantastic experience. It’s that simple.

The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club ME

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Fancy Gin Cocktail Central Provisions

Central Provisions Bread & Butter

Long Grain Camden Maine

Lolita Cassoulet

Vinland Portland, Maine

Lazy Sunday Morning

Palace Diner Breakfast

Palace Diner Biddeford

Zeppoli at Piccolo Maine

Piccolo Brunch Modesto

The Well at Jordan's Farm Cape Elizabeth

The Well at Jordan's Farm

Donuts at The Well


Small Axe Burger

Vinland Portland, Maine

Vinland Portland, Maine

Nebo Lodge North Haven Maine

Crissy's Damariscotta

Central Provisions Tuna

Central Provisions Portland

Central Provisions

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, Down East Magazine, and Central Provisions.

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The Optimist Hush Puppies

Up next in our Best of 2014 are this year’s highlights from the meals and drinks we’ve enjoyed the most while traveling. (Our favorites for our home state of Maine will be up tomorrow.) It’s no easy feat choosing just one favorite from many trips that often revolve around eating, but here are some of this year’s standouts. We clearly enjoyed eating our way through the southeastern US this year, but can you blame us? There’s a lot of good food to be had down there these days. We hope this list helps with your own travel planning for 2015. We’d love to hear some of your favorite food destinations in the comments below!


Michael: Our drinks at the James Beard nominated, poolside craft cocktail bar, The Broken Shaker, certainly lived up to our expectations.
Meredith: I have the vanilla-infused spiced rum, and velvet falernum Sailor’s Delight from The Optimist to thank for my tiki cocktail craze this year.


Michael: We had a wonderful time sampling the Southern farm to table cuisine at Empire State South, but the “In Jars” selection of spreads (pimiento cheese, bacon marmalade, catfish rillette, and more ) was brilliantly delicious and a great way to show our friend from Germany a taste of the south.
Meredith: After polishing off the last one at The Optimist, I found myself wondering why all hushpuppies aren’t served “beignet-style” with cane syrup butter and powdered sugar.


Michael: The decadent braised short rib (with a side of the macaroni au gratin, of course) at Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina was the ultimate way to end a fantastic day spent exploring the city.
Meredith: My friend, Betsy, prepares some of the tastiest scallops I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I’m positive even she would love the scallops at Empire State South just as much as I did this past spring.


Michael: With deliciously creative flavors like Birch + Marshmallows and signature flavors such as The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, we were in heaven at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – so much so, that we may have indulged two nights in a row…
Meredith: The famous ice cream sandwiches at Miller’s Union definitely lived up to the hype.


Michael: What more could one want while vacationing in Vermont than a plate full of blueberry pancakes topped with delicious Vermont maple syrup? The pancakes at Topnotch were so good, I ordered them two days in a row.
Meredith: Our tasty post-hike brunch at the Prairie While this summer was, hands-down, my favorite of our meals in Great Barrington.


Michael & Meredith: One of the many meals we enjoyed while eating our way through Charleston was lunch at Xiao Bao Biscuit. The casual ‘Asian soul food’ restaurant struck us with its bold style and amazing dishes.


Michael & Meredith: Even after visiting three (!) other bakeries in Charleston, we still managed to return to Brown’s Court Bakery three times. Everything – the croissants, the sticky buns, the cinnamon rolls, the charming building, and the friendly staff – made Brown’s Court the perfect bakery experience.

Wine Shop

Michael: Wine Authorities is a comfortable neighborhood wine shop in Raleigh (and Durham) with a very knowledgeable staff and a great selection of estate wines based on an even greater concept – every bottle in the store is less than $50 because “wine should be enjoyed, not collected.” That’s a mission I can easily get behind.
Meredith: In the 30 minutes I spent in Kingston Wine Co., I witnessed a dozen or so people walk through the shop, eager to hear the opinion of co-owner Michael Drapkin about which wine they should select. It became immediately apparent just how much of a community Michael and his wife Theresa have created within their shop, a store that is undoubtedly worthy of planning a trip to Kingston, NY.

Dining with Orvis

Michael & Meredith: The fact that we could eat outside with Orvis at Topnotch during both breakfast and dinner easily secured many future visits to this fantastic dog-friendly resort in Stowe for our little family.


Michael: Food wasn’t the concentration of our time in the Scottish Highlands, but dining in the old stone crofter’s cottage overlooking Loch Dunvegan at the famous Three Chimneys restaurant on Isle of Skye turned out to be one of the more memorable dining experiences of my entire year.
Meredith: It’s hard to beat the combination of fresh fish tacos and a tasty mojito underneath the palm trees at Morada Bay Beach Cafe!


Michael: The food was so good that I ate at The Dogs twice during my relatively short time in Edinburgh (once with my co-workers and once with Meredith), but the unassuming, low-key feeling of this restaurant, tucked away in a loft, with its quirky dog-related art, is one of the reasons I insisted on bringing Meredith here for our single dinner together in Edinburgh.
Meredith: Stepping into The Ordinary is an almost surreal experience. The oyster hall on upper King St. has plenty of classic charm and many leftover details from its history as a bank, including the vault from which the raw bar is now served.

Food Destination

Michael: We ate and ate and ate (and ate some more) in Charleston and there wasn’t a single meal during our entire four days there that didn’t excite us. Since our February trip, even more amazing spots have opened up, making this a food destination to which I cannot wait to return.
Meredith: Tagging along on Michael’s work trip to Atlanta was one of the best decisions I made all year. While he was working during the day, I managed to go from restaurant to restaurant and somehow kept just enough room to enjoy dinner with him each evening. Everything was delicious!

Overall Meal

Michael: Set in a rustic mill quite literally on top of the river, everything about Hen of the Wood seems classically authentic to the locally-sourced and chef-owned mission it’s based around. Each part of my meal, from the heirloom tomatoes, to the bluefish toast, or slow-cooked rabbit was deliciously prepared and carefully presented.
Meredith: As if the multiple mentions on this decently short list weren’t enough of a hint, my dinner at The Optimist was easily one of the more memorable meals of my life, and reason enough for anyone to put Atlanta on their list for 2015.

Broken Shaker Miami Beach

The Optimist Cocktails

Empire state South pimento cheese

Poole's Diner Mac and Cheese

Empire State South Scallops

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Atlanta

Miller Union Ice Cream Sandwich

Prairie Whale Brunch

Topnotch Resort Stowe

Xiao Bao Biscuit Lunch

Xiao Bao Biscuit Charleston

Brown's Court Bakery Charleston

Wine Authorities Raleigh

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Topnotch Resort Stowe

Fish Tacos at Morada Bay Beach Cafe

Morada Bay Beach Cafe

Three Chimneys Isle of Skye

The Three Chimneys Restaurant

The Dogs Edinburgh

The Ordinary Charleston

The Ordinary Charleston

Pimiento Cheese Husk

JCT Kitchen Shrimp & Grits

The Optimist

Hen of the Wood Waterbury

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

While whipping up a batch of pecan Mexican wedding cookies last weekend, Michael and I were both reminded of the holiday treats we’d bake with our grandmothers as children. As kids, we both preferred anything sugary, sprinkled or iced, but this year, our rediscovery of certain nut-based cookies (sometimes with that glorious icing) has us beaming with holiday cheer. As I recounted these holiday baking memories with my mother, she reminded me of a family recipe she loved baking as a young girl with her grandmother – vanilla sticks.

While they may not win any awards for the best looking holiday treats, these chewy almond cookies are so good and dangerously easy to make. The meringue icing adds a sweet crunchiness, and could definitely be used on any number of cookie bases, and the fact that they’re gluten free is just another bonus, making them a fantastic cookie to add to your holiday repertoire if you’re baking for a wide array of friends. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do did!

Vanilla Sticks

1 lb. shelled almonds
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites
1 lb. powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
small handful of flour (gluten-free or all-purpose) for rolling

Grind almonds to a fine consistency using a food processor and set aside. Beat egg whites on high to a stiff froth, about 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla to the egg whites and beat for another 15 minutes on medium-high. Set half of this sugar-egg mixture aside and mix the other half with the ground almonds, rolling out on a flour-powdered sugar mixture. Cut dough into 1″x3″ strips and lay on a greased cookie sheet. Ice each strip with the sugar-egg mixture and bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes.

If you’re really wanting to treat yourself, enjoy these with a holiday milk punch – it’s what we refer to as grown-up milk & cookies! Adulthood, for the win.

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Breakfast at Hotel Fauchere

As Michael and I begin to plan our road trip to North Carolina  for the holiday season, I’m reminded of our last drive down South. Stopping for a night at Hotel Fauchère in Milford, PA, is our preferred way to break up the long journey. It’s a charming, dog-friendly establishment, with a great restaurant downstairs, but if you’ve read any of our posts about the hotel, you already know that the breakfast is easily what we look forward to the most during every stay. On this last trip of ours, we spent the night in Milford on the way down, but tried something entirely new on our return trip. Wanting to get on the road after attending our nephew’s afternoon birthday party, we knew that checking into Hotel Fauchère well after midnight was not the brightest of ideas, so instead, we opted to break up the trip by staying in a roadside hotel in Hagerstown, MD, and then woke up early the next morning to get back on the road in order to make it to our beloved Hotel Fauchère in time for the ultimate road trip breakfast.

We laughed with anticipation as we took the exit toward Milford that morning, eager for the meal to come. The taste of the homemade yogurt was fresh in our minds after the previous week’s stay, and we knew that this little excursion of ours was by no means necessary, but would prove to be more than worth the extra travel time. Having driven a couple of hours to get there, we took Orvis for a walk around town and stretched our legs before we sat down for breakfast on the porch. The staff had a good chuckle to hear that we were back only for breakfast and proceeded to bring us the usual spread – the famous yogurt and granola, a couple of scones, and a pair of brûléed grapefruits. I think it’s fair to say that it’s hard to imagine finding a tastier roadside meal, no?

Afterwards, we took another walk with Orvis and even had a chance to stop by our favorite shop in town, Upriver Home. When we returned to the car, it felt like we were just starting our drive for the day – an invaluable feeling for such a long trip, even if it was far from true. Stopping at a lovely inn for a leisurely breakfast is hardly something most people think to treat themselves to, but we found it to be a worthy excursion, not only for our stomachs, but also for our minds.

Has anyone ever done something similar? We’d love to hear any road trip rituals or ideas on how you all break up long drives in the comments below! Also, in case anyone is wondering, we almost always book our stays at Hotel Fauchère through Jetsetter, as it tends to come up for sale on the travel flash sale site every few months. Keep an eye on Jetsetter and similar sites, they have proven to be such valuable travel resources for us!

Hotel Fauchere Porch

Hotel Fauchere Breakfast

Dog Friendly Hotel Fauchere

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Petite Jacqueline Happy Hour

Before we officially welcome fall, we just couldn’t let summer go by without one last nod to our love for rosé season with our second Drinks with Orvis post.

During one of the warmest weeks this summer, we cut out of work a little early to go enjoy a drink on one of our favorite outdoor patios in Portland – Petite Jacqueline. We love taking Orvis along to meals in Longfellow Square – he’s happy as can be people watching in the square… that is until our food comes and he starts begging.

As it turns out, hot temperatures don’t stand a chance against a carafe of rosé and a tasty cheese plate on a shaded patio in the summer, and the fact that Orvis was there alongside us made the afternoon even better!

Tell us, where do you like to drink/eat with your pup? We’d love suggestions for any city!

Petite Jacqueline Portland Maine

Drinks with Orvis

Petite Jacqueline Maine

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Kingston Wine Co. NY

It’s safe to say that just about whenever we’re traveling to a new area, I always try and pop in the local wine shop. I love seeing which wines catch the attention of various shop owners around the country and am always excited to try a new bottle (or four.) Of all the random wine shops I’ve visited on our travels, however, I’ve only really ever sought out one as a destination – Kingston Wine Co.

While driving north from New York City a few weeks ago to visit my friends in Hudson, I decided a stop in Kingston was an absolute must. I’d read about Kingston Wine Co. on the Ann Street Studio blog awhile back, and had always mentally bookmarked it as a place to visit on one of our trips to Hudson. The opening of our friends’ shop seemed like the perfect excuse for me to finally stop in and pick up a celebratory bottle!

Michael, who owns the shop with his wife, Theresa, a talented artist, was delightfully helpful. After listening to me describe our friends, their personalities, and their all-natural perfumery, he hand-selected a bottle of wine (from a case in the back) that he thought would be perfect for them. Michael was right, of course – a text last week from them let me know how much they enjoyed the wine as a part of their birthday celebration.

The bottles I grabbed for my Michael and I to enjoy at home were chosen thanks to the well-branded Kingston Wine Co. recommended tags. How could one ignore suggestions like “Sancerre + Goat Cheese + Baguette = Perfection?”

In the 30 minutes I spent in the shop, I saw a dozen or so people walk inside, all of whom were just as pleased to be chatting with Michael or selecting their own special bottle of wine. It became immediately apparent just how much of a community Michael and Theresa have created within Kingston Wine Co., a shop that is without a doubt worthy of planning your own detour to Kingston the next time you’re in the area.

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Kingston Wine Co. NY

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

There are few things that Meredith and I love more than a delicious cocktail and our best buddy, Orvis. So naturally, now that our favorite bar in town, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, has added a little bit of outdoor seating on Market Street, it only makes sense to take Orvis along for our happy hour treats! On our most recent visit, we tried the pretzels and a couple open-faced sandwiches in addition to our normal deviled egg noshing order, and combined with a few tasty cocktails (and a bowl of water for Orvis), spent a perfect afternoon soaking up summer in the Old Port.

And if you missed it last week, it’s worth nothing that Bon Appetit selected Hunt + Alpine as one of their top five new bars in the country, complete with a photo of Meredith’s in the September issue. We clearly couldn’t agree with this assessment anymore!

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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The Three Chimneys Skye

Unlike many trips Michael and I take, our time in the Scottish Highlands didn’t quite revolve around food. Trying restaurants that we’ve read about is a huge part of the way we travel (see February’s trip to Charleston), but with Scotland we were more focused on experiencing the natural beauty and sights of the countryside. Outside of our meals in Edinburgh, many of the pubs or restaurants we happened upon were nothing extraordinary, which, combined with the plethora or gorgeous public areas, actually inspired us to have a few more picnic meals than we usually do. All of that being said, there was one meal, however, on Skye that we were really looking forward to – our lunch at The Three Chimneys.

We’d read about The Three Chimneys in both our Where Chefs Eat book and our copy of the NY Times 36 Hours in Europe, and after our deliciously memorable lunch there, we can easily see why the restaurant is consistently named by many esteemed food writers and respected publications as one of the world’s best restaurants. The setting – an old stone crofter’s cottage overlooking Loch Dunvegan – is idyllic, and the food – sourced primarily from the island and the surrounding Highlands – is nothing short of excellent.

The three course lunch menu allowed us to sample a variety of the restaurant’s modern Scottish fare. Michael opted to start with the Ham & Haddie Terrine with cucumber, apple, sorrel, and herring roe, while I began with the Russian Salad with roasted candy beetroot, asparagus, mustard leaf, and seeded praline. Up next – the Blade and Tongue of Black Isle Beef with puy lentils, celeriac remoulade, ramsons, and pickles for Michael, and the River Esk Sea Trout with anna potato, peas, radish leaf, and choron sauce. Our meal could have concluded here and we would have left the restaurant more than delighted, but thankfully we still had dessert! We shared bites of both the famed Hot Marmalade Pudding with Drambuie custard and the Dark Chocolate & Stem Ginger Ganache with malt ice cream. As we finished the final bites of our dessert course, we grinned in simultaneous conclusion that this truly was one of those once in a lifetime meals – one that we surely won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Three Chimneys Skye

Three Chimneys Isle of Skye

The Three Chimneys Restaurant Sk

The Three Chimneys Lunch

River Esk Sea Trout Three Chimneys

The Three Chimneys Restaurant

The Three Chimneys Restaurant Isle of Skye

Three Chimneys Marmalade Pudding

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Blue Pig Croton on the Hudson

I was tickled to get to share one of my favorite ice cream shops, The Blue Pig, with my mother on our way back from New York City last week. Just like Michael and I did on our last trip down to NY, we stopped at The Blue Pig for a bite to eat after picking up our car at the nearby Croton Harmon train station. (Fellow New Englanders, this is our preferred way to get into the city – the drive is easy, the train ride is relaxing, and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted is literally right on the way to the train station. A win-win, if you ask me.)

After debating the dozens of flavors that all sounded delicious, we each settled on a cup of Butterfinger Coconut, which was just as tasty and creamy as last summer’s Rooftop Strawberry! For me, the highlight of our quick stop at The Blue Pig was just noting how comfortable it felt to return almost a year after our last visit. There was this delightful sense of familiarity upon walking through the door – similar to the feeling that Michael and I get when checking into our dear Hotel Fauchere on our frequent road trips to North Carolina. There’s something so satisfying about reacquainting oneself with a familiar place while traveling – whether it’s a special restaurant, a beloved inn, or a favorite pastime – there’s just something wonderful about the comfort of returning to a place and reliving past memories.

Leaving The Blue Pig, I was again reminded of how thankful Michael and I are to write this blog, mainly because it has introduced us to some of the most amazing businesses, experiences, and people, and we truly look forward to sharing them all with you. We’re curious – are there any spots you like to revisit while traveling? A friend of mine always stops at the exact same diner on the way home from visiting her family. It started as a way to break up the long drive, but now they cannot imagine making the trip without stopping. I love it!

Blue Pig Ice Cream

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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