I got an idea for this blog from a new book I saw reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. It is a huge book about the best places to eat in America before it is too late. The authors researched it themselves and said they "just drove and ate" all over America. My kind of vacation! Most of the food, however, is not very nutritious. Just good and gut busting. I have eaten at one of their top 15 places. It is a Clamshack in Ipswich, Massachusetts where we lived while I was going to seminary. You have to have a taste for fried clams to appreciate this place. I never developed one. I looked over the other 14 and decided there was not one worth a special trip. But, I saw a need for another kind of book that highlighted more nutritious choices. What I have in mind is oatmeal which I eat every morning for breakfast. On our last road trip which was this summer, I tried to find the best places for oatmeal every morning. Since I also like good coffee in the morning, the oatmeal place had to serve good coffee, too, if it was to gain a top rating in my book which has only been published in my mind. I know this is a very small niche market, coffee and oatmeal. It may only be me. My wife doesn't even appreciate it! But in the chance there is someone out there....
There are plenty of good places to find good coffee in Kodiak, AK where I live. Unfortunately, the best oatmeal I can find here is the stuff I make: Snoqualmie Falls which I buy way overpriced at Safeway. When we travel I usually load up on it and bring it home in the luggage or I buy some in bulk. I like the kind that is thick cut and has big, substantial, oat flakes with a nutty flavor that keeps its texture when cooked. No mushy, instant type stuff for me. Likewise, I like strong, bold coffee. No cream, no sugar, no nothing, but the coffee. Here in Alaska, I like Kaladi Brothers Red Goat.
So when you travel from here on a road trip, the first town you hit when you get off the ferry is Homer. Homer has some great restaurants and one very good place for oatmeal. It is Duncan House Family Diner in the center of town. Great hearty oatmeal topped with all sorts of great stuff like walnuts, and blueberries. The coffee is just ok. So, if you are traveling north which most people do since it is the only way to go from Homer, you will need a coffee stop about 90 miles north in Soldotna. There is a Kaladi Brothers coffee shop just off the main drag as you pass through town. I think you turn left at the police station and then take your next left when you get to Safeway.
When you get close to Anchorage you may be hungry again and a good place to stop for lunch is in Girdwood at the bakery near Alyeska. The coffee is ok but the cinnamon buns and sandwiches on homemade bread are great. In Anchorage, there is a Kaladi Brothers at New Sagaya Market and it is sold at Snow City Cafe, the best place for oatmeal in the city. They serve a big bowl of thick cut oats with a tray of brown sugar, granola, and raisins alongside. You can order fresh blueberries or a banana on the side. And as I said, they serve Kaladi Brothers coffee. It's a combo that is hard to beat.
On the road north, you can make another coffee stop at the Kaladi Brothers coffee shop in Wasilla just off the main drag in the Safeway parking lot. From there it is a long drive to Fairbanks. In the Denali area there is passable oatmeal at the restaurant at the Creekside Cabins and pretty good coffee. That's a good thing because there is not much else there except tourist places.
In Fairbanks, the best place for oatmeal burned to the ground this past year. The good news is that they are rebuilding. It was the College Restaurant near UAF. So, your best bet is to hit Alaska Coffee Roasters on Geist Road between Pizza Hut and a big MacDonalds. They have the best coffee in town (maybe the state - I need to do some more taste tests) and great breakfast pastries and sandwiches.
If you travel out of state in the Great Northwest, there are no shortages of great coffee places. I have not found too many good oatmeal places though. I can say that Stumptown Roasters serves some great coffee in Portland and several outlets around the area. If you get near the coast make sure you stop at Five Rivers Coffee Roasters in Tillamook, right across from the Cheese Factory. The people who own it are great to talk to, there is great coffee to sample and you can take a fresh roasted pound of coffee home with you. I often order their coffee to enjoy at home (Fogcutters blend is a personal favorite but most people find it too strong, Barbs Blend or Sportsmens Blends are milder). The best place for oatmeal I have found is at the Bobs Red Mill outlet and restaurant in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland. If you want a break from oatmeal, which I even do sometimes, as long as that break includes pancakes with real maple syrup, you can try The House of Hotcakes just over the Ross Island Bridge in Portland. It is a cool place (no atmosphere which really makes for great atmosphere!) with heaping portions of everything breakfast and ok coffee but coffee is not what you go there for!
I plan on continuing to explore the Great Northwest and Alaska for other oatmeal and coffee places as we travel.