About the Cafe Review Scores

Working with limited resources and a broad clientele, small town cafes may not always have five-star chefs or the latest gourmet dishes, but they will often have world-class pancakes, burgers and (of course) pie.

Enjoyment is about knowing 'what' to order as much as 'where' to order it. Anybody who orders the 'Seafood Special' from a place located five hundred miles from the nearest ocean and an hours drive from the nearest major shipping route deserves what will likely happen to them.

The FOOD grade is the overall quality of the food itself compared to similar small town cafes serving similar types of dishes.

AExcellent food in all respects. The food here would stand out even among the better restaurants of the large cities. Try to eat here if you can... this is the sort of place that backroad foodies live for.

BBetter than expected. The people here obviously take pride in their menu and it is well worth a visit if you happen to be near during meal time.

CAverage. The food is perfectly acceptable and edible, but nothing special. If I was traveling through this area again, I would probably try some other place first (unless this place is counterbalanced by a high Character score).

DIck! The food was particularly bad. If this was the only place within an hour's drive and I was starving... I would still drive the extra hour.

For many small town cafes, the building and the business are as much a part of the experience as the food. Some cafes are the hubs of their communities, some roadside diners have histories longer than their menu and others have a unique way of doing things that makes for a nice break from conventional and the trendy.

The CHARACTER grade is a measure of the place's personality, historic significance, uniqueness and/or atmosphere (not necessarily in the 'fancy' sense). It is about the experience of eating there (aside from the food itself).

ALocal Landmark. This place is extremely interesting, historic, unique or plays an especially important role in the community. Even if the food were mediocre, it would still be worth stopping there at least once for the experience.

BMildly Interesting or unique. Some aspect of the character, history or atmosphere of the place sets it aside from other joints and adds to its attraction.

CYawn. The place might be clean and comfortable, but it is about as interesting to visit as a McDonalds.

DCould I get that to go? Something about the place is so unpleasant or annoying that it actually distracts from the experience of eating there.

I have stuck with only reviewing small town cafes here because there are already plenty of guides and food critics covering the restuarants and cafes in the larger cities. Even in my current home of Phoenix, I have not been able to try even a fraction of the restuarants and so could not really do an all encompassing guide. But for smaller towns and regions, it is possible to identify the best and the worst options and this can be valuable for travelers. In general, the reviews only cover communities with a population of 25,000 or smaller (often much smaller).

Why is Flagstaff (pop. 50,000) the exception? Two reasons...

1 - It is in a central location for visiting many National Parks, historic sites and other points of interest covered on this website. As a result, it makes a good base of operations (and eating) for explorations in northern Arizona.

2 - For the reason above (plus it is my old hometown), I frequently visit Flag and have had a chance to try a wide range of its restuarants.