Whether you enjoy Spanish and Cuban cuisine, a fix of caffeine or a sweet treat, these Waypointers have trip suggestions that will make the foodie in you happy. They're also helping build Military Waypoint, the new online travel community exclusively for service members, veterans and their families.
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Culture & Cuisine in St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine’s history dates to the mid-16th century when it was largely a Spanish military town. Modern St. Augustine’s skyline, however, came courtesy of Standard Oil magnate Henry Morrison Flagler. Four buildings he constructed during America’s gilded age are must-see destinations when touring the city’s cultural riches.
The Hotel Ponce de Leon, with its ornate lobby and courtyard, is sheer magnificence. Its 450 rooms once hosted the world’s wealthy and powerful. Louis Comfort Tiffany designed the building’s interior and 79 stained glass windows. Today, Flagler College(www.legacy.flagler.edu/pages/tours) calls it home.
Across the street, Flagler built the less expensive, but still formidable Hotel Alcazar. The building was purchased after World War II by Otto C. Lightner, who saw it as a perfect place to house his incredible collection of gilded age artwork, antiques, glass, and curios. He turned the property and the collections over to the city of St. Augustine, and it is now a museum (www.lightnermuseum.org).
Gilded-age Opulence can stimulate appetites, so explore St. Augustine’s abundant food scene. Aviles Street, with its colorful restaurants, sidewalk cafes and shops is the oldest documented street in the United States. Foundations date to the 16th century. Art galleries are also prominent in the immediate area.
Spanish and Cuban influences abound in the local cuisine. You also find the fresh fish offerings you might expect in any coastal region. One prime dining option is the Sunset Grille(www.sunsetgrillea1a.com), located on Highway A1A. Fresh mahi sandwiches and tacos, plus ahi tuna, coconut shrimp and more are highlights there. The more upscale, but still tourist-welcoming, Columbia restaurant on pedestrian-friendly St. George Street exudes character. The menu spotlights creative Spanish/Cuban dishes. I dined on "La Completa Cubana," which included roast pork a la Cubana, boliche criollo, an empanada, plantains, yuca, black beans and yellow rice. The 1905 Salad, prepared tableside, is epic with flavor. Pick up a fine, after-dinner, hand-rolled cigar from Julio Cordero, "The Cuban Roller", while strolling St. George.
The Minorcans, Mediterranean-region subsistence farmers, helped further transform local flavors. Hot Shot Bakery and Cafe(www.requiescat.net) chef and Minorcan descendent Sherry Stoppelbein, whips up creative sandwiches and award-winning soups, such as the Minorcan Clam Chowder. It’s similar to Manhatten clam chowder, but with potatoes and kick, courtesy of Datil peppers. The pepper seeds were supposedly brought to America by Minorcan immigrants and have become a fixture of local cuisine, featured in sauces and relishes.
— Ken Perrotte, Military Times contributor
Make Your Pilgrimage to the Original Starbucks
Pike Place Market, Washington
Make your pilgrimage to the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market, Washington.
Photo Credit: Jon R. Anderson/Staff
It's just after dawn and Air Force veteran Mike Thompson is drinking his first steamy cup of coffee. He knows it's going to be another busy day in one of Seattle's busiest stores.
With his green apron and well-tended beard, he could be any other store-keep in front of any other shop in Seattle's storied Pike Place Market.
Sandwiched in between a Mexican grocery store and a Russian bakery, Thompson’s workplace looks like just another humble coffee shop in a town swimming in coffee. But this one is special.
"Welcome to Starbucks," he says with a wide smile as the first customers start filtering in.
Opening more than 100 years ago, Pike Place Market is billed as one of the longest continuously operating farmers markets in the country. Big name brands are banned in favor of local merchants and craftsmen.
This particular Starbucks, however, can be here because in 1971 it was just another Pike Place startup, selling bags of locally-roasted coffee beans, teas and spices to local restaurants.
Contrary to local myth, it’s not technically the original store front. That was just down the street in a nearby building. But within a few years of opening, and still very much the new coffee kid in town, Starbucks moved into its present location, a tightly-packed 1,200-square-foot store that once served as a feed supplier for the market’s livestock, where eventually the owners started experimenting with selling cups of its own freshly-brewed coffee.
While now among the smallest in the Starbucks fleet, the store remains one of its busiest.
Indeed, long lines of perky pilgrims come here daily to come pay homage.
"I actually worked there the day we broke the all-time record for sales last summer," says Thompson, who's worked here since shortly after leaving the military about two years ago.
To make the wait worth it, the store sells special mugs and other swag and the store is one of the few Starbucks to use manual espresso machines.
"You can definitely taste the difference in the drinks," he says.
With street performers a regular fixture outside, it’s almost always a festive atmosphere inside as baristas glad-hand with customers as they put while putting together drink orders. If you worship at the well-caffeinated Starbucks altar, this is a pilgrimage worth making.
— Jon Anderson, Military Times editor
The Search for the Best Apple Pie in Alaska
This Waypointer went on a hunt for the best apple pie in Alaska.
Photo Credit: Erica Garvin
As my family is getting ready to move from Alaska, I've been on the search for the most unique places to visit before we leave. I've never been to Fox before, a small town 20 minutes north of Fairbanks, but I also didn't want to go to the same places most tourists visit such as the gold mining locations. Some tips from a local led my family on the search for the best apple pie in Alaska on a chilly Thursday evening.
My ears pop as the car drives up into the hills surrounding Fairbanks. On the way to Fox, we stop at a section of the famous Alaska oil pipeline. Most of the pipeline runs underground, but just a few minutes outside Fairbanks you can see a section that has been raised above ground to give visitors both a photo opportunity and a historical rundown of how the pipeline works. It's a windy afternoon as we quickly take our photos and get back in the car to continue our search for amazing apple pie.
Stay straight on the road running north out of Fairbanks and you'll pass valleys on both sides of the road. As you continue to drive higher into the hills, you'll see Murphy Dome in the distance, a prime place to watch for the Northern Lights. But our chase is for delicious dessert as we reach the Hilltop Truck Stop. On the outside, it's just a cheap gas station in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by amazing views of the forest far below. Dust clouds roll constantly over the dirt parking lot, and we are careful to drive around the large semi trucks to park outside the plain, tan building.
As we step inside the building, it is like walking into an old diner. Plain, faux-wood tables fill the space, on the walls are white boards of today's menu, and to the right is the register. It is our lucky day because the pies are made fresh every Thursday. I order the apple pie a la mode while my husband orders the strawberry and rhubarb pie.
— Erica Garvin, Waypoint member