Photo Credit:  Becky Davenport

Photo Credit: Becky Davenport / Missouri TravelingMom

We often think we have to drive miles out of our way to get a taste of culture. That’s often not the case at all — in fact, the market down the street may give you that taste of diversity and culture you have been craving.

My sister in law recently came to town to visit, as she got closer I suggested we get a bite to eat at the new little market in on the way to my house.  She laughed, thinking I must be crazy as we pulled up to what looked to a closed-down quick shop.

Upon entering Chatters Cafe & Market in Glen Allen, Missouri, the smell of fresh cooked barbecue and fries hit her, and she knew I was not as crazy as I seemed.  As we stood at the counter and tried to decide between Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and BBQ, she asked how I found this place. My house is only a couple of miles down the road; I drive by all the time.

We settled on the Philly Cheese Steak and Grilled Chicken Sandwich, then found ourselves a booth to sit and catch up on the gossip.   As we sat there a bit longer the little market begin to fill up; construction works, local business men and women, and area farmers that drove out of their way for a good bite to eat.  It was obvious that this place was known for their food.

After I left Chatters Cafe & Market, I begin to think about how many little diners, restaurants, and markets get passed up, just because they are not well known.  But how do you know the food is good?

Tips for Choosing a Local Restaurant

Count the cars in the parking lot – if the place is busy day after day, it means one of two things: either they have excellent food, or they are the only place for miles that serves food.

Ask the locals – Stop off at the local city hall, gas station, or post office and ask for the best place in town.

Google it – These days, you can write reviews on about every site there is, just Google the name of the place and see what people say.

Read what they serve – Many small markets and diners have specialty, they may serve BBQ, fish, or something that they are known for…I suggest sticking to their specialty.

Take a chance – Even after eating a many different restaurants all across the country I still am hesitant to just stop and take a chance with a car load of kids, but it is often worth it.