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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 5:39 AM

In the heart of Wakulla Springs State Park, a 6000-acre wildlife sanctuary populated by manatees, alligators, and waterfowl, the Wakulla Springs Lodge is an amazing place to stay and to eat. "Welcome to the REAL Florida" reads a sign as you enter the park and wind through a canopy of hardwood forest towards the two-story Moorish-Deco edifice built in the 1930s and little changed since then. There are no TVs in guest rooms (but there is WiFi internet); the lobby ceiling is a glorious painted tableau that melds Teutonic folk art with Arabic and Native-American symbols and crests of Europe's noble families; and the lobby walls are adorned with backlit transparency photos that show life at the lodge in the mid 20th century: bathing beauties frolicking, glass-bottom boats gliding over the spring basin. A placard at the front desk advises that the air conditioning system is unique, cooling the inn using pumped-in fresh spring water. Does that explain the sweet, moss-green scent that gives this place such a dreamy feel? Next to the original walnut-walled elevator (close the iron gate yourself, please) is a poster from the 1954 movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, which was filmed hereabouts to take advantage of the primeval ambience.

The Lodge menu includes local oysters, deviled crab, shrimp, and ham-laced navy bean soup that has earned legendary status over the years, but our favorite meal is breakfast. Bright and early, birds outside the great arched windows of the dining room are busy on their morning errands, providing a colorful backdrop to a table crowded with sizzled ham steak, cheese grits, biscuits and sausage gravy, and, best of all, fried chicken. The chicken is cooked when ordered (there's a 25 minute wait), arriving at the table still too hot to handle. Its crunchy-chewy crust outdoes bacon as a luxury breakfast meat. This is fried chicken at its finest, and a reminder that northernmost Florida is America's deepest South.
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Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Play With Your Food

Jane could not resist dancing this "baron of frog" around the table before anybody had a chance to bite into it.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 20, 2014 5:47 AM

As America's coffee rode the rising tide of culinary aspiration over the last several decades, its iconic purveyor has gone from lowly diner or truck stop to enlightened coffee bar. Nowhere is that phenomenon more prevalent than in the northwest quadrant of the country, including the small, scenic Idaho panhandle town of Sandpoint. There are several sources of good coffee in this Bonner County hamlet on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, none more conscientious than Evans Brothers Roasters. What you get in this place is not just expertly roasted and masterfully poured coffee. You find an enterprise that touts a philosophy and a sense of social responsibility (both expressed on the Evans Brothers website); you find meticulous latte art and loose-leaf teas as well as locally baked, organic, and gluten-free pastries. Located in a colorful old mill complex in the Granary Arts District, and featuring the work of local artists on its walls, Evans Brothers also happens to serve a cup of joe as delicious as we've had anywhere.

You can choose between French-press or hand-drip (known here as "pourover") coffee, a single-origin espresso of the day, or the Evans' proprietary Headwall espresso blend – a soft, syrupy medium-roast named for a ski run at nearby Schweitzer Mountain. We are especially fond of Evans Brothers' Siberia Dark Blend (also named for a ski run), which is dark and chocolaty and nearly as satisfying as food. Speaking of which, if you must eat, the handful of available pastries are pretty good, but the breakfast burritos, heated in the microwave, suffer from sogginess. It's four-star coffee that will keep us coming back.
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Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014

Giant Meatball Hero

Juicy meatballs, fresh mozzarella and sauce: the meatball hero is one of the best items on the Hero Boy menu.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, October 19, 2014 5:49 AM

The grand climax of the 2014 eating tour: Keaton's BBQ, in the middle of nowhere. Great food + wonderful company: I know why I am smiling! (If you were on the tour and would like a high-resolution file of this image, PM me via and I will email it to you.)

Roadfood of the Day: Moishes - Montreal, QB, XX
Posted on Sunday, October 19, 2014

Big Filet Mignon

Moishe's bone-in filet mignon comes resting on its bone. It is a huge, ridiculously juicy hunk of delicious meat.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, October 18, 2014 3:44 AM

For me, the Friday surprise hit on the Roadfood Tour was R.O.'s sliced pork BBQ sandwich. In this part of the world, I generally go for chopped, but this sliced pork -- so moist, sweet, and just faintly smoky -- pairs magnificently with R.O.'s indescribably good sauce/slaw/dip on a grill-toasted bun.

Roadfood of the Day: Mr. D's - Henderson, KY
Posted on Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Other Colonel's Fried Chicken

Henderson-style fried chicken is all about extremely savory crust, as seen on this succulent drumstick. Colonel Jim's recipe, used at Mr. D's, is especially fire-hot.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, October 17, 2014 5:02 AM

In September, 2012, as soon as Wanderingjew arrived at the Charlotte airport, his first stop was Nana’s Soul Food Kitchen, which he enthusiastically recommended. Lucky for me, the hotel for the 2014 Roadfood tour was just a few hundred yards away.

Nana’s was named for the proprietor’s grandmother, but this improbable restaurant looks absolutely nothing like the house of any grandma I’ve ever known. Packed into a fairly new strip mall that includes such cookie-cutter franchised eateries as Jersey Mike’s and Hibachi Express, it evidences no charm from the outside; and the interior is squeaky-clean to the point of sterility. The food you will eat here, however, tells another story. It is extremely grandmotherly – that is, if grandmother happened to be an excellent African-American cook who specialized in classic soul food.

Dark-meat fried chicken is lusciousness incarnate; and even the big white breasts, which do tend to be on the dry side, are saved by a thick coat of chewy-crisp, bacon-rich skin that is itself worth the price of admission. If you are anti-fried, there are dripping-moist baked chicken and smothered chicken; there are curried chicken, chicken Alfredo (Thursdays only), and barbecued chicken. Don’t like chicken? Have the meat loaf, the pork chops, the fried catfish or tilapia.

Whatever your main course, pay special attention to vegetables. Or skip the main course and have nothing but vegetables and side dishes, for these are dandy. Collard greens are spicy-sweet, painfully tender, bracing; lima beans are soft and silky and sopped with piggy liquor from the pot; cabbage is equally voluptuary; curried rice is dirty rice of the best sort, laced with meat and packed with flavor; mac ‘n’ cheese is as rich as butter with just enough tang to make every forkful slightly exciting.

Food is obtained by standing in a cafeteria line and telling the servers what you want. This can be a bit of a problem, since much of what’s available is kept in serving trays with covers, preventing you from seeing it all. The staff is more than willing to lift the covers up to show you anything, and to describe it as well, but the visual experience of going through the line – so much fun at cafeterias where everything is out in the open – does little to prepare you for the deliciousness of what finally winds up on your Styrofoam plate.

There are desserts, which I’ve yet to try. Wanderingjew thought the banana pudding lame, and the pies I saw were not compelling. The red velvet cake, however, is something I'm definitely going to eat next time. It looks very good.
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Roadfood of the Day: Joe Tess' Place - Omaha, NE
Posted on Friday, October 17, 2014


The carp is slit before frying, and the result is a crunchy piece of fried fish. You'll have to pay attention while you eat, though. The fried potato discs are particularly good, too.
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