Four days in Alabama and Mississippi
As with the last time I wrote a few details about a road trip, I'll be saving more details, meat and photos for my blog (Marie Let's Eat!) with a pile of entries scheduled to start later this week. But for simplicity's sake, here's a recap of an excellent few days that we spent eating.
My wife and I had a baby last month, and we drove out to let the new fella meet his mother's younger brother, who lives in Starkville MS, and younger sister, in Memphis. We set out early Thursday morning and stopped for breakfast at Mix in downtown Birmingham. Their early morning menu is just pastries, turnovers, doughnuts and cookies, but that did us all right for the drive. Marietta GA to Starkville should just be about a five-hour trip, but unfamiliarity with B'ham delayed us a little bit.
After meeting Marie's brother and letting him get some baby time, he and I drove to Memphis while my wife napped. We picked up the baby's aunt and had a late lunch at The Bar-B-Q Shop, which was downright excellent! I had a chopped pork plate with beans and a very tasty vinegar slaw.
That evening and over the next two days, we ate at the following Starkville restaurants: Central Station Grill (sort of an Applebee's-kinda thing popular with my brother-in-law's friends in the K of C), City Bagel Cafe (big, open, student-popular coffee shop with excellent lox-n-veggie bagels and orangeade), Grumpy's (student-popular bar & grill with pretty good burgers), Petty's BBQ (very good, also featuring frogs legs, pan trout and a curious attempt at tamales that don't actually use corn husks, plus obnoxious 50-cent charges for water cups or for tea refills), Bop's (frozen custard desserts, a 13-store chain in MS and LA), The Starkville Cafe (big southern breakfasts, enlivened by the owner's special recipe for syrup that he calls duck butter), the Littleman-recommended Little Dooey (totally wonderful pork and some really excellent corn salad), Oby's (New Orleans-style sandwiches and muffs, pretty good) and a small leavin' town breakfast at the local Shipley's Do-Nuts.
The road home was enlivened by stops in Tuscaloosa for Taco Casa (a local chain of Bell-esque food, surprisingly excellent and almost as good as Del Taco, which I adore) and the original Dreamland BBQ (ribs only, which my wife enjoys more than me, and the wonderful shouldn't-be-this-good bread-n-sauce). A little further down the road, we stopped in Birmingham to buy kitchen necessities from Penzeys Spices. A new outlet will be opening in Atlanta this year, which will be a wonderful thing.
On the other side of B'ham, we stopped at Rusty's Bar-B-Q in Leeds for some really excellent chopped pork sadly done disservice by some pretty mediocre white sauce. Stick with the spicy sauce at this place, Roadfooders. Much better B'ham-area white sauce is done better at Miss Myra's and at Saw's. Further down I-20, we hopped north over to Heflin for ice cream at Tasty Dip, a classic 1948-vintage roadside stand with a lovely neon sign.
Our last stop was one of the handful of Georgia outposts of Jack's in the border town of Tallapoosa. This is of interest to fans of small, regional fast food. This BK/Wendy's-type place has barely left northern Alabama after fifty years, and fights it out with the better-known Milo's for local money around B'ham. It's a guilty pleasure, but also a fun piece of local color.
Even with small portions, that was an awful lot of food for one day trip, and it turned the trip into a very, very long 8+ hours. Next time, we'll cut that down by one or two stops!