How long before an ethnic food becomes road food?

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trudyn
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2004/04/04 01:53:31 (permalink)

How long before an ethnic food becomes road food?

I live in Portland, Oregon. We have a large ethnic community of Vietnamese in town and a lot of good family run Vietnamese places to eat. My question to road-fooders : When does an ethnic food become Road food? I welcome people's thoughts on this issue.
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    fcbaldwin
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 05:22:06 (permalink)
    When does ANY food (or eating place) become "roadfood?"
    To quote the premise of this website:

    "A site devoted exclusively to finding the most memorable local
    eateries along the highways and back roads of America."

    I guess when a local place becomes "memorable," and therefore when people talk about it (favorably) and yearn to return.

    Just my opinion,

    Frank
    #2
    Michael Stern
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 05:43:13 (permalink)
    As I see it, the quintessential Roadfood restaurant is unique to its place or region, i.e. an only-in-Texas barbecue, or an eat-in-the-rough clam shack along Yankee shores. Ethnic food can be iffy in that sense, because a great Vietnamese restaurant in Portland isn't likely all that much different from a great Vietnamese restaurant in Omaha. On the other hand, the German restaurants you'll find in Milwaukee, or the Polish restaurants in Chicago, or the Basque restaurants in Nevada, or the Chinese restaurants around Sacramento, strike me as unique to their place (i.e. you wouldn't find them in Munich, Warsaw, Spain, or Beijing). On the third hand ( ): as Frank said, if you yearn to return, I'm all for including it, whatever it may be.
    #3
    Grampy
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 13:03:40 (permalink)
    Speaking of ethnic Roadfood,I was in Middletown yesterday -- Saturday, when O'Rourke's does not serve it's steamed cheeseburger -- and I was sorry I did not have my camera. My son suggested we go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant on Saybrook Road. With plastic forks, bus your own tables, and the ambiance of a church supper, Udupi Bhavan was about as much of a visually appealing Roadfood joint that you can get. Then there was the food. Incredible! Their specialty is dosai -- delicate crepes as big and as thin as airline blankets, folded over fillings like potatoes, onions and chutneys. The appetizers included savory lentil "doughnuts" stuffed with a variety of different ingredients. And if you want to go broke, forget it. The most expensive item on the menu is South Indian Thali, a whole meal on a platter, with two vegetables, rice, chutney, 2 breads, dal, yogurt, and dessert. I cannot recall eating so well for so little. The entire meal for three, with mango skakes all around, was $28, with tax -- and I might add, leftovers. Master Stern, get thee to 749 Saybrook Road -- but bring your camera, Swiss army knife and an appetite! (note, they are closed Mondays and between 3-5 during the week.)

    Rob
    #4
    Michael Stern
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 13:45:59 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Grampy

    get thee to 749 Saybrook Road


    I'm on my way. It sounds fantastic.
    #5
    wanderingjew
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 15:08:57 (permalink)
    Ah, a question I thought about previously, but wasn't certain how to bring it up. I think that ethnic food becomes road food based on the concentration of that particular ethnic group in the geographic area where you are searching. For example, if I were visiting San Francisco or the Pacific NW, I would go out of my way to find good asian cuisine (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Etc) however if I were in Iowa, I would not go out of my way, in fact, to be completely honest, I wouldn't even try Asian Food when I'm there. I would probably look for a good Dutch restaurant, or stuffed pork chops and tenderloin sandwiches. Of course here in Rhode Island I consider the local Italian, and Portugese restaurants "road food" including the French Canadian Meat Pies you find in Northern Rhode Island. I know some one else mentioned Asian Cuisine in Boston on another thread. Although Boston has a Chinatown, I would still direct someone toward the great Seafood Restaurants and old Yankee Fare (baked beans and brown bread) Chinatown and the North End (the Italian Section) would be an after thought after the first two. So there is my "two cents" worth!
    #6
    stanpnepa
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 17:25:55 (permalink)
    Here in Northeast PA, where time has been known to stand still on occasion, we have some wonderful "Roadfood" restaurants. If I were to drum up a hometown top ten of ALL of my favorite restaurants, there would be two or three Old Forge Style Pizza places, a diner, an Italian sandwich shop, and a mom and pop Italian hole in the wall.

    Now, maybe in Austin, family-run Italian restaurants would be "ethnic", but here in NEPA they are more common than even "American eateries", so YES they are all Roadfood IMHO.

    Also in my top ten would be...(and I'll name names here, because I probably wouldn't otherwise post these great places on this site)...

    Katana, Wilkes-Barre (terrific sushi)
    Par Four Cafe, Wilkes-Barre (Asian-fused cooking in an unmarked pub)
    Amber Indian Restaurant, Moosic (as good as any Indian in NYC, IMHO)
    GoodFellos, Exeter (wonderful, upscale, intimate Italian).

    So, while the places on the second section of my list can be "just as good" and even on some occasions, "better" than the Roadfood at the top, they are not "unique" to Northeast PA (though GoodFellos may be).
    They are all "newer" and "more expensive" too...all atypical Roadfood. I'd be more likely to post them on chowhound.com, but I hardly ever spend much time on Chowhound because it can be snooty...and I'm not snooty. To me, many upscale places---like the one we just took Dad to for his 75th birthday---get too funky, unnecessarily dressing up ordinary food...and the end result is still pretty ordinary. To me, these places are usually not worth the money---dollar for dollar they lose---nearly every time!

    If it weren't for Michael and Jane to sound the trumpets, to give credit where credit is due, some of us still might believe those Mobil restaurant guides. Yes, a $3 pork chop sandwich meal can be BETTER than a $250 one-bite-per fork dinner at a "5 star restaurant"! And it could be worth the 75 mile detour too!
    #7
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 20:08:22 (permalink)
    Offhand I'd say there's one whole heck of a lot of ethnic food that qualified as Roadfood. Apizza, tacos, bratwurst, Cuban sandwiches, muffaletta, jambalaya, sushi, lasagna. How long can the list be?
    #8
    LegalLady
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 22:25:38 (permalink)

    IF IT'S LUTEFISK, IT NEVER BECOMES ROADFOOD!

    AND THAT'S THE LAW!
    #9
    Ort. Carlton.
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/04 23:54:18 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by wanderingjew

    Ah, a question I thought about previously, but wasn't certain how to bring it up. I think that ethnic food becomes road food based on the concentration of that particular ethnic group in the geographic area where you are searching. For example, if I were visiting San Francisco or the Pacific NW, I would go out of my way to find good asian cuisine (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Etc) however if I were in Iowa, I would not go out of my way, in fact, to be completely honest, I wouldn't even try Asian Food when I'm there. I would probably look for a good Dutch restaurant, or stuffed pork chops and tenderloin sandwiches. Of course here in Rhode Island I consider the local Italian, and Portugese restaurants "road food" including the French Canadian Meat Pies you find in Northern Rhode Island. I know some one else mentioned Asian Cuisine in Boston on another thread. Although Boston has a Chinatown, I would still direct someone toward the great Seafood Restaurants and old Yankee Fare (baked beans and brown bread) Chinatown and the North End (the Italian Section) would be an after thought after the first two. So there is my "two cents" worth!


    Wandering,
    You are so right! Isn't it fascinating to watch Ethnic Food become Roadfood? - The best example I can give is New Orleans, where there are unique dishes created by Italians and Slavs but that are only known in N'Awlins... the indigenous Wop Salad, for example.
    In my mind, the point of merger is when an ethnic cook utilizes, even if from desperation, a local ingredient in lieu of a preferred one from home and ends up liking the result so much that the necessary adaptation becomes a new version of that dish. I could tell you about Asians and Southern-style Okra, but that requires a roadtrip to Chamblee/Doraville for clarification!
    Good thread, folks!
    Shortwindedly Tonight, Ort. Carlton in 30601-land.
    #10
    zataar
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2004/04/10 11:09:11 (permalink)
    Don't discount Iowa for ethnic roadfood. We were surprised to find a very good thai place and even a bosnian diner, both less than 3 miles off I-35 in Des Moines! Not much else as far as we have been able to find until the Twin Cities area. ( Does anyone know of anything?) Then it's a gold mine of ethnic food, all within minutes of the very extensive freeway system of Minneapolis / St.Paul. Cambodian, Georgian, Afghanistani, Kurdish, Vietnamese, Thai and many more, some of which were amazing, some not so, but it's fun to check it out when time permits.
    #11
    RubyRose
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/07/06 07:21:41 (permalink)
    My personal definition of roadfood is that
    1) it's locally owned
    2) the food is fresh and prepared with pride
    3) it's a good value for the price
    4) I can't wait to go there and eat XXXX
    5) if I recommended it to the Roadfood.com team, I'd feel confident that they would love the place

    According to that, some ethnic eateries just seem to fit all the criteria. Most of the middle eastern population in our area is Lebanese but the food in the one and only Syrian restaurant is extraordinarily good so I'd put it on my list.

    I don't worry about any other factors.

    #12
    mayor al
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/07/06 08:04:03 (permalink)

    When I crave a connection with my personal ethnic heritage (Czech) I have to go "On the Road". Since we have no Czech Restaurants in our local area, Czech Food purchased in a restaurant (as opposed to being prepared and served in a relative's home) will probably be in a 'roadfood' establishment.
    I have no trouble expanding that definition to include all forms of ethnic foods in many locations around the USA.
    #13
    1bbqboy
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/07/06 10:47:17 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by RubyRose

    My personal definition of roadfood is that
    1) it's locally owned
    2) the food is fresh and prepared with pride
    3) it's a good value for the price
    4) I can't wait to go there and eat XXXX
    5) if I recommended it to the Roadfood.com team, I'd feel confident that they would love the place

    According to that, some ethnic eateries just seem to fit all the criteria. Most of the middle eastern population in our area is Lebanese but the food in the one and only Syrian restaurant is extraordinarily good so I'd put it on my list.

    I don't worry about any other factors.



    we have a thai trailer here in Talent(say that fast three times) that qualifies under those parameters. I'd include it too. Wife's Thai, he's an Ashland native, and it's just her and her woks. wonderful soups.
    #14
    trudyn
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/10/19 21:32:28 (permalink)
    Could one of the moderators move this to the food miscellaneous forum? It embarasses me that this thread is in the wrong forum.
    #15
    NYNM
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/10/19 22:51:41 (permalink)
    An interesting take on this topic is Waverly Rott's works, esp. "The Food of Italy" and "The Food of France". (I think his book "Eating in America" does not handle this as well).

    Root's theory is that local foods are so delicious and blend so well in part because of the natural geography of the area (ie, climate, soil, etc.) and that truly good ethnic food cannot be replicated outside of the homeland. For example, Italian foods are grown in Italian soil, herbs, seasonings (even like butter/olive oil) used in these dishes are grown in or are from animals who have grazed on the same specific land (region, micro-region), wines that are served with the food also are from grapes that grow in the same soil, climate, etc.) So, for example, even if you make a Italian (French, Vietnamese, etc. etc.) dish in USA, you are not using Italian (French, Vienamese, etc.) vegetables, water, butter, etc.

    In this way, much traditional "Roadfood" is also local: local BBQ being from local meet, local wood, etc.

    So, sure, in a way ethnic food can "become" roadfood, but I think the distinction is important about geography, in addition to culture, being an essential part of "real" roadfood.

    So, there.
    #16
    mr chips
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/10/20 00:21:54 (permalink)
    I think a lot of ethnic foods have been transformed by their American experience. American pizzas, especially some of the West Coast ones I have eaten, are incredibly different from the Italian originals.
    #17
    Greyghost
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2005/10/20 07:06:46 (permalink)
    Question:

    When does an ethnic food become road food?

    Answer:

    Never. This is due to the Roadfood Paradox. Once an ethnic food becomes Americanized and accepted by the general culture, it is no longer ethnic. It's sort of a Culinary Catch 22.
    #18
    mr chips
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2012/08/17 03:20:22 (permalink)
    This was an interesting discussion. It would be great if one of the mods would move it to a more useful forum.
    #19
    Foodbme
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    RE: How long before an ethnic food becomes road food? 2012/08/17 03:39:26 (permalink)
    Greyghost
    Question:
    When does an ethnic food become road food?
    Answer:
    Never. This is due to the Roadfood Paradox. Once an ethnic food becomes Americanized and accepted by the general culture, it is no longer ethnic. It's sort of a Culinary Catch 22.
     
    I realize this is an old post put couldn't allow this fallacy to remain
    Ethnic food is always ethnic food whether or not it becomes "Americanized" or accepted by the "General Culture", what ever that is.
    Moo Goo Gai Pan is accepted but it's still ethnic.
    Pho is accepted but its still Vietnamese.
    Pizza is still recognized as Italian
    Brats are generally accepted German Sausages.
     
    #20
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