Re:My Year in Roadfood (2013)
Tue, 12/31/13 6:45 AM
Top 10 (New To Me) Roadfood Restaurants of 2013 10. Chihuahua Tortilla Factory (Bloomfield, NM) Small, humble, with great food, Chihuahua Tortilla Factory is just the type of Roadfood restaurant I love to visit. Mariton ate what she called the best menudo she has ever had and my Chorizo Con Huevo was also outstanding.
But the star here is definitely the fresh, warm tortillas. In a week of eating tortillas all over the state of New Mexico, these were strikingly better than any others. What really made this visit special was the interaction with owner Fernando Reyes, seen above with his wife. Fun and full of personality, Fernando gave us a tour of his tortilla making machines. If you are in northwest New Mexico, I highly recommend a visit. 9
. John's Famous Stew
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that a place that specializes in beef stew in Indianapolis would make my top 10 list, I never would have believed you! John's
is a charming, dark, polite tavern that I loved as soon as I sat down in my booth. You can get your stew mild, medium or hot and my medium had just the right amount of heat. For dessert, a homey version of peach cobbler and John's gets bonus points for having Sprecher root beer. The staff here is also a real hoot and even the elderly owner spent 20 minutes at my table discussing whether he should get a new smart phone or not. 8. Lawry's the Prime Rib (Chicago, IL) Lawry's has little in common with the above two places, but that doesn't mean we enjoyed it any less. Of course, the tender prime rib (Mariton had the thinly sliced English cut, while I enjoyed the traditional Lawry cut) is the main reason to come here, but we enjoyed it for all the little things, too. Exceptional service, including the making of the spinning bowl salad (see in above photo) and the hot fudge sundae for dessert, which they also make right at your table. The sourdough bread is wonderful as is the Yorkshire pudding that comes with every meal. 7. 400 Degrees (Nashville, TN) The atmosphere, in a stand alone food court, is weird, but owner Aqui Simpson makes the most of it and treated us like special guests. We weren't alone, because we saw her treat everyone this way. One of the best things about this place is that if you order the four piece wings, you can try the 0 degrees, 100 degrees, 200 degrees and 400 degrees chicken all at the same time. Even though the 200 degrees proved to be too hot for me (my girlfriend had no problem and even handled the 400 degrees with no problem), this is much more about the bold flavors of the chicken, not just the heat. To drink, a delicious sweet tea, with a mixture of different fruit flavors. 6. Putah Creek Café (Winters, CA) Putah Creek Café is a place where they do everything right. Big menu, friendly efficient service, a warm attractive atmosphere and the food was exceptional. We didn't exactly order regionally appropriate,but you probably can't go wrong here. We swooned over Cousin Johnny's biscuits and peppery gravy, along with the spicy sausage. My chicken fried steak was greatly enhanced by that world class gravy. We enjoyed pies like marionberry and raspberry apple, while we were there and took some wonderful baked goods, like the apricot bar shown above to go. 5. Gott's Roadside (St. Helena, CA) If it wasn't for the fact that we showed up here completely stuffed from Putah Creek Café and the fact I wasn't feeling well, this place probably would have ended up even higher. We ordered smaller than usual, but the quality of our Wisconsin burger (with grilled mushrooms, bacon cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and mayo on sourdough toast), thin, crispy sweet potato fries and milkshakes (espresso bean and pistachio) came shining through. If this place was near me, I would eat there five times a week. 4. Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA) The California run continues. This place gets high marks for having interesting, unusual foods like artichoke soup and olallieberry pie. Also enjoyed was chewy sourdough bread and a huge plate of fresh mussels. Add in the small town tavern atmosphere of a business that is over 100 years old and it is hard not to love this place. 3. Sting Ray's (Cape Charles, VA) Located in a gas station, what could be more Roadfoody than that? My first experience with sweet potato ham biscuits and it blew me away how good it was. The soft, sweetness of the biscuit was the perfect contrast for the salty ham. I could have eaten ten of them. The sweet potato pie, with damson plum sauce was also a revelation! 2. John's Roast Pork (Philadelphia, PA) Sometimes, it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Upon landing in Philly, the guy at the car rental counter asked why we were in town. When we told him mostly to eat, he, of course, asked where we were going. The first place I mentioned was Tony Luke's, which he immediately dismissed saying there is someplace much better than that and said I needed to go to John's Roast Pork. I reminded him that John's is only open during weekdays, to which he replied with the great news that they just recently started opening on Saturdays. Needless to say, it became our first destination. Excellent solid bread is needed to hold in all this juicy garlicky pork, which just explodes with flavor in your mouth. The man was right, this is even better than Tony Luke's! 1. Zarzour's (Chattanooga, TN) Our experience here was so good, not only was Zarzour's my number one for the year, it goes on my short list of best Roadfood restaurants we have ever visited. Mariton's pork chop and my cheeseburger were greatly enhanced by the well seasoned grill, but what really sets this place apart is the vegetables. We had creamed corn, spicy cabbage, white beans, black eyed peas and turnip greens and everyone was jaw dropping great! How can vegetables taste this good, especially when they told us they use no meat in them? Simple and smooth peanut butter pie (pictured above) and lemon ice box pie completed the meal. I will be writing more about Zarzour's coming up soon. Honorable mention: 1. Sam's Grill (San Francisco, CA) 2. Kumback Lunch (Perry, OK) 3. El Pollo Rico (Arlington, VA) 4. Jobe's Drive-In (El Reno, OK) 5. Metompkin Seafood (Mappsville, VA)