Re:My year in Roadfood (2010)
Fri, 01/7/11 2:49 PM
As much as I enjoy the great food and interesting sights, what I remember most were the little moments. Here are some of my nicest memories of the year: * The oohing and awwing of all the customers at Downing Cafe when the owner's father walked in with the just made banana cream pie. * Having Peggy Kelly, the owner of PK's Homestyle Cooking in Spartanburg, SC, introduce me to a full restaurant, as "That nice man who wrote about me on the internet." * Not realizing that Cousin Johnny ordered three desserts at Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen until we got back to the hotel and watching him knock off all three in minutes! * Chris Ayers suspected of being a spy at Harry's Drive-In, because he was taking photos, while wearing a Shady Glen t-shirt. * The Travelin Man and myself running into Elvis McNuggets at Weber's Famous Root Beer in New Jersey. * Despite the fact that they have lived in Pittsburgh their entire lives, taking my nephews and my girlfriend's daughter on their first trip to Primanti's. * Finding a second really good pie shop in the tiny town of De Valls Bluff, Arkansas. Even though Ms. Lena's isn't quite as good as the great Family Pie Shop, how can you not love a place where the woman sells pie slices out of her kitchen. * After many attempts, finally finding Nite Owl in Milwaukee open for business. * Similarly, also in Milwaukee, I finally had enough time to order the burek at Three Brothers. This dish can take as long as a hour to make and on two previous visits, we didn't have enough time. The burek was every bit as good as advertised and Cousin Johnny and I thought it was the best meal we had during our week in Wisconsin. * Twenty years after the fact, listening to the owner of Megallon's BBQ complain about the time his wife dragged him to the movie theater to see REDS. * Sharing birthday cake with Rose LoBello of LoBello's Spaghetti House on her 80th birthday. Just a few months earlier, we had a get together of Pittsburgh Roadfooders at LoBello's. * Everyone at Chick & Ruth's Delly stopping what they were doing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Apparently, they do this everyday at the same time. First time I have ever seen that in a restaurant. * Ralph Melton riding the mechanical bull at the New Mexico State Fair! * When Cousin Johnny and I were dining at Thomason's Barbecue in Henderson, KY, the owner asked where we were from. Apparently, we don't sound like we are from western Kentucky. When I said Pittsburgh, she said her husband was currently on a business trip to Pittsburgh. Then she said, not actually Pittsburgh, but a little town called Mars. "Ever heard of it?", she asked. Mars is my hometown! The next place we stopped at was Bell's Drug Store in Sebree, KY. Once again, the owners pegged us as tourists and asked where we were from. When Johnny said Baltimore, they told us they had recently returned from visiting their son, who lives in Glen Burnie. Which is the city next to where Johnny lives. * File this under the bad boyfriend department. I had read ahead of time that the door at Gilley's PM Lunch in Portsmouth, NH doesn't open in or out, but slides open. You can always tell who is there for the first time because they will have trouble with the door. When Mariton and I approached the door, I made sure to lag behind, just to see what happens. Of course, she tried to open it in and then out and then didn't know what to do. To her credit, she laughed about it when I showed her and felt better when she saw several others make the same mistake. * The lady at Country Club Bakery insisting on me taking her hot dogs, since the hot dog place was closed when I stopped in. * The ceremony that is a Wisconsin fish boil at White Gull Inn. Because fire is cool! * Spending an hour plus, visiting with owner Randy Walters of Pittsburgh Willy's in Chandler, AZ. Since the place wasn't too busy, he just sat at my table and we chatted like old friends. Randy is a natural host, with lots of great stories. The food was really good, too. Just a couple of yinzers, hangin' out n'at! * Remember at the beginning of Animal House when Larry and Kent go to the Omega House and they are dropped in the one room with all the "losers". That is how I felt when I ate at Durgin Park. Since I was by myself, they sat me at a table with others who were dining alone. Before I sat down, I let out a big hello. All three men looked over at me and didn't say a word! I swear one even growled at me like Lurch from The Addams Family. Anyway, the waitress was chatty and great company and I still had a fine meal. * So Cousin Johnny and I are cooling our heels outside of the Doe's Eat Place in Paducah, KY, waiting for them to open. A man and a woman park in front and start walking towards us and I am trying to figure out where I know them from. Finally, it comes to me and I ask the man, "Excuse me, are you Big Doe?" He said yes, that he was Charles Signa. I explained to him that we had met a year and a half earlier in the Starkville, MS, location of Doe's and then he asked if I was the guy who was driving around the state, eating at all the restaurants. Yup, that was me. During our meal here, we were treated like special guests, with both Mr. and Mrs. Signa often coming to our table to check on us and chat. Such nice people! * While dining at Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH, our young and enthusiastic waiter asked if we had been there before. We said no. Little did I know what was coming next. Soon, everyone in the place is hooting and hollering and we are wearing stickers that say we have been de-virginized. * The hushpuppies at Greenbrier Restaurant in Madison, AL were nothing special. So, I concentrated on the things on my plate that I did like. Soon, a large family came in and everyone at the table was covering their hushpuppies with the famous northern Alabama white bbq sauce and then popping them in their mouth. I tried it and, hey that's pretty good! Amazing what you can learn by watching the locals. * When wanderingjew and I were sitting at the counter of Goolrick's Pharmacy in Fredricksburg, VA, the people next to us ordered a root beer float that was so beautiful, I had to ask if I could take a photo of it. Hopefully, that was the only time all year that I photographed a stranger's food! * On an early Sunday morning, Mariton and I decided to eat at both Lafayette and American Coney Island in downtown Detroit, to see which one we liked better. For those who don't know, these two competing restaurants are literally right next to each other. We decided to hit American first and as we were walking, the Greek guy from Lafayette, who has waited on me at least a dozen times, watched us through the front window. Now, I know there is no way he remembers me, but still, I felt pangs of guilt as he watched us all the way to the American front door. After leaving American, we decided it would be less awkward if we snuck back to the car and then acted like we had just showed up. But, the Greek guy from Lafayette was having none of it. As soon as we hit the door, he greeted us with, "So, how was it?"
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