Ahh, the road trip. As a child, it meant long hours squeezed between battling brothers or, if, I was queen for the day, sandwiched between the 'rents. I had no control over the destination, the radio station or the stopping places. I endured it all for the possibility of a soft serve cone that could melt away the pain and boredom.
Fast forward a few decades, and I love road trippin'. I'm now the King of the Road - master of the destination, the radio (or CD player) and the stopping places. And you better believe that road food restaurants top the list for places to stop.
Two weeks ago, I did a fly-drive trip to six states: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. I was in heaven behind the wheel of my rental car while listening to the audio book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I stopped for Georgia peaches from roadside farm stands and drove under the influence of those intoxicatingly sweet fruits.
But, other than those peaches, I discovered that finding good road food is less likely than Daddy letting me pick the radio station. I passed scores of Wendy's, McDonald's and Hardy's. Dozens of Dairy Queens and at least half a dozen Sonics. But where was the regional road food?
Roadfood.com describes road food as "great regional meals along highways, in small towns and in city neighborhoods." Where were the rib joints and the diners with fresh peach pie or biscuits hot out of the oven? What happened to the little hole-in-the-wall joints where I could get a bowl of beans with a side of corn bread?
Two years ago, I discovered just such a place near my home town in West Virginia. Hoggs and Doggs served up West Virginia style hot dogs (with slaw), beans and corn bread, biscuits and gravy and sweet tea. I've returned a half dozen times since then, but this time Hoggs and Doggs had, apparently, gone to Hogg Heaven. They vanished without a hub cap trace.
But the goddess of road food looked kindly upon me as I drove from Columbus to West Virginia. When I reached the halfway mark in Nelsonville (population: 5,000), the Flying Dog came to my rescue. Local beer on tap and a West Virginia style hot dog came to $3.35. An order of hot-from-the-fryer potato chips was less than $2.00. With free WiFi, I was ready to move in.
The Flying Dog was determined to soar above the Sonic and Dairy Queen down the street. I couldn't wait to stop again on my way back to Columbus. But, alas, in spite of promises of a dollar dog on Tuesdays, Flying Dog had taken a belly flop. Its doors were closed.
What's your favorite, non-chain road food? When you hit the highway, where do you like to stop?