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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, February 26, 2015 4:54 AM

It is a known fact that South Carolina cooks are masters of fried seafood; Bush’s is evidence that the talent is not just a coastal trait. At the western side of the state, practically in Georgia, a humble fish & chips shack called Bush’s flies the frying beacon high. Here you can savor firm, sweet shrimp (jumbos or Calabash minis), creamy slabs of flounder, lasciviously large oysters, tender scallops, soulful catfish, and a wide variety of other flatfish such as whiting, croaker, mullet, and bream, all encased in a thin, crisp, vividly seasoned coat that is positively addicting.

If you are allergic to fried food, there is an all-you-can-eat crab legs deal in the $20 range – about twice the price of most meals. And if you are a fish frowner, try the pork chops. They are boneless and they are haloed by that fine, fragile crust that gives the seafood its flavor glow. People who visit in a more adventurous mood can opt for such non-mainstream menu items as catfish stew or chitlins (by the pint). The menu even offers Buffalo wings and a half-pound hamburger described as “incredible”; but I can’t imagine coming here and not getting fried seafood.

Whatever is at the center of the plate, side dishes are essential. These range from uniquely South Carolinian hash and rice to all-American mac ‘n’ cheese. I am especially enamored of the collard greens, which have all the tonic punch one expects, but with a completely unexpected sweetness that makes them into a whole other kind of very happy vegetable.

Dining is in a single, fairly small room where tables are set up in rows reminiscent of a commissary. This makes for an agreeably sociable tone; and while I am a stranger in these parts, the staff and other customers soon had me feeling like a regular. I can’t wait to return.
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Roadfood of the Day: Capriotti's - Wilmington, DE
Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bobbie Cross-Section

A Bobbie is a compact tube of pure eating joy.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 6:01 AM

If you are hungry in Augusta, Georgia, it's OK if you don't subscribe to the aim of Whole Life Ministries – "To Grow Up the Body of Christ and Teach Them Victory." Whoever's your savior, your appetite will have no trouble believing in Honey from the Rock Cafe, where Whole Life serves bountiful cafeteria-style lunch every weekday. The changing bill of fare includes baked or fried chicken, pork tenderloin, chicken 'n' dumplings, and meat loaf sided by the likes of fried green tomatoes, broccoli casserole, and macaroni and cheese. Of special note is sweet potato casserole laced with brown sugar and speckled with crunchy pieces of pecan; collard greens that are bright and tonic; and broccoli-rice casserole with just enough cheese to make it rich but still maintain its status as a genuine, healthful vegetable. Top your meal off with coconut pie, churned-here peach ice cream, or fresh banana pudding loaded with good fruit and Nilla wafers, and you have a classic Dixie meal that is hard to beat. Everything served is first quality; and you will pay accordingly. A nice meal for two can cost $30.

Given the spiritual mission of the enterprise, it is no surprise that the food is served with unabashed good will by a staff that is kindly in a way simply not known outside the South. I sincerely hope that on the day you visit, the greeter at the door is a woman named Jessie, whose good humor and genuine charm made me fall in love with Honey from the Rock long before I started crowding the cafeteria tray with good eats. Expect your glass of sweet tea to be topped off about every third sip. Décor is bible verses everywhere and background music is gospel too rousing to fade into the background. The name of the place comes from Psalm 81:15: "With honey out of the rock would I satisfy thee."

Special thanks to Roadfood.com contributor Chickenplucker, who started a forum thread in March, 2014, alerting us all to Augusta’s good food, including that served at Honey From the Rock Café. Check it out for more photos and Chickenplucker’s commentary: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/tm.aspx?m=771959
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Roadfood of the Day: Mitla Cafe - San Bernardino, CA
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lorraine's Special

This carne asada dinner comes complete with one cheese enchilada, homemade refried beans, fresh guacamole and two wonderful handmade tortillas.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 4:27 AM

The Track Kitchen is so laid-back and friendly that the first day I ate there, I finished breakfast, brought my dishes back into the kitchen (as all customers do), and walked out … forgetting to pay! When I returned the next day and confessed my crime to Carol Carter, who runs the place with her husband, Pockets, she joked, "I've got my eye on you!" I did remember to pay that day – for both meals – but I get the feeling that a lot of customers just pay weekly, or whenever they remember to do so. It's that casual.

Named because it adjoins the dirt track where thoroughbred horses are exercised, this little breakfast-only joint is more like a friendly company dining room than a regular restaurant. The same people come in every morning and usually sit in the same seats and table-hop throughout the meal. They are the trainers, owners, and riders of the sport horses around which much of Aiken's life revolves. They range from billionaires to hourly wage earners, from Arabian sheiks to southern rednecks.

What do they eat? Good old southern home cooking. Nothing on the menu is exotic or audacious, but it all is prepared with care. You know this because every meal takes a good while to cook; every plate is doted over by the one and only one person who does the cooking: Carol. The last time I stopped in -- the first customer of the day -- she was sitting at her kitchen counter painstakingly dicing green peppers, destined for one of her fine and fluffy omelets. Carol's grits are rich and buttery; eggs are cooked exactly as requested. Country ham is pretty good, although not ringing with cured-meat savor like the best of them, but Track Kitchen bacon is fabulous. It is baked, the slices put close enough together in the oven that several might stick together, resulting in deliciously unctuous bacon clusters that are crisp but barely bendable – just the way bacon ought to be.

Note that the Track Kitchen closes in the summer; and note also that it can get very crowded on weekends when races, steeplechase, or other equestrian events are going on.
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Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chicken Fried Steak Lunch

Chicken fried steak, hand battered, with homemade smashed potatoes, veggie and country gravy.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, February 23, 2015 5:40 AM

Since Richard "Stubby" Stubblefield, Jr. opened it in 1952, Stubby's has become a benchmark of great barbecue, not only in Hot Springs but in all the South. Now in the capable hands of Chris Dunkel, whose parents bought it from Stubby in 1977, it is a restaurant where everything is done the old-fashioned way. Sauce is brewed daily in the back room. Meats are slow-smoked over hickory and carved to order as you watch from the short cafeteria line.

Ribs are big and meat-laden; ham is sweet and swanky; ruggedly-hacked pork ranges from velvet-soft white meat to chewy bark. Even the brisket is Texas-tender and dripping juice. Chicken, which in our book of barbecue tends to be a secondary consideration, is absolutely first class here, its skin glazed dark, its meat moist and ludicrously tender.

No matter what meat you choose, two side dishes are essential. The smoked pit potato is a massive spud that emerges from a long, slow heat bath with insides that are fluffy and delicious even before massive amounts of butter and sour cream are applied. (It is possible to get the potato loaded with barbecued beef or pork -- an awesome meal.) Stubby's pot-o-beans is larded with hunks of smoky ham and blanketed with sauce. The sauce is one of the nation's best: tangy, peppery and so beguilingly spiced that even after the meat on your plate is only a glowing memory, you may find yourself using white bread to mop the last of it from the bowlful that comes with every meal.
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Roadfood of the Day: Grandaisy Bakery - New York, NY
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2015

Delicious!

Potatoes, onions and bread... a winning combination.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, February 22, 2015 5:04 AM

As one who very much likes gluten and yeast, I wasn't all that compelled to stop at Mama's Cheese Bread Factory. Everything this Brazilian Mama makes is gluten-free and yeast-free. Gluten-free cakes and cookies and even pie crusts, yes; but gluten-free and yeast-free bread? I thought not… until Mama's rolls made me a believer. These cheesey spheres are lightweight and yet joyously chewy – a real bread-lover's delight, the sharp flavor of cheese a radically fine substitute for the tang of yeast.

While my sandwich was constructed in the kitchen, the gent behind the counter gave me a little pão de queijo (cheese roll) to nosh as a sample; and as I savored its fresh, big flavor, he described the process by which the breads are made using tapioca flour and fermented leavener derived from yucca root. It is an ancient formula that dates back to South America before Europeans and wheat arrived.

Mama's sells cheese breads of various size, either finished or frozen and ready to bake, as well as pizza shells, and whole stuffed chickens and stuffed pork loins. For those who are hungry NOW, there is a short menu of breakfast sandwiches and lunch sandwiches – all, of course, made on the good bread that is sturdy enough to hold massive amounts of ingredients. The "punta cana" sandwich, for example, is a mountain of moist, shredded roast chicken and carrots dotted with a few sweet raisins, laced with crunchy potato sticks, and garnished with lettuce leaves and mayonnaise. It is hugely satisfying. Other available sandwiches include stuffed pork loin, ham-salami-mozzarella subs, sausage, ham and grilled cheese, and several vegetarian combos.

Most business is take-out, but there are a few counter seats for dining in.
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Roadfood of the Day: Blue 9 Burger - New York, NY
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Well-Balanced Meal!

Double cheeseburger, fries (with spicy mango-chili fry sauce) and a root beer.
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