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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, October 17, 2014 5:02 AM

In September, 2012, as soon as Wanderingjew arrived at the Charlotte airport, his first stop was Nana’s Soul Food Kitchen, which he enthusiastically recommended. Lucky for me, the hotel for the 2014 Roadfood tour was just a few hundred yards away.

Nana’s was named for the proprietor’s grandmother, but this improbable restaurant looks absolutely nothing like the house of any grandma I’ve ever known. Packed into a fairly new strip mall that includes such cookie-cutter franchised eateries as Jersey Mike’s and Hibachi Express, it evidences no charm from the outside; and the interior is squeaky-clean to the point of sterility. The food you will eat here, however, tells another story. It is extremely grandmotherly – that is, if grandmother happened to be an excellent African-American cook who specialized in classic soul food.

Dark-meat fried chicken is lusciousness incarnate; and even the big white breasts, which do tend to be on the dry side, are saved by a thick coat of chewy-crisp, bacon-rich skin that is itself worth the price of admission. If you are anti-fried, there are dripping-moist baked chicken and smothered chicken; there are curried chicken, chicken Alfredo (Thursdays only), and barbecued chicken. Don’t like chicken? Have the meat loaf, the pork chops, the fried catfish or tilapia.

Whatever your main course, pay special attention to vegetables. Or skip the main course and have nothing but vegetables and side dishes, for these are dandy. Collard greens are spicy-sweet, painfully tender, bracing; lima beans are soft and silky and sopped with piggy liquor from the pot; cabbage is equally voluptuary; curried rice is dirty rice of the best sort, laced with meat and packed with flavor; mac ‘n’ cheese is as rich as butter with just enough tang to make every forkful slightly exciting.

Food is obtained by standing in a cafeteria line and telling the servers what you want. This can be a bit of a problem, since much of what’s available is kept in serving trays with covers, preventing you from seeing it all. The staff is more than willing to lift the covers up to show you anything, and to describe it as well, but the visual experience of going through the line – so much fun at cafeterias where everything is out in the open – does little to prepare you for the deliciousness of what finally winds up on your Styrofoam plate.

There are desserts, which I’ve yet to try. Wanderingjew thought the banana pudding lame, and the pies I saw were not compelling. The red velvet cake, however, is something I'm definitely going to eat next time. It looks very good.
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Roadfood of the Day: Joe Tess' Place - Omaha, NE
Posted on Friday, October 17, 2014

Carp

The carp is slit before frying, and the result is a crunchy piece of fried fish. You'll have to pay attention while you eat, though. The fried potato discs are particularly good, too.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, October 16, 2014 3:52 PM

In a pod of familiar franchise restaurants (Jersey Mike's, Salsarita's, etc.) across from the hotel where we're staying for the Roadfood bus tour of Charlotte, is a subject that definitely deserves further research: Nana's Soul Food Kitchen. A quick afternoon snack was very good: luxurious fried chicken, spicy-tender collard greens, and masterful mac 'n' cheese. Accompanied, of course by the unofficial N.C. state beverage, Cheerwine:

Source: Nana's Website
Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, October 16, 2014 6:48 AM

We stopped by Mineral Springs Seafood by the Bay thanks to a tip from Florida food maven Kati Schardl, who called it "just a little ol' fish house selling quality stuff!" Kati said that she always stops here both on the way to the beach and on the way back for "amazing smoked fish and crab dips" as well as seafood brought in by Mineral Springs' own boat.

You know you are in for a treat the moment you open the door of your car and inhale the scent of sweet hardwood smoke emanating from the outdoor smoke pit. The shop is strictly take-out – there is no place to eat on premises – but if you have an appetite for Florida seafood at its finest, it behooves you to stop here. We don't know about the raw fish, which looked fine, but we can say that salmon, fresh off the smoker, is firm and agreeably oily, packed with luxurious flavor.

As for the dips Kati recommended, each one, made with mullet, salmon, or grouper, is smooth, smoky, masterfully seasoned to highlight whichever fish it features. But the one known as "Leftover Spread" is in a class by itself, maybe the best smoked fish spread ever. Containing good-size hunks of all three very different-tasting fish, it is thick and creamy with a pickle twist, one of those foods so flavorful that you keep eating it even after appetite has become a memory. Lacking crackers or suitable crudités, we consumed a pint with a plastic spoon as we peeled off Highway 98 and headed north towards Tallahassee.
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Roadfood of the Day: Main Cafe - New Harmony, IN
Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coconut Pie

Cream-rich coconut pie is available shortly after the cafe opens at dawn. Our breakfast slice was still warm from the oven.
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Posted by Ken Guarino on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 7:26 AM

We ate here once and cannot wait to return. Located off the lobby of the newly renovated Crawford Hotel (Union Station), this breakfast establishment serves all kinds of eggs - and pancakes to die for. And the coffee? So good we purchased a pound to take home.

The staff is super friendly and service is quick. Although it is bustling, you are not rushed to hurry up and eat to leave room for other patrons. Your best bet is to check out the menu on their website so you can decide what to try before you arrive, as it all sounds great.

We tried a pancake "flight" - three different pancakes. We had to go with the cinnamon roll pancake, the pineapple upside-down pancake, and the pancake of the day - jalapeno. We also tried the blueberry danish pancake and the sweet-potato pancake. There was no favorite, all were equal. Depending on the pancake, it came with a drizzle of sauce or a compound butter - the pineapple pancake butter had brown sugar. The side of bacon was three strips of a thick cut, cooked to a nice crispness. The hash browns also had a nice crispy crust.
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Roadfood of the Day: Bell's Drug Store - Sebree, KY
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lemon Ice

Bell's lemon ice is a strange and refreshing soda fountain concoction: fresh-squeezed juice in a large cup of crushed ice with a dash of salt. No sugar at all.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 5:52 AM

First, the bad news: Yakburgers are not good. At least the ones served here are not. Our waitress boasted that they were made from Tibetan yaks, raised locally; but either Idaho yaks are way too lean or whatever juiciness their meat contained got cooked away, for the yakburger I nibbled at was sawdust-dry and pretty much devoid of flavor.

Most everything else we tasted at Di Luna's was very good, a few items memorable. In that latter category, I would put breakfast potatoes, which are either crisp and starchy hash browns or sweet potato hash browns that are just barely sweet. A fine breakfast titled "sharp and sweet" augments the sweet potato hash browns with sharp cheddar cheese, the duo accompanied by thick-sliced bacon, ham, or sausage. Another tasty breakfast, which happens to be vegetarian-friendly, is known as the Three Sisters Skillet. The menu says it is a gloss on a native Pend d'Oreilles tribe dish: grilled polenta, roasted butternut squash, and white beans.

Beyond such specialty meals are eggs Benedict (made with ham rather than Canadian bacon), salmon Benedict, veggie Benedict, and country Benedict, that last one being a split biscuit topped with sausage and smothered with sausage gravy. The gravy is substantial, served also as the companion for Di Luna's crunch-crusted chicken-fried steak.

Di Luna's is a friendly sort of place, open Wednesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch and for weekend dinner concerts featuring jazz, country, or blues. It also serves as a local crafts gallery and frequently hosts Wine Maker Dinners that celebrate northwest vintages.
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Roadfood of the Day: Oink's - New Buffalo, MI
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sundae

Delicious sundaes can be enough for two.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 13, 2014 3:54 AM

"Yay We Have Oysters!" says an early-September chalkboard sign at The Fisherman's Wife in the sleepy village of Carrabelle. Pam Lycett, who really is a fisherman's wife (hubby was out on his shrimp boat when we stopped in), runs a gracious little cafe with pastel-colored walls, slow-spinning overhead fans, and a sound-dampening rug on the floor. There is no throbbing music or raucous conversation in this peaceful place, which is so right for contemplating seafood presented the way locals like it: simple, direct, and utterly fresh.

I loved my oyster po boy, which came splayed open on the plate, too large and overflowing to pick up and eat like a sandwich. I gleefully plucked at it, oyster by oyster, savoring the warm luxury of sweet, briny meat and zesty crust, occasionally punctuating the melty-crunchy ecstasy by forking up the sandwich's lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo, along with pinches of good bread. Crabcakes are only slightly devilish, peppered enough to halo the sweet, moist meat. Notable main-course companions include fried green tomatoes in a veil of see-through crust and crisp-surfaced hushpuppies the size of extra-large eggs.

"Miss Pam just brought in a Key lime pie today," the waitress advises. "It's the only one we have. No Derby and no buttermilk pie." That's fine because the Key lime is a perfect triumvirate of sweet, cream, and citrus twang – a modest wedge, pale yellow with a thin crust and no adornment whatsoever. The classic cannot be improved.
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