For a mouthwatering summer road trip to sleeves-up joints surrounded by magnificent scenery, you can’t beat a seafood-eating expedition along New England’s coast. At waterside picnic tables and roadside drive-ins, in diner booths and vintage shore dinner halls, the good eats include whole lobsters, lobster rolls, and lobster pie, chowders both briny-thin and cream-sweet, and clams either crisp-fried or charcoal-grilled.
What a yummy trip it is to eat one’s way from Chicago to L.A. along old Route 66! This tour of 21 excellent stops along the way includes some that are directly on the old road as well as a few that are worthy short detours. None require a reservation, all are easy on the wallet, and the meals you’ll eat provide a juicy taste of a nation that is colorful, diverse, and delicious.
The drive along old Route 66 from the Texas Panhandle to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico is a pageant of natural splendor and unabashed roadside kitsch: garish trading posts juxtaposed with stunning rock mesas, come-hither billboards rising up in turquoise skies, long-abandoned house trailers scattered in measureless fields, and crumbling sections of the old roadbed that lead nowhere but into the past. If such amazements stir one’s appetite, that’s a good thing. While much of this stretch of road offers nothing good to eat, Amarillo, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe are rich with Roadfood that is as diverse as the scenery, from goofy meals to great ones, and from humble food carts to sophisticated southwestern restaurants. Here are a dozen Roadfood faves. (And yes, Santa Fe actually was on the original alignment of Route 66.)
While magnificent scenery along Route 66 in Arizona and California is abundant, good meals can be scarce. But it isn’t necessary to take a major detour down to Sedona or Palm Springs to eat well; here are a handful of restaurants on or close to the old Will Rogers Highway that provide excellent food and memorable local color.
In 1946, when Bobby and Cynthia Troup drove their Buick convertible from the East to the West coast in hopes of finding a future writing songs, Cynthia suggested to Bobby that he write one about Route 40. But Bobby found Route 40 boring. When they got to Illinois and hit Route 66, something clicked. Bobby was inspired. He wrote (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, which has become America’s anthem of highway travel, covered by hundreds of artists from Nat King Cole (who was first to record it) to Asleep at the Wheel. There is no record of what Bobby and Cynthia ate as they traveled the highway that “winds from Chicago to L.A., more than 2000 miles all the way,” but we can assure you that as you head southwest out of Chicago, there’s a bounty colorful restaurants on or near the old Mother Road. This leg of the journey begins just outside Chicago and goes down through St. Louis and into Missouri.
From the street corners of Memphis through the Mississippi Delta, tamales are sold in eateries of every kind. There is no clear explanation for the ubiquity of a Mexican dish in the deep Southeast other than the surmise that workers from Mexico who came to pick cotton inspired African-Americans to give the pork and corn dish their own unique twist. Some accounts hearken back to a visiting cook from the Texas-Mexico border who instilled the passion in local eaters. Pat Davis, grandson of the founder of Abe’s Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale, Mississippi, told us, “No doubt granddaddy got it from someone in town,” reminding us that Abe had come to the U.S. from Lebanon, where tamales aren’t a big part of the culinary mix. Why Abe thought they would sell well in his pork parlor is a head-scratcher. “There were no Mexican restaurants here then,” Pat says. “And as far as I know, not many Mexicans.” Even tamale cooks who have no idea why they are the area’s signature dish agree that hot tamales are a tradition that stretches back in time as far as the blues.
It’s a Roadfood thrill to find a memorable meal in a place that looks like an irredeemable dive. No state has so many such treasures as Mississippi, where some of the very best food is served in restaurants with well-aged, tumbledown ambience. The destinations on this tour scrupulously maintain their divey looks, but what’s on their plates is exquisite.
Of the many eating tours Roadfood.com has sponsored to delicious destinations around the U.S., one of the happiest was a restaurant crawl through Rochester and Buffalo, New York. Here are edible treasures found nowhere else and, of course, wings galore. This eating tour stays close to that tour’s itinerary of favorite upstate Roadfood sources.
The magic of Highway 61 from Graceland down deep into the Mississippi Delta, through cotton fields and past speck-on-the-map small towns, is all about the blues. You might be singing them if you walk away from the casinos of Tunica with empty pockets, and you can hear them sung by the masters in juke joints all along the way. Our eating tour starts with fine Memphis-style barbecue on the way out of town and concludes with one of the best steak dinners anywhere.
The northeast has four main kinds of clam chowder. Manhattan is tomato-red and full of vegetables, rarely served northeast of New York City. South Coast, a specialty of Connecticut and Rhode Island, has neither tomatoes nor cream, but is clear and brothy with salt-pork savor and potatoes. Rhode Island (a rarity these days) is light pink with both cream and tomatoes, and always served with clam cakes alongside. New England, on menus throughout the region, is thick and creamy.