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Road Trip Eats suggestions? Cincy to Memphis to Nashville to Gatlinburg to Pittsburgh

hungrycanuck Nov 24, 2008 09:40 AM

Hi all,

I'm taking a 6 day road trip this week across a wide area, and am looking for some good eating suggestions. I'm willing to drive off the beaten path for the right place.

I'm doing a big loop from Pittsburgh, with the first stop in Cincy (one night), then south to Memphis (2 nights), east to Nashville (one night), east to Gatlinburg (one night), and then north back to Pittsburgh.

I'm mostly looking for cheaper road eats, although I could probably get one or two nicer meals in there. I'm particularly interested in Southern cooking, barbecue, or regional specialties, although I'll try just about anything if it comes highly recommended.

I have a few places in mind already: I'll try some chili in Cincy, Gus' Fried Chicken, Payne's, and either Central BBQ or BBQ Shop in Memphis (maybe both if I have time) but I'm particularly looking for help with interesting options to help break up the long drives between cities.

Anything in Kentucky between Cincy and Memphis (my route is flexible)?
Anything in Tennessee between Memphis and Nashville, or Nashville and Gatlinburg?
Anything off I-79 in West Virginia on my trip home?
Any must-eats in Nashville or Gatlinburg?

I've recently started a food blog, and am hoping for some great meals this week for future posts.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions! I'm looking forward to trying them out.


  1. h
    hungrycanuck Nov 25, 2008 08:06 AM

    After a bit more digging, I will definitely try to hit Carl's Perfect Pig driving into Nashville, and a few meals between Swett's, Monell's, and Arnold's in the Music City.

    Gatlinburg seems like a lost cause. I should just make my last meal in Nashville extra hearty, get take out, or load up on food from a grocery store to detox my system after a few days of fried food and barbecue.

    I'm still looking for any suggestions in Western/Southwestern Kentucky, or along I-79 in West Virginia.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hungrycanuck
      Cameraman Nov 27, 2008 08:37 PM

      Make sure you check on Carl's hours and days open. They're a little out of the ordinary. I know they're open from 11 - 5 or 6 Wed - Sat. Stick with the ribs. That's the money. I'm not crazy about the pulled pork, but I'm partial to East Carolina pulled pork. The squash is good and the deserts are too. I just told my son today we'd have to head out there soon. Great choice. Let us know what you think.

    2. t
      tater Nov 26, 2008 06:53 PM

      the original central bbq on central is closed due to a fire. have a back up plan for central. other memphis road food-type places:
      Uncle Lou's Chicken
      Soul Fish
      Los Tortugas Deli Mexicana

      1. c
        cchat Nov 30, 2008 12:48 PM

        As far as Memphis goes, tater is right about Los Tortugas- they are great. However, they are not right off the highway for easy on and off. But if you don't mind going a bit off track, it is a fantastic place to eat. Sticking to Mexican, La Espiga on Summer Ave has traditional mexican food, and a great bakery is attached.

        1. v
          venussophia Dec 1, 2008 01:54 PM

          Unless you like canned veggies and cool whip, avoid Arnold's in Nashvegas. Head over to 12th ave. for the new, better meat and three called At the Table. It's in an old storefront and is apparently owned by Swetts's.

          At the Table Restaurant
          907 12th Ave S
          Nashville, TN 37203
          (615) 242-0077‎

          You might want to try one of the local hot chicken/hot wings places also.

          One of my lunch favorites is Rotiers on a weekday, making sure to get the water cornbread as the bread.

          1. e
            earlytimz Dec 1, 2008 04:54 PM

            What route are you taking through Ky? Just about every little town (especially in western Ky) has a good bbq joint.
            In Bowling Green, my fav is The Smokey Pig.
            There's a really good spot just south of Hopkinsville (can't remember the name) on hwy 41 going towards Ft. Campbell.
            For an awesome eating experience with more than bbq, you can't pass up Patti's Restaurant in Grand Rivers.
            Owensboro has the famous Moonlite BBQ, which is really good.
            In Paducah, the Pork Peddler is hard to beat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: earlytimz
              de5181 Apr 23, 2009 11:51 AM

              While I've never been to Patti's, I know it's absolutely legendary and my friends from there RAVE about it! It's definitely off the beaten path, from what I understand.

            2. Will Owen Dec 2, 2008 11:58 AM

              Well, it's probably too late to warn you that just about all of the meat'n'three places in Nashville are open for breakfast and lunch only, closing around 2:30. Arnold's for sure. Swett's is open for dinner, and recommended, but you've probably already come and gone...

              I would like to thank one of the respondents here for mentioning the Moonlite BBQ in Owensboro. For some reason I keep remembering it as the Moonshine in Henderson. Let's not even try to guess why I can't remember Owensboro!

              1. h
                hungrycanuck Mar 15, 2009 12:18 PM

                Thanks to everyone for the feedback, and forgive this delayed response. It's taken me a little while to digest everything I ate and process it.

                Highlights included the ribs n three at Carl's Perfect Pig in White Bluff, TN, chicken at Gus' and the dry rack at BBQ Shop in Memphis, Monell's for Sunday Breakfast in Nashville, and a tiny Mexican grocery and restaurant (El Primo Productos Hispanicos) which was cooking food to order from their merchandise in a strip mall near Pigeon Forge, TN .

                Letdowns included Skyline Chili (worth it for the experience and the carbs, but not for taste) in Cincy and Thanksgiving dinner at the Inn at Hunt Phelan in Memphis (which probably cost as much as the rest of the week's meals combined, for nothing special).

                Unfortunately I missed out on Payne's in Memphis and any of the Western KY BBQ that you guys recommended. I'll have to catch them on my next trip down there (I'm hoping to make it to New Orleans sometime soon).

                If interested, I wrote some pretty detailed reviews on my food blog at http://hungrycanuck.blogspot.com/

                1 Reply
                1. re: hungrycanuck
                  Will Owen Apr 23, 2009 02:53 PM

                  I've had only lunch at Monell's, and it was every bit as good as Miss Mary Bobo's in Lynchburg and a heck of a lot easier to get into! I'm so glad they're still in business, and even gladder to know they're doing Sunday breakfast. And if you could hit only one barbecue joint in the Nashville vicinity, you picked exactly the right one. Or I should say the PERFECT one!

                2. s
                  sierraskyesmom Apr 23, 2009 11:55 AM

                  I live in Memphis, so here are my suggestions:

                  Gus's Fried Chicken for lunch, definately
                  Rendezvous (great ribs)
                  Tsunami (Cooper-Young area)
                  Restaurant Iris (upscale, but the chef just won a "top chef" award from Food & Wine

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