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Righteous Indigestion

k
KAZ Jun 30, 2009 07:59 AM

After two tours in Afghanistan, my brother is leaving the service and coming home (safely!). Its time to celebrate. He is being discharged from central California and we are driving back home to Baltimore together.

We have ~5 days to drive cross country and find the delicious. We are not looking for fine dining. Instead we plan on feasting on BBQ, Creole, Cajun, Southern food; no place that even remotely has a dress code.

We've done our preliminary research, which you can find here: http://tinyurl.com/me8w3v

Here's where you come in. Are we driving by something that we absolutely MUST stop for? Alternatively, there are some towns where there seems to be too many options for just two, albeit hungry, fellas looking for food. Can you help us determine the best of the available options in your town?

Thanks in advance. Its been a long, tough tour and I hope to welcome him back in style.

  1. AreBe Sep 4, 2009 07:23 AM

    Have fun Bro. Looks like you did a great bit of work before writing here. I grew up on the Mississippi Coast and now live in the Raleigh area. You're seeing some of the passion folks round here have for que and I'll stay the hell out of it except to say I've had delicious meals at Allen & Son.

    You might want to stop in Abita Springs for fresh brewed beer or root beer.

    Pick up several different flavors of Zapp's chips for those between meal snacks. Maybe a drive-thru daiquiri too.

    You've got fine choices in Waveland & Mobile, but if you need to stop in between consider The Shed (I find the rub too sweet myself), Petit Bois cafe or Bozo's (fish market and awesome poboys).

    And it ain't a real road trip thru the south without some roadside stand boiled peanuts and at least one each vintage ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd CDs.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AreBe
      lynnlato Sep 4, 2009 07:56 AM

      The trip is over. See his post of 9/3/09.

    2. k
      KAZ Sep 3, 2009 08:43 AM

      Trip report:

      Thanks to everyone for their recommendations. We completed our trip with great success. I don't think it could have gone much better. Here is the final map of the places we visited: http://tinyurl.com/me8w3v

      So many highlights that its tough to summarize. Ran into some great folks in Mobile, AL who actually opened their homes and let us stay for free in a guest room. My tongue still longs for the sauce at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa. J.C. Stroble at the Beacon did not disappoint. The BBQ at Lexington #1 in NC couldn't have been much better. Our only regret was that we missed Keaton's by about an hour and a half. Other than that, I defy anyone to find more delicious on a trip cross country.

      Thanks again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: KAZ
        Davwud Sep 3, 2009 12:12 PM

        I've never made this but it wouldn't hurt to try.

        http://fooddownunder.com/cgi-bin/reci...

        DT

        1. re: KAZ
          lynnlato Sep 3, 2009 12:46 PM

          I'm sorry you missed Keaton's, but glad you had a fabulous trip! If nothing else, you have two reasons to come on back to NC: a return trip to Lexington and to visit Keaton's for some dipped chicken. :)

        2. f
          friek Jul 1, 2009 12:38 PM

          Since you're going through Texas and apparently like 'q quite a bit, you might want to also try The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX (http://www.saltlickbbq.com/). It was recently voted by 2 people on food networks "best thing I've ever ate - bbq" episode. The beef ribs looked bigger than my head! That said, the beef ribs are not always on the menu and they're know for having a wait of up to an hour.

          1. b
            bellyspeaks Jul 1, 2009 09:35 AM

            RE: Charlotte and BBQ
            Don't do it. Don't have BBQ in Charlotte. Go to a place like The Penguin or Mert's (for lunch). Whatever you do please don't go to Mac's for BBQ. Here's the deal: I like Mac's, i can eat there, and 3 out of 5 times it's good. HOWEVER, their BBQ has nothing to do with NC BBQ. And I hate the idea of people coming through town, eating at Mac's, and thinking the've tried NC Que. It's a disservice to the BBQ shops that are still carrying on a NC tradition. Good NC BBQ is the endeavor of multi-generational family businesses. One of these families is the Bridges. Stop at Alston Bridges in Shelby an hour short of Charlotte:

            http://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=620+grover+st+shelby+nc&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&split=0&gl=us&ei=04tLSp7CI8vBtweW0ZicDQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1

            Another is run by the Monk family. If you stop at one place to eat BBQ in NC stop here, Lexington BBQ #1:

            http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&...

            These places are the real deal. They have woodpiles in the parking lot and pits "out back".

            1. Davwud Jul 1, 2009 07:30 AM

              Glad to see your brother made it home safely. Love the trip idea.

              When in Alabama you might want to try to cut up to Decatur. Big Bob Gibson's is very famous for their BBQ and invented white BBQ sauce. It's a very local specialty. Not a whole lot of people from outside that area have ever heard of it.
              I know you won't get it at Dreamland but not sure about the other place you're stopping at in Tuscaloosa.

              When we were in Atlanta last summer we ate at a place called Daddy Dz. It's a BBQ joint where only the bugs have a dress code. It's a dive, dive, dive. It was also very good.

              DT

              1. ted Jun 30, 2009 01:38 PM

                Congratulations to your bro.

                If you hit a third of the Q places you mention on your map, you'll be pretty tired of Q by the end. I'd definitely do one/several in central TX (Lockhart, Austin, heck even pilgrimmage to Cooper's in Llano).

                I live near The Colonnade in ATL and like it a lot, but I'd probably travel up to Greenwoods in Roswell over that on a cross country road trip. And, after even a shabby TX BBQ experience, you will be embarassed to put Fat Matt's "BBQ" in your mouth. The ribs are greasy and gross, and the pulled pork is closer to a sloppy joe.

                If you visit Octane coffee shop in Midtown (also on your map), it's right across from 5 Seasons Westside and Hop City, great places for on- or off-premise cervezas.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ted
                  j
                  JaneWinston Jul 1, 2009 05:55 AM

                  How about that hamburger dive in Atlanta where you have to stand in line to get in and then the little old lady proprietor dishes out verbal abuse while she prepares your hamburger? I've never been but I found the reviews (mostly wildly enthusiastic) to be fascinating.

                  Found it: Ann's Snack Bar. The Wall Street Journal named it the best hamburger in America.

                  http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117348069193432668-vp14m65e_UDoMdN1U2BeaMYFkoo_20070408.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top

                  Here's some reviews:

                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/anns-snack-ba...

                  1. re: ted
                    k
                    KAZ Jul 1, 2009 07:31 AM

                    Fat Matt's is off, Greenwoods is on. Thanks.

                    And you are right, we'll be lucky (?) if we hit 1/3 of the places. Thanks for helping us trim the list.

                    What is your opinion on The Varisty?

                    1. re: KAZ
                      bbqdawg Jul 1, 2009 07:48 AM

                      I love the Varsity, but opinions vary, and I'll freely admit my feelings are tainted by nostalgia. (sp?) I don't think you need to do both the Varsity and the Beacon...they are very similar. But I'd say definitely hit one of 'em, because they are unique institutions and a lot of fun. A Varsity t-shirt would make a great souvenir and trip reminder.

                      1. re: bbqdawg
                        f
                        friek Jul 1, 2009 12:29 PM

                        I'd say Varsity is a must hit if you've never been there. Really good dogs, but it's really the atmosphere that will make it so memorable.

                  2. d
                    DigitalVelvet Jun 30, 2009 11:41 AM

                    AWESOME! Glad to hear you brother is coming home safely... and that you're going to have several days to catch up, driving across this great country for which he has sacrificed so much.

                    Great to see you're coming through Charlotte. I would definitely strike BBQ King from your list. A dive, old-fashioned drive-in in a decidedly seedy part of town. I have two recommendations for you: The Penguin and Mac's Speed Shop (South Blvd location).

                    The Penguin is a funky burger joint/bar, with great comfort food (ever had fried dill pickles?). Mac's Speed Shop is some of the most awesome BBQ you can find in the Charlotte area.

                    Both places can have a wait for seating at peak times (generally not long) which is a testament to the quality of the food. Great vibe and people watching at both places, too. You can read reviews of both places (and others) at:

                    www.yelp.com/charlotte-nc

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: DigitalVelvet
                      bbqdawg Jun 30, 2009 01:41 PM

                      The Penguin would be worth checking out..perfect vibe for this type of trip.

                      I do hope the OP will avoid Mac's Speed Shop...where to even begin? The 'q is not very good, even for Charlotte. The restaurant itself is a corporate conceit, basically part of a chain of concept restaurants.

                      I haven't been to BBQ King, although I keep meaning to get over there. Its a cool, old drive-in, and the neighborhood is not "decidedly seedy". It may well be a dive, but its a real dive, not a faux dive like Mac's. Nothing wrong with being a dive!

                      1. re: bbqdawg
                        d
                        DigitalVelvet Jun 30, 2009 03:33 PM

                        I enthusiastically dispute your characterization of Mac's... as do a buttload of reviewers and notable chefs. Consistently excellend pulled pork (eastern NC style)and usually excellent beef brisket.

                        I don't know where you get the corporate idea... it is, I believe, a Charlotte based enterprise that has just "busted out" to a second Mac's location. I seem to recall the founder started with another restaurant, but that certainly doesn't constitute an evil empire.

                        But just to offer alternatives, Outlaw BBQ in Matthews is great, but basically take-out only. McKoy's Smokehouse, off I-77 at Woodlawn, also has excellent 'cue (and other stuff), but I recently had a disaster of a lunch experience (with four coworkers I dragged there).

                        Again, I refer you to yelp.com as a resource for real reviews by real people. It seems possible that someone with the handle "bbqdawg" might not be completely objective on the subject.

                        1. re: DigitalVelvet
                          bbqdawg Jul 1, 2009 04:33 AM

                          I'm not at all swayed by a "buttload" (whatever that is) of opinions. I trust my taste buds. And Mac' s is not excellent. Oh, its also not eastern NC style...you might want to do some research about what constitutes eastern style 'q.

                          There are 3 locations of Mac's, and the owner also owns Las Ramblas and Bonterra, a fine dining restaurant at which the "chef" at Mac's worked for 5 and one-half years. But my real issue is that Mac's has a Disney-esqe feel to it. Its a concept, not a real place.

                          In regard to Yelp, I've never found it to be a worthwhile source of good information, but if you like it, then feel free to follow the "real reviews" there. I'll stick to Chowhound,

                          As far as my objectivity, what "subject" are you referring to?

                          I haven't tried Outlaw or McKoy's. I really never get out to Matthews, but I'll try to check out McKoys sometime. Old Hickory on N. Tryon has the best 'q I've had in Charlotte, but I haven't been everywhere. In general, Charlotte doesn't have very good bbq, imo.

                          1. re: bbqdawg
                            lynnlato Jul 1, 2009 06:59 AM

                            Just say "no" to Mac's Speed Shop and, instead, head north on I-77 to Cleveland NC. Keaton's Barbecue has THE BEST "dipped chicken" anywhere. It's so damned good it'll make you wanna slap yo mama. It's crispy, sticky, spicy goodness. An institution in that area, it's out a country road, smack dab in the middle of cornfields and farms (It's really not far from the interstate though).

                            The Splendid Table and Roadfood did a few specials about it. Pick up a couple of bottles of their sauce to take home too.

                            I'm thrilled that your brother is coming home safely and I think it's amazing that you all are making this road trip together! When my nephew returns from Afghanistan next spring, I think I'll take him to Keaton's. :)

                            http://www.keatonsoriginalbbq.com/

                            1. re: lynnlato
                              k
                              KAZ Jul 1, 2009 07:21 AM

                              "Dipped Chicken"? Sounds too good to pass up. I altered the route to hit Cleveland, NC.

                              Thanks for all the NC tips! Keep 'em coming!

                              Where the AL and GA 'hounds at?

                    2. bbqdawg Jun 30, 2009 08:25 AM

                      I'd recommend a stop at Allen and Son BBQ near Chapel Hill, NC. Exit 266 off I-40, go north about 1 mile or so. Outstanding NC style bbq.

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