Recommendations for Austin to Philadelphia road trip
I'm going to be moving from Austin to Philadelphia in a few weeks' time, and I'd hate to waste a perfectly good road trip! I'd like to get a few suggestions for worthwhile places to stop and eat along the way. Here are a few guidelines I'm working with:
1. Keep it cheap. With my car loaded up to the gills and a lot of miles to cover, I won't be in the mood to hunt around in my suitcase to get myself spruced up to pay $30 for a dish. Road food is supposed to be inexpensive, and that will work nicely with the condition I'll be in after spending hours at a time in the car.
2. I would prefer a relatively direct route, but don't mind going a *few* miles out of my way for really good food. Here's the basic route I've sketched out:
* I-35 to Dallas
* I-30 to Texarkana
* I-40 all the way out to Asheville, TN
* I-81 to Bristol, VA
* I-95 to Philadelphia
3. Don't worry about Philadelphia. I already know Philly well.
4. I loathe deep-fried anything. I don't care how yummy it is; I'm not going to eat it.
5. I am only a mild fan of Southern-style barbecue (pulled pork, ribs, etc.). I know that a long stretch of my route is dominated by this kind of barbecue and the aforementioned deep-fried stuff, so I'm especially keen to hear about good alternatives.
Recommendors, start your engines!
I've done roughly that trip a few times. I think Nashville and Asheville are far and away the best food cities you'll hit on the way, so I'd certainly plan to stop in Nashville rather than Memphis on day 1 or 2. IIRC, Memphis is about 10 hrs from Austin and Nashville is about 4 more. I-40 between Nashville and Asheville is beautiful.
Good barbecue can be had in Memphis, but it's all a cab ride away from downtown. I'd avoid Neely's Interstate and the Rendezvous.
In Nashville, check out Monell's (http://www.monellstn.com/ ). A family-style southern meat and three in an 1890s brick house in a cool old neighborhood. I believe it's $20pp all you can eat, but nevertheless ranks as one of my top 20-ish dining experiences -- the food was simple, but excellent, and I had the pleasure of eating with the owner, who had a great story about winding up in Nashville fairly randomly and funding his first restaurant with his credit card. Just a memorable evening, on all fronts.
In Asheville, good food isn't at all hard to find, and the town is small enough that you can do just fine walking around and following your nose. But I'll throw in a rec for the Early Girl Eatery (http://www.earlygirleatery.com/ ), where I had a fried egg sandwhich and grits four or five years ago that I can still recall vividly. I've had a few excellent breakfasts in Asheville, but that one took the prize. Writing about it is making me hungry, and making me contemplate ordering some Anson Mills grits.
Hope that all helps. Enjoy your trip!
If you want to hold out until Dallas for your first big meal, you can stop that rumbly in your tumbly with a couple of kolaches in historically Czech town of West, TX - declared in 1997 to be “Home of the Official Kolache of the Texas Legislature.” Don't be fooled by the convenience of the Czech Stop on the I-35 frontage road unless it's late (that's small town Texas late, i.e. around twilight). Instead, crank up that Polka playlist on your iPod, take the frontage road to Oak Street, turn east into town, and half step the extra 4 or 5 minutes to either Gerik's Ole Czech Smokehouse and Bakery @ 511 West Oak St. or The Village Bakery @ 108 East Oak St. Both places are delicious, but for me the peppery house made smoked pork sausage used at the Ole Czech Smokehouse puts it a notch above.
If you get the itch to explore a little, head over to Nemecek Brothers Meat Market and pick up some Hot Chubbys. They are house made hotdogs with a surprising kick - hot red peppers are mixed in during processing. Nemecek is purely a meat market, not a restaurant, but it's a tasty little Texas time capsule. The hot chubbys are a popular recent addition, but the house made bologna and Czech sausages are made by the same family, using the same recipes as when the market first opened in this location in 1896.
Should other 'hounds stop in West, I can say I've had a nice meal at Picha’s Czech-American Restaurant downtown. However, as you have planned a long trip in a small car, you should skip their sweet kraut/ sausage sandwich and their stuffed cabbage dinner for obvious reasons.
Check out Broadway Brewhouse/Mojo Grill at 1901 Broadway In Nashville, TN for cheap, fresh, made-from scratch Cajun/Caribbean/Tex-Mex food, sandwiches, salads, grilled fish, etc. It is about 1 mile from the I-40 Broadway exit. This location is their original (of 4 around the city) and is hugely popular with the Music Row industry crowd. Neil Young ate there every day when he was in Nashville recording his last album and it is actually a likely place to spot celebrities if you are into that kind of thing. Definitely more locals than tourists and really awesome food. Plus it is locally owned. Have a safe trip!