Somehow, any semblance of a fat-kid self-filter goes out the window when I'm on the road. Before leaving Montana, I took part in a beautifully healthy going away pot-luck full of food that came straight from the hostess's garden. I declared that in addition to the deliciousness, I was glad for the healthy lightness of the meal, as I was looking at roughly 2 days of straight up garbage ahead of me. On my way to Montana, I had a sublime roadhouse experience in the middle of South Dakota involving whiskey, beer and a perfect ribeye, details of which I wrote about upon arrival. When traveling by air, I invariably look for a Panda Express, a temple of sorts at which to worship the clumsily prepared ball of fried low grade chicken-like product covered in corn syrup they like to call Orange Flavored Chicken. Gross, I know, but I was thrilled when I read in Blood, Bones and Butter (great for the first two-thirds, at least, before it turns into a reader-as-therapist unloading of husband hating) by someone I hold in the highest regard, Gabrielle Hamilton (lest you think that last parenthetical comment was somehow partisan): "Our ritual meal of Wok Express fast-food Chinese at the airport before we will not see anything approximating Asian food--even such as this bullshit chicken broccoli on a Styrofoam plate--for twenty-one days was shared..." Hark! Someone else who cares about food slips now and then, too!
But despite the proliferation of the terrible little chains that have now replaced the wonderful roadhouses and diners that actually made home-made pie (rather than just calling it home-made pie) along America's roads, one can still find some gems if they avoid the truck stops. And in the road-food category, some chains aren't as evil as they may be made out to be by yours truly in pretty much every other post on F.o.t.D. True, I'll never touch a McDonald's (and please don't ask me to defend that statement or give a reason that hasn't already been spewed out into the universe by countless others--it's just a chip I've got on my shoulder), but I'll brake fast at a Culver's and get down on some fried cheese curds. And I'll destroy a sack of stupid little hamburgers at Shake and Steak despite their weird skinny fries. And the milkshakes at these places are a standard item each time I hit their drive-thru, despite the fact that we all know there is nary a trace of milk to be found in these thickened-by-strange-and-artificial-means-that-have-to-just-have-to-be-deadly-to-us drinks.
picture of their food from every angle, post it to Facebook, and then check for likes and comments before taking the first bite). But the best part for me has always been rolling the dice on a place you know nothing about, a place that hasn't been seen on the Food Network, a place where you feel the slight tinge of discomfort that comes with being an outsider. And the only way to find these places are to drive past the exit ramp gas plazas. And take the back roads to get there--one of my favorite stretches of road in the country lies between Chicago and Canada, and was discovered by accident as I tried to circumnavigate a landfill of traffic a few years back. This route is full of supper clubs and roadside fruit stands and the occasional diner that does, in fact, make their pies right there.