My Roadfood Pantheon

I had planned on following my usual pattern by going out for some sort of long-roll sandwich yesterday and reporting on it here today. But I’ve got a very hefty meal planned for Friday and my body was telling me to take it easy until then. 

So to hold you over, I’ve put together a list – with photos – of the ten best roadfood items I’ve eaten over the years. It includes only food I’ve had while traveling, so you won’t see any cheesesteaks or other Philly-area delicacies.

All ten items made such a huge impression on me that I found it impossible to rank them. So here they are in random order.

Double Cheeseburger at Carl’s Drive-In  (Brentwood, Missouri)

There is a style of hamburger I love that is only prevalent in parts of the Midwest. They are smashed so thin that the edges become lacy. None has surpassed the rendition I had at Carl’s Drive-In, a tiny old-school burger and root beer joint on historic Rt. 66 just outside of St. Louis. 

Butterscotch Cream Pie at Gray Brothers Cafeteria  (Mooresville, Indiana)

Hanging out for years on the now defunct roadfood message boards – where those with a lot more regional eating experience than I have would regularly wax poetic about the great pie in flyover country – made me a fan of this most American of desserts. It was not easy to decide which of the many slices I’ve had to include here. But the butterscotch cream pie at Gray Brothers – with its tall layer of meringue topped with roasted pecans- got the nod. My wife, our friend and I were all actually swooning with each bite while sharing the slice. 

Pork Spare Ribs at Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue  (Kansas City, Missouri)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited this legendary barbecue establishment during 2017 after reading talk of them having gone downhill. I should have ignored it. They served the best pork ribs I’ve ever eaten. They were absolutely perfect, both in terms of doneness and flavor.

White Clam Pizza at Zuppardi’s Apizza  (West Haven, Connecticut)

Whenever the topic of the best region for pizza arises, I always go all in for the New Haven, Connecticut, area, where they call their pies “apizza.” While there is plenty of good standard – sauce and cheese – pizza to be found there, the white clam pies at a handful of places are uniquely wonderful and shouldn’t be missed. The phenomenal version I had at Zuppardi’s was on a fantastic crust and featured freshly shucked clams. 

Banana Pudding at Arnold’s Country Kitchen  (Nashville, Tennessee)

If I had to pick a favorite dessert, it may very well be banana pudding – one of the joys of Southern cuisine. And the best banana pudding I’ve ever had was unquestionably at Arnold’s – a classic Nashville Meat & Three cafeteria – during my 50th birthday road trip to the near-South and Midwest.

Fried Chicken at Brown Bag Burgers  (Henderson, Kentucky)

Fried chicken never really excited me until I went to Henderson, Kentucky. While the chicken I had there at Brown Bag Burgers is made in the Bluegrass State, it will never be mistaken for KFC. My thigh and drumstick featured a wonderfully crispy – almost brittle – crust that was heavily seasoned. This isn’t fried chicken for the timid. It’s ultra juicy and extra spicy.

Lobster Roll at Red’s Eats  (Wiscasset, Maine)

Red’s Eats is legendary for their lobster rolls, which have been featured on various TV shows and web sites for years. They pile a massive amount of fresh and unadorned lobster meat onto a New England style bun and offer either melted butter or mayo on the side. There is so much lobster meat on these babies that it’s sometimes not possible to even see the roll that holds it.

Vanilla Frozen Custard at Kopp’s  (Glendale, Wisconsin)

Genuine frozen custard is different from both hard and soft-serve ice creams. It’s smoother than the former and denser than the latter. Wisconsin – especially the Milwaukee area – is far and away the frozen custard capital of the U.S. And Kopp’s, which is just north of Milwaukee, may be the best of the best. I went there twice during a long weekend in that area. After trying a spectacular turtle sundae the first time around, I went with a dish of simple vanilla when I returned. Its texture and flavor were unimprovable. 

Corned Beef on Rye at Shapiro’s Delicatessen  (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Jewish style deli has been one of my favorite food genres for as long as I can remember, so I felt compelled to include a corned beef or pastrami sandwich on this list. I have been to the legendary Katz’s Deli in New York City a few times, but not for many years, and I have no photos from those experiences. But Sharpiro’s in Indy is a great alternative. Not only was the corned beef top notch, but the thick rye bread that it came on had to be the best I’ve ever eaten. 

Beef Short Rib at Louie Mueller Barbecue  (Taylor, Texas)

Although I didn’t rank the ten items on this list, I saved what is arguably the best for last. The humongous short rib I had from one of the most legendary barbecue establishments in the nation was the greatest piece of meat – of any kind – I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. It was so succulent that I was left in a bit of a daze for a while after eating it.

I plan on conducting a meat-to-cheese-to-roll ratio experiment Friday when I return to another of my top ten cheesesteak purveyors with a friend who will be helping me out in that endeavor. My report on the results should be up by Friday evening.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

4 thoughts on “My Roadfood Pantheon

  1. Very good post! A well-rounded selection for those of us who have been to those places or want to go there. This is a good guide for the beginning roadfooder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually thought their burger was better than ordinary. But you’re in Wisconsin, where they have an abundance of good burgers. So our frame of reference is probably different.


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