Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I-10 Tastiness

Well, I'm back in Virginia, but not without a three-day gastrointestinal journey through the South. My route, TX-71 to I-10 to I-95, was an exhausting 1600-mile ride, but it was the tasty gems along the way that made it memorable.

Sidebar: thanks to three people for their great suggestions for the route: MJ, SO, KG. Fantastic picks!

We got to see several cities I had never been to before on the route: Houston, Baton Rouge, Mobile and Jacksonville. Also went through some more familiar places, including a hilarious interlude at South of the Border, the biggest tourist trap in the world (just 'cuz), and any east coast must -- a stop for vinegar-based NC BBQ. Oh how I've missed this delicacy in my time in Texas.

I got to sample three of the suggested eateries along the way: The Chimes, an off-campus LSU haunt where I tried the crawfish etouffe, and across Baton Rouge, Coffee Call, a great 24-hour coffeeshop with stellar beignets, hidden in a strip mall. Finally, in Jacksonville, I dove into a fried chicken dinner with all-you-can-eat sides for $8.46 at Beach Road Chicken Dinners. It was quite the culinary marathon.

The Chimes was a good place to relax and enjoy some Louisiana fare in a laidback college town environment. While I slaughtered the pronunciation of etouffe and roumelade and other French words, I made up for it with my prowess in taking down Coffee Call's beignet fingers 15 minutes later. My "small" order of beignets (about $3) was a large enough serving to feed me breakfast for three days. I ate the majority in one sitting though: I'm just that gross (or awesome, depending on the judge).

Night two brought me to the granddaddy of all southern feasts: Beach Road Chicken Dinners. I chowed down on perfectly crispy fried chicken and an endless supply of buttery biscuits, hush puppies, fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw and cream peas. All was sloshed down with an endless stream of sweet tea. All this for under $10. Unreal. The meal was quite the spectacle. We ordered drinks, my dad excused himself to wash his hands, and upon his return our entire table was filled with family style side dishes and a massive centerpiece of fried chicken. Doesn't get much better than that!

A preview of what Southern Living called the Best Fried Chicken in the South in 1997 and #1 in Jacksonville Magazine:

Here is where I found what may be the tastiest equation discovered in 2008:

French fries + mashed potatoes + gravy = Insanely awesome (translated: fries dipped in mashed potatoes with gravy could be the world's best kept food secret)

Since every great meal should end with dessert, I leave you with a taste (sorry this isn't Taste-o-vision) of Coffee Call's beignet fingers...

Beach Road Chicken Dinners pictures courtesy of the Travelin Man's Photostream on Flickr
Coffee Call picture also from Flickr

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