Archive for the ‘Roadfood’ Category

Meche’s Donut King – Breaux Bridge, LA

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by virginia


After consulting for a place to grab a local-style breakfast, we drove about 15 minutes from our hotel in Lafayette to the neighboring town of Breaux Bridge. While Cafe des Amis was considered to be the best place for their Zydeco breakfast, it’s only on Saturdays and we were there on a Thursday. We decided to go for a more casual route with donuts and coffee, plus a few local specialties.

Kolaches originated in Central Europe and are pretty popular in Louisiana and Texas. They’re typically sausages wrapped in dough and baked, sort of like a breadier version of pigs in a blanket. I had tasted a kolache before, when a friend brought them to NYC from Texas, but never one that was warm and fresh. Meche’s was out of boudin kolaches but still had sausage and cheese kolaches available so we decided to try one of those. We opted for the jalapeno version, which had pieces of the spicy pepper baked right into the dough and gave it a nice little kick.

Sausage, cheese, and jalapeno kolache

Sausage, cheese, and jalapeno kolache

The sausage is more like a hot dog than an Italian or breakfast sausage, and a thin slice of cheese was wrapped around it and was melty and slightly gooey. The bread itself was soft, chewy, and slightly sweet. It was a great combination of salty, sweet, and savory.

Kolache innards

Kolache innards

We also tried the creole stuffed bread, which was a thinner, slightly denser dough baked around a mix of ground sausage, peppers, and spices. The sausage here was more like a traditional breakfast sausage broken up into small crumbles. It was an incredibly savory mix that was well seasoned and just exploded with flavor. I don’t even like breakfast sausage and I was in love with this stuffed bread.

Creole stuffed bread innards

Creole stuffed bread innards

And of course, we had to taste the donuts. We actually got to the shop shortly before they closed so there wasn’t a whole lot left to choose from. We decided to stay classic with a regular glazed donut and a chocolate glazed one. I had been hoping to try their beignets, which I read were like cinnamon sugar dusted yeast donuts rather than the more fritter-like beignets of Cafe Du Monde, but no such luck. Still, the classics were great. The donuts were fluffy and light, eggy with a slight hint of vanilla. I commented to Josh that they tasted like good french toast, in donut form (and minus any cinnamon). The glazes were sweet but not overwhelming so; they were the perfect pairing for cups of Community Coffee that we were drinking.


Glazed and chocolate glazed donuts

We had a great breakfast at Meche’s Donut King, which I think might be a franchise as there appear to be other unrelated branches in Lafayette and elsewhere in Louisiana. But the donuts tasted fresh and didn’t have that chemical aftertaste that I usually experience with donuts from chains back home. The real stars of the meal, however, were the kolache and the creole stuffed bread. I’m partial to savory breakfasts in general, and I’d happily eat these every day of the week. I just loved the flavor of the stuffed bread filling, and the combination of the hot dog sausage, cheese, and jalapenos was something I might try to replicate here.

Meche’s Donut King
125 Courthouse St.
Breaux Bridge, LA

Lafayette Quickie – Johnson’s Boucaniere

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 by virginia


After trying the hot boudin at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, we were curious about the boudin that is served in the heart of Cajun country. A little research led us to Johnson’s Boucaniere, which is located on the edge of the downtown area. It’s basically a house with sign out front that says “Hot boudin to-day”. We got there right before they closed up shop, and while there is a menu board with sandwiches listed, we really just wanted to try the boudin. We got one link to share, which they helpfully split open for us before wrapping it up in white paper. We took it outside to the picnic table area on the large porch so that we could eat it immediately, while it was still steaming hot.

We did take a picture of the boudin before we ate it but it was.. ahem.. unpublishable. Seriously, it did not look appetizing at all, and I didn’t want to subject the internet to it. If you’re curious, send me an email or leave a comment. But it tasted really good, I promise. There was smoky pork flavor and a peppery kick that I was not expecting. The ratio of rice to meat was pretty even, and the casing was thicker than the one at Cochon Butcher, but it didn’t matter because I think you’re only supposed to eat the insides anyway. Overall we found boudin to be a unique type of sausage, vastly from the Italian style that we’re used to, and great by itself or with a little mustard. While it’s not something I would eat every day, it was nice to try out a local specialty.

Johnson’s Boucaniere
1111 St John St.
Lafayette, LA

Ben’s Chili Bowl and Pizza Mart – Washington DC

Thursday, September 5th, 2013 by virginia

We only had half a day of sightseeing in Washington DC before we needed to head back north for our next destination, Philadelphia. It was fine by me because it was the hottest weekend of the summer and I really wasn’t feeling up to doing too much walking around (107 degrees + 7 month pregnant belly = not a happy camper). We did a short circuit of the major landmarks closest to our hotel – the White House and the Washington Monument.

The White House (true story: we sent the Obama family J's birth announcement and we got a congratulatory card in return. Obviously sent by a staffer, but still a cool keepsake for J!)

The White House (true story: we sent the Obama family a copy of J’s birth announcement and we got a congratulatory card in return. Obviously sent by a staffer, but still a cool keepsake for J!)

Looking up at the Washington Monument

Looking up at the Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial was within sight but simply too far away in the heat. Instead, we cooled off in the air conditioned Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Why that particular museum? I wanted to see the Julia Child exhibit. Unbeknownst to us, the exhibit had closed in January (it later reopened, and is now part of the new FOOD exhibit), and I was pretty disappointed to have missed it. However, the Star Spangled Banner exhibit is really incredible, and worth a visit on its own.

The Lincoln Memorial in the distance

The Lincoln Memorial in the distance

After driving around to see some of the other sights that we weren’t able to walk to (ie., the Capital Building, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial), we headed over to the U Street Corridor to another Washington DC landmark: Ben’s Chili Bowl.


It was a little past lunchtime so we were able to get seats at the counter right away. It was cool to be in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and see all the workers in action behind the counter.

View from a counter seat at Ben's Chili Bowl

View from a counter seat

The menu is posted on a board, and we zoned straight in on the chili half smoke. The menu isn’t very broad, although you can get hamburgers and other sandwiches. The main feature is obviously the chili, which you can get on pretty much anything.

The menu board

The menu board

Josh and I each got a chili half smoke. A half smoke is a smoked sausage that is half beef and half pork. It looks like a hot dog but is fatter in size and a lot more flavorful. The casing had been browned on a griddle, which gave it a good snap, and the texture of the sausage was firmer than a hot dog, which helped it stand out from underneath the chili. The chili itself was delicious. The meat is ground pretty small but as whole, it’s thick, savory, and has a nice kick to it. Rounding out the chili half smoke was a slather of mustard and some raw chopped onion.

The infamous chili half smoke

The famous chili half smoke

We also shared an order of fries (the chili half smokes come with potato chips on the side), which were fresh out of the fryer and piping hot, but otherwise fairly standard. We probably should have gone for the chili cheese fries, if only to be able to eat more of that delicious chili.

A side order of fries

A side order of fries

On our way out the door, we stopped to look at all the half smokes crisping up on the griddle.

Half smokes piled up on the griddle

Half smokes on the griddle

Overall Josh and I both loved Ben’s Chili Bowl. In addition to having great chili and half smokes, the place just has so much history and character. It’s definitely a DC landmark that you shouldn’t miss out on.

After leaving Ben’s, we headed to the Adams Morgan neighborhood in search of a ginormous slice of pizza. I wasn’t a huge fan of the now cancelled tv show Food Wars, but sometimes the food depicted on the show just called out to me. The Pizza Mart vs. Jumbo Slice episode stayed in my memory (probably because I love pizza and couldn’t get enough of it while I was pregnant), and we decided to try a head-to-head battle ourselves. Unfortunately, Jumbo Slice was closed, which only left us with Pizza Mart.


The inside of the shop is a bit dingy, but that’s never stopped us before. There are a few small tables in the front and some counter seating, but it looked like most people took their food to go. Josh and I decided to split one jumbo slice, since we had just filled up at Ben’s Chili Bowl right beforehand.

Jumbo slice from Pizza Mart

Jumbo slice from Pizza Mart

To get a better perspective on just how large this jumbo slice is, it was more than twice the size of my hand and covered two paper plates.

Jumbo slice vs. my hand

Jumbo slice vs. my hand

Size aside, I actually found the slice to be pretty decent. It was similar to NYC pizzeria style pizza and had a good flavor to it. It wasn’t overly cheesy, though it could have used slightly more tomato sauce. But the sauce was tangy, the cheese was nicely browned, and the crust was thin.

The underside shot. Folded in half, each half was like one super long slice of regular NYC pizza.

Is this also a can’t miss landmark? Definitely not. But it was fun trying to manage the absurdly large slice of pizza, and I enjoyed eating it. Josh wasn’t as impressed, but he’s more of a pizza snob than I am (it horrifies him that I enjoy eating Elio’s). At $5 a slice, I can see this as a great, cheap place to grab a quick bite after a night of drinking.

Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street NW

Washington, DC

Pizza Mart
2445 18th St NW
Washington, DC

Schwartz’s – Montreal

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 by virginia


After spending two nights in Quebec City, we headed to Montreal to finish up our little Canadian adventure. We didn’t leave quite as early in morning as we would have liked, plus we ended up hitting some traffic on the highway, so we got to the city a bit later than we intended, around 1 pm. Since we had a 5 pm reservation at Au Pied de Cochon later that day, we were hungry but didn’t want to fill up too much before our highly anticipated dinner. Instead of going to our hotel first, we headed straight for Schwartz’s, a famed Montreal deli, and picked up some smoked meat sandwiches to go.

There was a line of people waiting to be seated in the restaurant, but we found a parking spot and Josh was able to run in to the takeout counter and get two sandwiches right away. They were already prepared and wrapped up in wax paper, so I hoped they were still fresh. We took them to our hotel and ate them immediately after we got to our room.

Smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz's

Smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s

The sandwiches were a decent size – not overstuffed like the crazy big sandwiches at Carnegie Deli, but still piled high with a good amount of meat. There was mustard on the bread already, so I guess it comes standard, since no one asked Josh if he wanted any. That suited us fine, as we both like mustard on our deli sandwiches, but I’m not sure what happens if you don’t want mustard. The bread was still soft but not soggy, which is a good sign that the sandwiches were recently made at least. However, the small size of the bread was pretty laughable compared to the amount of meat. It did a pretty bad job containing the sandwich, and I ended up with basically a fistful of meat with no bread about halfway through.

It didn’t really matter in the end, as the smoked meat was the star of the sandwich anyway. It was tender and had a good amount of fattiness to it, which prevented it from getting too dry. It tasted like a cross between pastrami and corned beef, with lots of spices crusted on the outside and a subtle smokey/cured flavor on the inside. It wasn’t overly salty, as I sometimes find deli meats to be, and I especially enjoyed the pop of the crushed peppercorns in the seasoning.

Smoked meat up close

Smoked meat up close

Overall Josh and I both liked the smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s, although I do wish that the bread to meat ratio was a bit better. Maybe if we get take out next time, we should order the meat by the pound and get bread separately, so that we could construct our own sandwiches. That would also allow us to tailor the amount of mustard to our preferences. Nevertheless, the sandwich was satisfying and the smoked meat itself was a treat. At about $7 per sandwich, it wasn’t a bad deal either. I’d definitely recommend stopping by to taste one of Montreal’s most famous smoked meat destinations.

3895 St Laurent Blvd

Montreal, Canada

Clare and Carl’s – Plattsburgh, NY

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by virginia

Our drive to Canada wouldn’t have been an official road trip without first consulting one of my favorite resources, There weren’t too many options on I-87 before we crossed the border so I ended up researching a few places in Plattsburgh, the last “big” city we would pass through in NY. The regional food of choice there is the Michigan, a hot dog covered in chili.

We planned to leave our house early enough to get to Plattsburgh for a late lunch. An unexpected detour through Schenectady slowed us down a bit (we missed a turn somewhere in Albany and ended up getting on I-90 by accident) so we were hoping to make a quick pit stop at Clare and Carl’s roadside stand for some hot dogs before continuing on our way.

As we entered Plattsburgh, I did a quick search on Josh’s iphone for the address and came up with 2 Dock Street. The GPS directed us to a spot right on the shores of Lake Champlain. However, we didn’t see any hot dog stands nearby. Baby J was starting to fuss so I fed her while Josh got out of the car to investigate. He found an old abandoned and condemned building that had Clare and Carl’s signage nearby in the parking lot, but we were clearly at the wrong place. I re-googled the correct address, and fortunately, we weren’t so far out of the way.

It was gorgeous outside, sunny and warm, so we took a few photos by the lake before heading off. We finally found the right spot, and it was exactly what I was expecting – a nondescript building full of character on the inside.


Clare and Carl’s in Plattsburgh, NY

It reminded me of White Manna, our favorite spot for sliders. There was a long u-shaped counter, the menu on a board on the wall, and lots of old signs with humorous statements.


The menu board

We sat at the counter and placed our order, although there were a lot of people eating in their cars outside. We each got a Michigan, and we decided to share an order of french fries and onion rings. I was a bit worried about getting chili all over myself, but the Michigan was pretty delicious despite the messiness. The chili was meaty, well seasoned, hot, and had a little bit of a kick to it. We ordered it with onions on top, though the waitress said her preference is to have them buried under the chili. The bun was pretty generic, but the hot dog itself was a little disappointing – a bit mushy with no snap. It kind of got lost under all that delicious chili.

The Michigan - a chili covered hot dog with onions on top

The Michigan – a chili covered hot dog

The fries and onion rings were pretty standard, though well fried. They were piping hot and crispy, and the onion rings were made with real onions, not some sort of fake composite.

French fries

French fries

Onion rings

Onion rings

Overall I was really glad we stopped at Clare and Carl’s. It’s exactly what I think of when I think about road food. It was definitely a “local” place, as the waitress knew almost everyone who walked in the door by name. There was a lot of teasing and good-natured ribbing going on, and the food was pretty good. Was it the best chili hot dog I’ve ever had? Probably not. The chili was great but the hot dog was a bit lacking. But it was quick, cheap, satisfying, and an enjoyable experience.

Clare and Carl’s
4729 NY-9
Plattsburgh, NY

Two Fat Bellies Hit the Road – Roadfood Trip to South Carolina

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 by virginia

Instead of flying down for our annual August vacation in Hilton Head, Josh and I decided to take a short road trip and drive down, making a few food-related stops along the way. I was inspired after reading Two for the Road by Jane and Michael Stern, who wrote about their various adventures in exploring the country’s best roadfood experiences. I loved the idea of just packing up, getting in the car, and driving off to taste the local cuisine at hole in the wall kind of places all over the U.S. I used their website,, in finding good stops along the way on our own road trip down south.

We hit the road on a Thursday morning, waiting until just after rush hour to get started. We decided to forgo a proper breakfast and picked up some of our favorite bagels to eat in the car instead. Our first Roadfood stop was about five hours away so we had quite a distance to travel before we could have lunch. We hit a little bit of traffic outside of Allentown, PA, so we were a little behind schedule by the time we got to our first destination in Winchester, VA, the Snow White Grill.

The Snow White Grill in Winchester, VA

The Snow White Grill is a small burger joint that features sliders, one of our favorite eats. We’ve been big fans of the sliders at White Manna in Hackensack, NJ, although the last few times we’ve gone there, the burgers were unseasoned and dried out. The Snow White Grill had a similar old timey feel, with seats at a long counter and a small menu. It’s in a quaint part of town, down a pedestrian mall with lots of restaurants and shops. It’s really a small place though so it might be easy to miss.

The menu board

The counter and grill

Josh and I both ordered red birch beer to drink, which is similar to root beer, but less sweet and not as medicinal-tasting, in my opinion. Josh and I both got sliders and shared some fries and tater tots on the side. We were surprised when the sliders came out of a warming tray instead of being cooked fresh on the grill. I was disappointed that we couldn’t watch their slider cooking method, but fortunately, the burgers still tasted fresh and hot. The meat was well seasoned and the onions were soft and sweet, though not super caramelized.

Slider with tater tots

Josh had his sliders with cheese, but because they were added after the burger had already been cooked and put together, the cheese wasn’t melted on. The residual heat softened it up though, and Josh didn’t have any complaints. The fries were the shoestring variety, which I prefer. They seemed to be the frozen kind though, as were the tater tots, but both were fried well – hot and crispy, so we enjoyed them.

Sliders with cheese and fries

I only got one slider so that I could also try the chili dog. We had recently tried the chili half smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC (more on that trip later), so I was in a chili dog mood. The chili was the ground meat variety, not too thick nor too thin, and fairly standard in terms of seasoning. The hot dog was also pretty standard, and overall it was not bad but definitely not as good as Ben’s.

Chili dog

Overall, we really enjoyed the sliders at the Snow White Grill. They were flavorful and well prepared, not overly greasy, and I wonder if they would have been even better if we had gotten them fresh off the grill. I could pass on the chili dog the next time, but the fries and tots were tasty. We were off to a good start on our roadfood trip.

Our second stop was a snack break just under two hours later, at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton, VA. It’s a drive-in restaurant (although you can also sit inside if desired), which I was excited about as I had never experienced that before.

Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton, VA

We pulled into one of the drive in spots and took a quick look at the menu, which is fairly big but features basic grill and fry items. Since this was supposed to be our “snack”, we decided to each order a milk shake and to split one of their famous Superburgers. We placed our order through the intercom, and it was brought to us shortly by the car hop and placed on a tray next to the menu.

The menu, ordering intercom, and food tray

Josh got a vanilla milkshake while I chose strawberry. The shakes were thick and creamy, though not too thick so that we could still suck it up through the straw. The vanilla tasted like melted high quality vanilla ice cream, and was pretty delicious. The strawberry was even better in my opinion, with real bits of strawberry blended into the shake.

Vanilla and strawberry milkshakes

The Superburger was supposedly created a few years before the Big Mac. It features two beef patties, American cheese, shredded lettuce, and special sauce on a triple decker bun. It was definitely similar to a Big Mac, but tasted fresher. The meat was beefier, though we found the special sauce (similar to thousand island dressing) a bit too sweet. We liked the novelty of it but would probably get a regular burger next time, if we ever go back.

The Superburger

Overall, we loved the milkshakes at Wright’s Dairy Rite. I would definitely go back for another if we’re in the area, and maybe try some of their ice cream. The Superburger was a notch above standard fast food burgers, but nothing extraordinary. Still, we thought that it’s a great place to stop by for a quick snack, and having your food delivered to your window by a car hop is pretty neat.

After leaving Staunton, we headed towards our destination for the night, my brother’s home near Charlotte, NC. We planned to stop in Greensboro, NC for a barbecue dinner at Stamey’s, which I also read about on Unfortunately, we hit massive amounts of traffic en route and wound up arriving well after all the barbecue joints in the area had closed. Luckily my brother had saved us some marinated flank steak so we still ended up having a tasty late dinner.

The next morning we hit the road again and headed to Charleston, SC. Even though it wasn’t really on the way to Hilton Head, I really wanted to have lunch at the Hominy Grill. The restaurant is listed on, but I’ve wanted to eat there for many years now, ever since I read a profile about it in The New York Times. I was looking forward to having my first lowcountry meal of the trip, and it didn’t disappoint.

Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC

We arrived just in time for a late lunch, so the restaurant wasn’t too crowded. They brought us some boiled peanuts to start, which were easy to crack open and fun to eat.

Boiled peanuts

To start off our meal, we shared the fried green tomatoes and okra and shrimp beignets. The fried green tomatoes were perfectly breaded discs, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The tomatoes were just slightly tart, and they paired well with the creamy ranch dressing on the side.

Fried green tomatoes with ranch dressing

The shrimp and okra beignets were loosely bound fritters that fell apart delicately when I cut into them. Though a bit messy to eat, they were delicious, with lots shrimp chunks inside, and just a hint of the oozy texture of the okra. They were served with salsa and cilantro-lime sour cream, providing a southwestern twist to the dish.

Shrimp and okra beignets with salsa and cilantro-lime sour cream

For our entrees, we split the big nasty sandwich and the shrimp and grits. The big nasty features a fried chicken breast topped with cheddar cheese that is sandwiched between a biscuit and smothered with sausage gravy. It looks and sounds like a total gutbomb, but it actually wasn’t overly heavy. While I wouldn’t call it a light dish either, the fried chicken was moist, the biscuit was fluffy, and the sausage gravy was creamy but not too salty or rich. Splitting the portion was spot on, leaving us plenty of room to enjoy our other dish.

Big nasty biscuit with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy

The shrimp and grits featured plump shrimp topped with sauteed mushrooms, scallions, and bacon over a bed of cheese grits. There was a lemon wedge on the side that we squeezed over the top, and added a healthy dose of hot sauce as well. It was a great combination of salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy, a big plate of comfort food at its best. My only quibble was that the dish was only served warm, not piping hot, and the grits weren’t as creamy as I prefer.

Shrimp and grits with with mushrooms, scallions, and bacon

Overall, the Hominy Grill was one of my favorite meals all year. I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, since I had been eager to try this restaurant for years, but the food was well executed and really tasty. The menu features lots of southern/lowcountry classics, and there were so many things that I wanted to try. And even though this is a highly acclaimed restaurant, all of the dishes were under $20, with appetizers and sandwiches all under $10. I would definitely go back again, and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Charleston.

We arrived at our final destination, Hilton Head Island, in the early evening, just in time for dinner. So while our first Roadfood trip was pretty short, and we weren’t able to make it to all of the places on our list due to traffic, we had a lot of fun and got to try a lot of good food. Roadfood isn’t about finding the fanciest or best restaurants. It’s about eating locally, seeking out gems that represent the cuisine of the region. All the places that we visited served solid, down to earth food, and for cheap. It’s the best of all the worlds, and I look forward to our next Roadfood adventure.

Snow White Grill
159 North Loudoun St.
Winchester, VA

Wright’s Dairy Rite
346 Greenville Ave.
Staunton, VA

Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Ave.
Charleston, SC