Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Slow food in the fast lane

On most interstates, you really have to search for good food among the complexes of fast food places at the interchanges. But in some cases, real, slow food is only a few hundred yards away from the end of that highway ramp.

Driving from New Orleans to Atlanta, I was delighted to find Wintzell's Oyster House in Saraland, Ala., where we watched the highway traffic pass as we enjoyed a lunch of seafood gumbo, chili, crab soup and a dozen raw Louisiana oysters, shucked after I ordered them. At the Cracker Barrel Store (No. 231) in Opelika, Ala., we had the fish fry (we chose cod instead of farmed catfish) and a bowl of some of the best turnip greens I've ever had.

The next day, on the leg from Atlanta to Roanoke, Va., we stopped at the family-owned Daddy Joe's Beach House in Gaffney, S.C., for lunch and were bowled over by the saucy St. Louis-style pork ribs -- the tender meat came easily off the bone -- and the pulled-pork sandwich with coleslaw.

On the back of Daddy Joe's menu is a history of barbecue in the South: "These roadside BBQ shacks were an interracial meeting place long before the forced integration of the 1950s and 1960s.... In some places, blues and boogie-woogie music ... drew fans of every class and color."

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