But these days, it's getting much harder to enjoy a food road trip. Why? I ascribe it mostly to Guy Fieri and his Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. As soon as he hits a place, the restaurant gets understandably excited about the possible boost to business from national TV, and starts hanging pictures of Guy all over the place and otherwise proceeding to ruin what gave it character in the first place.
Of course, all of us food bloggers also have to take some blame, and Jane and Michael with their Roadfood.com and Roadfood Eating Tours, as well as Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain et al are contributing to the problem. I actually don't dislike Guy Fieri as much as many people do. Sure, his dated spiked 'do and faux-bonhomie are a little grating, but there are worse things at the end of a long day than watching him chat up small town frycooks.
|suppertime at Trudel's Auctions|
Then, there's the nearly inevitable "Cash only" sign. Somehow I don't mind that in a grungy Thai spot, but in a place where the lobster pie runs $18 a plate and George Bush lives right down the street, it wouldn't kill them to take credit cards. So, yeah, we ended up fleeing the Maine Diner (a crying baby and mounting headache didn't help.) The next place we found, The Clam Shack, also featured an $18 lobster roll and plenty of signs (Lobster roll winner on Food Wars!), but it was an epic sandwich, and at least the waterside shack had plenty of outdoor seating.
Food and travel TV shows have nearly ruined the pleasures of driving around looking for classic spots, so my new rule is: No "best of" signs! And I haven't abandoned my quest for great road food, but I'll take it with a lower-case R, in places like Trudel's Auctions in Bellingham, Mass., where a woman serves up homemade chicken parm and ham dinners at a cafeteria table in back of an auction hall.