USA Trip Report May 2016

I’m probably being a bit thick but I can’t seem to find a generic “USA” category, so I’ll just bung this into the Houston board.

Mrs. Flavors and I went on a fairly lengthy road trip in the last two weeks of May. We covered over 4700 miles so there frequently wasn’t any time to investigate local culinary delights; many evenings were spent in the motel room with fast food or supermarket snacks.

There were a few things of interest though. I took a few snaps with a cheap old point-and-shoot camera so some of them aren’t of the greatest quality. Apologies for that.

Day 1

Arrived in Houston and overnighted at the airport. I couldn’t drive anywhere on landing due to a couple too many of these:

The perfect Rusty Nail - two parts Johnny Walker Black to one part Drambuie 15.

Day 2

Picked up our rental car and drove to San Antonio via Snow’s BBQ, which I covered in another thread. Drove on to Hillsboro, TX for the night.

Across the street from our hotel was an Original Fried Pie Shop. Being from Scotland, the mecca for all things deep fried, I had to try one. Beef and vegetable, to my surprise prepared from scratch.

Overly greasy and tasteless to boot. Scotland does it better I’m afraid.

Day 3

Drove to Oklahoma City and on to Witchita, KS for the night.

Day 4

Kansas City. I’d read up on the best places for KC barbecue and Joe’s seemed to be highly regarded. We turned up at 2.15pm on a wet Monday afternoon expecting the place to be fairly dead. Instead we ended up in this line:

…and that’s just the exterior portion of the line. There were at least another forty people snaking around in the interior.

It took around 50 minutes to get served, which gave us time to peruse the various framed accolades on the wall (“The best ribs in the States” - USA Today, “One of ten places to eat before you die” - Anthony Bourdain).

We ordered a Z-Man sandwich and a slab of ribs to go. The sandwich was scarfed in the parking lot. Brisket, provolone and onion rings on a Kaiser roll. Very good it was too - we instantly regretted not ordering one each.

The ribs were reserved for the microwave in the motel room later on. Unfortunately, Joe’s were out of burnt ends and I couldn’t leave Kansas City without trying some, so we drove to Char Bar, a relatively recent arrival on the scene and one of the few places I could track down which has burnt ends permanently on the menu. I ordered a pound to go and that was dinner in Branson, MO sorted.

The ribs were very tasty, meaty, tender and smoky.

But they weren’t as good as Snow’s.

I thought the burnt ends were wonderful but Mrs. Flavors wasn’t so keen due to the fact that there was a LOT of fat involved. Fine by me, I polished them all off.

The BBQ sauces from both places were top notch.

Day 5

To St. Louis MO.

The original plan here was again to try the local BBQ but I got intrigued by the local “specialty” of St. Louis-Style Pizza. This has a thin, unleavened cracker-like crust and is adorned with Provol, a local processed cheese. There was a branch of Imo’s Pizzeria (a major local chain) near our downtown hotel so we scored a takeaway Deluxe, with sausage, mushroom, onion, green pepper and bacon, along with an appetizer of deep fried Provol bites.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It tastes much better than it looks.

Day 6

Breakfast at the White Knight Diner to try another St. Louis dish - the Slinger.

Not the largest diner in the world! It can probably seat around a dozen people.

This is where the movie White Palace with Susan Sarandon and James Spader was filmed. (No, me neither).

The Slinger - a glorious mess of hashbrowns topped with a hamburger patty, chili, cheese, onions and fried eggs.

That evening found us in Elmurst, IL in the outskirts of Chicago. There’s only one thing to do when you arrive at 8.30pm in that neck of the woods.

A stuffed pizza from Giordano’s with sausage, spinach and fresh garlic. Pro tip - order well done as the base can sometimes be a little soft and undercooked.

Days 7-12

Indianapolis, Santa Claus IN, Louisville KY, Bowling Green KY, Pigeon Forge TN, Atlanta GA and Jasper AL, with no food of note involved.

Day 13

Memphis TN.

Again, I’d done a quick bit of research on the better places for Memphis BBQ and settled on this place:

A chopped pork sandwich with coleslaw (which was eaten in the car) and a slab of dry-rub ribs to be reheated for dinner. The sandwich was distinctly average with dry pork which needed liberal additions of sauce to be palatable. As we’d turned up just after opening, I suspect it was leftovers from the previous day.

The ribs were much better. The dry rub seasoning was perfect.

But they still weren’t as good as Snow’s.

We were in Texarkana for the night and next door to the hotel was Naaman’s Championship BBQ so we supplemented the ribs with a half pound of sausage. It was awful. The meat had been ground to the point of paste and if I hadn’t known it was barbecued I would have guessed it had been boiled. “Championship” my bollocks.

Days 13-15

Dallas, San Antonio and back to Houston.

It’s been a few years since I was in Houston during crawfish season, so securing a pile of bugs was a must.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned The Concert Pub on Richmond before, on The Site That Shall Not Be Named. They do crawfish properly here and by “properly” I mean by spicing the boil rather than just chucking some seasoning on after the fact. There’s lots of chunks of garlic in the butterly, lemony juices. Quite lovely.

Drawn butter for dipping, a couple of taters and corn and all for the remarkably good price of $19.99 for four pounds. If you haven’t tried this joint, I think you should. I’d love to hear a local’s take on the place.

Day 16

We were supposed to be flying home yesterday evening, but Mrs. Flavors suggested staying on for one final night in Houston. There was absolutely no argument from me.

A late brunch was had at Kenny and Ziggy’s. I’d eaten here a couple of times shortly after it opened - would that have been around 15 years ago maybe? We’d recently enjoyed the documentary Deli Man, presented by Ziggy Gruber himself, and decided to revisit.

Chopped liver and a #12 sandwich - pastrami on a potato knish with melted swiss.

This was my first taste of deli chopped liver and I wasn’t enormously impressed. The bits of egg kind of ruined what would have been a fairly good pâté if you ask me. It didn’t help that it was fridge cold too.

The sandwich was up to the standard I remember, i.e. very high.

My major complaint about this place is the sky-high pricing. We’re talking (at least) Manhattan deli prices in a strip mall place in West Houston. That ice-cream scoop sized lump of chopped liver was fifteen dollars. Still, it seems it’s as popular as ever so I guess there’s a sizeable market for their wares.

And with that, we were off back to London.

Thanks for reading!

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Outstanding report!

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Thanks!

A couple of addenda minor addenda I forgot to mention.

We dropped by Dollywood, where I’d heard that the cinnamon bread was a “must try”.


Turns out it’s an overpriced giant donut with waaay too much sugar and nowhere near enough cinnamon.

The booty from the fried rinds stall was fine though, particularly the crackling.


I had the difference between “rinds” and “crackling” patiently explained to me. “Pork rind” is what Brits would call uncooked pig skin. “Pork crackling” is what we’d call “pork scratchings”. “Pork crackling” is the term we use for the hot crispy skin on a pork joint. So what do y’all call the latter on that side of the pond?

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Umm…yeah…I got one too many “addenda” in that last post and I can’t edit it…

Excellent! I made it to a Joes KC BBQ place in Olathe last year and was not impressed with my beef order, glad you liked your order.

So you went to Dollywood, and to Santa Claus Indiana? Did you go to Holiday World while there by any chance? Not great chow, but free soft drinks, and one of my favorite Roller Coasters ever, The Voyage.

Well, it was served in a bun with melted cheese and barbecue sauce. I guess that can hide a multitude of sins.

We did indeed go to Holiday World; in fact we were actually on a theme park tour! We managed 200 rides on 71 different coasters over the 15 days.

I’m not usually one for soft drinks, but I took advantage of the free offer to try Mr. Pibb for the first time, having only ever heard about it on American Dad. Pretty tasteless stuff.

The Voyage was really good fun, but easily our favorite coaster in the park was a new-ish one called Thunderbird.

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Impressive – cobbling together an inflight Rusty Nail.

So your view of the USA was Shaped by Fox cartoons?
I like that idea. I wish I could wipe out 64 years of memories and replace them.

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Sounds like a great trip. Check out the site for the roller coaster club I beong to, we have many international members! http://my.aceonline.org/

There’s an episode which involves Stan and Francine attempting to save Mr. Pibb after it’s been discontinued. Damn funny.

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Wow, a fellow coaster geek! Nice one.

I’ve heard of ACE of course, mainly through the little plaques you come across. There’s even a couple of “ACE Coaster Classic” ones at Blackpool Pleasure Beach here in the UK.

Holy cow, so this was really a roller coaster tour of middle America? That’s pretty interesting.

So San Antonio was about Fiesta Texas and not puffy tacos?

Good to know.

(Adrenalin junkies!) :wink:

Seems like a trip report on KimFair’s site would be appropriate as well!

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Blackpool is one of my dream trips. I got to London in 2014 for the first time, but that was to see the amazing Kate Bush in concert, and was too late for us to get to Blackpool. Next time!

Did you get to Kennywood in Pittsburgh at all? It, along with Knoebel’s Grove in Eastern PA aerw my favorite parks in the country.

Well, yes it was; I didn’t bother mentioning it as I reckoned folks on a foodie site wouldn’t find it at all interesting!

Fiesta Texas and a little place called ZDT 's Amusement Park in Seguin.

No time for tacos on this trip but on my first visit to San Antonio last year I had puffy tacos at Henry’s Tacos.

Didn’t care for the deep-fried tortilla much, but the fillings were good, especially the carne guisada.

I’ve got a nearby hole-in-the-wall Indian place which does bhaturas. Similar to puffy tacos but much tastier. The difference might be that the dough is leavened.

Haven’t been to Kennywood yet but I’ve been to Knoebels on a previous road trip. Unfortunately a massive thunderstorm hit just after we arrived. I’d love to return some day.

I had my first taste of pierogi at Knoebels. Absolutely swimming in melted butter they were. Wonderful.

Yeah, Knoebel’s has some great food, as does Kennywood. I had never been to London (my wife lived there from 1978-1981), so we went to see her old flat in Watford, and did some other sight seeing, but the main reason was to see Kate. She was phenomenal, especially since she hadn’t done a true concert in 30+ years! My wife actually saw her at the same venue (Hammersmith) in 1979! We intend to return to the UK again sometime, to hit Blackpool, Alton Towers, and some of the older smaller parks in the south of England.

Re: The Slinger - I WANT!. That looks awfully good and I’ve never heard of it. There are similar sandwiches around. Ever had a Horseshoe Sandwich around Springfield, IL? Locally the BB’s Tex-Orleans chain has a dish that used to be called Tex-Cajun Virgin for some reason but now is called Tex-Cajun Fries - Shoestring fries topped with queso, gravy and roast beef, as in New Orleans Roast Beef Po’boy. I loved the crispy fries but not the ones that got soggy under the queso and gravy. Seems to me the hash browns would be a better base. I’ll have to try to make a Slinger.

Two stops in Indiana and no fried chicken or Pork Tenderloin sandwich?

Great report. The Flavors know how to eat!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold