The Photographer’s Guide to Food on the Road
When my editors propose a politics trip to a particular state, I immediately begin considering the native cuisine, or lack thereof, available at my destination. Here’s a look at the best and worst of my on-the-road dining this election cycle.
I am no stranger to Peach State cuisine, as my first two newspaper jobs were at the Marietta Daily Journal, outside Atlanta, and the Augusta Chronicle. My mother’s side of the family lives there, too.
The first treat of the trip was introducing our Associate Politics Editor Kyle Trygstad to the world of Waffle House during our stay in Valdosta while following Democrat Michelle Nunn.
I could live on bacon and grits.
Jerry “Shag” Wright.
Based on suggestions from a couple political operatives at the cookout, Kyle and I headed to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah the following day. We were told to get there for lunch early, which we did, and the line to get in was down the block. So we settled for Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. I ate as much fried chicken, biscuits and collard greens as I could. It was good, but I bet Mrs. Wilkes was better.
Barbecue was the highlight of this trip while covering the GOP Senate primary. Even though my overnight accommodations in Cornelius, N.C., near Thom Tillis’ campaign office was a creepy motel by the interstate, it was just down the street from Mac’s Speed Shop. After a long day of driving and shooting, and then getting creeped out in the motel, I found solace in their Carolina beef brisket and half-price pint night. And as luck would have it, I was able to swing back by the next day for lunch to sample their pulled pork. Both meals were delicious.
As far as I know, West Virginia isn’t famous for its food, or much of anything besides coal, Miss Road Kill and Barney Fife – and probably not even for Barney Fife. The only meals I can recall from that trip were the chicken strips at the sports bar in a downtown Charleston hotel, and the Texas Steakhouse chain restaurant at an interstate exit in the middle of nowhere. While I am sure there are some fine places to dine in West Virginia, we didn’t find them.
I love southwestern style cooking and I got my fill in Arizona while covering several House races there in August. Who goes to Arizona in August, anyway?
First stop was lunch with Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., at El Charro Café in Tucson to experience the “Famous Carne Seca Platter” featuring marinated angus beef which is dried on the roof of the restaurant. Everyone raved about this dish, but it turned out not be my thing. I had hoped I would have another chance to try something else, but maybe next time.
The next day Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., suggested we dine at America’s Taco Shop in Phoenix. So we did, and I can say their carne asada burrito is definitely in the running for my best “Roll Call on the Road” meal of the cycle. All you Beltway people, did you know they have a location in Bethesda? I plan on giving it a try.
New Hampshire is another one of those states that really isn’t known for its food. Sure, they probably have some really good lobster, but Maine probably has dibs on that. But the Granite State has something better than lobster. And that’s the mug-o-bacon at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester. Just imagine 20 crispy slices of maple cured bacon standing upright in a Red Arrow Diner coffee mug — which you get to keep. The waitress asked if I wanted anything else, to which I replied “toast.” She laughed so hard. Apparently, she had never seen anyone order the mug-o-bacon as their main course.
I was so busy racing from event to event chasing Tom Cotton and Mark Pryor, I was mostly limited to drive thru fast food in Arkansas. I did attempt a stop at the famous Cotham’s “Home of the Hubcap Burger” in Little Rock, but who knew they were closed on Saturdays? As a result, the only sit-down meal I can report on is a Tex-Mex joint called Amigo Juan next to my hotel in Texarkana. It was only about 1000 feet from the Texas border, so it had to be at least decent, right? I’ll say it was satisfactory. Considering I had been living on fast food for a couple days, pretty much anything would have tasted good at that point.
Unlike West Virginia and New Hampshire, Louisiana is all about food, and we had some great meals in New Orleans. Yeah we had beignets at Café du Monde, but it was Cochon Butcher and Mother’s Restaurant that quenched my hunger. The sweet and spicy brisket sliders at Cochon Butcher were amazing. And Mother’s fried chicken, paired with turnip greens, mac and cheese and a bowl of Mae’s File Gumbo will satisfy you into a delightful food coma.
I also have to give an honorable mention to the Tequila Tiger tailgaters at the LSU football game for whatever that concoction was that they whipped up to quench my thirst.
I wonder if can convince Roll Call to send me back to cover the Senate runoff?