The phrase “road food” doesn’t exactly ring with promise. It typically calls to mind the functional fare of burgers and fries, eggs and hash browns, humid sandwiches of various species and combinations — the kind of stomach-filling substrate whose only hint of adventure lies in the grim prospect of unleashing a supernova in your lower GI tract later on mile 1,317. Not exactly an Instagram moment.
But I’m happy to report there’s road food out there that’s not only digestible and even palatable — it’s so downright delicious that it’s worth driving for. Intrepid road-trippers and food-eaters Heidi Kyser and Kristy Totten profile five such destinations in our feature story, “A Taste for Adventure” (p. 53). Whether it’s a tongue-in-cheek diner perched on Route 66 or an artsy café improbably sprouting up in a former silver-mining boomtown, these seemingly modest eateries will surprise you — and not just with what’s on the menu. As much as an accent or an iconic landmark, food tells a story of place. But it’s not always a simple story about a cuisine reflecting the roots, tradition, or history of the region. Sometimes the story is one that unfolds in fruitful tension with the region; sometimes the story is about what the place is becoming. I mean, you can now get housemade frappés in 18 flavors in Pioche served by the founding bassist of Quiet Riot. These food stories are about both roots and restlessness, tradition and transition — and each one is worth savoring.