Monday, November 6, 2017

Roadfood, 10th edition by Jane & Michael Stern, 2017

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First published in 1977, the original Roadfood became an instant classic. James Beard said, "This is a book that you should carry with you, no matter where you are going in these United States. It's a treasure house of information."

Now this indispensable guide is back, in an even bigger and better edition, covering 500 of the country's best local eateries from Maine to California. With more than 250 completely new listings and thorough updates of old favorites, the new 
Roadfood offers an extended tour of the most affordable, most enjoyable dining options along America's highways and back roads.

Filled with enticing alternatives for chain-weary-travelers,
Roadfood provides descriptions of and directions to (complete with regional maps) the best lobster shacks on the East Coast; the ultimate barbecue joints down South; the most indulgent steak houses in the Midwest; and dozens of top-notch diners, hotdog stands, ice-cream parlors, and uniquely regional finds in between. Each entry delves into the folkways of a restaurant's locale as well as the dining experience itself, and each is written in the Sterns' entertaining and colorful style. A cornucopia for road warriors and armchair epicures alike, Roadfood is a road map to some of the tastiest treasures in the United States.
(480 pages)

I will be the first to admit that I'm not a foodie–at all. You're probably wondering why I agreed to review Roadfood, then. The truth is that I just liked the idea of a guidebook to travel food, and I wanted to see if it would really help my family pick where to eat while we travel.

The truth is that it probably wouldn't. This is mostly because I come from a family of not-foodies, and there are six of us so we have to work really hard at keeping bathroom/eating/resting breaks at a minimum if we ever want to get anywhere, and so we basically always just pick our lunch destination from the billboards by the highway (and they're almost always either McDonald's, Wendy's, or Burger King, because those are the restaurants with a drive-through). I don't see myself truly being able to convince my parents to drive out of their way to enjoy a particularly succulent sit-down diner, because they get antsy if we drive more than two miles away from the highway on a rest stop.

That said, I do think this book offers a valuable service: it lists yummy restaurants sorted by state, with detailed descriptions of a few dishes and the service/atmosphere, so it makes choosing a restaurant once we've reached our destination much more intriguing. Put another way: I wouldn't drive out of my way to eat at Tedd Drewe's (which famously sells the best ice cream in the world) in St. Louis, because those St. Louis highways are murder and I'd lose way too much time for reaching my final destination, but of course I would make a point to visit it if I were there a couple of days. And, you know, already within a 20 to 30 minute radius of one of their locations.

To be fair, though, I grew up on Tedd Drewe's ice cream. If I didn't already know what it tasted like, and I was a real foodie, maybe I would go hours out of my way to try it. And maybe now I'm just making myself hungry for ice cream. I'm going to stop talking about Tedd Drewe's now.

Anyway, I can't vouch much for the accuracy of the listings, but the basic format of the book is that the entries are sorted by state (which are sorted by region, not alphabetically); if you want a short list of just the restaurant names, without details, there's one in the back of the book with page numbers for looking up the details. Every entry includes the name of the restaurant and its address, its website and phone number if it has those, hours of operation, and a price-range estimate. Beneath that, there's a description of the restaurant's food and service and atmosphere, as well as tips about how crowded it can get and the like.

The cynical part of me says that most of this information is probably available online, and that books can very quickly get outdated (and, in fact, one of the restaurants it lists in Indianapolis is already out of business!), but the other part of me says that it can be really nice to have a tangible book for looking up interesting and unique places to eat. Roadfood can serve as a good jumping-off point for restaurant hunting, anyway. And who knows what rare gems it might point us to?!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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