Sunday, November 26, 2006

Finding Country Food on the Road

On the trip to Maine we soon got tired of the usual roadside joints -- The Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, Ruby Tuesday, Denny's, etc. Then we remembered what Rachael Ray always says on TV, "When you are traveling and want a good meal -- ask the locals."

We were passing through Bristol, Tennessee and saw a sign on Interstate 81 telling us the Virginia Welcome Center and Rest Area was coming up. And since we needed both we stopped. In Bristol, Virginia. Yes indeed, the city of Bristol is in two states and the state line runs right through the middle of downtown.

State Street, in Downtown Bristol, Virginia (left) and Bristol, Tennessee (right)State Street, in the photo above, is the main street of Bristol. The center line of State Street is the state line with Virginia on the left and Tennessee on the right.

There was a lovely southern lady at the counter in the Welcome Center and when I asked about a place for lunch that served hearty local food she immediately said, "Bonnie's." She also said we better not be suffering from any coronary conditions...

We loved the directions to Bonnie's Family Restaurant -- cross over the interstate and look for a trailer park on the right. Bonnie's is in the strip shopping mall just past the trailer park. Bonnie's was just what the hungry traveler needed. Meat, two sides and rolls or cornbread for around $6.00. We were the only tourists there that day. Perhaps the only tourists ever to eat there. I had country ham, coleslaw and corn bread salad. Jack had country fried steak with corn and homemade mashed potatoes. The rolls looked home made and wonderful. We chose the cornbread.

The food was great and the cornbread salad was unusual to say the least. I had heard that such a thing existed but had never seen it on a menu. It was crumbled up, yesterday's I'm sure, cornbread mixed with corn, peas, and finely chopped onion, celery and bell pepper, all held together with a mild dressing -- perhaps mayonnaise and sour cream. Gooey and wonderful. As for the cornbread itself, every region has its own style and texture. This was dry, sweet and made with white cornmeal, not the familiar (to us) yellow cornmeal. We didn't like it much. Too sweet. However, just as with crab cakes, I always order cornbread when it's on a menu because when it's good it is worth all those indifferent crab cakes and cornbreads eaten in the quest for perfection.

Back on the road, full of country food and ready to drive to the Roanoke/Salem area where we spent the night after a terrible meal in a Mexican restaurant there, of which I will say no more.

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