Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Long Road Home

Keith and I roadtripped our return to Kansas City and on the advice of friends, we took a different route: I-64. We've taken this route before and I was excited for a return through the atmospheric and genteel sights of Horse Country around Lexington. Sadly, the trip was fraught with issues: accidents around southern West Virginia and some mind-numbing traffic due to some truly ill-conceived construction in Lexington. I lost a lot of photo opportunities, but there are always highlights.....most of them involving food.

We took a short detour drive through Huntington, West Virginia and tooled around Marshall University's campus. The southern part of the state wasn't as devoid of Autumn color as the northern part was and the campus looked beautiful. This past Sunday, Marshall reflected on the 40th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that killed 75 people, many of them the school's football team. This was immortalized in the film We Are Marshall and much of that movie was filmed here. I have a fair amount of memories here, including attending a few Marshall University football games when I lived in Charleston. We weren't hungry at this point which was unfortunate as we passed a branch of Hillbilly Hot Dogs....the original was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Next time.

The long, delayed trip on our first day of travel would land us in the Louisville area overnight. Typically, I would prefer some local flavor but it was late; we were exhausted and starving and so we went with a choice of chain food. I naively didn't realize Old Spaghetti Factory was a chain.....for some reason I thought the St. Louis site was a unique one. Clearly not as I was astounded to discover the same dark wood and brass decor, complete with centerpiece streetcar. The place was crazy packed but we were seated quickly. We both tried the house specialty: spaghetti with brown butter and Mizithra cheese which is a Greek cheese made from either sheep's or goat's milk. Maybe it's because we were so hungry but it was completely delicious. I had mine with a sampling of some of their other favorite pasta and sauces.....meat, marinara and clam. All of them were very good. Great people-watching, too.

The next day we would land in St. Louis for lunch and we would return to my favorite joint in the area: Blueberry Hill. I luh-huve this place. It's filled with rock and pop culture memorabilia. It's quirky and offbeat and hosts live music on a regular basis, including a standing once-a-month performance by the great Chuck Berry. The road to the restrooms is filled with framed photos of the owner with the multitude of celebrities who have stopped by. I included the one of he with Robert Plant in honor of my co-worker Matt. My favorite pop culture cabinets featured Simpsons memorabilia and Pez dispensers. Places similar to this are fun to visit but often the food suffers. Not at Blueberry Hill. I don't order Veggie burgers that much but there are two restaurants with amazing veggie burgers that stand out in my memory: The Vortex in Atlanta and Blueberry Hill's. This time around, I went with their award-winning jalapeno-laden housemade chili with fresh, warm bread and mixed greens with house vinaigrette. The chili was filling, spicy and oh-so-good. I washed down that chili with locally-made Fitz's root beer. Once the meal was done, I could've hung out there all day.....sipping one of their many beers on tap and taking it all in. I can't wait to go back. Check them out at http://www.blueberryhill.com/.

I'm glad we drove back to KC. Despite the setbacks, it was good to have the time to process the funeral week: the emotions, the tributes......it will be an ongoing thing, but a road trip is always good to clear out the cobwebs. I'm not usually moved by restroom graffiti, but this one from Blueberry Hill stuck with me....yes, I really should.

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