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Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's All The (Road) Rage

The few times K and I get to drive the trip home are always opportune times to find some hidden gems with great grub. Find them we did, so allow me to fawn over these fine food emporiums…
Little Sheba’s- Tucked behind a small corner storefront in historic Richmond, Indiana, Little Sheba’s may look nondescript, but its food packs some serious flavor. We thoroughly dug the deliciousness brought to us: the secret but revered recipe chili and melty grilled cheese that I savored, and the flavorful taco salad K enjoyed. The food was so good, in fact, that I am reluctant to offer the following comment but I feel that I must. I have frequently made the statement that I am no critic and if indeed I am unhappy with a restaurant, I just won’t mention it. However, as the food IS so good at Little Sheba’s, I have to point it out…we received some seriously surly service here. As the Yelp reviews are uniformly good, I’m going to chalk this up to a bad service day at LS. As a former server, I am patient to a fault concerning service and in fact, in this case, the food was all correct and produced in a timely fashion. Our server, however, was crazy rude and that is an unforgivable sin as far as I’m concerned. K and I are the least demanding customers out there, but this server seemed completely put out with having to deal with us at all. As a matter of fact, when we entered and no one acknowledged us, we saw this server standing in the corner texting on her phone. When K approached her and asked if we sat ourselves, she continued to text and without looking up, answered, “Yep. That’s how we do things here.” Most folks would have turned and hightailed it right then. We were hungry and tired and sucked it up and in the end, the food was worth it. The attitude is also clearly not a blanket one, as the women who brought our food from the kitchen were completely polite. I tell this tale because the place was far from packed and with food like that, they should be. I hate to see the place lose business because of one bad apple. Other than that, rock on, Little Sheba’s. Kudos also to the unique historic downtown design in Richmond as well...especially the way cool murals on the buildings that tell the town's Jazz Heritage (like the awesome furniture store at left).
Hillbilly Hot Dogs- This truly unique joint is an absolute hoot. The original Hillbilly Hot Dogs is inside a trailer near Teays Valley but we stopped at this outlet near Marshall University in Huntington, WV. Being a West Virginia native, I have to admire how these folks turned what could have been an insulting stereotype into a fun place with some excellent chow. The décor is kitschy and hilarious….the booth set up in the old bathtub and the table constructed from a tire are a couple of highlights. Our server was Southern-fried friendly and while that twang may be off-putting to some, her delightful personality was a complete tonic after the rude service at Little Sheba’s. The food was quite the kick as well. After a deep-fried pickle and onion ring start, we moved on to the main attraction: the dogs. I sought out Rahall’s Red Hot Weenie (pictured top of the page at left)…named after the former WV Congressman, it’s a senses-clearing sensation. The menu description: on a toasted hot dog bun, a grilled, spicy mettwurst is piled high with nacho cheese, sautéed peppers and onions, hot mustard, jalapenos and topped with sauerkraut. Now, I was sold, but the dog came with their creamy house cole slaw instead of sauerkraut. If that was a mistake, it was a beautiful one…that coleslaw was some of the best I’ve ever had and it jived with the heat perfectly. This was one wicked-good dog. We moved on to some dreamy homemade blackberry cobbler served in a style that made me smile-on a Spiderman paper plate held together by scotch tape. Food Network’s Guy Fieri brought his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew to the original Hillbilly Hot Dogs and he fell in love with it and now I see why. From the eccentric Southern hospitality to the crazy décor to their flavor-packed food, Hillbilly Hot Dogs is a Mountain State marvel.
Socials Café- This unassuming place in Cape Girardeau, MO is located in their thriving downtown scene; alive in the shadow of a sleek bridge over the Mississippi River. This Socials Cafe is newly open and gained some points with me right off the bat for its Monday Breast Cancer Awareness promotions. I had an ice-cold Shock Top with a tasty Cuban sandwich and we both dug our seasoned fries. The laid-back atmosphere with fine food is a good combo for weary road warriors.
Finally, a reflection of this road trip would be incomplete without a mention of an oddball stop we made…when leaving Kentucky and heading into Illinois over a dauntingly narrow steel bridge, we discovered Metropolis, Ill. That’s right, Superman’s home in small town, kitschy style complete with museum and giant Superman statue. I was much more a Marvel fan growing up, but my comic geek sensibility was still stirring at all the fanboy memorabilia. There was even bottles of green Kryptonite hot sauce.
I love exploring new eating establishments, particularly those in historic small towns who are working to revitalize. Doesn’t hurt to fit in a few minutes to celebrate the Man of Steel while we’re at it.

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