Unexpected Roadside Delights
Whether it’s being gridlocked by Porsches in The Hamptons or being stuck on the M6 tired and very hungry, we’ve all had that moment desperately staring out the window for any sign of food.
We asked Britain’s biggest media influencers for their own stories of roadside surprise and, as expected, they were weird and wonderful.
Driving across the States with my daughter we pulled off the interstate and headed into Harrisonburg looking for the old school diner of our American dreams. Sat next to the rail tracks down town we found it. Red and white and screaming the 50s it was exactly what we’d been hoping for. We sat at the counter and ate a stack of pancakes as large as dustbin lids, drenched in maple syrup and whipped butter with huge slices of crispy fried bacon.
Our English accents made us instant celebrities and the owner of the café came in on her day off to meet the Brits; as far as everyone in the town was concerned we had walked straight off the set of Downton and into their humble diner. However, as far as we were concerned we’d found the perfect diner with some of the tastiest food and some of the most friendly and genuine staff anywhere in the world. Before we left, stuffed as a tick, they gave us mac ‘n’ cheese, grits, biscuits and gravy, meatloaf and their famous garbage omelette just because they wanted us to try them, but also to keep us there longer and tell them more stories of how well we knew the Queen. The ladies of the L&S Diners who all cuddled me and called me ‘Darlin” will stay with both me and my daughter for a long long time.
Global CEO Time Out Group
Steak In Ibiza
We were travelling to a party in the hills of Ibiza – supposedly no more than ten minutes away from our villa in Sant Jordi – for well over an hour. Finally, in sweltering heat and flip flops, we ducked into this tiny little cab shack by the side of the road to ask for directions. Couldn’t speak a word of English, useless, but we were starving. “Comida?” I said, knowing that a weak “Food?” was the extent of my Spanish skills. We bought a sirloin sandwich each, the best steak I’ve ever had on this fresh crusty bread. It was amazing – rare and so juicy. We sacked off the party and went home, sated.
Editor of Sabotage Times
The Best Lobster Roll
Mine happened recently on holiday driving along the one road that runs through The Hamptons and therefore gets gridlocked with pick-up trucks and Porsches. Starving after having been swimming I pulled into what looked like a dodgy, food stall type joint straight out of the set of True Detective – faded paint, a Clam Bake sign falling off the side and plastic picnic tables outside – and had the best lobster roll of my life. If you want to try it for yourself, it’s just after Amagansett and before Montaux on the highway.
Editor of @theDebriefUK
In 1982 I was hitchhiking back to London after seeing New Order play in Cardiff. I was stuck outside of Bath for hours. It was snowing heavily. I was freezing cold and desperately hungry. A car drove past me and the driver threw a half-eaten lobster out of the window, hitting me square in the head. That lobster was the finest meal I’ve ever tasted.
Interviewer – Mail on Sunday
Pancakes in Fargo
When I was 19, I travelled around the States with my boyfriend for a few months. Neither of us really had a clue what we were doing, and when we attempted to drive from Minneapolis to Seattle, no real idea of where we were going. We’d been on the road without stopping for about nine hours, and we were starting to lose our minds. We passed through Fargo, when it was late and dark. Our impressions were all based on the film, and we were terrified – but we were starving. Looking for a 7/11 and a sack of Reese’s Pieces, we ended up settling for a wooden building which promised ‘food’ in blue neon. Where we were hoping for the diner version of the Dolmio Dad, the hairy proprietor was more Rab C Nesbitt – but he made us a stack of the sweetest, softest buttermilk pancakes. We them ate in grateful, craven silence, getting slightly salty maple syrup on our chins. Our host disappeared for some time, and eventually we stopped joking that we were about to be murdered, and started to think that we were definitely about to be murdered. Scared but stuffed, we left our only $50 on the table and ran away.
The Glistening Bowl Of Goodness
Hiking all day in a North Yorkshire valley (Esk Valley?) and chanced upon a pub that looked more like someone’s front room. Amazing home made vegetable soup rammed with barley corn, carrots, onions, potatoes etc … A glistening bowl of golden goodness served up with a brown granary doorstep ham sarnie, thick pink slices hacked off a hanging hock dressed with eye watering English mustard. Manna in the wilderness.
It was back in the 90s and a slog down the M6 when, stopping off at some non-descript service station, I first discovered the mysterious delights of Julies’ Pantry restaurant. The staff wore green dungarees and they served burgers covered in a weird tangy pink sauce. That sauce. Oh boy…the sauce.
I still dream about the taste. Next time I stopped there…Julie’s Pantry was gone.
The Fat Dog
It was when I was 16, travelling New Zealand with my Dad & Sister, we were in Rotorua in the North Island – famous for Maori heritage and also stinking of sulphur (you do get used to it). On the main drag is a cafe that has a giant dog on top of it, appropriately named The Fat Dog. Instead of table numbers, they give you little trinkets — a small set of a rugby posts, a statue of Donald Duck. Still probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had, typical full English but supersized, sausages bursting from their skins, homemade baked beans, thick smoked bacon, and great Kiwi coffee. When I returned to NZ as a 19 year old it was right on top of my list to visit again.
Once In A Lifetime Burger
In 1992 I drove across Florida, and stopped, starving, in Tampa. There I found, completely by accident, on a side street a classic American old style diner, the proper silver caravan type. Honestly, it could have been straight out of a 50’s movie. I had a burger (naturally) and to this day I swear the home made sauce they put on was laced with something because I could have wept with the joy of how it tasted. I’ll never have one that good again.
Actor – @Svengalimovie
The Crown Jewels
I was on my way back from Melton Mowbray on the motorbikes with my wife and a friend. It had been a pretty unpleasant afternoon, having spent a couple of hours on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance after another mate broke his collarbone coming off his bike. Knackered and starving on the way home, late on a Sunday afternoon, we saw a ‘Food this way’ sign and decided we had to take our chances. We found The Crown at Asfordbury waiting for us where my wife and I had a delicious blue cheese burger, our friend had a remarkably enormous mixed grill, and all three of us had the best damn chips we’d ever eaten. Don’t know how much the day and the timing influenced our love for that place, but it felt brilliant at the time.
It was a Roast beef carvery in Fagans Pub, Drumcondra, Dublin in May 2009. I was on my way back from Dublin airport, having driven from Belfast airport after not getting a flight back to London due to the ash cloud. I was starving, stressed and heading for the ferry when I took a chance on pulling into Fagans, having never been there before. The dinner was so good, no doubt accentuated due to the hunger, the long drive and the ash cloud, but let me tell you, I’ll never forget it.
Gerry O’ Boyle
Owner – The Boogaloo
The Cowboy Magnet
I’d driven from northern Kansas to Oklahoma City, ending up in the old packing district of Stockyards City just as one of America’s largest cattle auctions was in full noisy, smelly swing. Close by is the century-old Cattlemen’s Restaurant, a magnet for genuine cowboys, city locals and tourists alike. The spectacular rib-eye steak I had for lunch was more marbled than the vaults of the British Museum but the most memorable item – deliciously so – was the lamb fries starter. What better way to mark the end of a long journey than getting stuck into a plate of deep-fried lamb’s testicles?
Author – Attention All Shipping
A Surreal BBQ
I was on tour with my band The Lies, plus another group who were sort of in turmoil. We were in Memphis and had a crappy show at a coffee shop where we were upstaged by a guy who wandered in off the street and juggled bicycle wheels. After he bum-rushed the stage, no one wanted to hear music, just watch more wheel juggling. We slept on some kid’s floor and next morning the band we were touring with split up, the bass player fleeing for the bus station with his bandmates in hot pursuit. We didn’t know what to do – go home, keep driving or wait. The kid who we were staying with told us to get in the van and he drove us out into the middle of nowhere. And the middle of nowhere in Tennessee really is the middle of nowhere. He stopped at some unsuspecting shack and led us inside, where we had the most amazing barbecue I’ve ever experienced. Incredible ribs and chicken and corn bread. I’m not even sure it was a legitimate restaurant, just a place where locals ate. We went back to town to discover the other band had hastily reformed and we headed to the next town. The next show was better.
A Millions Times Better…
My friend and I were driving around New Zealand in a camper van. I can’t drive, so he drove and in return I cooked. We had a strict meals to miles ratio. If my friend was hungry he would pull to the side of the road, rub his stomach and I would be dispatched to the back to fire up the gas canister. Problem is I can’t cook either. So being on a budget we had noodles everyday. Two weeks in, emotionally and nutritionally broken, we capitulated with a stop at Subway on the way back from Milford Sound, the best scenic drive you could imagine. Italian BMT. A little lettuce, peppers, with sweet onion and chipotle sauce (any Subway connoisseur know you have to mix your sauces) on a toasted Italian foot long. A million times better than the million noodles we ate that trip.