the wonderful world of veena.

28 October 2014

veen on the road: favourite road trip eats.

I definitely ate well on my road trip. Perhaps a little too well, even. From seafood to Thai food to pizza to Indian, I stuffed myself silly on more than one occasion. Today I would like to introduce you to my favourite meals from the road.


Hot chicken is a Nashville staple, and Hattie B's is the most famous and the most popular of all the hot chicken joints in the city. I have been trying to get there for ages, but I'm usually in town on the weekend, and the lines are often out the door with people waiting to order. Since Winkates had never been there, either, we decided to try our luck, and since it was 1pm on a Tuesday, we didn't have to wait too long. The chicken was totally worth any wait and hardship, and the sides just added to the deliciousness. Technically there are two locations, but if you're trying it out for the first time, I'm pretty sure you have to go to the one on 19th Ave. I stuck with the "Hot" option this time, but I would love to try their famous "Shut the cluck up!" on a future visit. Challenge accepted.

[small dark plate with mac-and-cheese and baked beans on the side. yes please and twice for dinner]
Also while in Nashville, I finally got to catch up with my lovely Little Sis Missy over drinks and dinner at Sambuca. Sambuca has a really fun, upscale atmosphere, but Missy and I managed to get a nice cozy table where we could chat and catch up over the last 6 years of our lives. They had a live jazzy sounding band who were just loud enough to enjoy but not so loud that we couldn't carry on our conversation. The lead singer especially had a great stage presence, and they played a nice combination of their own songs interspersed with rearrangements of popular songs. Food-wise it was also excellent. Missy and I shared one small plate each of the buca beignets and one other [I think the pork belly, but my memory is currently failing me], as well as the shrimp and crab dip. I ordered the filet for my main course while Missy opted for the Mediterranean vegetarian lasagna. All of it was great, especially the cheesecake sopapilla we had for dessert, and we spent nearly 3 hours enjoying the food, the drinks, the music, and especially the company. It's a little on the pricey side and a place to save for a special occasion, but it is definitely well worth a visit.

[cheesecake sopapilla for dessert at sambuca. even better than it looks]

A quick backstory: I have loved Bojangles' since I was a small child. When I was younger, there was a Bo on South 3rd Street, right as you entered Memphis from Mississippi, and we would routinely stop there on our way into town for some chicken biscuits or fried chicken, depending on the time of day. And then one day, without warning, it was gone. And it still remains one of the saddest moments of my childhood. Ever since, I have pined for Bojangles' and will make every effort to seek one out if I'm heading east. Luckily for me, Britney also loves the Bo and is not above planning a road trip around a visit. This specific location, right off I-40 in Canton, North Carolina, was of particular interest, because it still serves brown gravy with mashed potatoes, a staple from the original recipe and different from the white gravy that is now most prevalent. Since Bee knew about this phenomenon, we planned our drive from Knoxville to Fallston around a stop here for an early lunch in order to partake. And trust me when I say that it was well worth the planning and the phone call I had to make to determine exactly what time they began serving lunch. Oh, Bojangles'. You'll never know just how much I love you.

[just look at all that deliciousness and then try to tell me your mouth is not watering. just try. i dare you]

To wrap up Brit's Bach Beach Bash, we hit up Gibby's for brunch on Sunday before people started dispersing. It was a beautiful day - albeit on the hot side - and we got a table out on the deck so we could enjoy the fresh air and a view of the water. The catfish basket I had was pretty delicious, but the highlight for me was definitely the Bloody Mary bar. I have enjoyed many a Bloody Mary over the years, but I have never actually had the opportunity to make my own like this. I got a little happy with the Tabasco sauce and the pickles, both of which were to be expected, and I thought it turned out pretty well indeed. Overall Gibby's was a fun place to chill out and enjoy our final meal in town, the food was excellent, and the prices were very reasonable. And a super fun fact: you can dock your boat right at the restaurant and come in to enjoy your meal.

[bee with her bloody mary concoction]

I already mentioned the Alexander, available only at the Corner Slice in Greensboro, but probably my favourite meal during my visit was at Fishbones. We definitely had a very memorable experience that none of us are likely to forget anytime soon -- our waitress forgot to put our orders in, so she bought us a second round of drinks to hold us over during our extra wait. It wasn't a huge deal, and she was extremely apologetic about it, so it was fine, and it just meant we had more time to enjoy our drinks and chat. I had the beer battered fish burrito in a bowl, and it was fantastic. It was a great mix of all the fixings, and the fish had a great flavour to it. Carrie and Stu both seemed to enjoy their meals as well, so I would call it a good night. The prices were reasonable, the drinks were good, and they have extensive options for anyone with a gluten intolerance, as Carrie does. Check it out if you're in Greensboro!


It's no secret that I am a Memphis BBQ purist. I love the dry rub, I love the ribs from Blues City Cafe, I love the pulled pork nachos from Central BBQ. I really do love it all. Britney and I have had a number of arguments about Memphis v North Carolina BBQ, so I knew I needed to try some while I was over that way. There is a big debate between "Eastern" v "Western" BBQ even within NC, with the differences having to do with the sauces. At Bib's Downton in Winston-Salem, however, their tagline is something along the lines of "Neither Eastern nor Western, Ours is Bestern" [I can't remember the exact wording, but that's fairly close]. I told the girl taking my order that it was first visit and my first experience with NC BBQ, so she suggested that I go for the Two Meat Combo in order to get the most out my visit. I followed her advice and got the combo with pulled pork and beef brisket, and I went with beans and mac-n-cheese as my sides. The pork was really good, but the brisket was just alright; I attribute that more to my lack of interest in brisket rather than it not being good. And the sides were excellent. More than anything I liked the laidback atmosphere of the place, particularly the musician seated at the front of the restaurant serenading the patrons. Two thumbs up for price and ambience, and the food was good, but I'm still a Memphis BBQ girl at heart. ps - Bib's was suggested to me by Lauren and Sam, my super awesome AirBnb hosts, and I have had numerous people comment on both Instagram and Facebook to tell me they love Bib's as well.

[two meat combo + beans, mac-n-cheese, and some hushpuppies at bib's downtown]

When I visited Hema Masi in Charlotte, she took me to a super cool spot right in the heart of downtown: Vida. We timed it perfectly and snagged a booth just before the Friday night rush hit, and we spent a few hours catching up over drinks, spicy salsa, our delicious dinners, and a mango crisp to top it all off. I ordered the shrimp jalapeno bacon tacos, and there are not enough great things I can say about my dinner. They were so very tasty and delicious, and the tacos + rice and beans were just the right portion after the amount of salsa I had already ingested. And on top of the tasty food, I loved the laidback atmosphere of the restaurant; despite it being dinnertime on a Friday night, we were never rushed or hurried through our meal, allowing us to enjoy our time and our food. Oh, and the dessert was pretty great, too.

[shrimp + jalapeno + bacon + tacos. life doesn't get much better]


I first ate at Littlejohn's 10 years ago on my first visit to Charlottesville, and through sheer good luck I managed to stumble upon it again this July. The last time I was there, on a Sunday afternoon following a home football game, it was crowded with hungover college students in need of something to soak up all the excess alcohol. This time, however, I was there on a Thursday afternoon in late July and nearly had the place all to myself. Despite the change in atmosphere, however, the food was still as delicious as I remembered it. I opted for the Bum Steer, one of their specialty sandwiches, and paired with a chocolate chip cookie and some cold water, it was unstoppable. Littlejohn's has been a staple for UVA students for ages, and I look forward to hitting it up again whenever I am back in town.

[this is what littlejohn's looks like when it's not filled with hungover college students]
Bodo's Bagels came to me as a recommendation from Sarah Leer, but as soon as I posted something about it, Kate Sherrard and Christina both chimed in with their love for the establishment. And what's not to love, really? A place that specializes in sandwiches served on various kinds of bagels? Sign me up. I ventured there for lunch on Friday before heading to Kilmarnock, and my choice of a BLT on a whole wheat bagel did not disappoint. It was delicious, it was filling, and it was fairly cheap. And best of all, despite being consistently busy, I was still able to snag a small table and read while I enjoyed my food without feeling like I was keeping others from sitting. It definitely seemed to be full of regulars, and I could see why. If I lived in Charlottesville, I would probably be there on a regular basis, too.

[blt on a whole wheat bagel. that's a healthy lunch, right?]

On the Sunday morning following Pete's 30th birthday shindig, those of us still in the White Stone / Kilmarnock area gathered at Willaby's for a fun family brunch. Situated right on the water, you can drive or boat your way over for a delicious meal on the river. They offer a buffet for a fixed price that has eggs, bacon, and all your various breakfast wants, or you can order from their menu. They have Eggs Benedict to order, so obviously that's what I went with, and they were fantastic. More than the food, however, was the company of the Goodrich family and friends, and we had a great time chatting loudly and stuffing our faces. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend, and the yummy food was just icing on the cake.

[the sunday morning brunch group]

On the day I rolled into Richmond, Ansley and I were on the hunt for some food before she boarded her train back to New York City. As we strolled through Carytown, we saw lots of places along the way that looked good, but the one that seemed to grab both of our attentions immediately was Ginger Thai Taste. The sound of Thai appealed to us both, and after a roughly 30-second conversation, we headed in. It has a small but homey interior, and because of the odd time we were seated immediately. Ansley finished her noodles [not pad thai but the other one], and my Panang Curry was perfect for one meal that day and as leftovers on another. The food was fantastic, and we were both pretty proud of ourselves for our selection on the day.

One of my favourite memories of my time in Richmond was an impromptu Rhodes reunion dinner. About a week before I was to be in Richmond, I remembered that Amanda Godbold [Payne] and Ashley Diaz [Mejias] live in RVA. I messaged Godbold on the Facebook and mentioned that I would be in town, and in her response she said that Joel Harris, another Rhodes friend, would also be in town on Monday evening, so how about a full-on reunion of Rhodents? To which I heartily replied YES. Godbold suggested Union Market in Union Hill, and we had a fantastic time eating and drinking and chatting and enjoying some beautiful weather. We also enjoyed lots of entertainment courtesy of Godbold's daughter Harper and Diaz's two girls Belen and Maisy; both Will and Alex - the hubbies - were kept on their toes running after all the girls. As far as food went, I ordered half a turkey sandwich with half a chopped salad, and both were extremely scrumptious; I really shouldn't have eaten all of it, but it was so good that I couldn't help myself.

[love these fellow rhodents. and maisy too, even if she doesn't love me back]
I was on the hunt for food after my adventure at the Byrd, and I ended up getting food at Don't Look Back, a taco place in Carytown. My AirBnb hosts had mentioned it as one of their favourites, so when I spotted it across the street from the theatre, I made my way over. Since it was around 9.30pm or so on a Tuesday night there wasn't a large crowd, so I settled in at the bar and had a drink while I was waiting on my to-go order. I got two tacos - one shredded beef and one carnitas - traditional style on corn tortillas, and they were downright delicious. I am a big fan of tacos, and these were probably top 5, so if you are ever in the neighbourhood, be sure to check it out. Also, a full dinner for under $8? You can't really beat that.


I am a very big fan of ice cream, and Clumpies in Chattanooga continues to be one of my absolute favourites. It's partly the nostalgia of eating there when I was in school, but it is also because the ice cream is just plain delicious and the people who work there are beyond friendly. Add to that the fact that Will was in the 'Noog at the same time, and ice cream is kind of our tradition, so obviously that's where I ended up on my first night back in town. The old John Deere seats have given way to normal white bar stools but otherwise not much has changed, and we had a very enjoyable time devouring our ice cream and catching up on each other's lives. My go-to is some combination of a scoop of butter pecan, one of chocolate chip, and / or one of cookie dough; they're pretty basic, but they're also pretty delicious.

[oh clumpies. my 15-year-old self cannot get enough of you]
During my time in Chattanooga, Mama Ellen and Papa Ken invited me along on their traditional Saturday evening outing to Mary's Lounge. Mary's is a dark, hole-in-the-wall bar on McCallie Avenue, and Ken and Ellen are part of a group who get together every few weeks for beer and catfish sandwiches. I happened to be in town during one such get-together, so I tagged along. I'm not big on beer so I opted for a Straw-ber-Rita, but the real winner of the day was the catfish plate. I got two huge pieces of catfish, fries, and bread, and it was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet some of the Ken and Ellen's friends, and I very much enjoyed my catfish.

When I finalized my travel plans and told Steph that I would be staying with her parents in Chattanooga for a few days, she responded with only one thing: GROCERY STORE TACOS. From then on, in the weeks leading up to my visit, every message or email I received from her mentioned in some way, shape, or form the necessity of making Mama Ellen and Papa Ken take me for grocery store tacos. According to Steph, they were delicious and not to be missed, and because we're all a little scared of her, we made sure to stop by on Saturday evening. The store is called Carniceria #7 [because number 7 is always lucky], and it's your regular Mexican grocery store that also has a taco bar in the back. I opted for the carnitas tacos, and they were finger-licking delicious. So if you ever find yourself in Chattanooga, make sure you try out some of those grocery store tacos.

[grocery store tacos are the best tacos]
Lupi's was one of my staples during my Baylor days, and I love stopping by if I have time whenever I am back in the city. Located downtown, it was a perfect place to stop by before heading to a movie or if we generally didn't have much else to do. This time around I went there for dinner on Sunday evening, and somehow I managed to miss the crowd. The pizzas are still awesome, as is the salad, and no matter how old I get, I'll never be tall enough to see the drinks fountain properly, but that is half the charm. In the 16 years that I have been eating there, it's not changed one bit, and for that I am eternally grateful.

While I was in town, I got to catch up with James Scott, one of my old Baylor classmates. He just moved with his wife and son to Glasgow for postgraduate work, but he was still in town when I was, so we managed to find time for a lunch at the Honest Pint. It's an Irish pub on the south end of downtown, and we had a very enjoyable lunch over some delicious food. We started with Pomme Tots, tater tots fried in duck fat and served with a trio of sauces. Finger-licking good is really the only way to describe them. We also shared some potato skins, which were equally good, and for the main course we each had a boxty, a traditional Irish pancake. I can't remember which one James had, but I went with the pulled pork, and it was fantastic. The interior of the place was very cool as well, and I hear mumblings that there is live music on the weekends. But be warned, I have a feeling it is a place that allows smoking in the evenings, so be prepared for that.

In other ice cream news, the Ice Cream Show was also a big hit. It's located right at the south entrance of the walking bridge, so I stopped by for a cone before taking a stroll across the river. The options are pretty much limitless, and at this point I really don't remember what I ordered, although I'm pretty sure chocolate with M&Ms is a pretty good guess. Whatever it was, it was delicious, and I probably looked like a giddy 7-year-old as I walked across the bridge licking on that cone. They have a great-looking patio as well, and judging by the people hanging out with laptops, they appear to have free Wi-Fi, too.

One of my favourite stops in Chattanooga was Grocery Bar in the Southside, where I had dinner with Joli and Yogi. It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a grocery store with already-prepared meals as well as a buffet that allows you to pick and choose what you want and then pay by the weight. It was great because we could each make our own plate of whatever we wanted, we could also pick up some chips and guacamole to share, and we could bring our own wine to enjoy on the patio. All of the food is prepared fresh daily, and it was all delicious. Joli had sushi while Yogi and I each prepared our own plates, and we had ourselves a nice little picnic, sitting and chatting for hours. Meals with Joli and Yogi tend to last for a while, and I loved not feeling rushed or like we were preventing others from being able to eat. It just opened in July, but I continue to see stories about it online, so it appears to be doing pretty well. And it was perfect for me, as it was about a 3-minute walk from Ellen and Ken's house. Definitely check this one out if you are in town.

And now we arrive at my favourite, Typhoon of Tokyo. Typhoon is about a 10-minute drive from Baylor and is a staple for all Red Raiders, especially seniors who have short lunch leaves or for boarders who need a quick meal before heading back to campus. When I was in school, they knew me by sight and over the phone, and I was well taken care of. Typhoon is essentially fast-food Japanese, hibachi steak [or chicken or veggies, etc] without the hibachi. It's cheap and it's tasty and the portions are huge, all perfect things for a boarding student surviving on $20 a week. And then there is the legendary white sauce, the yummy delicious sauce you can spread over your food or use to clean your pennies [who discovered that, I'll never know, but it's a bit of a legend]. Once upon a time I could finish the entire meal, but alas, my stomach is no longer 16 years old. Typhoon is my one constant staple, the place I will always be sure to visit whenever I am in town, and it is just as great today as it was when I first ate there in the fall of 1998.

[that's the stuff right there]

Mela was perfect timing for me. I was beginning to miss and crave Indian food by this point in my trip, and not one but two people recommended it to me in the 10 days before I arrived in Asheville. All signs pointed to me needing to try it out, so try it I did. And the entire experience was fantastic. The ambience was super trendy [note: not a place I usually go to, but I liked it], and I had a great seat at the bar. I read my book and enjoyed my mango lassi while I waited for my meal, a veg thali with extra roti on the side. And from the first sighting of my meal to the last bite I was able to force into my overly-stuffed stomach, the only word that kept coming back to me was "wow", running over and over in my head. I know I've used the word delicious so much at this point that it seems to have lost its meaning, but there are no other words to describe this meal. There was enough food to feed at least 3 people, and I was so stuffed after getting through about one-third of it that I had to walk for 20 minutes after dinner and do a 30-minute workout later that night before I could sleep. But trust me when I say that the discomfort was totally and completely worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you, Avni Didi and Andrea, for the suggestion; you ladies know your food!

[i still sometimes dream about this meal]
The other double-recommendation I received was for Early Girl Eatery, a self-professed "Farm to Table Southern Comfort Food Experience". I went to Early Girl after visiting the Biltmore, and it was perfect: it was pretty empty since it was late afternoon, so I could put up my feet and relax with my book and some good food. Although the breakfasts [served all day] looked tempting, I ultimately opted for the "Meat & Two" option which allows you to choose one protein and two vegetables. I chose the grilled pork loin with sides of applesauce and macaroni & cheese. All were delicious, and I loved my meal. On my next trip, however, I'm definitely trying one of the breakfast options.

I realized just how well Britney knows me when I stepped inside Chocolate Fetish to have a look around. Chocolate Fetish offers case after case of homemade chocolates, something for everyone, and I could easily have stayed in there for days. The girl who helped me was extremely informative, and she talked me through the different chocolates on display to help me decide which ones I wanted. I filled up a box with assorted regular and dark chocolates, and I managed to bring the box almost entirely intact back to Memphis to share with my parents. And it was a big hit. Go to there if you're in Asheville, and then send some back to me.

[i'm pretty proud that i made it back to memphis with this box mostly intact]
My last meal in Asheville was at 12 Bones Smokehouse for some Carolina BBQ. According to Britney, 12 Bones is where President Obama eats when he's in Asheville, so obviously I had to check it out for myself. I went around 1pm, so the line out the front door wasn't too long, and I managed to snag a small table for myself as soon as I ordered. I had a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and possibly green beans [hey, it's been 2 months, give me a break] as my sides. The sandwich was pretty good, as were the sides, and I enjoyed the mustard sauce more than I anticipated. And I especially loved the space -- it's in an open warehouse in the River Arts District, with tables inside or benches on a covered patio, so you can sit wherever you like.


On my way back to Memphis, I stopped for a night in Nashville to break up my journey and to hang out with Lindsay, Steve, and baby Evelyn. Since it was such a short trip, I sent a message to my Nashville friends to come to the Jackalope Taproom for a drink. Lindsay and Evelyn went with me, and Natasha and Natalie - and later Catherine - met us there. It was a beautiful late afternoon, and we enjoyed the lovely weather out on the patio with a few beers. I love Jackalope for a number of reasons: I love supporting my friends, I love supporting local businesses, and I especially love the laid back feel of the taproom. If you find yourself in Nashville, make your way over there and have a beer [Red Rompo is my favourite]. And feel free to take a tour as well! [more of my thoughts on Jackalope here]

[friends enjoying the jackalope patio]
Looking back over this list, it's no wonder I put on a few pounds in those 5 weeks. But they were totally worth it.

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