As we seem to vacation well together, Best Fest Buddy Tom and I are thinking of hosting tours. We’ll call our excursions “Get Off the Bus, Take a Picture” in honor of the catch phrase of our bus driver/guide through the Ring of Kerry, who looked a bit like Phil Collins.
To get in the swing of things, at year’s end we took a road trip to St. Louis, New Orleans and Nashville, joined this time by Tom’s brother, Mark, and nephew, Andrew. Despite those destinations, my cholesterol level remains under 200. I think they deduct 50 points for anyone who’s been to Louisiana.
Here, in sort of chronological order, are photos of things we saw along the way. There may even be some beefcake. And by that, I mean pictures of beef and cake.
The above is the counter at the Wendy’s in Bloomington, IL, not far off I-55. It’s attached to a truck stop where there are showers. It is the slowest fast food establishment in the Midwest. Comically so. This visit, they were out of their value-priced chicken sandwich, french fries and side salads.
John D. Mc Gurk’s Irish Pub in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood is usually worth a visit and even had live trad music on the Wednesday night after Christmas.
Leonard’s is an old school barbecue place in Memphis. What I liked most about this restaurant was this sign. I bet somebody has a tattoo of it.
This filling station with fast food somewhere in Mississippi inspired us to pitch a TV food show – Gas Station Grub. Road eats also lead to the scariest thing about road trips – visiting public restrooms. One was so bad I thought I may have caught leg herpes, but thankfully that doesn’t really exist.
Middendorf’s in Manchac, LA is where we had the deep fried and “healthier” broiled version of their seafood sampler platters. The battered version was light and tasted a bit like popcorn. The broiled was slathered in butter. The thin catfish was heaven on a plate. This diner held childhood memories for Tom and his brother, along with alligator heads in the gift shop.
Our first day in New Orleans began at a Cafe Du Monde location not far from our hotel, an inn not far from the airport, tucked away between a TJ Maxx and a Best Buy. The line at the original Cafe Du Monde can take two hours to get a beignet, so finding this one was a score. Speaking of, if you have a beard and eat a beignet, be sure to wipe off your face, lest you be mistaken for a coke head. No officer. It REALLY is powdered sugar.
Tom is most happy when he is picking out fresh food. In fact, I’ve never seen him more radiant than when he got to hold a little gator. Okay, PETA people. Settle down. Tom didn’t eat the animal. Turns out that’s frowned up on the Jean Lafitte Alligator Tour.
Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant & Bar in Chalmette is another eatery Tom and his brothers were taken by their parents for eats. Lucky kids. The plate pictured – I ate everything on it. In less than 10 minutes.
Tom was born here in Chalmette. Or so I’m saying. He’s like my Abraham Lincoln, if Lincoln grew a beard to look like Santa and enjoyed red wine. By the way, he didn’t knock on the door. We are soooo suburban.
This was freaky. We visited the site where they fought the Battle of New Orleans on the same date mentioned on this display!!! I think that’s called a coincidence. Like when Tom and I wear the same shirt.
St. Louis Cathedral is almost 300 years old, and supposedly it was the inspiration for Disney’s version of Cinderella’s castle. Jackson Square in front of it is tourist central, the gateway to the French Quarter. There are tarot card readers, street artists and musicians aplenty. The gift shops in the area all seem to have the same silly t-shirts and voodoo dolls. Since we were there in winter, the area didn’t have that Mississippi River funk about it.
Pat O’Brien’s in the French Quarter is most famous for its potent Hurricanes. So I opted for a Bloody Mary. Note: If you approach from the side where there’s a long line, head around the corner for the other entrance. The line actually is for those hoping to get a seat for a jazz show at tiny Preservation Hall.
Erin Rose has frozen Irish Coffee. I like it better than a Hurricane. It tastes a bit like a Jamocha shake at Arby’s, and I mean that in a good way. The vibe here is a little bit punk rock and way less loud than a good deal of the French Quarter.
Fahy’s along Burgundy is just a tad off the beaten French Quarter path. That makes it a bit scary for some tourists. But the Guinness here is $4.75 a pint. The no-frills bar was founded by a former Chicago cop. And it holds a cast of locals along with visitors. When we were there four guys all wearing khakis and white shirts were playing pool. Maybe they were a family. Or a band. Or a family band.
We hit The Court of Two Sisters on a Saturday morning for brunch. Tom would marry this place if that were legal. The site is filled with local lore, including stories of voodoo queens and dueling pirates. You can find the details on their website, but I heard things from the charming doorman Friday night as he gave me a quick tour on the way to the reservation desk. He wanted to hear about Michael Jordan’s restaurant back in Chicago and seemed sad when we told him we thought it was long closed. (Our bad – the original spot is, but Jordan’s name adorns an Oak Brook restaurant and a steakhouse on the Magnificent Mile.)
When I found the guy to thank him for his assistance, he was reading a perfectly New Orleans-titled book, “How To Not Give a F—.” Or maybe it was “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F—.” Who knew there were rival laissez faire books?
To be continued….