As a touring band, you quickly learn some key “Don’ts” to help survive the road.
DON’T: Drink more than one Sugar Free Rockstar within a four-hour period. DON’T: Assume that the tollbooth is closed for the night. DON’T: Eat sunflower seeds in the van.
But we’ve also learned some important “Do’s” that make life on the road worth living – not the least of which being: DO: Trust fortune to reveal the best local restaurants.
We’ve developed a theory over the past few years that rock bands could put together a really killer travel guide. So with that in mind, here are our top three roadside eatery godsends, made all the better because of the completely random and providential circumstances that brought us to them.
1. Best Soul Food: Pepper’s Ole Fashion BBQ and Soul Food, Albuquerque, NM
Pepper’s is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in a SE Albuquerque strip mall, which we stumbled onto because we were rehearsing at a studio next door. The meat is fall-apart tender, the sides are just the right amount of salty and savory, and the portions are generous – just the thing for a few underfed kids. Don’t miss the Southern Fried Catfish – which isn’t overly breaded or dried out – and the Brisket sandwich (chopped or pulled). The owner also gave each of us a free slice of their divine peach cobbler; the perfect end to the best soul food and BBQ that we’ve had on the road. Plenty of people in Albuquerque don’t even know about Pepper’s, so it’s likely to stay just as under the radar – and delicious – until we come back next time.
2. Best Thanksgiving Substitute: Bates House of Turkey, Greenville, AL
On a hot July afternoon last summer we pulled off of Exit 130 on I-65 to get some gas and clean the Gettysburg of bug guts off of our windshield, only to discover Bates House of Turkey next door to the gas station. Intrigued, we stepped inside and found an air-conditioned monument to that peculiarly American protein, the turkey. Turkey dinners, turkey sandwiches (open faced or not), turkey salads – your choice of roasted, barbequed, but never fried – all prepared fresh and sourced from the Bates family turkey farm down the road. We’re not sure how the Subway across the street stays in business. Get the Old Fashioned Turkey Dinner and two slices of white bread, and you’ve got yourself a Black Friday Sandwich to rival them all.
3. Best Cinnamon Roll: Heaven on Earth, Azalea, OR
Finding this gem in our own home state came as a shock to all of us – who knew there was anything worth stopping for in that lonely stretch of I-5 between Roseburg and Medford (other than the Oregon Vortex, of course, but that’s another article)?
At first, we wrote off the restaurant’s name to typical roadside bluster, but once inside, and faced with the Jupiter-sized cinnamon rolls and the acres of pies and cobblers, we knew that calling this place Heaven on Earth was no mere boast. Their breakfasts (with your choice of three different kinds of gravy) were hearty and delicious, and their apple butter should be put on just about everything, but the cinnamon rolls are the main event: warm, soft, with just the right amount of frosting (with an extra serving of frosting to go… you know, just in case).
Full disclosure: We must admit a slight ulterior motive in suggesting Heaven on Earth here, because they have a policy of giving a free cinnamon roll to anyone who mentions them in a tweet, blog post, or rock band travel guide. In fact, it might be time for another trip down I-5 …
Brave Chandeliers are a five-piece band from Portland that sounds like a suicide Slurpee of alternative, pop, and gospel. Their new album, 11 Escapes, will be released on April 24 and will be available on iTunes and www.bravechandeliers.com. Brave Chandeliers are also the pioneers of the digitLP, an album app for the iPad and iPhone that gives listeners a 360º experience of the album with additional art, lyrics, and video.