it's okay to play with your food

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Road...

My work in opera has taken me to some unexpected places... Vienna, VA... Toledo, OH... The most surprising destination so far would have to be Ft. Worth, TX. Even more surprising is how seriously excited I am to get to know Texas. Adding to the excitement is the two-week long roadtrip my friend Daniel and I are taking to go there.

For the next two weeks, I will be blogging about our various food adventures and lessons learned along the way. We left on Friday and have traveled to Daniel's parents' home in south South Carolina, 45 minutes away from Savannah, GA. We will also be hitting Alabama and Louisiana before our final destination.

Roadtrip Food Lesson #1

Never agree to eat somewhere just because you think it will make your traveling companion happy. Because, most likely, he is just agreeing to eat there because he thinks it will make you happy.

And that is when you end up getting a hardly cooked burger patty with scalloped edges and really tough chicken fried steak at a truck stop off the Virginia highway…

Savannah, GA (Part 1)

Internet research led us towards Wall’s BBQ, which was appealing for its back alley location and reputed authenticity. We made our way to 515 E. York Avenue and found ourselves on a residential block in front of a small home. Asking a neighbor for Wall’s was useless, as he just arrived in Savannah five weeks ago. My brief understanding of Savannah city planning, and the fact that our internet guide specifically mentioned the obscure entrance, led me to believe that while the restaurant address was 515 E. York, the actual restaurant was behind the house.

And there it was… the rickety, simple sign announcing the existence of Wall’s BBQ. And then there was the sign in the door announcing that Wall’s would be closed from December 2007 till March 2008. Which really shouldn’t have mattered, since it is now April; and yet, the windows were grimy, the inside was dark and the door didn’t look like it had been opened since… well… December 2007.

So I did the sort of thing you are supposed to do when down South: I asked a local. The young woman walking her dog did seem somewhat surprised by my inquest as to good Savannah BBQ, but she was able to direct us to Sweet Leaf. Though she hadn’t been there herself, she had heard good things. And she described the atmosphere as “rinky-dink,” which is usually a very good sign.

Daniel and I sat at one of three outdoor tables and took in the menu. It wasn’t large, but had the standards (pulled pork, BBQ beef, collard greens), plus some unexpected touches (The Devil’s Eggs). And from the couple with the six-pack at the table next to us, I believe it is a BYOB.

The inside was pretty hip, not aiming for any sort of southern authenticity. Bright murals decorated the walls, and the tables were covered in pop culture collage. A photo of Marilyn Monroe adorned the door to the women’s room; John Wayne graced the men’s. Sadly, it was not rinky-dink.

Daniel and I both wanted to get plates of food, for the choice of two accompanying sides. He ordered the pulled pork with baked beans and cole slaw. I opted for the Chipped BBQ beef with corn pudding and The Devil’s Eggs.

The corn pudding was excellent. Moist and sweet, it was a great accompaniment to the tangy BBQ beef. I appreciated the heavy dose of cayenne in The Devil’s Eggs, but the filling was dry which, as Daniel noted, seems unnecessary since you can easily add more mayo! The beef had a great smoked flavor, but I was expecting a more tender, beef brisket-like, texture. The BBQ sauce was too thin and sweet for me, but again, with a nice taste of cayenne in the mix.

Daniel’s pork was good, very tender, of the Western North Carolina style with a tomato based sauce. The beans were ok, too sweet for me again (I think this is going to be a reoccurring theme over the next few weeks). And the slaw was pretty disappointing; sliced cabbage in a really sweet mayo dressing.

The sugar and spice of the meal was a perfect prelude to our next Savannah adventure: The Lady Chablis drag show at Club One. The bitch is fierce, famous for her appearance in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We attended the earlier show and the audience was primarily middle-aged/elderly married couples and one very enthusiastic bachelorette party… not exactly what we were expecting.

Things I Learned at Club One:
1- Daniel is REALLY good at pool
2- Striped polo shirts are the outfit of choice among the homosexual male population of Savannah
3- Even a drag show can be a tourist-trap

Our BBQ/Gay Bars of the South Tour has officially begun!

Coming Up: Back to Savannah for lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House on our way to Montgomery, AL.

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