Roadfood

  • Roadfood (9th edition): The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More
  • by Jane and Michael Stern
  • published by Clarkson Potter / Random House (2014)
  • Roar Score: 3/5

The Internet is riddled with sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and their ilk, so it might seem anachronistic to still have and consult printed guidebooks. However, I remember with fondness the days when every tourist or traveler had a well-worn copy of Lonely Planet (or Frommer’s or Fodor’s or Let’s Go) to tell them what was worth seeing or where was worth eating.

Not so now. I just returned from a two-week family road trip that included Montreal and Quebec and saw maybe two people consulting a guidebook. It’s become far too easy to gather a flood of opinions online rather than rely on the recommendations of a handful of publisher-selected “reviewers” that can quickly become outdated.

Still, there’s something enticing about a big book such as Roadfood, which beckons with 900 potential food adventures. Let me be clear: I’m a sucker for the type of place this book gathers together. Local places that are known for one or two specialties, seasonal roadside stands serving up culinary wonders, and small holes-in-the-wall offering unique food experiences.

And these types of places are simply fantastic for kids willing to experiment and explore, as mine are.

I took this big boy with us on our road trip and intentionally sought out a few of the places that were along the way. I certainly can’t complain about the quality of the hot dogs, pulled pork, and donuts we discovered. All were excellent and well worth whatever diversion we made for them.

However, the basic flaw of any book such as this is that it’s so very subjective. With 900 places included, there are quite a lot of entries to choose from, but I found some of the choices a bit confusing. Three different places in Plattsburgh, NY, to find the same regional variety of hot dog? Four places in Philly for cheesesteaks? I grew up there and know that you just can’t recommend both Pat’s and Geno’s; it’s one or the other. And the real best place for cheesesteaks isn’t even included. (See? Subjective.)

The authors have also included a lot of famous places that have become tourist traps (e.g., Carnegie Deli in NYC and Café du Monde in New Orleans). I was happy to see a few places I know well in the local DC/Baltimore area make the cut, but there were still some omissions that could have easily replaced some of the duplicates or touristy destinations.

With only two authors recommending some 900 places to eat, it’s bound to be subjective and not all-inclusive. But the book doesn’t promise to be all-inclusive. It promises an extensive list of high-quality, local places worth chowing down at – and it delivers in spades.

I’ll definitely keep it close at hand and refer to it often.

(I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.)

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