This vacation found my husband and me on a two-day car trip to get to our destination and a subsequent two days to get back. I like car trips. I learned a long time ago that trips are about the journey AND the destination.
I have never been good about pre-planning meals on the road. Since becoming a parent, the best I have ever done is pack picnics to either eat in the car at 80 miles per hour or consume at state rest stops, which are still my preferred places to relieve myself and stretch my legs en route. (Gas stations gross me out, and fast food joints are no longer places we frequent.)
This trip, we planned where we would be sleeping in advance, but food didn’t make it onto the itinerary. Being terribly busy before we left is my only excuse. However, my husband’s Internet access through his phone makes it so easy to “google” phrases like the following:
“best fried chicken chattanooga” and “best BBQ chattanooga”
I then continue to fly down the interstates and he reads the results. Our only other requirement is that the joints we pick are locally owned, but that can be discerned when you click on their websites, which we highly recommend. This time, the search results were delicious. On the way down to Florida, we at the “best fried chicken” in Chattanooga at Champy’s and, two weeks later, on our 27th wedding anniversary, we ate the “best BBQ” in Chattanooga at Shuford’s on our way home.
I am sharing a few pictures here, but the shots of our actual BBQ does not do the food justice. I am a die-hard BBQ fan – raised religiously by devout BBQ parents – and swear by Kansas City style BBQ and our sauces. However, the pork sandwich I had at Shuford’s was the best pork I have ever eaten. Smoked to perfection – no nasty liquid smoke – and lightly sauced. It was served “southern” style with the cole slaw on the softest bun imaginable. That is a combo I like, and the ratio was perfect. (My husband is such a pig he had to follow up his pulled pork sandwich with a beef brisket number, and he sang its praises as well. Brisket is hard to do well.)
I did not take food shots of our fried chicken at Champy’s. I’m not a huge fan of taking pictures of my food, and was so blown away by the authenticity of our surroundings and the local flavor of the joint that I didn’t stop to point the camera at our plates. However, the really fun aspect of Champy’s is that they serve 40-ounce ice cold beers in bottles and, if you are a regular, you pull down your jumbo coozie cover from the clotheslines full of them throughout the restaurant. Most of them had been customized for the customer – by the customer! – and yours is waiting there when you return. Charming. (I was delighted by my petite 12 oz. Miller Lite sans coozie.)
My mother raised us to “get off the interstate” whenever we can because that’s where the magic lies. We were hell-bent for the beach, so the interstate was our speedy route this time. My advice? Choose great locally-owned food joints off the interstate and let your data package be your guide.
p.s. Click on the links to learn more about these great American restaurants. They both had friendly staff, and neither place will let you down. I promise.