Sunday, August 30, 2009


Here's the thing about the final few days on the Country Fried Road Trip...the best part was the food. Jeff and I sampled some of the best Southern Cookin' Tennessee had to offer and we lived to tell the tale.

Granted, we didn't really get much in the way of leafy green vegetables, so we might get scurvy. And yes, they love their salt in the south, so we might get adema. But we didn't care. The food was so delicious, so scrumptious, and so mouth-wateringly flavorful that we threw caution to the wind and just ate our faces off for days on end. In fact, I'm blaming our near-constant food coma as to the reason why our blogging slowed down over the past few days.

The morning after Dollywood, Jeff and I traveled across the highway to "Breakfast House," which beckoned us with the promise of 45 types of breakfast.

With all of the choices laid out before us (the menu actually offered OVER 45 types of Breakfast), I got overwhelmed and ended up trying the Buckwheat pancakes and Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter pancakes. 

As it turns out, the peanut butter was not IN the was ON TOP of the pancakes. In chip form.

It was all very nice, but we were slightly underwhelmed by the 45 types of breakfast.  It turns out that just because you offer 45 types of breakfast...doesn't mean any of them are anything to blog home about.

The Breakfast House meal also marked the beginning of our struggles to find a good cup of coffee in Tennessee.  Our waitress was lovely and brought us over a whole thermos full of coffee to enjoy during our meal.  But it was coffee that tasted like burning, so we barely could finish a cup.

Later that day, on the way to the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, we stopped off in Nashville for a delicious dinner at Sylvan Park.

Sylvan Park is what the good people of the south call a "Meat and Three." This means that you order a meat of your choice and then you get to choose three sides (typically vegetable based).

Since this is the "Country Fried Road Trip," I had to get the Country Fried Steak as my "meat."  For my "three," I chose Stewed Tomatoes, "freshly baked" Squash, and Green Beans.

The country fried steak tasted like a flattened burger smothered in brown gravy.  The stewed tomatoes were exceptionally sweet and featured bread crumbs for no discernible reason.  The green beans appeared to be soaked in meat juice of some kind.  But the squash was the best pudding I've ever tasted.  Creamy, sweet, and juicy.  I couldn't get enough.  I wanted to lick my plate clean, but I restrained myself since I was around "real people."

Jeff went for the meat loaf smothered in sauce, creamy potato salad, mac-n-cheese, and an iceberg lettuce salad.

Jeff shoveled all of his food into his pie hole too, but left enough room to have something that Sylvan Park was truly famous for: their Chess Pie.

Chess Pie is a southern tradition that neither Jeff nor I had ever heard of before this trip.  The filling consists of egg, butter, vanilla, sugar, and corn meal.  The pie is exceptionally sweet and tastes like a moist corn bread custard.  I did a little digging to find out why Chess Pie is called Chess Pie and found that there is quite an argument over its origins.  The "Chess" in the Chess Pie has nothing to do with the game of Chess.  Some people claim it's some derivation of an English Cheese Tart...except there is no CHEESE in Chess Pie.  Others claim it was named after Chester, England.  But my favorite story behind Chess Pie goes something like this...a man asked his cook what he was baking and the chef goes "Oh not much, it's jus' pie."  Since it happened in the south, the "jus" sounded like "chess" and so Chess Pie was born.

The Chess Pie at Sylvan Park was indeed full of deliciousness, but it was SO sweet we could barely finish it.  It tastes like pie form.

The next day, during our time spent at Graceland, Jeff and I stopped into one of Graceland's many faux-retro-eateries to try out Elvis' favorite sandwich: the grilled Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich.

Since we wanted to have a proper southern lunch a little later, we split one sandwich.

And polished it off in the span of a minute.

An hour later (after seeing Elvis' plane and his "private" life), we were starving once we set out to find a delicious Southern BBQ joint in Memphis.  Luckily, the security guard at the Heartbreak Hotel suggested that we go to "Rendezvous" in downtown Memphis for our midday meal.

Rendezvous was located in an alley in the midst of Memphis.  There were interlopers lurking in about, so we almost didn't make it there...but driven by the smell of charcoal and pork fat, we faced certain danger and forged our way to the local eatery.

As it turned out, Rendezvous isn't technically open for lunch.  But the man who greeted us by the front door said that if we wanted ribs, we could come in a sit down.  We did indeed want ribs, so we sat.  In the process of ordering drinks, the man from the front asked us if we wanted a "small" or a "full."  He even showed us the difference between the small and the full by using our napkins.  Since we were both thirsty, Jeff and I ordered a full.

Well, apparently the man from the front was referring to our rib order NOT our drink order, because moments later...out came two giant FULL baskets of ribs.

I took one look at the giant plate of ribs and told Jeff, "Oh.  Whatever we don't eat we can save for a late night eat."  And so, we dug right in and began chewing away.

The ribs at Redezvous are not drenched in sauce.  Instead, they are rubbed in spices and cooked on a real charcoal grill.  Below the ribs was a pool of tangy liquid (either meat juice or vinegar or some combination of the two).  It didn't matter what that juice was, because it made the already extraordinarily scrumptious ribs taste even better.

It was a good thing that the man from the front confused us with the size of our order, because Jeff and I both ended up eating the full order of ribs.  There were no leftovers for a "late night eat."  As we wiped our mouths clean with Rendezvous branded 'Wet Wipes,' Jeff declared "This is the best meal of the trip."  I couldn't have agreed more.

Drunk on rib juice, Jeff and I eventually maneuvered our fat asses out of Memphis and back to Nashville.  

By the time we were ready to eat dinner, everything seemed to be we ended up going down to the touristy area of Nashville (Broadway Street).

Jeff and I stumbled into a joint called "Jack's BBQ," where the man behind the meat counter started doing bits about how they were out of every meat.  Jeff did a bit right back at the guy, pretended to be all disappointed about the lack of meat.  I'm sure it was all veryfunny.

The BBQ brisket could have been more than passable, but we were still so in love with our Rendezvous ribs that we could barely focus on anything else.

The next morning (after our night out on the town in Nashville), Jeff and I woke up on our final day of the trip and decided that we needed pancakes at "A Nashville Tradition."  The tradition that is "Pancake Pantry." 

Despite a line that spilled out onto the sidewalk, Jeff and I were seated within 15 minutes of our arrival.  

We were served by an adorable older waitress who referred to us as "babies" the entire meal.

I ordered the Pancake Pantry's famous Sweet Potato Pancakes, grits, and sugar cured Southern Ham...while Jeff went with the Sugar & Spice Pancakes along with a side of Home Fries.

I have run out of words to describe the morning meal we scarfed down.  Needless to say, it was filled with devine delectable decadence.  (But the coffee was still terrible)

Post Pancake Pantry, Jeff and I thought we were done with food for the day.  But then inside the Nashville Airport, we found ourselves standing in front of another Nashville tradition: "Swett's"  

"Swett's" is a popular chain of Southern Cookin' restaurants in Nashville (and was even one of the closed places that we tried to eat at the night before).

Despite our location, we able to enjoy a meal that didn't involve fries at McDonald's.

I sampled the Mac-N-Cheese, Corn, and Baked Beans...while Jeff had a BBQ pork sandwich he described as "actually very good."  

With our bellies about to burst, Jeff and I boarded the plane back to Los Angeles. We couldn't felt more "country fried" if we had been dipped in batter, deep fried in animal fat, and served with a slice of Chess Pie.


  1. Ahh a subject close to my heart!

    Whats with all the "prison-dinner" plates?

    Pancakes are a yes! (though American pancakes are too puffy and absorbent, English pancakes are more like crepes, but not quite so thin)
    Your butter looks so white and is all whipped up like icecream.
    I want to try peanut butter chips, that looks interesting.
    It's true that good coffee is hard to find, well, not the coffee so much, but what is with "non-dairy creamer"? If I want non-dairy I'd ask for it. Besides often the packaging states (may contain cream) anyway, so whats the point?.. Best coffee for me... and best meal all round was at Marie Callenders in Redondo Beach... even had real cream.

    Your Sylvan Park food looks revolting, not least because of the prison dinner plates. Presentation, people! Seriously! .. and tomatoes and tomato related or contaminated products are a total NO-WAY for me anyway. Jeffs looks a little better but the sauce looks dubious.
    Chess Pie looks very nice, and I am going to have to try the peanut butter/banana toastie (#bananas)for myself.
    Pass on the ribs (I don't eat pig)and the empty plate looks like a crime scene..

    And its back to pancakes again...

    American food is quite a culture shock

  2. Yay! I love happy endings in grease.
    Nik F