On Eating in Small Towns on the Road: Nostalgia and the Best Fried Chicken Ever
This past week my husband and I had the pleasure of traveling through the Midwest. After checking into a hotel in Keokuk, Iowa we learned that unless you want chain fast food, the pickings were a little slim. We could have gone to the grocery store for meats and veggies, but we were too tired, yet the idea of eating at Sonic was equally depressing. So instead, we asked a local for a recommendation and ended up at a place that made me nostalgic for Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house.
When we asked the lady at the front desk what they do in that town for fun, she said it “was chicken night at the brewery.” Never one to shy away from local traditions or any place that ranks above the local movie theater or mini golf place on the fun meter, my husband and I went to investigate.
Upon pulling up to this old brewery nestled against the banks of the Mississippi River, we realized we were the only people in the parking lot under the age of 65. This could have either been a fabulous thing, or a horrible thing. Luckily for us it turned out to be the former.
The inside of the building was lined with plastic event tables and chairs of the same quality. They wouldn’t be winning any decor awards in the near future, but none of that really mattered. The tables were packed with folks holding plates piled high with some of the finest looking fried chicken I’ve ever seen. (And that’s saying something since I’m born and raised in the Midwest, and we practically come out of the womb frying something.)
This buffet boasted five different kids of potatoes, salads of all sorts, pasta and even a bag of white bread and tub of margarine at the end of the line. It reminded me so much of the type of meal my grandparents served to us every Sunday, and just for that the experience was totally worth it.
So, moral of the story: don’t forget that the best part of any road trip is usually the part you don’t plan. Don’t be shy to ask what’s happening and what’s good to eat in the area. Most folks are happy to brag about their town, and you never know when you could be missing out on one of the best chicken dinners of your life. For reals.