We’ve had a grand time, these past few months, eating our way around the Magnolia State of Mississippi. Travel, eat, travel, eat. Tough life, huh? We haven’t had much time to write about everything, but we’re putting together a great series of articles chronicling our trips with recommendations of some serious grub and cool things to do and see.
The Roman Chewing Candy cart has made its rounds in New Orleans since 1915. Yes, I said 1915! NOLA is an old city (at least in US terms) and this is one of the city’s oldest culinary traditions. The cart, as you can see above, has seen its share of wear and tear. But like most things New Orleans, the cart’s worn and weathered look makes one more than a bit nostalgic for the “good old days.” And yes, this is the original cart fashioned by New Orleans wheelwright Tom Brinker in 1915. Amazing. Many cities bulldoze or bury their past. New Orleans celebrates theirs. God bless ‘em for that.
We recently encountered the cart at the Crescent City’s wonderful Audubon Zoo. Eileen and the boys promptly called me with the good news. I urged them to take a few pics and bring back an assortment of the gourmet taffy. The price of the taffy has gone up a bit since it was first offered for 5 cents per stick by the Cortese family back in the day.
You can now purchase three basic taffy flavors (Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry) for $1 per wax paper wrapped stick, 6 sticks for $5, or $10 for a full dozen sticks. The candies are handmade on the cart each day and they are not, like many of today’s confections, overly sweet. Personally, I prefer the vanilla.
You can now track the Roman Candy cart’s day to day location via Facebook.
You can also purchase by mail by ordering at http://www.romancandy.gourmetfoodmall.com
In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is!”
Roman Candy Company – 5510 Constance St., New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 897-3937; email@example.com
Sprayberry’s is a longtime stalwart of Southern BBQ. They have been around since 1926, so staying power is one of their strong suits. Country music star Alan Jackson once waited tables at Sprayberry’s. There are 2 locations now (both in Newnan, GA). We hit the Jackson Street location several years back and enjoyed it. This time we were traveling from Atlanta back to Mobile, Alabama and our timing was just right. We arrived just before noon — beating the lunch rush.
We were promptly seated in the spacious dining room and handed large tan menus (see the 2 images above). I immediately noticed the Lewis Grizzard Special (details shown on photo above). The late Grizzard was a popular Southern humorist who is still something of a folk hero in these parts. I owned a couple of his comedy tapes and sometimes read his column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He was a funny man with a hearty appetite for Dixie-style chow, so this BBQ combo is a fitting tribute.
I wasn’t feeling up to onion rings, so I ordered the Chopped Pork Sandwich with a side of Brunswick Stew and a Sweet Tea with Lemon. My sandwich came with fresh chopped slaw (lacking the usual heavy mayo), a few pickle slices, and a small cup of Sprayberry’s singular BBQ sauce. It’s kind of a thin, vinegar-based condiment — not too different than sauces you find in Eastern North Carolina. The sandwich was quite tasty — lean, smokey swine paired with crunchy grated cabbage and the peppery tang of the sauce.
I consider myself a bit of a Brunswick Stew aficionado, so I braced myself to be disappointed when I first viewed Sprayberry’s mushy concoction (see above). Virginians and Georgians have long debated about which state bubbled up the very first Brunswick Stew. I am not here to argue that point at this time. I will say that I am more accustomed to a stew with more texture. Kernals of sweet yellow corn, visible strands of meat (most often chicken), tiny green butter beans, etc. Sprayberry’s Stew looks more like baby food, but I am pleased to report that it is suitably flavorful. I added just a sprinkle of salt and a tiny splash of Tabasco. You could drink this stuff through a straw. I elected to utilize the more traditional spoon.
Sprayberry’s has stood the test of time for a reason. The food is good. The pricing fair. The service swift. Convenient access from the interstate. All in all a positive Dixie Dining experience. So if you find yourself motoring between Auburn, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia, please do give ‘em a try. It’s right on the beaten path, but worthy of your time and palate even if it was not. Skip the fast food options and treat yourself to a taste of Georgia culinary history.
Sprayberry’s BBQ –
Hwy. 34 @ I-85, Newnan, GA (770) 253-5080
229 Jackson Street, Newnan, GA (770) 253-4421
For more reviews of Southern food, please visit our web site at www.DixieDining.com
I just spent a weekend in Northern Virginia and DC. Celebrated my Dad’s 84th birthday and my Granny Justice’s 100th birthday. I also found time to seek out some good eats. Perhaps the best bite of the trip came to me courtesy of The Cajun Experience — A Taste of South Louisiana. They are located in the heart of historic downtown Leesburg, Virginia.
Leesburg is a quaint little town. Well, not that little anymore. Loudoun County is booming and is now one of the wealthiest and fastest growing areas in the country. But it still has tons of charm. Leesburg is the hub of this scenic part of the Old Dominion. It boasts many fine restaurants — some quite elegant. Yet it’s not exactly a place where you would expect to find authentic Cajun cuisine. Peanut soup, yes. Virginia wine, yes. But boudin? And andouille? Really???
One look at the menu and my expectations were immediately elevated. They use Leidenheimer bread??? Wow, these folks are taking this authenticity thing pretty seriously! They offer a great selection of PoBoys too. I quickly zeroed in on the Hot Pot Roast variety. My brother Bill opted for the Fried Shrimp PoBoy. Neither one of us would regret our choices.
Beer was the first order of business. It was a weekday, sure. And it was lunchtime. But it was also Friday. Cause enough for us to crack open a couple of cold ones. Louisiana brew is offered and we were accepting. Bill had the Abita Fall Fest. I called for a Jockamo IPA. I sucked mine right out of the chilled bottle. Bill, going for a slightly more sophisticated look, asked for a glass and was pleasantly surprised when he was presented with a frosty cold mug — straight out of the nearby upright freezer.
The Hot Pot Roast PoBoy arrived hot — and tasted hot. Spicy hot as well as temperature hot. It came with a nice portion of crispy housemade potato chips. The bread was really great, the sauce (sort of a kicked up remoulade) creamy, and the pot roast lean and tender. No chunks of fat, no gristle. Really good. I mean really, really good.
Just take a gander at this sammich. How can you not love this???
Chopped jalapenos, huh? That explains my PoBoy’s spicy punch.
Dessert came in the form of freshly fried beignets showered with lots of powdered sugar. We couldn’t resist pairing the piping hot beignets with a steaming cup of chicory coffee. The beignets are made with the same mix used at New Orleans’ famed Cafe Du Monde. We learned this without asking. A delivery was made while we were dining. They were mighty fine (hard to screw up hot fried dough and powdered sugar). Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The coffee was the real deal too. Our younger brother Mark checked in by phone during our lunch and was more than a bit disappointed to learn what he was missing.
This Cajun Experience is an authentic one. I have eaten a lot of Cajun food in my time and this doesn’t take a back seat to many of them. That is particularly impressive given the distance between Leesburg & the murky Bayous of South Louisiana. So do march on in when you can … and let the good times roll.
THE CAJUN EXPERIENCE – 14 Loudoun Street Southeast, Leesburg, VA
(703) 777-6580; www.cajunexperience.biz
Sunday 12-9 pm; Monday – Friday 11 am – 9 pm
Savannah Food Writer Damon Lee Fowler tipped us to this wonderful product. We receive sample products all the time and rarely do they leave such a lasting impression on us. A chef (Espy Geissler) in Tybee Island, GA created this magical pairing of sweet and spicy (jalapenos!).
I have long been a chutney lover. And I am not easily impressed. But this product will totally knock your socks off. Yes, it is that good. Trust me. However, you may find it difficult to acquire if you (like most of us) live outside the greater Savannah area. Thankfully, Espy’s has a Facebook page — I have provided a link to that page at the bottom of this review. So go get you some. I have never been so confident that you will love a product.
*It makes a sublime compliment to fried green tomatoes & meat loaf.
Espy’s Tomato Chutney – Tybee Island, GA
firstname.lastname@example.org – For direct orders
Chef Rick McDaniel is a good friend and quite the authority on Southern eats. Check this book out if you love all things related to Dixie-style grub and folklore. You might learn something and pick up some classic, tried-and-true recipes to boot. Now I don’t see any harm in that, do you??? Buy it today at Amazon.com (see the convenient link found below).
The South has always been celebrated for its food—a delectable blend of ingredients and cooking techniques connected to the region’s rich soil and bountiful waters. And oftentimes what makes a recipe Southern is as much a state of mind as it is a matter of geography—Southerners simply decide a particular food is Southern, and that’s that.
From the earliest days of settlement, when colonists struggled to survive on a diet of dogs, cats, rats and poisonous snakes, to an era defined by sumptuous dining that blended European, Native American and African cuisines, Southern food truly stems from a unique tradition.
Respected Southern food historian and chef Rick McDaniel explores the history of over 150 recipes, from Maryland stuffed ham to South Carolina chicken bog to New Orleans shrimp Creole, without forgetting the meal’s crowning glory: dessert.
Tilmo’s Bar B Que is located just west of the Mobile Airport on Airport Boulevard. It is fairly easy to find — but way out on the western outskirts of town. Dreamland BBQ, The Shed, and Brick Pit continue to battle it out inside the city limits of Mobile. Tilmo’s has created it’s own little niche with this one and only location. Motor much further west and you’ll be hitting the Mississippi state line.
Tilmo’s is housed in a rather spartan concrete block building with a most understated sign. It’s not that they’re not proud of their establishment. It’s just that big signs are pricey and this joint was apparently started on a shoestring and a dream. Can’t blame ‘em for that, can we?
After you place your order, your server will bring you a black plastic basket toting a couple slices of fresh white bread and a cup of Tilmo’s signature BBQ sauce. It’s pretty special stuff and you’ll have to fight the temptation to fill up on it. Dip a single bread end into the sauce and take a little taste. It’ll surely get your taste buds revved up.
There’s not a lot of decor or atmosphere inside Tilmo’s. They are obviously going with a “keep it simple” philosophy. I did find the above painting somewhat amusing. They’re not doing whole hog BBQ at Tilmo’s … they specialize is pork shoulders smoked on the premises and then thinly sliced “deli style.” The owner (who was also my server this particular day) explained that his father had fond memories of an Old Mobile restaurant serving their BBQ sandwiches in this manner.
The sliced pork BBQ sandwich at Tilmo’s was very good indeed — smoky and surprisingly lean. Sure, there were a few streaks of pork fat throughout, but that only added to the distinctive flavor. Fat = Flavor, right? I sampled a couple slices sans sauce and found the pork to be quite tasty. I love the little crispy burnt edges. The meat tasted of country ham and/or good hickory smoked bacon. The sauce is great — one of the best in the Mobile area. It’s got a nice bite to it and I dig that.
I had been told the cole slaw at Tilmo’s was special, so I made sure to make that my side order. In hindsight, I wish I had tried the fried okra or sweet potato fries. I’m sure the slaw has its loyal followers, but I was not that impressed. It was a tad dry and bitter for my liking. I had pre-ordered some banana pudding for dessert, so I only polished off about 1/2 of my cup of slaw. You might say I was pacing myself.
The banana pudding, as advertised, was excellent. You will find it especially rewarding if you like lots of whipped cream on top. They certainly do not skimp here at Tilmo’s. The pudding was rich and creamy. There were also plenty of vanilla wafers at the bottom to provide the appropriate amount of counter-texture. A mighty fine way to conclude my lunch.
Tilmo’s probably won’t alter your universe, but they do make a very good pork BBQ sandwich. Their homemade sauce is first rate and the staff is working extremely hard to make this place the best it can be. We invite you to give them a try. We’ve heard the ribs are excellent and BBQ beef brisket is something you don’t normally find this far removed from the Texas border. Stop in and give ‘em a shot. Tell ‘em Dixie Dining sent you over. And don’t forget to save room for some of that nanner puddin’!
Tilmo’s Bar B Que – 10130 Airport Boulevard; 251 633-8109
Mrs. Wheat’s Treats has been around since the late 1980s. This is no overnight success story. It’s never been easy. But it’s a family recipe and a family business. Always has been. They have survived through good times and bad and now they need your support. A combination of road construction, theft, and the sluggish, post BP spill economy has caused Julie Wheat to tighten the proverbial belt. She makes a mighty fine New Orleans-style praline and deserves our loyal support.
The window sign at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats in Mobile, Alabama
Pralines on the cooling trays at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats
The company was founded by Marguerite Busch Wheat. She was a whiz in the kitchen who made hundreds of pralines each year for her closest friends and beloved family members. Her praline recipe was a treasured heirloom passed down through 4 generations of the Wheat family. She was said to be quite particular about the pecans used in her recipe. Marguerite gathered pecans from her own family trees and was known to crack and shell each nut by hand. Talk about your TLC!
Chocolate Fudge from Mrs. Wheat’s kitchens
The original Mrs. Wheat passed away in 1987, but her family was determined to keep this most Southern of cooking traditions alive. Mrs. Wheat’s Treats retail location on South Florida Street first opened its doors two years later in 1989. Fast forward more than two decades later and the Wheat family is still at it. They continue to incorporate top of the line sugar, fresh butter and cream, pure vanilla, and meaty hand picked pecan halves. Each batch of pralines is hand dropped and hand wrapped. No mechanized, mass production here, folks.
Mrs. Wheat’s also offers delicious Cheese Straws & homemade candies
Chocolate Pralines — ready to be devoured
Mrs. Wheats Treats has a great history here in Mobile. It is our hope and prayer that they have a bright future too. That is ultimately up to the public. They may be a little out of your way, but we urge you to go the extra mile to purchase these legendary Dixie delights. Mrs. Wheat’s has always gone that extra mile for you.
Mrs. Wheat’s Treats – 154 S. Florida St., Mobile, AL - 251 478-0709
Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.
How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask? Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast. Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area.
We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage. Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.
We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.”
Your annual membership or sponsorship will:
*Help finance research projects
*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast
*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them
*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast
*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs
In return, your benefits will include:
*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com
*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration
*Priority registration for events
*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops
We urge you to join this worthy cause today.
Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at email@example.com.
***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.
A mass migration from Mississippi once brought the Blues to Chicago. All these years later, the Windy City has at last repaid the Magnolia State by giving them Lil’ Italy. Lil’ Italy, serving authentic Chicago Italian food, is located just off I-10 in Ocean Springs, MS. My good friend Lloyd Hebert lives nearby and has been raving about the place for several months now.
It was a cold, blustery Chicago-style day along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lil’ Italy does not offer any kind of inside, temperature controlled seating. But Lloyd and I have both spent a good bit of time in Illinois and we were not to be denied this day.
The traditional Chicago Italian Beef sandwich is obviously the star of the show at Lil’ Italy. The warm, slightly spicy sliced beef was a perfect foil for the winter chill. The hot green peppers also added a fiery kick in the pants. The accompanying fries weren’t bad — but the beef was without question the first order of business.
Chicago-style Hot Dog (above) — fully dressed with neon green relish. It’s a unique flavor combo of wiener, chopped onion, mustard, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices and, of course, the poppy seed bun. It’s probably a good thing we weren’t being drug tested on this day. Cholesterol too, right?
“Gyro Gyro Gyro!” They make a good one at Lil’ Italy. Tony, the friendly owner, brought one out for us to try — on the house. What a guy! It was very tasty. The meat was fresh and appropriately seasoned. The yogurt-based sauce just right.
www.lilitaly.net – Drop by and tell Tony that DixieDining sent you!
Lloyd also took time to run me over to another of his favorite haunts. Burger Burger may be redundant, but this place is legendary in these parts. The historic joint changed it’s location about a decade back, yet it still retains the ambiance and warmth you woud expect.
The entry at Burger Burger has an old school, neighborhood tavern feel.
I still had enough room in my belly for a nice slice of Apple-Raisin pie. Lloyd had some dessert too. A burger was out of the question after our all-out assault at Lil’ Italy. My pie was an excellent choice. It was served warm and I didn’t even have to ask. Gotta love that. The crust was flaky and the pie’s interior was an ideal blend of chunky apples and fat, juicy raisins. It tasted of home and the holidays.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi is a hot new tourist draw. We took a break from all the eating and spent an hour or so checking out the museum’s latest exhibits. George Ohr was widely known as “The Mad Potter of Biloxi” and his works receive due reverance here.
This image of George Ohr (above) is almost as iconic as his pottery works.
The museum was featuring a colorful collection of Warhol lithographs. Subjects included the likes of Geronimo, Howdy Doody, Mick Jagger and John Wayne. How’s that for a foursome? Lloyd tells me the new museum — a very costly project — has drawn a great deal of criticism from many locals. Especially in light of the recent economic woes driven by Katrina and the BP oil mess.
Talk about someone having a big head!
The steps that lead to — nowhere. Well, it’s fun to look at! Lloyd snapped this image of me as we climbed this eye-catching stairwell. We anticipated it leading to another art exhibit, but it just led us to an small, open-air terrace and an elevator to take us back down to earth. Strange, yes, but the terrace does offer some sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico.
This out building on the museum grounds was decidedly less contemporary.
Admission is $10 for adults. Discounts are offered for seniors, vets and children.