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2015 Road Trip Photos #40: Southern Cooking Showdown, Round 4

Beignet!

Remember that time we took you on a tour of New Orleans’ own Cafe Beignet — on Day Three and the morning of Day Five, in fact — and failed to show you a photo of a single beignet? That was a rude oversight on my part. Here, have some virtual beignet. I promise it ruled. SUCK IT, Cafe du Monde.

Beyond the French Quarter, we knew Day Five would be one of the most taxing days, a combination of hundreds of miles to travel and several places we wanted to check out. If we’d driven through all the same cities nonstop, it would’ve been six hours’ minimum boredom. With stops, more fun but much longer and a bit more grueling. Day Six held its own set of challenges and fumbles. We tried to make the most of our deep-South mealtimes anyway. I’m proud to say we never settled for McDonald’s or Subway either day.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…

After the Biloxi Lighthouse we tried stopping at a place I’d researched in advance, but were chagrined to pull up at lunchtime and find all eight of their parking spaces were full. Driving north away from the beach and closer toward the heart of Biloxi, the scenery changed with the crossing of a single railroad track and we found ourselves in a pretty small, not-so-shiny town that kinda hopes tourists would stick to the beach and leave them alone.

Plan B was Rosetti’s Cafe, which occupies the corner of a quality seafood market called the Quality Seafood Market.

Rosetti's Cafe!

One of the key factors that led us here was a menu that wasn’t just seafood, despite the large sign outside with “Seafood” on it. They also have red meat options at various levels of smoke. Anne was grateful because after nearly three days in New Orleans she couldn’t take one more blasted fish dinner, no matter how outstanding it was crafted.

Rosetti Art!

Sure, this pictographic half of their menu screamed “OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN” but there was more to it.

Deer Heads!

Sorry, folks, these are merely display items, not the daily lunch specials.

I dissented and went for seafood anyway. Their crab-cake po’boy was top-notch and made up for our underwhelming, Subway-esque po’boy experience from Day Two. Not pictured here: Anne’s hamburger steak ‘n’ gravy, a.k.a. the Wednesday special. Nothing wrong with cost-cutting comfort food, especially on a long day in the second half of a long week.

(They forgot one of the items that was supposed to come with her meal, but by the time she’d eaten the rest, she didn’t have room for it anyway.)

Crabcake Poboy!

Dinner on Day Five was extra late by our standards. We could’ve eaten in Monroeville if anyplace interesting-looking had been open. Alas, the folks at Mel’s Dairy Dream apparently have early bedtimes. We drove onward toward our next hotel in Montgomery and ended up stopping after sundown at a deserted Ruby Tuesday. Yes, it’s a national chain and this might count as a failure on road-trip principle, but I hasten to add the Ruby Tuesday that used to be down the street from our house shut down several years ago. Strictly speaking, we were still having dinner at someplace we didn’t have back home. Technically.

In a bizarre moment of shared wavelengths, we both ordered petite sirloins and took advantage of one of my all-time favorite salad bars. Bonus points for offering spaghetti squash as a side, though it seemed kind of odd that the manager insisted we try a special sauce with it of her own devising. Generous, if unnecessary.

Morning of Day Six: vastly overpriced room service at the only four-star hotel in Montgomery. We’d never tried four-star accommodations before, but I’d decided to indulge for the sheer novelty. The room was super-sized and gadget-filled (the bathroom alone was larger than our kitchen/dining room here at home), but their breakfast was the least interesting aspect. At that point we didn’t care. We woke up tired and lazy and nowhere near any restaurants open that early.

Lunchtime: Whataburger! If you live next door to one I’m sure this is a disappointment. Again, it’s something we don’t have in Indiana. Whataburger first appeared in our lives on our 2005 road trip to Texas and stuck in our memories because it was the first fast-food joint we’d ever seen that offered white gravy as a chicken-nugget dipping sauce. This one’s in the town of Clanton and lunchtime was pretty much a hectic wreck like we used to live through in the fast-food careers of our youth. But their new Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Bacon Burger served its purpose, and I was surprised to find spicy ketchup as a fry-dipping option.

Whataburger!

Sticking to the whole “Southern” theme, though, I insisted on a snack stop at Heaton Pecan Farm. Candy, ice cream, and other desserts and sugary victuals were in heavy supply and much appreciated for the long drive still ahead of us.

Heaton Pecan Farm!

As for dinner on Day Six…that was something completely different. We’ll get to Nashville in due time.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

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