TRIP REPORT- Illinois to Naples, FL, Part 1

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2004/04/07 13:40:19 (permalink)

TRIP REPORT- Illinois to Naples, FL, Part 1

We headed to Florida with our three kids, starting April 26. Here is a compendium of our food stops.

MUG 'N BUN DRIVE INN, Indianapolis, IN- I think that this place has the best root beer that I have ever tasted. It has a deep molasses(?) flavor but is very creamy. I like the fact that you have to flash your car lights to get the carhop to come out. My kids thought that that was cool. Good onion rings and fries, a pretty good tenderloin sandwich, and a very good Coney Dog. But the root beer is the star here.

SYLVAN PARK, Nashville, TN- There is something about a place like this, where every dish is very good, nothing necessarily knocks your socks off, but the atmosphere, the people, and the food all combine to make it an experience. My 6 year old was intrigued by the fact that you had to go into the kitchen to use the bathroom, so he made three trips during the meal. This was my first experience with Southern pre-sweetened iced-tea, which was a nice start. My wife got the Fried Chicken with sides of candied apples, mashed potatoes with beef gravy, and green beans. I had the country-fried steak, which I would highly recommend, along with excellent mac-and-cheese, baked squash, and the potatoes, which went perfect with the tender steak. For dessert, we had the chocolate pie and the chess pie. The chocolate pie was average, but the chess pie, served warm, was excellent. The wait staff was fun, and they enjoyed entertaining the kids and gave us a great first Southern meat-and-three experience.

MELEAR'S, Fayetteville, Georgia- This was our only disappointment of the trip. I haven't truly had chopped pork before, so I don't know if it was the food that was subpar or if it was just the lack of experience with it. The food came served in a cafeteria tray, with chopped pork, Brunswick stew, pickles, white bread, and potato chips. The pork was rather dry and not hot (we did not smell any smoke from outside when we walked in). I suspect that it was made much earlier and had sat for most of the day. We there at about 4:30 on Saturday, and there were only 2 tables taken. The Brunswick stew was OK, but I suspect that there were better stews around Georgia. The pork perked up a bit with the vinegary barbecue sauce, but on the whole, I was not impressed.

LA TERESITA, Tampa, FL- A night's sleep removed from the disappointment of Melear's, this place hit the jackpot. With only two tables, my wife and I sat at the snakelike counter that winds through the restaurant while our three kids sat at a nearby table. La Teresita, FYI, is just down the street from where the Yankees play their spring training games. Anyhow, I ordered a Cubano sandwich, but the waitress brought me the roast pork sandwich instead. No problem. Covered with onions and lightly infused with spices and a citrus flavor, the juicy pork and the crunchy yet soft Cuban bread were an absolute perfect match. I had cup of Cuban cafe con leche as well, which was great. My wife opted for the peccadillo, with beef olives, capers and tomatoes-top notch. It came with a large side of yellow rice and black beans, which were perfect. My sandwich cost 3.50 and her meal was 5.95, I think. It was outrageously inexpensive for the quality and quantity of the food.

Since I didn't get to try the Cuban sandwich, I of course had to order one for the road. It was incredible, with roast pork, their own ham, which I assume is made on the premises, swiss cheese and what I think was mustard and mayonnaise mixed- whatever it was, it was phenomenal. La Teresita is a must if you are within 100 miles of Tampa.

Next- Dining in Naples, FL, and the return trip: Krystal Burgers; La Teresita (again); The Pancake Pantry in Nashville, TN; and the Bon Ton Mini-Mart in Henderson, KY.

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