Chain restaurants. We all go to them. Sometimes not willingly, but often there aren’t other dining options. Chain restaurants serve a purpose by providing a consistent menu that is familiar to most. While chains strive to be “authentic,” they are often far from.
It seems that “authentic” places are vanishing from the American food landscape. This saddens me greatly. I freely admit I frequent chains a lot more than I would like to, but I do actually seek out local places first. I like to think of it as an adventure in dining, and I like to visit places long established in their locations… Pieces of Americana.
Wherever we move, my goal is find these local treasures. Most aren’t fancy dining and that’s OK. Often they’d be called greasy spoons, but there is something special about them. I’ve found many on my food adventures. I’ve got some new favorites. Back in Lexington, KY, there was the Parkette Drive In, founded in 1951. It is still going strong. Everything is still original from the neon sign, to the call-boxes, and the the fried chicken in a box. Here in eastern North Carolina, I’ve stumbled upon Parker’s Barbecue (est. 1970), where you are served heaping plates of chopped BBQ with homemade hushpuppies by young guys dressed in all white with paper hats, and Dick’s Hotdog Stand, which has been serving hot dogs with all the trimmings since 1921, and the walls are covered with photos of famous people paying tribute to the food to show for it. Both are in Wilson, NC.
What do all these places have in common? Tradition and memories. They are community gathering places. Real neon signs. Worn booths and stools that aren’t exactly comfortable, but yet somehow comfort you. Photos on the wall sharing the collective past. Waitresses who call you “hon” and mean it. You go there to connect with people. And to hear the news, or basically hear the gossip. Everyone knows everyone, and even if you are a stranger you soon become a friend should you be sitting at the counter. While I’ve eaten in posh restaurants and have had a pleasant, memorable dining experience, what I remember the most about eating out are the Friday nights spent with my Dad at Max’s Hot Dogs on the broadwalk at the Jersey Shore, or with my parents eating pizza and dancing at Briody’s in Rumson, NJ.
Many of the places I’ve mentioned are becoming endangered of becoming memories. In fact, Briody’s is gone after seventy years.
Now where does Foodspotting come in? It is a a restaurant review app/social network of people who like food and sharing their food photos. Foodspotting for foodies by foodies. The goal is to create a new kind guide of food guide that highlights not only restaurants, but their best dishes. Most places featured on Foodspotting are small and local. It gives people the opportunity to share their favorite places and the food they love. Even though I have Urban Spoon on my iPhone, I find myself going to Foodspotting first and checking out what other foodies have uploaded and said about places. And I love adding my own.
So the next time you are out and find a special place to eat like Dick’s Hotdog Stand or a place that makes regional specialty foods like the Clam Box in Ispwich, MA, share it on Foodspotting so others can enjoy it too. In fact you’ll be preserving an important piece of vanishing Americana. So what are your favorite, unique eateries?
PS – Often these restaurants have unique period architecture so you’ll be hitting two birds with one stone.
Vanishing Americana – Food

This post was originally posted on Ann-Sense on February 13, 2011.

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