Friday, July 07, 2006
from DCFUD - What to Eat Before Getting Motion Sickness
This summer, I decided to give myself the happy childhood I so rightly deserved. Trips to the non-Air and Space Smithsonians that my school field trips forgot, and civilly disobeying the "No Swimming" signs in the Potomac have been my hallmarks of Summer-06, replete with the crowned jewel of my immaturity empire, a season pass to Kings Dominion near Richmond. It *should* only take about 90 minutes to get from the Beltway to the faux Effiel Tower at the park, but the real art in any roadtrip is the travel, not always the destination. There's some good old fashioned eating between the speed traps and sprawl-induced traffic jams. Here's my comfort food-based guide to surviving a drive to the park.
1) I've always maintained that the true South doesn't start at the Mason-Dixon Line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, but at the point where you can rely on a Waffle House at every interstate exit; therefore, the South technically begins around Potomac Mills. Open 24 hours, Waffle House is known for breakfast foods - huge waffles, greasy hash browns with your choice of toppings, and coffee stronger than a wino's stench. They also serve dinner foods and sandwiches, like burgers and chicken. Stay away from the shoe-leather steaks, and you'll eat well for under ten bucks.
2) With a name like Cracker Barrel, you know you're not in the District anymore. Another Interstate exit staple, Cracker Barrel serves up massive meals of Southern-fried comfort. Their breakfasts are legendary - fantastic pancakes, smoked breakfast meats and hashbrown cassaroles. Their dinners are no joke, either, with country-fried steaks, chicken dumplings and a heaping serving of gravy on everything.
3) Feeling a little less chainy? If you're in Woodbridge, just off Route 1 is Dixie Bones a barbeque joint that invited me to attend after my lackluster visit to Capital Q in Chinatown. So far, I've only had a couple of sandwiches, which isn't enough for a full review, but their sweet, slightly-smoky sauce is fantastic. I can't wait for another trip to Woodbridge...that is a sentence I never thought I'd write in my life.
4) So, you say you've had Waffle House, and have mastered the Cracker Barrel menu. Like Stewie from Family Guy, you're addicted to "click-click-bloody-click pancakes!" There's one place for you, my friend - Aunt Sarah's Pancake House. As any self-respecting UVA Cavalier can tell you, Aunt Sarah's makes some good `cakes. Light, fluffy - always good. They don't stay open as late as the other I-95 joints, and, sadly, the Charlottesville location seems to be a lot cleaner than the ones in Fredericksburg or Richmond. Here's hoping somebody steps in with a mop, some Scrubbing Bubbles and a bad attitude, and saves those pancakes.
5) When a place advertises an all-you-can-eat buffet and sub-$10 prime rib, you're either in Vegas or the Iron Skillet near Bowling Green, Virginia. I hadn't been there in nearly 15 years, when I would refuel there, driving from Maryland on 301 down to my uncle's farm in Buckingham County, Virginia. A recent trip has shown that they've cleaned the place up, and the portions are generous, if not thrilling, and the "stinky trucker" odor has subsided.
6) Once you get to Kings Dominion, you're stuck eating their food. You can try to sneak chow in from the nearby Burger King or 7-11, but those security guards at the park examine packpacks like they're looking for Waldo. Kings Dominion offers everything that a standard theme park has - funnel cakes, overpriced pizzas, listless hamburgers. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Frozen Lemonade stand or Dippin' Dots - Ice Cream of the Future! kiosk (by the way, hasn't Dippin' Dots been the ice cream of the future for like, 20 years now? When the hell does the future get here?) but those are two tasty places for a quick sugar high. Your best bets at Kings' Dominion are the Subway shops - they offer decent sandwiches at $5.99, which is about the best deal in the place. Also, the Bubba Gump Shrimp joint near the new Italian Job roller coaster makes surprisingly good Cajunesque chow. Plus, they serve beer and margaritas, which come in handy if you want to survive a place with too many kids, rigged games, long lines, broken rides, people with questionable hygiene and clothing styles, and where the word "door" somehow picks up extra syllables.