Well, we've returned, and what a long, strange trip it was. Our schedule ended up a bit different than I thought it would--I fell asleep in the car and woke up at Waffle House in Murfreesboro, TN about 2 hours later at 6:00 am. Waffle House was a great spot for dining between 1 and 5 am when I was in college. The food was somewhat less than I remembered. It's really not very good. Nonetheless, it hit the spot after all night on the road and very little sleep.
The Bonnaroo music festival, raison d'trip
, was fantastic--musical highlights for me were Wilco, Bob Dylan, the Dead, Beth Orton, Neko Case, and Bill Laswell's Material, featuring guitarist Buckethead, so named for the everpresent KFC bucket atop his dome. In terms of food, drink, and other logistical concerns, the show promoters did quite a nice job managing 90,000+ festival goers/campers in both beating 90 degree sun and lightning-filled rainstorms.
Festival-sponsored beer tents offered 20-oz Budweisers for $5, but also a nice selection of microbrews at the same price--the best in my estimation was a highly-hopped IPA from Magic Hat. There was another Magic Hat beer, something from SweetWater, New Belgium, perhaps a couple others. In addition to these officially sanctioned beers, various "vendors" throughout the campground were looking to make a buck by peddling a variety of other quality brews.
The food was surprisingly good and diverse as well. We brought some brats and steaks for the grill. (There's nothing like a grilled 12oz ribeye and a Red Seal Ale for breakfast to get you through a day of dedicated concert attendance.) But a wide variety of other food stuffs were available--some very good tortilla sandwiches ("quesadillas") filled with Mediterranean foodstuffs--one basil-tomato-mozzarella, another feta-olive-other stuff. A very good falafel sandwich. Sausages and dogs from Sabrett's (ok, not great). A guy at a campsite next to us making veggie burritos that really felt right at three in the morning after a Dead show. All in all, we ate surprisingly well.
A friend of mine on the trip, who has been a regular on the Dead and Phish-type tour circuits for a number of years, had advised before leaving that these sorts of weekend-long camping/music festivals had spawned a cottage industry of unofficial vendors that travel from show to show, offering a variety of good to very good food and drink. I was eager but skeptical, but I was certainly not disappointed.
(Note to Cathy2 and other mycologists: There were also a wide variety of mushrooms very readily available, in addition to an impressive collection of artisanal herbs that I've never seen at the Spice House.)
The return trip to Chicago on Monday afternoon provided me a sole opportunity to employ my vast prior research about stops along the way: Smokin' Ed's for some pulled pork (courtesy a tip from pogophiles at Roadfood.com
). Well, the smoke wasn't billowing, but there were three huge smokers out front. Pogophiles had advised to get two pulled porks, sauce on the side, but I couldn't help asking the young guy behind the counter what he did well. "Everything," he said predictably, and then not so predicatbly, "Yard work." He later showed us the brambles he had been clearing in back. I liked this place.
I liked it more when he came outside to show us the smokers. "Too bad you didn't come tomorrow," said the counter guy, "we'll have 140 butts, 100 shoulders, and 100 slabs of ribs in here."
"Wow," I replied. "What's tomorrow?"
Ah-hah. No nonsense, straight-up southern barbecue. Good stuff. The sandwiches themselves were delicious, though not as smokey as I would have expected, and perhaps a bit saltier than I would have liked. I've spent some time with Texas and KC BBQ, but I don't really have a pulled pork frame of reference. I liked them.
And I also came away with this tidbit: Smokin' Ed's, which has four or five rural (?) Nashville-area locations, is scoping out a spot in Chicago.
"Wow, that's great," I said. "You can't get good pulled pork in Chicago."
"Yeah, we know," was the simple reply. A real straight shooter, this fella.
I look forward to Ed's arrival.
(Smokin' Ed's also makes an appearance, with pictures, on Holly Moore's website