Monday Night: Hokie Smokie barbecue, over by the mall. As you drive up, the smell of smoked meat permeates the neighborhood. As we went around the table, 5-of-6 got Brisket. I was number 6, and got the combo with Brisket, sausage, and chicken. The food came, and I went into something of a fugue state - I have no recollection of conversation or other people, but I cleaned my plate. Every bite was amazing.
The service, mostly ok, but she left us alone too often to go flirt with young guys up at the bar. It took a good 20 min to get the check - i watched as she would look over at our table, nod to herself as if saying "yeah, gotta get over there", and then get distracted by the boys, all smiling and giggling. It was ridiculous. Fortunately in my food coma, time passed quickly.
Tuesday Night: I had to hit the mall because I had destroyed a shirt with a too-hot iron in the hotel room. Press-press-press-MELT. Right on the breast, so can't hide it with a tie or jacket. I looked up the mall online and was intrigued by "Petros Chili and Chips" - home-made chili on Fritos with toppings. Ok, tried it. It was only ok. The chili was pretty average, and while Fritos were advertised on the website, any mention of frito lay was gone at the actual store. It was cheap and ok, but not worth a re-visit.
Wednesday: Had a little lunch to get after a bunch of meetings: Looked on Yelp and found the five-star "Scratch" wood fired pizza. A beat up old house with picnic tables all around, huge stacks of firewood everywhere, a large collection of 1970s LPs, and a record player (patrons are encouraged to dj), and an enormous wood fired oven (with a smoker on the side). Walked in, and 3 guys literally dropped what they were doing to explain to me how it all works: 3 crusts, they smoke their own meats, organic local veggies: Do I want to tell them what I like, and they'll just make it? They have an awesome "cheeseless wonder" that won "pie wars" (whatever that means), but I wanted just a little cheese. I watched them make the pizza, and they invited me back behind the counter to check out the oven ("it's part of the scratch experience, man").
The pizza was delivered in a box to my table, and the guy stood and watched me take the first bite - wanting to know if I liked it ok? I LIKED IT. I loved it. I ate way more of it that I thought I'd be able to. Smoked pepperoni and sausage, roasted peppers, banana peppers, spinach, red sauce, chimichurri, and red pepper flakes. It just tasted amazing.
They gave me some sort of discount because the bill was $5 less than my calculations, and the guy just said "hey, Jimmy, it's all right. It's all right." I will be going back there every time I visit Johnson City, now.
Wednesday Night: Once I finally hit Atlanta after travel delays, I had a few minutes to eat, so I stopped at "The Varsity" - a chilidog stand in the ATL airport. I was drawn in by their bright colors, and the chorus of ladies who where hollering out to all passers-by "what'll ya have? what'll ya have? what'll ya have?" They lured me in with their siren song, and I did eat the chili dogs. And they were good... but not transcendent.
And that is my food report. It is 1am and I am not home yet.