cover image Roadfood


Jane Stern. Harper Perennial, $17.5 (489pp) ISBN 978-0-06-096599-0

The talented Sterns ( American Gourmet ) hit the highways again for this update of perhaps their most celebrated work. And again, American backroads and interstates come to life through livelier, more active? the authors' almost Grail-like quest for the kind of home-cooked food and restaurants that threaten to fade into oblivion, overshadowed by the homogeneous glare of the chain eatery. Roadfood celebrates venues most travelers would never venture near, let alone enter--like Lusco's in Greenwood, Miss. (``one of the weirdest, and most wonderful, restaurants in America''242 ), where green walls and grimy, chintz-curtained rooms belie the excellence of the ``luxurious-tasting''243 (albeit expensive) food. Most of the state-by-state listed restaurants are, however, for dining on the cheap. They include Manny's Coffee Shop in Chicago (``a temple of honest food''129 ), the Smokestack Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Mo.--where a ``serious chaw of meat,''261 according to the Sterns, is ``nothing less than the essence of the smoke pit, like barbecue bouillon''--and Duke's Barbecue in Orangeburg, S.C., where ``there is no decor to speak of and . . . no music other than the thud of the cleaver hacking pork and the moans of pleasure, slurping, and licking that are a symphonic expression of people enjoying one of the great meals of the Southland.''398 While one could hardly map a road trip by the Sterns' restaurant finds--some cities, like Chicago, are overrepresented, while the rest of Illinois is all but ignored--this fun and fanciful volume is pure pleasure. (Apr.)