Fort Wayne, IN – Yes, there’s a dateline on this edition of www.chuckblogerstrom.com.
And yes, I’m actually “filing” from the road … at the lovely Motel 6 … because I can … and because they left the light on for me.
I’m on a special assignment on behalf of a client of mine, and someday soon I’ll be able to share that story. For now, though, I have to be reasonably covert.
I have had a lot of time to talk to myself in the car, and a lot of miles driving east on US 30. As the miles slowly added up, I had no choice but to think of the good old days – when travel meant charter flights, and not having to carry your own bags, and getting to aggravate traveling secretary Jimmy Bank in a “just because” sort of way.
Early on in this writing career, I was asked by one of my loyal followers the following question: “Will you be soliciting ideas for future musings? Knowing your love for Montgomery Inn, how about a few stories of ‘Food I loved on the road?’”
While I liked the concept, my initial thought was: I don’t remember what I ate for lunch this afternoon. Can I really remember favorite foods from the other National League cities? It’s literally food for thought. So if you’re thinking that I had a lot of time to kill on the road, you’re correct.
What’s even better, I had to remember what I was going to type … late at night … here in Fort Wayne.
Without further ado, and in alphabetical order by city, my favorite road food memories …
Arizona: Twenty-plus spring trainings in the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Mesa/Tempe general area means many great restaurants to choose from. But I’m going straight to Don and Charlie’s because of the people. Forget that it was the baseball hub during spring training – and the people-watching. It’s all about Don Carson and his staff. I don’t necessarily miss spring training. I do miss seeing Don and his boss, Cooper.
Atlanta: I’ll do the best I can to explain this place. Do you remember the movie “My Cousin Vinny” where the menu said “Breakfast” for breakfast? Well, this one time in Atlanta, some of the WGN-TV production staff took me to this little place run by a woman and her daughter. Lunch wasn’t made-to-order. They came to the table and asked nothing more than, “Lunch.” And then this ginormous homemade platter magically appeared. This was the ultimate hole-in-the-wall experience.
Cincinnati: Barbecue sauce from the Montgomery Inn-Boathouse Restaurant. I don’t know how many times I was here, but I can guarantee you that I was here multiple times with Cubs beat writers (Bruce Miles, in particular) and multiple times with legendary scout Gary Hughes – who reminded me that you didn’t just come here for the BBQ sauce, but you had to save room for dessert. And that was always some “chip” related Graeter’s Ice Cream – such as strawberry chocolate chip. The perfect lunch – homemade chips with warm BBQ sauce, followed by ice cream. Awesome.
Denver: Denver has a lot of great restaurants. But I was lucky enough to try a new one – P.F. Chang’s – when it was still in its infancy. That first lettuce wrap … that, I remember. Today’s lunch … did I eat lunch?
Fort Lauderdale: I don’t have a choice here. If I don’t say something owned by Dan Marino or Don Shula, the locks on the doors will be changed.
Houston (it was a National League city back in the day): Only one thing mattered every trip to Houston – getting some quality time with Arne Harris at Shucker’s in the Westin Galleria. Oysters, shrimp and Arne. Nothing beat that combination. I miss Arne. I miss Shucker’s.
Los Angeles: I’m not going to lie. The press box at Dodger Stadium. Just to be able to say Hi to Vin Scully was worth the price of the dining room food. And most of the time, you could see a celebrity or two, too. At least once every series – and sometimes every game of a series – I saw and heard David L. Lander, who played Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley. Nothing beat hearing him yell “Down in front” in the press box – in his extremely Squiggy voice.
Milwaukee: The Secret Stadium Sauce. It’s this red concoction you put on burgers or hot dogs. Best of all, while the bottle said Secret Stadium Sauce, the label listed all the ingredients. Great secret!
Montreal (I was there way more times than Washington, DC): The 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts a block from Le Centre Sheraton. You could always find places to go after night games in Montreal. Nothing prevented a hangover better than a 2 am double chocolate doughnut!
New York: Grand Central Station food court. The absolute best people-watching spot anywhere. To me, nothing says New York better than walking around Manhattan … shoulders up … looking tough with all the people on the streets … then walking into Grand Central Station and taking the escalators. It’s the total New York experience. And the food court is pretty good, too.
Philadelphia: I bet you think I’d name a specific cheesesteak factory. Nope. Just saying cheesesteak. With authentic Cheese Whiz. I’m not picky. I was good for at least one a day.
Pittsburgh: Primanti Bros. Restaurant. Imagine the meat of your choice, topped by French fries, topped by cole slaw, topped by a tomato. It was messy, it was wonderful, and it was close enough to the hotel that you could walk off lunch.
St. Louis: The old Missouri Bar and Grill was one of my favorite all-time spots – as I had a lot of great bonding time there with my brother (Hi, Dr. Scott!). I’m sure the food is OK. My brother and I just enjoyed it because – at least back in the day – it was a hangout for umpires after games. Let’s just say there are some things I won’t write about – but they’re a great source of “Remember when we saw so-and-so” stories. Some of them were priceless. I may not put them on paper, but my brother will talk.
San Diego: Sadly, I don’t think it still exists, but there used to be a great steak place called Rainwater’s on Kettner. The steaks were as good as it gets. Even better, this was the place where I was introduced to a Wedge Salad!
San Francisco: I surrender. I couldn’t pick just one place. Heck, I couldn’t pick one food group – settling on a tie between the Italian district and Chinatown.