Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bygone Culinary Route 301

This isn't really about the food. It relates to images of disappearing culinary options along what was once the main route south to Florida.

Over two round trips, one in January, 2007, and another just this past week, I like to think I've covered it all, at least from Richmond to Ocala. That amounts to twice down and twice back, or four journeys. Each journey covered a different leg or quarter of the old 301 route.

Route 301 passes the vicinity of Jarratt, Virginia just a few miles north of the North Carolina line. Although I never had a meal at the Jarratt, it's presence is my only remaining memory from a youthful jaunt in the days before I-95. Most likely, the rest of that trip happened at night. Just a little farther south and still in Virginia, I passed Goofus's Quick Mart with breakfast and lunch specials as well as fresh bait being pitched on the blackboard outside. Goofus's may not have been there way back when, but then as now, quite a number of the establishments along Route 301 boasted similarly intriguing names. A few miles further south in North Carolina, I drove by a store called BooBoo's.

Continuing on into North Carolina, I passed a food store where posted on the window were handwritten signs for catfish, fresh greens, "slab whities," and "wintertrout." I'd have stopped in to see what the latter two were about, but they were closed on Sundays. Further south on a leg that I drove last year was a Maryland Fried Chicken place. Part of a Florida based chain that to the best of my knowledge has no Maryland presence, I sampled its version of our fried chicken a number of years ago and found it a bit too greasy for my liking. Heading on, it occurred to me that "Bill's BBQ Ribs," pictured at right could be ready for a new sign. Given another chance to do so, I'd stop in to give their ribs a try.

South Carolina and Georgia probably had the greatest number of establishments whose appearance and signage evoked that funky sense of being lost in time. The pink place with its sign damaged beyond recognition had obviously been history for quite awhile even when I passed
by a year ago. The Mexican restaurant at right had also obviously closed, but retained its paint job. Fanciest of all the South Carolina eateries (or was this one in Georgia?) that I passed, also last year, was the Lobster House pictured below at left. When I drove by, it was closed. At the Paradise Restaurant, definitely in Georgia and shown at lower right, the only sign of life was the truck parked outside. The cable spool next to the sign was a mystery to me. The nearby Paradise Motel, however, was open at the time and by all appearances was even funkier than the restaurant. You can see an image of the motel on my Flickr site .

And that takes us to Florida. Here the number of produce stands open in January increases dramatically, and signage heralding whatever they're selling such as pictured below at left, is common. Most of the places feature boiled peanuts, a personal favorite destined to one day be the subject of a post here at Unique Culinary Adventures. I'm never able to resist purchasing a bag and thereafter rarely able to resist trying to open first the bag and then the boiled peanuts to be eaten while driving. This practice can be particularly messy because boiled peanuts are full of dirty hot water. Once I tried it when Mrs. Yi was along, and she threw a fit. As for the satsuma, it's actually a kind of mandarin orange also known as "mikan." Finally, upon passing the Orange Shop, just a bit north of Ocala, you know you're just about to the end of the line.