I’ve been busy lately going through all my receipts from the book tour, to determine just how much I can deduct as traveling business expenses (rough answer: a hell of a lot). It’s been an odd experience, reminiscing about every gas stop, motel crash, and grease pit visit over the space of three months. Life on the road certainly has its tribulations and headaches, but there are also great joys along the way– such as the chance to discover some delectable food.
In the spirit of those joys, I would like to share with you some of the best burger and sub places that I came across in my journeys. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Some are local or regional chains, so it’s not a “best of the indies” list either. It’s simply some places that brightened my odyssey hawking my wares across the nation.
Panini’s - Cleveland, OH — So here was one of the weirdest conversations on the book tour: walking into a place called Panini’s, ordering a panini, and being told by the guy that not only did they not serve paninis, but that he wasn’t quite sure what one actually was. What they serve instead are magnificent creatures like the specimen pictured above– gigantic sandwiches stuffed with fries.
Cousins Subs – Madison, WI — Not sure whether there are actual cousins behind this place, but I had a club on herb bread along with fries and it was delicious. The free cookie thrown in was a bonus. Okay, I did the research, and it was founded by cousins– keeping it in the family. The sub shops are found around the Midwest and Arizona.
Jimmy John’s – Kansas City, MO — There are Jimmy John’ses all over the place (though not in New England, or at least not yet), but they bear mentioning. Their motto is, or at least was at some point, “Subs so fast, you’ll freak,” and the Ultimate Porker I had in KC was indeed served up so quickly that I might have freaked a little. It’s kind of the same vibe as Potbelly, except without the guy with the guitar (that’s another sub place not in New England, but we New Englanders have plenty of other options– almost warrants a separate entry).
Fatburger – Highlands Ranch, CO — I had them serve me up a Fatburger with Pepper Jack (no relish) and skinny fries just a half hour before our Colorado reading, at the Tattered Cover. Maybe not the smartest idea, considering my last-minute rush to the lav, but it was so tasty it was worth it. Looks like they have expanded their operations to the United Arab Emirates, so the next time you’re in Dubai, go all out with a Double or Triple King and just bathe in the capitalism.
Burgerville – Portland, OR — Benjamin introduced me to this place when I visited Portland last summer, and I couldn’t wait to have another one of their burgers when we returned to the City of Roses during our book tour. I can taste that Tillamook cheddar even now. Rivals In-N-Out for taste– and the ingredients are all local and their practices are sustainable.
Wipeout – San Francisco, CA — Pier 39 is a big tourist draw in San Francisco, not just for the adorable sea lions you can watch lazing around, but for all the little shops and eateries where you can fill up on grease and chocolate. At Wipeout, you can either sit down and get the full surf shack experience, or just order something from a guy peeking through a little window in the wall. I chose the latter and obtained a fine BBQ Burger.
Buc-ee’s – Madisonville, TX — The highways of Texas are home to a strange phenomenon: every few miles, signs featuring a cartoon beaver beckon you to rest stops known as Buc-ee’s, even when the closest one is hundreds of miles away. It was the most aggressive roadside advertising campaign I’d ever seen, and Benjamin and I made sure to stop at a Buc-ee’s on the book tour after not getting the chance during the original typo hunt. I picked up a tasty chipotle club sandwich and a t-shirt for Jane featuring that cartoon beaver, a t-shirt she is too embarrassed to wear in public.
Tropical Isle – New Orleans, LA — What’s the most natural thing to crave at eleven pm on Bourbon Street after a couple of hand grenades? Why, a cheeseburger, of course. Even better if you can get one while musicians play on a nearby dais. Truth be told, I have no idea whether the burger actually tasted good or not. By the way, Tropical Isle’s website is totally worth a visit for the hand-grenade blues tribute song and the looping pirate gif.
Firehouse Subs – Goodlettsville, TN — Not only does this chain serve up supremely delicious subs, but you can donate at the register to help firefighters and other first responders. All around a winning concept, and nice folks too, at least at the Tennessee franchise we visited. I had a great club on wheat.