Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I’m off on a hot dog, and local restaurant, tangent.
Today I’m going to celebrate the unsung heroes of the restaurant industry, the local mom-and-pop restaurants and fast food joints. I don’t travel as much as I used to when I was teaching seminars 20 years ago and driving 50,000 miles, flying 100,000 miles and sleeping in 100 hotels per year. On those road trips I was forced to eat at an endless string of McDonald’s, Burger King and Applebee’s restaurants. And by the time I got home from these 2-week marathons every month, I was ready for some home cooking and didn’t want to face a fast food restaurant.
Things got a little better on the road when I began asking my host sites for a list of locally owned restaurants in the area. When I was a guest professor teaching advanced sound production at schools like Peabody Conservatory, Juilliard or Tempe Conservatory, the school director would often want to take me to the best 4-star restaurant to show off.
And while that was fun for a while, I quickly got bored with the same high-priced meals. That’s when I discovered the joy of locally owned restaurants. Yes, in the picture that’s the Dog House Cafe in downtown Hagerstown, MD.
I’m really a simple guy who has to do complicated things, so I welcome basic comfort food. So, once I began asking my host sites to take me to the oldest hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I was much happier. And I also learned a lot about the local history and flavor of the hundreds of cities I visited. What an education!
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The best donuts in the world (I think…)
I live near Hagerstown, MD, so here are a few of my favorite food shops in the area that I really like and support. First up is something old—Krumpe’s Donuts. This is a small donut bakery in a back alley that has been making German style donuts 7 nights a week for the last 80 years.
But they actually started in Funkstown, MD, home of my Funkworks test lab. As a 16-year-old kid I would often drive by their shop on Donut Alley at 1 a.m. for a bag of donut holes and half a dozen donuts for a snack. Yes, you could walk into the bakery at 3 a.m. and get any of dozens of different types of donuts. And it’s still in business after all these years.
Going to the (hot) dogs…
The Dog House Cafe is located in downtown Hagerstown and has all the vibe of a local restaurant that’s been there for decades. That must be because the current owner is the son of the original owner of the Hot Dog Shop from another town.
I decided to compare their New York and Chicago dogs, which were both great. Yes, that’s me at the counter. Next time I’m doing to try their Maryland dog with Old Bay seasoning. My taste buds can’t wait.
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Mini burgers were the original “sliders”
Finally, in nearby Old Town Winchester, VA, there’s a Snow White Grill that looks and smells fabulous. I remember visiting a similar White Castle Grill in Hagerstown many times some 50 years ago when I was a young pup playing in a band.
We could stop by for a bag of square mini-burgers after we were done playing music at the local clubs. Sadly, the Hagerstown White Castle Grill is long gone, but the Snow While Grill is still there.
I haven’t eaten at the Snow White Grill yet, but that’s my plan the next time I’m in Winchester. Yes, the Snow White Grill is now on my list to local food joints to try out. If you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. You can help by supporting any locally owned restaurant when you travel.
Ask the campground manager for the oldest restaurant
So I would recommend that while you’re camping around the country in your RV and want to take a break from your own cooking, ask the campground manager about the oldest restaurant in the area and what their specialties are.
Maybe it’s a Friday night Fish Fry at the local church. Or, if you’re in Maryland, there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of great crab shacks that will serve the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted. But try to eat the local specialties whenever you can. I learned all about mole sauce while in a tiny restaurant in Texas, and ate at the chef’s table in a tiny Italian restaurant near Orlando (of all places). I may not remember much else about all the places I’ve traveled, but I do remember what I ate!
“Food is love…. Food is joy… Food is sharing. And I think it’s the spice of life!”
What’s your favorite local food spot?
So what’s your favorite local food spot in your town, or any town? Please share in the comments below.
OK, everyone. Remember that food is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s eat safe out there….
Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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