Tales from the Gluten Highway
In the case of a well-planned excursion, meals might be pre-arranged or pre-packed, maybe procured from a nice destination restaurant or roadside attraction. Since this is Gallatin Road, I’m not that lucky. And I’m always in a hurry.
Most gas stations are chain-based — Speedway, Mapco — but past Rivergate, up at the border of Hendersonville, there’s a great one called Dodge’s. I’m not sure when it was founded but recall it being there in the early to midt-’80s, as it was very close to Monthaven Farm, where I saw an early outdoor festival called Rock for the Animals that featured the cream of the Nashville rock scene circa 1983. We tried to buy beer and failed, but I digress.
Inside Dodge’s you’ll find a great little chicken shack. Real chicken with natural flavor — not this disgusting Hot Chicken that so many of you out there are destroying your colons with. Just good old-fashioned gas station fried chicken over here — on a biscuit, on a stick, on platters, tenders and strips, even the whole damn chicken if you so desire. And, of course, my personal favorite: the nugget.
Dodge’s also has a great selection of Chark-friendly road food such as corn dogs, potato sticks, and quite possibly the greatest invention of driving food, the pizza stick. I don’t know who invented the pizza stick but I would love to one day shake his hand. They also have a great selection of breakfast biscuit items, but as I sleep a little later than most I have yet to give ’em a try.
A little closer to the East Side, there’s a nondescript BP station that sits in the parking lot of the old Kmart building and inside you’ll find a Krispy Krunchy Chicken. As gas-station chicken goes, it’s not bad. Not as good as Dodge’s — but I don’t come here for the chicken.
There’s a hidden secret within these walls and it’s called jambalaya. Yes, you heard me correct: You can get a damn fine jambalaya in a gas station. On Gallatin Road. Now, I know most of you are reading this and thinking, “There’s no way in hell I’m eating some kinda canned crap that’s reheated in a gas station just because some hippie told me to.” And you’d be right to think that, except for the fact that I have watched these ladies cut the sausage by hand and prepare it fresh every day in crock pots, and they won’t serve it until it’s done. So please give this hippie a little credit.
They serve up deep-fried Boudin Balls that are pretty damn good as well. But the real treasure in this place is somewhat of a gas ’n’ go food unicorn: the breakfast empanada made with egg and chorizo.
Whenever I’m in D.C., I stay at this amazing place on O Street. A block away on P Street is Panas Empanadas, and I will eat there every day, two or three times a day, and when I get back to Nashville there’s not an empanada in sight, so I’m jonesing hard. I still remember my first time seeing them behind the glass. There I was, awestruck and hungry at 8 a.m., and I thought I was having some kind of hallucination left over from the night before. But no, they do exist.
Here’s the kicker, though: They only make a lonely few, and they don’t have them every morning, AND you’ve gotta get there early to get them. But I’m here to tell you that they’re fantastic. I keep pestering the manager to make more and serve them later, and he keeps giving me the runaround, so we’ll see.
I wish everyone safe travels on this over-travelled and over-populated expanse of pavement, and hope that next time you’re gassing up the grocery-getter at your local filling station, you’ll skip paying at the pump, and venture indoors to have a look around. You just might be surprised.