Reviewed by Richard Truesdell
I started out reviewing Guy Fieri Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It for this issue. Along the way, I took a bit of a detour, as his third book is more about the recipes than hitting the road in search of the next great dive.
That's where Morgan Murphy's Southern Living Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes That Made Them Famous comes in. The noted humorist and former food and travel critic for Southern Living traveled the southern tier of states in search of the best down-home cookin'.
Visiting 75 dives in 17 states (Murphy suggests a specific great drive route for each state), he compiled 150 recipes as the foundation of this book. The recipes selected, usually two from each establishment, were vetted in the Southern Living test kitchens, ensuring that home cooks will be able to duplicate their inherent goodness.
A number of the recipes featured in Off the Eaten Path were family secrets, handed down from generation to generation and revealed now for the first time. These represent some of Murphy's favorite dishes from his favorite Southern restaurants, so the assembled recipes reflect his particular bias--simple comfort food cooked with love and presented with care.
Speaking of comfort food, as a mac-n-cheese-oholic, my mouth started to water when I came to the page profiling Fenders Diner in Cornelia, Georgia. A near life-size photo of their famous Oven-Baked Mac-n-Cheese almost jumped off the page.
Also in Georgia, Savannah to be exact, is the B. Matthew's Eatery, a place I visited four years ago when I drove my 1969 Mercury Colony Park Station wagon from New Jersey to Florida. Like Murphy, I couldn't resist Pancakes with Apple-Walnut-Bourbon Chutney. Bourbon makes everything better, he notes. I agree.
He augments many of the restaurants with either a nearby Food Find (such as a vintage drive-in) or what he calls a Rubbernecker Wonder (usually some kitschy roadside attraction). Off the Eaten Path gives you an excuse (and the GPS coordinates) to exit the interstates and head to the back roads and historic districts of the South in search of culinary nirvana. Veteran road-trippers know just what I mean.
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