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Root 66: Al Scorch’s Roadside Favorites

May 25, 2016

Root 66: Al Scorch's Roadside Favorites

Touring artists spend so much of their time on the road that they, inevitably, find all the best places to eat, drink, shop, and relax. Want to know where to find the best burger, beer, boots, or bunks? Ask a musician. Better yet, let us ask them for you.

Name: Al Scorch
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Latest Project: Circle Round the Signs

Tacos: Stay away from any "tacqueria" with reclaimed wood counters, Ball jar light fixtures, and single word names. Instead, you wanna look for places named after a specific region in Mexico that are frequented by construction workers and families.

Pizza: Glorious Mother of All Things Delicious and Tasty, we venerate you. Pizza, mystic font from which all other snack-life flows, we raise your name in exaltation to the highest Heavens. I always hit Dante's Inferno for pizza in Chicago, Illinois, when I get home from tour. Hail Satan.

Health Food: Your best bet to actually eat a vegetable on the road is the hot bar at a nice organic grocery store. Of course, there are your national chains, which do the job, but I love finding locally owned health food stores in small towns run by people dedicated to making their town a rad place with thoughtful food options. Real Food Market & Deli in Helena, Montana, is my favorite discovery like that. So good!

Roadside Diner: As suburban sprawl erases roadside towns and Americans find themselves less and less willing to leave the safety zone of multi-national chain dining establishments, the diner is in grave peril. There are still vestiges of hope, though, like the Whistle Stop Diner in tiny Frontenac, Minnesota, about an hour south of Minneapolis on Highway 61, right along the MIssissippi River. Old Town Café in Bellingham, Washington, is also incredible. You look out over Bellingham Bay as you eat, and it's just lovely.

Truck Stop: On the road, the band and I like to pretend we are a dysfunctional, argumentative family and have fake fights about whether we are a "Love's Travel Stop family or a Flying J family." The joke is that all those places are the same except for the regional tchotchkes. I still regret not buying those gator teeth at the Love's in Southern Mississippi on the way to NOLA. Real talk.

Dive Bar: Another dying breed of Americana as our nation's tastes turn toward highly designed bar environments that blend modern minimalism with vintage accents that make you feel like you're actually inside Instagram. The Cinema Bar in Culver City, California, is a true gem, especially considering how close it is to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It feels like my grandpa's basement and is jam-packed with mementos, artifacts, and wood paneling that have all legitimately been there since the '60s, if not earlier.


Keep your van kitchen on point for health and focus #raekwonthechef

A photo posted by Al Scorch (@alscorch) on

House Concert: The Roots Hoot House Concert series in Rhode Island is amazing. Dan and Liz have been throwing these shows at their home for almost 15 years and have cultivated a fantastic community of music lovers and supporters from all walks of life. Music means so much to them and it is immensely revitalizing to play their house and be reminded of the healing power of music and community.

Tour Hobby: Far and away our top tour hobby is thrift store shopping. Not only does it yield sweet threads, new tapes to jam, and useful bric-a-brac, but it allows you to learn a lot about where you are. It's exactly the same as an archeologist digging through ruins and inferring information from artifacts, except we get to do that in real time here in post-industrial Anthropocene America.

Book Store: I love bookstores almost as much as thrift stores and Denver, Colorado, has got some amazing bookstores. There's the Tattered Cover, of course, which is huge and the selection is amazing. But my fave Denver book nook is Kilgore's Books and Comics. A really well-curated used bookshop with a well-read clerk who is happy to help. Their Western U.S. History section is incredible.

Car Game: Charlie taught me an awesome game that we've been playing for years now called "Old, Phone, or Burger?". When you are behind someone who is failing at driving (drifting across lanes, going really slow then really fast, etc) you yell "Old, phone, or burrrrger?!?!" and everyone has to guess why they are driving so terribly. Then, as you pass you get to see! Usually, they are old or on the phone; but man, when they are driving and eating a giant sandwich, that shit is the best.

Radio Station: Hands down 89.3 the Current in Minneapolis. I was going to guitar building school up in Red Wing, Minnesota, back when the Current started and I listened to it early in the morning making breakfast every day. They always played mellow folky music in the morning and it was just so perfect. I have so many fond memories associated with that station.

Driving Album: Karen Dalton, In My Own Time, for sure. Just check it out, if you don't know. Roll on, buddies.

Photo credit: Nick Karp

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Root 66: Al Scorch's Roadside Favorites
Root 66: Al Scorch's Roadside Favorites