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.
Artist: Eli Paperboy Reed
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Latest Project: My Way Home
Tacos: Fuel City – Dallas, Texas. This is literally inside a gas station, but it may have the best tacos in the country. The barbacoa is so flavorful and the tortillas are all made fresh. It is definitely worth going out of your way for. Plus each taco is only $1.66! Perfect for post-show eats because they’re open 24 hours.
Record Store: The Attic – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you’re a 45 guy like me, the Attic is the place to go. Shelves upon shelves full to the brim with singles and more on the counters. If you happen to be after something they don’t have in the store, they might be able to get it across the street in their warehouse that has an additional 100,000 records in it. Seriously. There are lots of great record stores, though, and honorable mentions go to In Your Ear in Boston, Charlemagne Records in Birmingham, Friends of Sound in Austin, and Logan Hardware in Chicago.
Barbecue: Oklahoma Joe’s (aka Joe’s of Kansas City) – KC, Missouri / Cozy Corner – Memphis, Tennessee. We’ve had a lot of barbecue over the course of many tours, and honestly it’s hard to pick just one, but for overall variety, I have to go with Joe’s. Incredible ribs, burnt ends, and brisket — and the sides aren’t just an afterthought like they are at so many places. Tied with Joe’s, though, is Cozy Corner in Memphis. Probably the best ribs in the world and, amazingly, they have smoked Cornish Game Hen! A Memphis institution that got ravaged by fire last year, they are currently housed across the street, but are moving back to their original space later this Spring.
Healthy/Refined Food: The Cheese Shop – Des Moines, Iowa. While not exactly healthy food, the Cheese Shop is definitely a diamond in the rough when it comes to food on the road. Situated literally 30 seconds from I-235 in Des Moines, the Cheese Shop has an incredible selection of charcuterie, pickles, and, of course, cheese. When you’ve had your fill of burgers and tacos, it’s definitely a nice surprise in the vast cornfields of Iowa.
TIki Bar: The Saturn Room – Tulsa, Oklahoma. The proliferation of tiki bars around the country continues unabated and the Saturn Room is one of the best. My piano player, the venerable J.B. Flatt, has become quite the connoisseur and we patronized many tiki bars on this most recent American tour. Saturn Room was probably at the top of the list for service and quality, but runners up include Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh and Archipelago in DC.
Truck Stop: Tebay Services – M6, Orton, UK. My favorite American truck stop has already been mentioned (see Fuel City, above), but my favorite in the world is Tebay services. It’s off the M6 in Northern England and has a farm-to-table restaurant — you can literally see the farm! — inside of it. Incredible, home-cooked food when you’re expecting another bag of Tyrell’s Potato Chips is a beautiful thing.
Day Off Activity: Gotta Groove Record Plant – Cleveland, Ohio. It just so happens that a friend of mine works there, but if you’re a touring musician, you can reach out to the fine folks at Gotta Groove and they will give you a tour of their record pressing plant! Go ahead and nerd out when you watch how little plastic pellets become your favorite album and annoy the workers while they try to work around your pursuit of the perfect instagram post.
Fried Chicken: Harold’s Chicken – Chicagoland. If you couldn’t already tell what our tour priorities are, you probably know by now. Harold’s Chicken has a soft spot in my heart from the time I lived in Chicago, but it is seriously good. Get yourself a half-dark dinner with hot AND mild sauce and you won’t be sorry. Also, go to a location on the South Side, the ones that are north of the loop don’t cook it the same way.
Tour Hobby: Homemade postcards. Incredibly, the U.S. Postal Service will mail just about anything you put a stamp on, as long as it’s the right size. Get a piece of cardboard from a discarded merch box and draw something on it. Anything. Then stick it in the mail with a stamp and send it to your friends. It definitely passes the time in the van, and you come up with some weird stuff …
Coffee Shop: Groundwork – Hollywood, California. Whenever you tour all the way across the U.S., you inevitably end up in L.A. for a couple days before turning around and heading back east. Most of that time, at least for me, is spent at Groundwork. Bright and sunny, great coffee, good food, nice people … and it’s across the street from Amoeba Records. You get your breakfast, your coffee, and then you go record shopping and you start to feel like a person again.