One man's meaty pilgrimage

Everybody's got a few tried-and-true road-trip restaurants, but once you leave familiar territory, it's anybody's guess, and anybody almost always guesses Hardee's. Rating deep-cut comfort food stations across America, Eating the Road.

Just now cruising through Texas, the prophetically initialed ER is the culinary travel-log of an ex-web designer who, in October, set off from SoCal on a quest to feast at locally beloved non-chain grazing grounds nationwide, then rate them on a 10-plate scale; he's hit 40+ joints so far, and shows no signs of slowing down, except maybe in his time in the 40. Lone Star stops've so far included Dallas (North Main BBQ, Kel's Kitchen, Keller's), San Antonio (LuLu's Bakery), Austin (Juan in a Million), and Amarillo (Ye Ole Pancake Station); he's also hit AZ, NV, NM, and OK, though the only 10-plater so far's been LA's Randy's Donuts, about which he says, "The Coconut Raised donut was by far the best thing I've put into my mouth in a long time" (you can say things like that when you're in a car, alone, and there's no one to make fun of you). Because he has time, he also takes on side projects, like "Where" and "What Should I Eat" flowcharts breaking down fast food and cereal, and a Lady Gaga-fueled video remix of a toddler breaking into dance after munching down state fair fried butter (Cocoa Puffs = gateway cuckoo).

ER also maintains a regional food wiki that breaks down indigenous eats by state and food type, from Jersey's Taylor Pork Roll to eastern Nebraska's corn flake-crusted, deep-fried Cheese Frenchie -- proving no matter where you go, you always end up in Grease.