BOOK: "Roadfood," by Jane and Michael Stern (Broadway Books, $18.95)
TARGET AUDIENCE: Seekers of the real America, one forkful at a time.
"We want to direct readers to restaurants that express the soul of their region or neighborhood, primarily by serving wonderful food you won't find elsewhere." For nearly 30 years, Jane and Michael Stern have traveled America's highways doing just that -- eating in each listed place (600 of them in this new edition). They highlight regional specialties: lobster rolls, Carolina low country cuisine, the "debris" po-boy at Mother's in New Orleans. Most of the places are inexpensive -- $10 or less for a full meal. Don't expect a fancy atmosphere; in fact, one barbecue joint (Leon's in Chicago) separates customers from staff with bulletproof glass.
Of course, everyone will find some reason to feel slighted. Only two D.C. eateries make the cut (Ben's Chili Bowl and the Florida Avenue Grill), and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs are virtually ignored. But, overall, the Sterns demonstrate their credibility by including the likes of Key West's Blue Heaven, Pittsburgh's Benkovitz Seafoods and Manhattan's Katz's Deli. Keep this book in the car, with the Tums.
-- Jerry V. Haines