CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Since I didn't lose my "Serious Food Dude" credentials after recently singing the praises of chicken-fried steak, why not venture down that dark diner-food path a little further?
While in Nashville this past weekend for a little business and pleasure, I popped into popular Puckett's Grocery for supper Saturday night.
Known for its casual, eclectic atmosphere and soul-stirring Southern food, the place is a local institution. Puckett's was packed.
I lucked into a single chair at the bar and sipped a frosty local brew (from a Mason jar, of course) while looking over a mouthwatering menu featuring down-home specialties like fried okra, creamy mac-n-cheese, pulled pork barbecue and smoked ribs.
And chicken and waffles. How could I not?
Having never tried chicken and waffles together - at the same meal, on the same plate - I had to give this popular Southern dish a try.
I don't get it.
While my recent chicken-fried steak and gravy delivered creamy, crunchy goodness when combined, this dish was just a pile of Cajun fried chicken tenders atop a fat waffle, drizzled with syrup.
Both were fine on their own, but had no business gracing the same plate.
And I passed up my beloved shrimp 'n' grits for this?!
But if you have good taste in food - and know where to find it in West Virginia - the Appalachian Regional Commission and American Heritage Publishing want to hear from you.
The two groups are collaborating on the production of a tourist-oriented map guide designed to increase tourism in Appalachia by showcasing its food heritage and agritourism attractions. Sites to be featured will include local farms, farmers' markets, farm-to-table restaurants and other distinctive food-related destinations.
The guide will be available as a free insert in the Spring 2014 issue of American Heritage magazine.
Know a place that deserves to be on the list? You can nominate it now through May 15 at www.appfoodguide.com. All nominated sites must be located in the Appalachian Region, accept visitors and represent a true local food experience for travelers.