10 of the South’s Best Road Trip Stops

The pleasures of a road trip can be the quirky roadside stop, the boiled peanut stand, or the top-secret barbecue joint you heard about from a friend of a friend. In her new book, Road Sides, author and illustrator Emily Wallace chronicles some of the best Southern spots to take a break, see iconic sights, and chow down, from A to Z (in this case, from “Architecture”—as in a twenty-four-foot produce stand shaped like a strawberry—to the “Zealots” who will wait hours in line for the likes of Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville). Wallace, a native of Smithfield, North Carolina, began writing her book two years ago, but has long appreciated cultural food studies—she even did her master’s thesis on pimento cheese. “I’d been collecting stories of interest for a long time, and the book gave me a chance to explore further,” she says. Here, Wallace shares some of her favorites from Road Sides. Get ready to mark your road maps.

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Hills of Snow 

Smithfield, North Carolina

Wallace credits her love of fun, food-shaped architecture to this giant snowball stand, built in her hometown of Smithfield when she was young. “Each time I step onto Hills of Snow’s wooden platform to place my order, I stare at the menu, thinking maybe it’s the day I’ll go for something new,” she writes in the book. “There’s a childlike temptation in a list that includes Tiger’s Blood, Tutti Frutti, and Vanilla Snow Cream.” If you make it there, try the flavor Wallace has never strayed from: wild strawberry. 

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Dip Dog

Marion, Virginia 

As a fan of highway hyperbole, Wallace makes a point to visit places claiming to be “famous,” “the world’s best,” or “the best in town.” “I think there are a lot of folks I talk to in the hot dog business, especially, who say, ‘Yeah, we’re the best’ in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way,” Wallace says. For those interested in something a little outside the box (or bun), the Dip Dog Stand along Highway 11 in Marion, Virginia, dips their franks in batter before deep-frying, and then slathers the finished product in yellow mustard (Wallace favors hers with chili, slaw, and onion as well). 

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Florida Welcome Centers

Multiple locations

Florida goes the extra mile at its welcome centers by handing out free orange juice (and a wealth of information). “There are so many people who come in and out of a Florida welcome center each day, which means there are so many good stories,” Wallace says. For the book she interviewed employees with more than thirty years of experience, who had histories in tending to snake bites, fixing broken-down cars, and even helping deliver babies. 

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Bully’s Restaurant

Jackson, Mississippi

For Wallace, the sides are easier to pick than the protein when she stops in for a hot meal at a meat-and-three. “Usually it’s mac and cheese, fried okra, and collards,” she says. “And I’m a pretty consistent fried chicken order-er.” At Bully’s Restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, however, she says one can’t go wrong with meatloaf—the recipe comes from the restaurant’s original cook, Ma Pearl—or smothered pork chops with greens.

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Crawfish Seafood Shack

Atlanta, Georgia 

When asked what makes a seafood place worth stopping for, Wallace says you can’t really tell from the road. “I like paper towels on the table—that signals something,” she says with a laugh. Hieu Pham’s Crawfish Seafood Shack, along Atlanta’s famed international corridor, Buford Highway, may look unassuming, “but when you walk in there’s hot sauce on tables, fish netting, and checkered tables,” Wallace says of the Cajun restaurant with a Louisiana Gulf Coast feel. “And they make some really good crawfish.” 

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Fratesi Grocery and Service Station

Leland, Mississippi

In Road Sides, Wallace writes that “G” is for “Gas,” an acknowledgment of the many service stations that also function as convenience stores. Leland, Mississippi’s Fratesi Grocery and Service Station doesn’t just pump fuel, but also offers a deli case stocked with salami, ham, and Italian sausages, as well as pecans, deer bait, diesel, made-from-scratch gumbo and muffulettas with all the fixins. Wallace describes their sandwiches as emblematic of Fratesi as a whole: many things coming together to reflect the Delta all around it.

Illustration: Emily Wallace

The Peachoid 

Gaffney, South Carolina 

Travelers headed down I–85 know they’re nearing Abbott Farms—known for peach bread, peach salsa, peach preserves, you get the idea—when they see the colossal Peachoid water tower. Standing 135 feet high in Gaffney, South Carolina, the rosy landmark was created to honor the beloved Southern stone fruit that once drove the town’s economy. While Wallace acknowledges that the Peachoid’s shape has been the “butt” of many jokes, “It’s up there in my favorite food-shaped structures.”

Illustration: Emily Wallace

The Best Stop

Scott, Louisiana 

Advertised on the sign for the Best Stop in Scott, Louisiana, is a beloved Cajun coupling: stuffed boudin sausage and salty pork cracklin. Once a combination enjoyed mostly as a backyard snack, boudin and cracklin grew in popularity due to what Wallace calls a “Cajun fever” among foodies in the eighties. “Cracklin and boudin made for a great roadside snack,” she says. “My boyfriend and I were fueled by it while driving through Louisiana for the book. I don’t want to say how many places we stopped at just for that.”

Illustration: Emily Wallace

Craig’s Bar-B-Q 

De Valls Bluff, Arkansas 

U.S. Highway 70 runs from North Carolina, past a handful of legendary barbecue restaurants and through Wallace’s hometown, all the way over to and beyond Craig’s Bar-B-Q, established in 1947 in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas. “It’s easy to tell a good barbecue place from the smoke,” Wallace says. Craig’s smokes its meat over hickory behind the restaurant, and the pork sandwiches come with apple-filled slaw and a “tart” sauce—a far cry from North Carolina’s vinegar-based version, this “hard-to-sum-up” sauce helps make Craig’s worth the drive, says Wallace.


Illustration: Emily Wallace

Thunderbird Inn

Savannah, Georgia 

On a long road trip, you’ll have to settle down for the night somewhere. In Wallace’s adventures, the Thunderbird Inn in the heart of downtown Savannah ranks as a classic roadside motel, combining retro with chic, Southern charm with California edge, or, in their own words, sitting “at the intersection of yes ma’am and dude.” Its appeal to Wallace is simple: “They’ve got Krispy Kreme in the lobby and MoonPies with RC Cola by the bedside.”

Illustration: Emily Wallace