Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats are a band of rock and soul troubadours, on a permanent mission to spread their good word. Over the summer they played half of America's backstreets and dive bars, so we asked Mark Shusterman, keys man in the band, to put together this diary of the best things he ate. Turns out he eats pretty well. Apologies in advance to those who haven't had their lunch...
Red Iguana Mole Amarillo Salt Lake City, Utah 7/10
The first stop for bands out of Denver going west is generally going to be Salt Lake City. It’s a long drive, and mostly a complete food desert. The food scene in SLC is getting better all the time, but Red Iguana has been a long time standby for greasy spoon Mexican food. They specialize in mole, and this time I went for the Mole Amarillo. Served with the standard refried beans and yellow rice, it’s a sweet and fruity take on the generally chocolate forward dish. I like the strong golden raisin and guajillo pepper flavor in it, but the sweetness is a bit overpowering for a Mole. If this is your first time here, I’d go for the standard chocolatey Mole Negro.
Bleubird Pastrami Reuben Boise, Idaho 8/10
The line for this place at lunchtime is longer than I’m usually willing to wait for on my own, but Wes was with me talking about our psychedelic experiences, so the time passed fast enough. New to Boise, the Bleubird makes sandwiches that any city would be proud of. The pastrami is house made, strong on the pepper and enhanced by the raw red cabbage and fresh russian dressing on a crusty ciabatta. The sandwich is huge, a great deal for 8 bucks, especially considering it came with a thoughtful side of purple potato salad with bleu cheese and bacon. Washed down well with the house made peach and mint soda.
Nong's Khao Man Gai Portland, Oregon 10/10
We rolled in to Portland early in the morning, and after taking a walk around the city, which included a nice cortado at Ristretto Roasters shop, I stopped in for lunch at this little easy going counter service Thai spot. Simplicity is the name of the game at Nong's, where they serve a beautifully basic meal of boiled chicken on rice with a savory sauce made with ginger, garlic, chilies and fermented soybean paste. The dish comes with a couple of slices of cucumber and a small cup of the chicken’s broth. As add ons to the meal you can request fried chicken skin or chicken livers. I opted for the skins whose crunchiness was the perfect textural compliment to the soft textures of the meal. Paired with an ice cold Chang beer, this is close to meal perfection
Doug Fir Burger Portland, Oregon 7/10
The Doug Fir in Portland is one of the great, smaller venues I’ve gotten to play. The room looks and sounds great, and they treat bands really well. This includes a meal from the bar. I went with the Fir Burger with cheddar and bacon along with a pretty underwhelming caesar salad. The burger was solid, and for food at a music venue, well above average. Thank you, Doug Fir.
McDonalds Sausage Egg McMuffin Seattle Airport 6/10
This and orange chicken from Panda Express are the only things I eat at airports. And I only eat them at airports. And they’re great.
Tot Restaurant Brisket Banh Mi Dip Ashland, Oregon 9/10
This place was a total surprise. We had a day to kill between Seattle and San Francisco, and decided to make our stop in Ashland. And I’m glad we did. A brisket bahn mi sandwich dipped into a concentrated pho broth is both clever and delicious. The banh mi is legit as well, the crunchy and soft bread smeared with liver pate and topped with braised brisket, pickled veggies, cilantro and jalapenos. The sandwich was so tasty that I ended up ordering a coconut crepe stuffed with pork, another slammin dish. And they have cold brew coffee on tap, which is always a bonus for me. This is a great stop when you’re driving down the I5.
Brenda’s Oyster Bacon Po’ boy San Francisco, California 8/10
I met up with my boys in The Blue Rider after we arrived in San Francisco for a midday first meal. Cajun food in this city seems strange, but it is in a bay after all, so maybe there is something to it. Brenda’s sure is making good enough food to make it anywhere in the Bayou. I went for the day’s special, which I tend to do at places like this, and left overly stuffed and happy. There had to be close to a dozen, expertly fried oysters on this bad boy as well as a healthy portion of bacon, remoulade and superfluous chopped lettuce. I certainly didn’t need it, but I topped this all off with a creamy crawfish beignet and a Bloody Mary.
Daikokuya Kotteri Spiked Ramen Los Angeles, California 8/10
It was hot in LA when we got there. It was 100 degrees and muggy as shit. But our sound man, James, insisted we needed to make the walk down from The Regent to Daikokuya Ramen. And since I tend to trust most things James insists on, I went with him. It was worth the walk for the outstanding, no frills Ramen. I went with the Kotteri option, which is enhanced with back fat and opaque with richness. The pickled ginger and scallions don’t do much to cut the richness of the broth, pork belly and soft boiled egg, but I don’t mind, the deep flavor of this dish is what I’m after.
Viva Taco Azteca One of everything Los Angeles, California 9/10
We got back to the Highland Park area in LA late and hungry, and nothing was showing up on my generally effective sweeps of the internet food world on my phone. So Sascha and I just decided to go out on a late night stroll and found this bangin taco truck parked blocks from where we were staying. They had a wide selection that included asada, buche, lengua, al pastor and more wrapped up in tacos, burritos and quesadillas. We went with an assortment of different tacos and quesadillas, and everything that came out was on point. Off to the side of the ordering window was also an assortment of great salsas, pickled jalapenos, onions, radishes and limes. I kind of wish that I was drunker for this taco stop, but the fact that I wasn’t is a testament to the high quality of this food truck.
Peg Leg Porker 1⁄2 Slab of ribs Nashville, Tennessee 9/10
I don’t think I will ever play the Mercy Lounge in Nashville without stopping at this barbeque institution only a few blocks away. The dry rubbed ribs I ordered stack up with some of the best I’ve had around the country. The mac n’ cheese is textbook perfect shells and creamy, most likely processed cheese. The green beans are a must side dish, studded with fatty hunks of smoked pork. It was a miracle I was able to play after downing this entire meal. I have to give credit to the couple of Peg Leg brand whiskeys I had. Yes, they make whiskey. Go here.