Road to SXSW: Of Hype and Hashbrowns

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Signs for restaurants fly by the windows of Finn Riggins' tour van like bullets in a war, all commanding our business. Their statements are bold: best this, America's favorite that, more people served than the other place.

But the guy at Guitar Center insisted we go further down the road to a place called J's, located in a tiny Dallas strip mall. We almost missed it, and that would have been a tragedy.

J's shares a parking lot with a steakhouse, a vegan cafe and an upscale Tex Mex restaurant. A man out front has a parrot on his shoulder and the booths inside are bright green vinyl specked with gold sparkles. It's cheap and our waitress swears like a sailor. She hugs Lisa Simpson. When Eric Gilbert says she can put the plastic creamer jug down anywhere, she drops it into his mug of coffee and cackles with glee. Though he says she doesn't have to, she quickly fetches him a fresh cup.

"You don't know where that's been," she says. We get the feeling she does.

Our gravy-coated and tobacco-primed food is delivered quickly and we are back on the road within a half hour, where the barrage of restaurant slogans resumes.

There are none for J's. In the parlance of our waitress: "You can't fit that shit on a billboard."

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