I try to make every road trip a part of my writing life. And in this case, it means eating gumbo whenever I can find it – even in Kansas. I spent last week in Manhattan, aka “The Little Apple,” home of Kansas State University. This Midwestern town has a vibe of youth and renewal, plus a Qdoba. That’s a Mexican restaurant chain I’ve written about but never visited. I could hardly wait to try their gumbo.
Standing in line I studied the lighted menu board and was confused about the gumbo description but I ordered a bowl anyway. The server asked, “Just a bowl, right?” I nodded, wondering how else gumbo could be served. He said, “I guess I can do that. It’ll be a dollar.” He explained my order to the cashier and assistant manager.
Cheap eats, I thought. I reread the board and still had no clue what I’d be eating. Once we sat down, I shook my head and stared at the glob in the white Styrofoam bowl. My daughter-in-law shed some light on its contents. Maybe, she suggested, to them “gumbo” is a mixture of different meats and sides with a sauce on top. I got the sauce.
Fortunately, my writing and dining life improved with a trip to Hibachi Hut. Here the menu made more sense than the name. It’s a Cajun restaurant that evolved from a 1960s popular hibachi place –part of a Japanese food fad similar to fondue with little hibachi grills on every table. The Hibachi Hut name stuck, though the location and menu didn’t. In quaint, downtown Manhattan I ate seafood gumbo to rival any served in the Deep South, plus this bowl came with the best square of cornbread I’ve ever eaten in any restaurant anywhere. TripAdvisor Review
My writing life in Kansas continued by contributing eight reviews and 14 photos to TripAdvisor, but I’m beginning to wonder if there might be a writing life that pays — crafting menu boards and naming restaurants.