Blog :: Home and Road
Years ago, the great New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin posited that anybody who doesn’t think the best hamburger in the world is in his (or her) hometown is a sissy. I tend to agree with the notion, and I think it extends beyond pounded patties of grilled ground beef. If you have no pride, no passion for your hometown and its food, what sort of citizen are you?
I wasn’t born in Ohio, and I didn’t grow up in Lakewood, but I’ve lived here long enough to fall for most of its incredible food, which is why whenever I hit the road like I did this week — five days in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a sixth a little farther east across the state in Raleigh and Rocky Mount — I yearn for a bit of home. Road food is fun because it’s different, because you might never eat it again, and some of it really is fantastic, but most of it can’t touch the comforts of home.
One of my first stops after hoofing off the plane the other night was Deagan’s Kitchen + Bar, for (a relatively light) dinner with Carolyn. She ordered the DKB burger topped with bacon, white cheddar and pickled red onion, her first burger in almost three years. She’s not the most vociferous of eaters, and she finished half before calling for a box. By lunch the next day, the burger was still holding, all together after a night in the fridge, and reheated well on the stovetop. This is important to Carolyn, who has only started to acclimate again to the world of omnivores after a years-long stretch of vegetarianism.
I opted for the mac and cheese gratin, full of chicken and bacon, because I like to puzzle my tongue with as many different flavors and textures as I can. We split the house fries, which we still call pommes frites out of habit, and which are, with Trillin’s notion in mind, the best fries in the world.
Deagan’s ownership received the keys five years ago this month and opened not long after that. It somehow still manages to feel like a restaurant that just celebrated its grand opening and like a cornerstone that has been a part of the city for decades. Its personnel and menu have cycled throughout this last half decade, and will probably continue to do so, but no matter who cooks for and serves you, the place feels comfortable. Stop in for a drink after work, impress for a first date, celebrate a birthday or a promotion or an anniversary, duck in wearing a suit or a T-shirt and jeans — all good. It’s the kind of place where you can eat again and again, and walk out satisfied every time.
It’s the kind of place Trillin might stop in if he still traveled the country to write about food, and the kind of place that he might not think has the best burgers or mac and cheese or fries in the world, because he doesn’t live here, because Lakewood isn’t his hometown.
But it’s ours, and we’re not sissies.
Deagan’s will be among the 26 (and counting) restaurants that will be a part of Taste of Lakewood, which kicks off at 1 p.m., Sunday, June 7, at Madison Park. Join us there, and make your own declaration of what Lakewood foods you think are the best in the world on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #TasteOfLakewood. See you there.