I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Meade, Kansas.
Greetings from Meade, Kansas
N 37° 17.084’ W 100° 21.014’ Elev. 2500 ft.
I like cheese. I like hamburger. I like macaroni. Throw it all together and call it a Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole. What could possibly go wrong, right?
I’d slept at the Chuck Wagon restaurant a couple of times before … in the parking lot. This was mostly because I always seemed to run out of hours and/or energy to make it to Liberal — the next “big” town in the endless high plains of scenic southwestern Kansas some 45 miles further west. The only other wide spot in the road between the two points is Kismet. As fate would have it there is no food in Kismet.
But hey, if Meade is a good enough location for Bob and Grat to select as the site of the notorious brothers’ Dalton Gang Hideout — Meade’s #1 tourist attraction and lone claim to fame — it’s good enough for the saintly, law-abiding crew of the SS Me So Hungry to bed down. And there is a restaurant.
So it was perverse-yet-pure kismet that we walked into the Chuck Wagon for lunch, spurs a-clankin’, figuratively speaking of course. And there it was: A Specials Board touting the aforementioned Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole, with potato, corn/roll, salad bar, and coffee or tea, for $8.79. We knew from the outset that it wouldn’t be nearly as good as my sister’s goulash; there are few things in life as good as my sister’s goulash. As it turned out, we were right.
The Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole was irredeemable. It didn’t taste like a cheeseburger. It didn’t even taste cheesy, although it looked like it should’ve. Salt and pepper didn’t help. Mixing in the entire side of can-fresh whole kernel sweet corn didn’t help. It was, indeed, so hopelessly unfixable that even the divine intervention of San Pasqual couldn’t help. It was just a bland mass of ingredients that should’ve tasted good, alone or in combination. But it didn’t.
At risk of sounding technical, it just tasted “blah.” Although the mashed potatoes were pretty good, good smashed spuds can’t make up for a main course being hopelessly devoid of taste/smell/flavor/perceptible sensory impressions.
Thankfully, all was not lost.
The Chuck Wagon actually had some pretty good stuff stocked in its Conestoga Wagon-themed salad bar. Although the plates were way too small a few of the items were kind of interesting. The Cucumber Slices in Sour Cream had a hint of dill and were pretty tasty. And the Macaroni Salad with bits of fresh tomato was likewise really good.
But the Big Star of the Salad Bar was the Broccoli Salad. It was easily the best I’ve ever eaten! And it was so simple. It was just little broccoli florets, big pieces of bacon, and raisins in a slightly sweet mayonnaise dressing. I suspect the dressing was sweetened by the raisins although it was somewhat similar to the dressing on the Macaroni Salad. But damn, so simple and so, so good!
I went in later that night and the special was Chicken Fried Chicken with all of the same sides for $8.99. I didn’t have it because I wanted Cream of Wheat®, which is hard to find. I guess it was kismet that they were out of Cream of Wheat® (there’s never any Cream of Wheat® for Wally), so I got oatmeal ($2.49).
In all, even though the Chuck Wagon was bereft of Cream of Wheat®, bank/train robberies and/or ghostly apparitions of the Dalton Gang (or Elvis), thanks to the Broccoli Salad … Seriously, that’s some damn good Broccoli Salad!
And so we roll.
Chuck Wagon Restaurant, 807 West Carthage Street (US 54), Meade, Kansas
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.