One surprisingly common tour complaint is not being able to poop for the first few days. Probably due to a mix of public restroom anxiety and not eating like your normal self would, tour constipation doesn’t sound that bad compared to “fire ass,” something my former tourmates have suffered from after consuming too many gas station hot dogs. Even worse though, Darkwing’s fill-in drummer vomited for a day and a half after he solely ate ramen noodles for a week straight. It should go without saying that staying sane and healthy on the road begins with figuring out how to eat well while on a budget, but it’s not always as simple as it might sound. Around the time I started experiencing a weird cold and cough on Sharkmuffin’s last tour, our manager joked that my daily diet of coffee for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch, and wine for dinner might have something to do with it. With the help of our road foodie experts Cassie Ramone, Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, and Chloe Chaidez of Kitten we can hopefully learn to avoid all of these tour ailments.
Vivian Girls/The Babies
First of all let me preface this by saying that I love both cheap eating and fancy food, I’m an omnivore with no dietary restrictions (although I try to eat healthy or vegetarian more often than not… key word here is “try” though), and I love both local cuisine and the comfort of chain restaurants. Sometimes when you’re on tour for an extended period of time, McDonald’s and Subway help so much to regain a sense of familiarity. I’m also a huge fan of Denny’s. If I’m in the South or Midwest, Waffle House is essential. I love getting a double order of hashbrowns with onions, cheese and jalapenos, and some over medium eggs. It’s the only American sit down restaurant I can think of where you can eat a lot and end up paying less than $10 after tip.
A good tour habit is going to Whole Foods in the morning and stocking up on healthy snacks and beverages for the day. If you shop smart it can end up costing less than stopping for lunch. That said, stopping for lunch can be an essential break during a long drive. In most of the groups of people I’ve toured with, we’ve enjoyed stopping for lunch at local diners in tiny roadside towns. The menus are similar enough to each other, and the food can be hit or miss, but sometimes you’ll end up with the best BLT you’ve ever had in your life or something. And often, the menu prices seem unchanged from the ’90s!
In the Pacific Northwest, I always make sure to get pho from an authentic Vietnamese place. As far as I can tell, the Pacific Northwest does it best in America.
I know this probably goes without saying, but street cart tacos in LA and mission burritos in San Francisco are both amazing!
There’s a lot of amazing food in Texas, but I always try to stop by this diner Magnolia Cafe in Austin. Their “mag mud” (queso, salsa, black bean dip and guac layered) is sooo good.
Ok this is a weird pro tip, because I’m sure not many people are going to tour Alaska anytime soon, but if you go to Fairbanks they (weirdly) have incredible Thai food! I had maybe the best Tom Yum soup I’ve ever had when I was there!
Hit up a steak house in the Midwest, just for fun.
My last tip is for people traveling through New York! If you play or stay near a halal deli/bodega/truck, order chicken over rice! It’s $5 or $6 for a massive portion, delicious, and tastes great the next day too.
Sad13, Speedy Ortiz
AF: How difficult is it to eat vegan and stay healthy while on the road?
SD: It’s easy — I’ve been vegan for almost 13 years and it’s only gotten simpler as more vegan restaurants open, and others learn about the prevalence of the diet (and environmental importance of it), and how to accommodate it.
AF: What are your favorite fast food spots / gas stations / random favorite diners and/or food trucks, restaurants, etc. in different cities?
SD: I have a hit list of favorite vegan restaurants in just about every city we tour through, and I try to stop at those every time on tour. When I’m at home I cook most of the time, but I use touring as an excuse to check out and splurge at new spots, like a food vacation. Speedy Ortiz collaborated with a bunch of them on our last headlining tour, creating themed specials that benefited local charities, which was pretty cool and demonstrative of some of my favorites.
In terms of fast food, I don’t eat too much of it, but Chipotle and Taco Bell usually make an appearance at least once a tour since they can accommodate vegans and gluten allergies.
AF: Any additional tips / advice on eating while touring?
SD: I try to stop at a grocery store every few days for some fresh produce or juice – it’s easy to eat junk food on the road, and I am known to plow through big bags of barbecue chips, but fresh or dried fruit is just as easy to snack on and makes you feel way better. Also, an easy way to eat well when you’re in the midst of a 13-hour drive day: soup cups (like Dr. Macdougall’s) which I prepare at gas stations with dried seaweed and raw green veggies like spinach or kale. Adding hot water will blanch and cook the veggies, and rehydrate the seaweed, and you will feel sort of like there’s some normalcy in your life.
Favorite tour foods:
- Subway salad. Okay yes, we all know we would never eat Subway in New York City. Maybe if there was an apocalypse and Subway was the last sandwich place on earth you’d walk in there. BUT on tour, when there are literally no vegetables in sight, get a subway spinach salad and put every single vegetable they have inside of it. You won’t quite feel like a million dollars, but maybe 500,000, and you’ll be ready to rock that night.
- Wasabi almonds. They don’t really taste like wasabi, but they’re definitely tastier than most almonds and they sell them at most gas stations!
- Apples. Just because apples are usually the only fruit they sell at gas stations in the middle of nowhere.
More tips to eat somewhat healthy and cheaply on the road:
- Buy a Cooler. Just don’t forget to bring in perishables and re-freeze your ice packs whereever you’re crashing each night!
- Bring a Reusable Water Bottle & Thermos. This will save you loads on bottled water, since tap water is free at most places. Bonus tip: bring your own instant coffee and/or tea.
- The Chipotle Myth: It hasn’t worked for me personally yet, but I’ve heard if you call Chipotle and tell them you’re sponsored by them and set it up in advance they will give your band free food.
- Taco Bell Dollar Menu: You can make almost anything vegetarian at Taco Bell by subbing beans for beef, and the potato taco is the best!
- Dollar Tree: Stock up on snacks here and possibly buy a mermaid doll while you’re there. Everything is actually a dollar!
- Gummy Vitamins: Get a giant pack and pass it around the van once a day. Other helpful healthy supplements: Spirulina, Wellness Formula, Oregano Oil, Non-refrigerated probiotics.