Image via Wikipedia Not too far outside of Kitchener, Ontario, right off Highway 401, used to sit the Tu-Lane Truck Stop. Highway 401--sometimes called "The King's Highway"--is the main thoroughfare running across lower Ontario from Detroit to the far Eastern side of the province. It's a busy highway with a constant stream of traffic including many trucks.
What first prompted me to stop at the Tu-Lane Truck Stop I don't remember. It was probably because it was late and I was hungry and the Tu-Lane was open. It's sometimes said that truckers know the best places to eat and if this is a true indicator, the Tu-Lane must have been good because it was busy with truckers catching a late night meal.
On my first visit in 1981 I ordered a bowl of chili with toast. First of all I've always been accustomed to eating chili with saltine crackers and the accompaniment of toast seemed odd to me. But what I got was just right. The chili was robust in tomatoey chili powder flavor, but it had a sweetness that balanced any spiciness quite nicely. I had never tasted a chili with that amount of sweetness and I was pleasantly surprised. The buttered toasted white bread made the perfect companion to the chili.
Lest my assessment was due to my hunger, I returned the following year to see if the chili had really been as good as I had thought. This time I went in the afternoon for lunch. I ordered the chili once again and was not disappointed. The chili met my expectations and I decided that this was one of the best bowls of chili that I had eaten in any restaurant.
Throughout the rest of the 1980s I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Tu-Lane Truck Stop. Fortunately we were in Kitchener every year so I was able to have that chili several times in that decade. I never tried anything else on the menu--why would I when I needed my fill of a chili that made my mouth water just thinking about it.
An internet search told me that the truck stop is no longer there. I don't know who else makes chili and toast quite like that. I've tried. I can make a good chili, but it never seems to be quite like the chili at Tu-Lane. I've not even been able to duplicate the way they made the toast, but maybe it was the combination of the toast and the chili that really made the difference.
In my fantasy road trip of memory, I look for that sign along the highway: "Tu-Lane Truck Stop". I pull in and park. There's a dream bowl of chili with toast waiting for me.