Coaching Confidential: What’s Your Favorite Restaurant To Eat At On The Road?

Image credit: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, fast food, food court. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Baseball America this spring surveyed 90 head coaches on a wide-ranging list of topics to get the pulse of the profession. Over the next several weeks, we’ll post the results of that survey.

The survey was loaded with deep, serious questions. What do you look for when hiring an assistant coach? Who is the most underrated head coach? What would you like to change about the NCAA Tournament?

This question is just as deep and serious as the rest of the survey. Eating, in fact, may be as serious as it gets. When a coach is on the road, whether it’s for recruiting or a game, finding a spot to eat that hits the spot just right is a critical decision.

So, we put that question to our panel of coaches. What is your favorite restaurant to eat at when you’re on the road?

Restaurant Votes
Chick-fil-A 7
Chipotle 7
Outback Steakhouse 5
Olive Garden 4
Any barbeque 3
A local steakhouse 3
Cracker Barrel 3

Previous Coaching Confidential questions

  1. Who is the most underrated head coach?
  2. Which assistant coach will make the best head coach?
  3. What should the next proposal for a third full-time assistant coach entail?
  4. What program has the best player development facilities?
  5. What’s the most important quality for an assistant coach?

Chick-fil-A and Chipotle tied for the most votes in a poll with wide-ranging results. Outback Steakhouse and Olive Garden followed in the balloting.

While big chains predictably received the most votes, when the poll results are looked at more broadly, barbeque, sandwich shops and steakhouses were at the top of the results along with the likes of Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. “Any barbeque” and “a local steakhouse” received three votes each, along with a few specific local restaurants in both categories.

The poll question was open ended and the coaches took it as such, naming 47 different restaurants, from sit-down chains like Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse to fast food like Chick-fil-A to fast-casual like Chipotle and Jersey Mike’s Subs to local restaurants like Trattoria Contadina in San Francisco to fine dining like Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse.

While some coaches are looking to get a taste of local flavor when they’re on the road, others are simply looking for comfort. One coach who voted for Chick-fil-A described a routine that many can relate to.

“You get the No. 1 with extra-large fries and after that, you eat that eight-piece nuggets,” he said. “Then, 30 minutes later, you regret eating that much.

“It happens weekend after weekend and I never learn my lesson. I can’t not do it.”

The question was left open to interpretation as to whether the coach was eating by himself or with his team. One of the coaches who included his team into his answer noted that with a team of college-aged players, eating at a place where they can get a lot of food quickly and cheaply is important.

“With a team of 35, our guys love a hibachi buffet,” he said. “We’ve got to have hibachi.”

Other coaches liked the versatility that a place like Chick-fil-A or Chipotle offer. The ability to quickly customize their orders and have a different meal depending on the weather or their taste on that particular day, but still have a restaurant that they can rely on any day – perhaps the whole point of the fast-casual trend as a whole – resonated with several coaches.

Others want to use the road as an opportunity to get some local flavor or get some food that they can’t get when they’re at home. One coach bemoaned the lack of Italian food in his hometown and said he is always looking out for a good Italian restaurant on the road to make up for it. Another said he preferred anywhere that had live music. Several said they were eager to try out a local recommendation for barbeque or steak.

But no one had a more unique answer to the question than the coach who responded, “a grocery store and a cooler.”

Coaches have no shortage of chances to visit their favorite road restaurants, as they are used to spending so much time away from home. Finding that familiar, reliable meal away from home is one of the keys to a successful road trip, whether it’s for recruiting or a weekend series.

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