Local Flavor

Can readers of your novel taste the setting?IMG_7468 adj 2to3

by Andy Scheer

A breakfast burrito at a deli? Why is a place called the East Coast Restaurant & Delicatessen advertising burritos?

It’s not unusual when you consider this “New York-style deli” is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Across Colorado, burritos appear on nearly every menu.

I still remember my first encounter with one — in the late 1960s. My parents had driven the family to a camp on Lookout Mountain, west of Golden, Colorado. There we discovered something not found in northwest Ohio: a Tex-Mex restaurant.

My parents convinced me to try something exotic: a burrito. And with it a soda pop not sold in the Midwest: something tasting vaguely like prune juice called Dr. Pepper.

These days, most restaurants seem homogenized. It takes work to find authentic regional cuisines — the distinctive touches a writer can use to insert local flavor into a piece of fiction.

Were I writing from a visitor’s perspective about Kansas City, I’d find a reason to risk polarizing readers by include a scene at Gates Bar-B-Q rather than Arthur Bryant’s. Or I might take them for a breakfast of burnt end hash at RJ’s Bob-Be-Que in Mission.


The “Bull & Bush” British-style pub in Glendale, Colorado, serves chicken-fried steak — smothered in green chile sauce.

Writing about Florida’s Space Coast, I’d let readers sample the corn fritters and rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads — with a special mention of the aquatic-themed murals. Love those manatees!

And if I wanted to evoke the old steel town of Pueblo, Colorado, I’d take readers to Gray’s for a “slopper”— an open-face cheeseburger served in a soup bowl and drenched with freshly made green chile sauce. Nothing quite like it.

If you were writing a scene in a restaurant nearby, what menu specialty would give your readers a true local flavor?


About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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