Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

April 25, 2013

Gas industry gives Pa. stores taste for the South

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"These guys go out at night when they're done working," George Logue, the owner of Acme Barbecue in Williamsport, said of the gas workers. "They don't want to leave work and sit in their (hotel) room to eat take-out."

Acme, which opened about three years ago, has a menu that pulls together barbecue styles from around the country, though brisket is the hot seller with gas workers. Catering to the crowd, Logue now offers side dishes like collard greens. He said he's also smoking sausages for a nearby restaurant that's adjusted its menu.

At Hurley's Fresh Markets in Towanda and Dushore, the offerings are starting to look a little different, too. About two years ago, general manager Nick Hurley traveled to the South to do food research in anticipation of workers from the region arriving. Now they sell alligator meat, boudin and crawfish, among other staples.

Store manager Kathy Fleming said Hurley's also now stocks mayonnaise from Blue Plate, a brand that dubs itself the "Legendary Spread of the South." And the market is looking for a distributor for live crawfish, since what Hurley's sells now is shipped frozen.

Like many of the workers, Jerry Roberts, a drilling foreman on a rig outside Montoursville, flies home to Mississippi every two weeks. When he returns to Pennsylvania, he often brings culinary comforts from home. He says he loves almost everything about Pennsylvania. Almost.

"I hate bland food," Roberts said in his office trailer half-jokingly. "I want a biscuit. And I want some gravy. And I want some sausage in that gravy. Some Jimmie Dean. I want some salt and black pepper in it."

All these changes have made eating easier for people like Cameron Simon, who came from Houston four years ago to be a regional operations manager for Stallion Oilfield Services in Williamsport. Until recently, making Tex-Mex food at home was a challenge.

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