Every year around this time, everyone starts itching for summer (it's so close), and that means it's time to start thinking about where we'll all be going once the weather warms up, which in turn means thinking about what to eat. With that in mind, Grub Street's editors have once again scoured the country looking for fantastic, one-of-a-kind restaurants, no matter which part of the country you wind up in.
You may recall we undertook a similarly ambitious plan last year, and came up with one spot in every state (two in California, plus a pick for Washington, D.C.), and we've stayed true to that spirit this year, too. We discovered an entirely new set of truly awesome spots along every point of the dining spectrum: a top-rate taqueria hidden in a gas station, high-dining at a resort in West Virginia, one of the country's great burger joints in central Ohio, and a ton more. Well, 49 more actually.
Of course, making just one pick per state, egalitarian though it may be, is by its nature limiting, which means plenty of places had to be left off this list it isn't because we didn't like them; we just didn't have the space to include them. So, you know what to do: Take to the comments to tell us (and everyone else) which spots are must-hits as we all gear up for the summer months ahead.
The Destination: Black Rock Bistro in Jasper
How to Get There: Jasper is an hour drive, or about 40 miles north and west, of Birmingham.
When to Go: Lunch is served Tuesdays through Thursdays, and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
With its deep Southern roots and propensity for cajun and creole traditions, Black Rock Bistro has a long-standing reputation as one of the premier restaurants in all of Alabama. Seafood is one of its stronger suits, and the Catfish Pontchartrain, a breaded filet of catfish served with a creamy crab-and-crawfish-laden sauce, alone is well worth the drive.
Black Rock Bistro, 313 19th Street West, Jasper, AL; 205-387-0282
The Destination:Shelter Cove Lodge, in Craig
How to Get There: A short flight from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska, followed by a quick float-plane ride from Ketchikan to Craig. This company offers package deals.
When to Go: It’s open May through September for four-night stays.
This sport-fishing lodge is located in one of the southernmost coastal towns in Alaska, on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island, within view of breaching whales and plenty of eagles nesting in the Tongass National Forest. For several years they have been flying in a chef from New York, Neil Massaro, for the summer season to prepare nightly dinners for their 39 guests which are, obviously, centered around amazing local seafood like king salmon, lingcod, and halibut. (See a couple of example dishes here.) Massaro allows guests to craft their own menus in addition to choosing from ten nightly dishes, and by all accounts the place is a haven of great cooking in what might otherwise be a culinary desert. You probably want to bring along someone who enjoys fishing, however.
Shelter Cove Lodge, 703 Hamilton Drive, Craig, AK; 907-826-2939
The Destination:El Charro Cafe in Tucson
How to Get There: Take the I-10W from the Tucson Airport and exit on West Congress Street to reach Downtown.
When to Go: Come early in the week when the place is slightly less crazy with crowds.
Cited as the country's oldest Mexican restaurant, Tucson's El Charro mini-chain offers 90 years of history with a massive menu of queso fundido, cheese-stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon, tortas ahogadas, and handmade carnitas tamales. But you're here for the carne seca, Angus beef dried by the desert sun and wind on the restaurant's own roof.
El Charro, 311 N. Court Avenue, Tucson, AZ; 520-622-1922
The Destination:Smoke & Barrel Tavern in Fayetteville
How to Get There: From Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, take AR-112 South to Garland Avenue, about 40 minutes in total.
When to Go: Try to land here on Wednesdays, when all whiskeys are 25 percent off between 2:00 to 8:00 p.m.
You won't sniff out a real still in the Ozarks without getting lead in your ass, so grab a seat at this tiny tin-roofed music venue where a young crowd is occupied by board games at the bar. The place is popular for its whiskey and scotch selection, but a changing cigar menu is the perfect counteragent to those smoking bans choking most major cities.
Smoke & Barrel Tavern, 324 W. Dickson Street, Fayetteville, AR; 479-521-6880
The Destination:Terrapin Creek in Bodega Bay
How to Get There: It’s roughly a two-hour drive north from San Francisco.
When to Go: Open year round and serving dinner four nights a week, Thursday through Sunday, 4:30 to 9 p.m. Lodging is available directly next to the restaurant at the Bodega Bay Inn, or more luxe accommodations can be found at the nearby at the Bodega Bay Lodge.
Not many people in the Bay Area had heard about this tiny restaurant on the Sonoma coast until it snagged a Michelin star last year. While it looks, outside and in, like the humblest of bistros in this tiny coastal town, it's actually an oasis of skillfully crafted dishes along a stretch of Highway 1 not often associated with great eats.
Terrapin Creek, 1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, CA; 707-875-2700
The Destination:Misión 19 in Tijuana, Mexico
How to Get There: 5 Freeway South from San Diego to the Tijuana border.
When to Go: Visit during the week to beat the northern crowd.
This legendary border city's sullied food rep was transformed by Javier Plascencia, the homegrown chef championed from West Coast diners to the pages of the New York Times. Plascencia trumpets Baja's seafood, produce, spices, and wine in cutting-edge cuisine strong on flavor and local soul. Changing menus may include risotto topped with pickled nopalitos, epazote, black truffles, and charred octopus, and signature slow-cooked short ribs wrapped in fig leaves and a Mission fig mole negro.
Misión 19, Misión San Javier 10643, Zona Urbana Río, Tijuana, BC; +52-664-634-2493
The Destination:Gold Hill General Store in Gold Hill
How to Get There: A short ten-mile drive north of Boulder.
When to Go: Daytime in the summer is probably best, but they're open year-round for breakfast and lunch.
The tiny mountain town of Gold Hill was the first mining camp in Colorado, and a nearby gold mine was actually still operational until 2008. The Gold Hill General Store has been the project of Hugh Moore for the last couple decades, and became a popular weekend daytripping spot in recent years for people in Boulder and tourists coming to Rocky Mountain National Park. (It's also the only dining option in town that's open year-round, warmed by a single potbelly stove in the winter.) They're known for their huevos rancheros, and their smothered breakfast burrito — a good and spicy hangover cure if ever there was one, topped with green chile sauce and stuffed with eggs, olives, and cheese.
Gold Hill General Store and Café, 531 Main Street, Gold Hill, CO; 303-443-7724
The Destination: Souterrain Pop-up Dinners
How to Get There: The events change locations but they're generally in the Westport and Norwalk areas, under an hour ride on the Metro-North from New York City.
When to Go: Sign up for the Souterrain newsletter and jump on reservations as soon as they send out their impromptu events (spots book up fast).
Souterrain is the extremely of-the-moment, underground dining experience created and executed by the folks at Westport's hottest two restaurants: leFarm and the Whelk. A different location is chosen for each dinner (past spots have included abandoned warehouses and retail stores) and announced 48 hours prior to the event. The price fluctuates and reservations are only taken by e-mail, but the pedigree and the raves diners issue make these must-try meals.
Souterrain, location is always TBD, sign up for e-mails and alerts.
The Destination:Woodside Farm Creamery in HockessinHow to Get There: Take a long drive to the most Northern part of Delaware.
When to Go: The Creamery is open every day from early April through late October, and ice cream is served from noon until nighttime.
Woodside has been a general farm since 1796, but it first opened to the public in the eighties. Since then, it’s become widely lauded for its delicious ice-cream cones and sundaes made with milk from the happy, "stress-free" cows right on the farm. Guests can roam the lush pastures, listen to bluegrass, or just sit in peace with their treats.
Woodside Farm Creamery, 1310 Little Baltimore Rd., Hockessin, DE; 302-239-9847
The Destination:Prato in Winter Park
How to Get There: Take the twenty-minute drive from Orlando.
When to Go: The restaurant is open year-round for lunch, dinner, and late-night eats.
Prato recently opened on Winter Park's Park Avenue with high-pedigree chef Brandon McGlamery steering the "seasonally Italian" wheel and bringing a new level of sophistication to an area not too far from Disney World. The beauty is that the place isn’t simply tourist fare. Think instead: pizzas, pastas, a wood-burning oven, and a wonderful wine list with a whole lot of Spanish and Italian reds. Also, full-length window-paned doors, and year-round patio seating, emphasizing the “Park” of Park Avenue.
Prato, 124 N Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL; 407-262-0050
The Destination:Rexall Grill in Duluth, Georgia
How to Get There: Road trip it from Atlanta, which is about a half-hour to the south.
When to Go: Any time is good, but ideally you want to time your visit during peach season — the beginning of May through the end of July.
Rexall Grill is like walking into a little slice of classic Americana. It’s a pharmacy that dispenses prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter remedies, but like drugstores of yore, it also serves hot food. The kitchen specializes in classic Southern fare, like fried chicken, country ham, and biscuits and gravy. But no trip there is complete without a taste of what’s touted as the best peach cobbler in peach country.
Rexall Grill, 3165 Buford Hwy, Duluth, GA; 770-623-8569
The Destination:Haliimaile General Store in Makawo, Maui
How to Get There: From the Kahului Airport, take the Haleakala Highway five miles to Haliimale Road to reach the restaurant, an additional drive of roughly two miles.
When to Go: Anytime, but tourists flock in the summer.
Beverly Gannon's place is Maui's most heavily honored restaurant, and she is a semi-finalist for 2012's "Best Chef: Pacific" James Beard, celebrated for fusing island pride with mainland style and Asian influences in a historic mountainside property dramatically set on a pineapple plantation. Resulting mash-ups include wontons filled with Kalua pork and goat cheese, duck-confit tostadas with macadamia nuts, sashimi napoleon, and the chef's signature crab-topped pizza.
Haliimaile General Store, 900 Haliimaile Road, Makawao, HI; 808-572-2666
The Destinationa: Red Feather Restaurant and Bittercreek Alehouse in Boise
How to Get There: From the Boise airport, take Vista Ave. to Capitol Blvd. to reach 8th Street in Downtown.
When to Go: Weekends for a lively crowd.
Duck-egg pizza in the morning; steelhead crudo, house-stuffed sausage, and forager-procured Idaho spud chowder at night. This booming Boise gastropub is a strict locavore, dubbing itself a standard-bearer of inland northwest cooking, with an ever-evolving menu from chef Greg Lamm (who took over the kitchen on April 1). The attached brewpub, Bittercreek Alehouse, specializes in draft craft from western brewers including Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
246 North 8th Street, Boise, ID; 208-429-6340
The Destination:Cajun Connection in Utica
How to Get There: I-55 to I-80, southwest from Chicago.
When to Go: Thursday through Sunday.
An hour and a half out of Chicago might seem a bit northerly for authentic Cajun food, but the proprietor of this roadhouse cafe near scenic Starved Rock State Park has been known to jump in the truck after service Sunday night and drive the 15 hours to New Orleans to stock up on supplies. The rest of the week owner Ron McFarlain is working his room in the best good-ole-boy style, and dishing up home-cooked jambalaya, fried frog legs, gator tail, and boudin balls. Watch for the crawfish boils he holds regularly, too.
Cajun Connection, 897 East U.S. Highway 6, Utica, IL 815-667-9855.
The Destination:Hollyhock Hill in Indianapolis
How to Get There: In the twenties, this was out in the country; now it’s on the north side of Indy.
When to Go: Tuesday through Sunday.
“Family-style" has come to mean mediocrity for most of us, but people like James Beard once revered plain American cooking, and this 84-year-old Indianapolis country getaway (now well within city limits) reminds you why. The chicken, pan-fried in (at least part) bacon lard with scratch mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits, is as good as any grandma ever made anywhere; the iceberg salad comes with a great vintage sweet-tart dressing made in-house; and dinner concludes with a make-your-own ice cream sundae tray which will delight the 6-year-old in you (and ensure you meet your daily requirement of food coloring).
Hollyhock Hill, 8110 N. College Ave., Indianapolis, IN; 317-251-2294.
The Destination: Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa
How to Get There: 45 minutes south of I-80 between Iowa City and Des Moines.
When to Go: Monday through Saturday, lunch through early evening.
This tiny Depression-era diner is a testament to the little guy standing up to the big shots. Many people think of “loosemeat" burgers as synonymous with the Maid-Rite chain, but the Canteen’s version, which dates back to 1936, has its own fervent following, as do the malts and pies and the ladies who serve them — just don’t try to order two burgers, because they’ll only give you one at a time to ensure freshness. When the city wanted to build a parking garage that would have forced the Canteen to move, there was such an outcry from locals that the city built the garage over it, leaving the quaint diner hunkered in the shadows of charmless concrete. But at least it’s safe now — it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Canteen Lunch in the Alley, 112 E. 2nd St., Ottumwa, 52501
The Destination:The Breadbasket in Newton
How to Get There: A half hour north of Wichita, three hours south of Kansas City.
When to Go: Friday or Saturday evening for the German buffet.
Much of Kansas was settled by Mennonites (a religious sect similar in attitudes to the Amish) who originated in Germany ... but came by way of a 100-year sojourn in the Ukraine, from which they brought the hardy winter wheat that would make Kansas the nation’s breadbasket. Their blend of German and Ukrainian foods is far more likely to be encountered in homes than restaurants — except on Friday and Saturday nights in Newton, when this country cafe serves up an authentic buffet of hearty Mennonite foods like smoked Yoder sausage, vareniky (Ukrainian pierogi, basically), nalesniki (blintzes), cherry moos (a stewed cherry dessert), and more. Be sure to grab some pfeffernüsse (“pepper nut" cookies) for the road.
The Breadbasket, 219 N. Main Street, Newton, KS; 316-283-3811
The Destination: Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in Owensboro, Kentucky
How to Get There: Owensboro is about an hour south and east of Evansville Regional Airport, and roughly a two-hour drive from Louisville International Airport.
When to Go: Any time.
While Memphis and Carolina barbecue traditions hinge on smoked pork products, and Kansas City and Texas are based more on beef, Western Kentucky’s preferred ‘cue is mutton, as in full-grown, intensely flavorful, and unabashedly gamey sheep. In Owensboro there’s no shortage of smokehouses and charcoal pits that specialize in the regional specialty. But Old Hickory is one of the best.
Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q, 338 Washington Ave., Owensboro, KY; 270-926-9000
The Destination:Franky & Johnny's in New Orleans
How to Get There: It’s smack dab in the center of the Crescent City.
When to Go: The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Skip the line at Mother’s and head here. A down-and-dirty neighborhood joint, Franky and Johnny's epitomizes New Orleans flavors, music, and mood, with insanely delicious boiled crawfish, ridiculous po’ boys, fried green-pepper rings, gumbo, and all the good stuff the incomparable city has to offer. Naturally, meals are served on sticky, red-and-white-checkered tablecloths with an old-time jukebox playing and the game on TV.
Franky and Johnny's, 321 Arabella St., New Orleans, LA ; 504-899-9146
The Destination:Ogunquit Lobster Pound in Ogunquit
How to Get There:Ogunquit is a 90-minute drive north of Boston.
When to Go: For dinner, May through August.
This is the fried-food parlor of your summertime beach dreams. Relax on Adirondack chairs and wait for a table, then settle into a feast of fried shellfish and ginormous, meaty hard-shelled lobsters that you select fresh from a saltwater tank. There’s red meat, too, but foraging for a meal is all part of the fun.
Ogunquit Lobster Pound, 504 Main St., Ogunquit, ME; 207-646-2516
The Destination:R&R Taqueria in Elkridge
How to Get There: It’s a short drive from both D.C. and Baltimore, inside a gas station in Elkridge.
When to Go: They’re open pretty much all day, every day, though they close a little early on Sundays.
When Rodrigo Albarran-Torres lost his job as a commercial pilot, he decided to open a restaurant ... at a local Shell station. Today, his menu of fresh Mexican street food, inspired by his childhood in Mexico City and served by close friends and family, attracts everyone from Guy Fieri to Washington's fiercest food snobs. The best tacos in the area, at three for $6, are truly worth getting pumped about.
R&R Taqueria, 7894 Washington Blvd., Elkridge, MD; 410-799-0001
The Destination: The Owl Diner in Lowell
How to Get There: Lowell is a half-hour north of Boston via Route 3.
When to Go: Weekend mornings before 10 a.m.
This jammed diner car on a weedy Lowell street serves hulking omelettes named after city avenues, fat French toast swimming in whipped cream, and homefries laden with electric orange cheese sauce. Waitresses steamroll the crowds like ships, stacks of plates aloft, while owner Tom Shanahan swaps gossip with regulars. Cash only.
Owl Diner, 244 Appleton St., Lowell, MA; 978-453-8321
The Destination:Martha's Leelanau Table in Suttons BayHow to Get There: The nearest city with a usable airport is Traverse City, which is a 30-minute drive from Martha's.
When to Go: Pretty much anytime, but breakfast is the preferred meal at Martha's.
Michigan's Leelanau peninsula, on the northern tip of the state's lower peninsula (the state has a lot of peninsulas) has become a sort of food-lovers' retreat recently, a spot full of wineries, farmers' markets, and even Mario Batali's vacation home. Locals know that the area's best breakfast comes from the quaint, cozy Martha's, which specializes in down-home favorites like perfect blueberry pancakes, grits and sausage, and scrambled eggs finished with locally made Raclette cheese.
Martha's Leelanau Table, 413 N Saint Joseph St., Suttons Bay, MI; 231-271-2344
The Destination:Northern Waters Smokehaus in DuluthHow to Get There: Duluth has its own airport, or you can do the two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Twin Cities.
When to Go: Year-round.
You wouldn't think that one of America's foremost cured-meat experts would be tucked away in Northern Minnesota, but that's exactly the case with Northern Waters Smokehaus. Of course, the real highlight of a trip to this spot on Lake Superior is the outstanding smoked trout that comes straight from the lake itself. Even better: The place will ship just about everything it makes anywhere in the country.
Northern Waters Smokehaus, 394 Lake Avenue South, Ste. 106, Duluth, MN; 218-724-7307
The Destination: Old Country Store in Lorman
How to Get There: The drive from Jackson takes about an hour and a half.
When to Go: Summer, when fresh produce (used in abundance in sides and desserts like pies and cobblers) is most readily available.
With its weathered-wood facade and out-of-the-way location, this place still looks like the country store it once was, but today it’s known as one of the state’s best sources for fried chicken. Grub is served buffet-style — a mere ten bucks at the cash register for an all-you-can-eat feast of chicken, cornbread, green beans, watermelon, and other sides, not to mention celebrated cobblers. Chef-owner Arthur Davis says the secret to his superior fowl is using fresh birds and changing fry oil frequently — whatever his secret, scores of road-trippers will attest he’s doing something right.
Old Country Store, 18801 Hwy 61, nr. Hwy 552, Lorman, MS; 601-437-3661
The Destination: Booches Billiard Hall in Columbia
How to Get There: Centrally located in Columbia, about a two-hour drive west of St. Louis.
When to Go: Mondays through Saturdays. The bar has a well-known slogan that goes: "Closed on Sunday, see you in church.”
Founded in 1884, Booches offers pool, beer, and one culinary specialty: the juicy sliders it’s probably best known for. Burgers go for $2.75 each (get two if you’re hungry) and are fried up by one guy at a griddle, so they sometimes take a little while. Faced with a wait, you can take advantage of billiard tables in back, or simply enjoy the laid-back vibe and pitchers of cheap beer. Food is no-frills, served on wax paper, and there’s a no-credit-cards policy too, so bring cash.
Booches Billiard Hall, 110 S 9th St., nr. Cherry St., Columbia, MO; 573-874-9519
The Destination: The Mint in Livingston, Montana
How to Get There: Livingston is just 37 miles from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, which is, like, nothing, because the speed limit is 75 mph.
When to Go: Any time of year, but if you’re not accustomed to Montana’s brutal and frigid winter, summer is ideal.
Originally built as a dry-goods store that later served as a hotel near the turn of the 20th century, the Mint in Livingston officially became a tavern when it was awarded Montana’s first liquor license after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Save for sweeping, historically accurate renovations to restore its old-timey, western-frontier charm a few years ago, it has pretty much been frozen in time ever since.
The Mint, 102 North Main Street, Livingston, MT; 406-222-0361
The Destination:Brewburger's in OmahaHow to Get There: Both locations are in Omaha, and both are easy to find.
When to Go: Any time, but we'd avoid going during major sporting events if you're main goal is the food.
It seems no place in America is safe from the invasion of Montreal-style smoked meat, which this Nebraska sports bar makes in-house. That's fine with us: The pastrami-like concoction is fantastic when it's sandwiched between two pieces of rye, as are the "Cheesy Sacramento" burgers, which come to the table with a Saturn-like ring of cheese that melts onto the griddle while the burger is cooking. And, as you might guess from the name, the place has a lot of superlative craft beer with which you can wash everything down.
Brewburgers, multiple locations, Omaha, NE; 402-614-7644
The Destination:Strega in Reno
How to Get There: Either fly to Reno, or take the approximately two-hour drive from Sacramento.
When to Go: Open daily starting at 4:00 p.m., but it gets wild on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
An arty house party disguised as a dance club in Downtown Reno, Strega is stretched among multiple rooms of an abode built 100 years ago, decorated with a rotating selection of local art, and filled with the fun weirdos who make it. Dancing is reserved for the living room, with free pool and video games in the back, while mellower moods sip cocktails on the porch or beers at the kitchen's bar.
Strega, 310 South Arlington Avenue, Reno, NV; 775-348-9911
The Destination:Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason
How to Get There: Mason is a scenic 90-minute drive northwest of Boston.
When to Go: Year-round, seven days a week, although it’s closed for the winter in January.
Hidden Boston blogger Marc Hurwitz tipped us off to this woodsy retreat sheltered by towering New Hampshire pines. It’s a crucial pilgrimage for pure maple-syrup lovers (there’s a shop on-site) and pancake connoisseurs. Hurwitz suggests Parker’s special — eggs, pancakes, meats, and toast — all for under $15. Wash it back with maple-roasted coffee.
Parker’s Maple Barn, 1316 Brookline Rd., Mason, NH; 603-878-2308
The Destination: Donk’s (a.k.a. Donkey’s Place) in Camden, New Jersey
How to Get There: Camden is a ten-minute drive from Philadelphia.
When to Go: If you don’t know your way around, you probably don’t want to be in Camden after the sun goes down. Recently Donk’s cut its hours back to only weekdays.
According to local lore, the location once operated as a Jewish speakeasy fronted by the phony Parkside Athletic Association, before Olympic boxer Leon 'Donkey' Lucas took it over in the forties. For decades it served as a popular lunch spot for workers at the nearby Campbell Soup plant, and today it stands as a reminder of Camden’s better days, known now for its version of the Philly cheesesteak, piled high on a round, poppyseed roll (as opposed to the traditional long hoagie roll).
Donk’s (Donkey’s Place), 1223 Haddon Ave., Camden, NJ; 856-966-2616
The Destination:Mary & Tito’s Cafe in Albuquerque
How to Get There: The restaurant is near the intersection of US Routes 40 and 25 in Albuquerque.
When to Go: It's primarily a daytime spot, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weeknights, and until 8 p.m. on weekends.
87-year-old Mary Gonzalez still presides over this beloved Albuquerque restaurant with daughter Antoinette Knight, serving up what most agree is the best red chile in town. Their signature carne adovada, which is pork marinated in red chile and cooked for five hours, comes from a century-old family recipe, and for the first two decades of this restaurant's life it was prepared daily by Gonzales's husband Tito, who opened the place in 1963.
Mary & Tito's Cafe, 2711 4th Street Northwest, Albuquerque, NM; 505-344-6266
The Destination: Henry's at the Farm/Buttermilk Falls in Milton
How to Get There: It's a 90-minute drive from New York City, or take the train to Poughkeepsie.
When to Go: The grounds are gorgeous year-round, and the inn and restaurants are always open for business, but cheaper rates at the inn apply on weekdays.
A mini Blue Hill at Stone Barns (for half the cost), the vast Buttermilk property is great for a romantic overnight stay and/or a farm-to-table meal with family and friends. Guests are encouraged to explore the gardens and farm, which are the source of organic produce and eggs for breakfast, and ingredients for dinner at Henry's at the Farm restaurant. In addition to its orchards, and berry, vegetable, and herb growing tracts, the farm is home to heritage chickens, guinea hens, angora goats, llamas, alpacas, and even peacocks.
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa, 220 North Rrd. Milton, NY; 845-795-1310
The Destination:Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte.How to Get There: It's right in the middle of Charlotte.
When to Go: Any day except Sunday and Monday, when Price's is closed.
Price's isn't exactly a secret among the kind of people who make pilgrimages for fried chicken; it's often ranked among the country's very best. In fact, Roadfood's Jane and Michael Stern once called it "the fried-chicken-eating experience of a lifetime," and it is therefore imperative that even people with only a passing interest in fried chicken go to try it — amateurs can stick to the wings and thighs, pros can give the fried livers and gizzards a try.
Price's Chicken Coop, 1614 Camden Road, Charlotte, NC; 704-333-9866
The Destination:The Lobster and Lefse Festival in FargoHow to Get There: This year's festival will happen in the middle of downtown Fargo.
When to Go: Festival dates for 2012 are September 6, 7, and 8.
Olive Garden might be the hotness in North Dakota, but we had to give the nod to a festival that specializes in a truly interesting culinary mash-up: Maine lobsters and North Dakota lefse. What's lefse, you say? It's a sort of Norwegian crepe, a speciality in a part of the U.S. rich with Nordic heritage. So, how was the mashup with lobsters invented? Well, festival organizer Randy Long tells us he was "drunk on three glasses of wine" when inspiration struck. (Proceeds benefit the area's rape and abuse crisis center.)
Lobster and Lefse Festival, Fargo, ND; 701-306-0165 for information
The Destination:Crabill's in Urbana
How to Get There: Urbana is about an hour from Columbus, 90 minutes from Cincinnati, and a little more than two hours from Indianapolis.
When to Go: Any day except Sunday; they open at 10 a.m.
Here at Grub Street, we have a soft spot for sliders, especially when they're as authentically American as the ones served at Crabill's. The place isn't fancy (and it's tiny: just eight stools), but burger lovers looking for the real deal owe it to themselves to make the trek to this classic spot.
Crabill's Hamburger Shop, 727 Miami Street, Urbana, OH; 937-653-5133
The Destination: McGehee’s Catfish Restaurant, outside Marietta
How to Get There: Fly into their landing strip. Alternately, it’s about two hours by car or Harley from Oklahoma City or Dallas.
When to Go: Wednesday through Sunday.
One of the secrets of the Midwest is how many people fly their own small planes. Another is that once you have a Beechcraft or Cessna, there’s kind of nowhere to fly to — hey, it’s the Midwest. The result is a hidden subculture of out-of-the-way restaurants with their own landing strips, to give pilots somewhere to fly to and something to do once they get there. Even if your Cessna is just a Celica, it’s worth the trip to McGehee’s on the Texas-Oklahoma border for incredibly light and fresh fried catfish from their own catfish farm. The all-you-can-eat feast comes with the usual trimmings of hush puppies and cole slaw, plus spectacular views of the Red River valley — and the occasional landing or takeoff.
McGehee’s Catfish Restaurant, McGehee Rd, McGehee's Airstrip, Marietta, OK; 580-276-2751
The Destination:Hamley Steakhouse in Pendleton
How to GetThere: Pendleton is about four hours’ drive east of Portland, and flights directly to the town are also available.
When to Go: Early in the summer, before Eastern Oregon gets blazing hot.
What could be a more fitting side operation for a 100-plus-year-old leather saddle company than a steakhouse? The family behind Hamley & Co. leather goods opened this place in 2006, but it looks at least a century older than that. Special touches like a vintage bank wall, 18th-century cabinetry, and abundant gleaming wood lend an old-timey saloon feel. Prime steak is the draw, but don’t ignore the rest of the menu, with its “ranch cooking” including beef on a shingle, liver and onions, or Cowboy Calamari.
Hamley Steakhouse, 8 S.E. Court Ave., Pendleton, OR; 541-278-1100
The Destination: Dutch Haven in Ronks
How to Get There: Ronks is in the heart of Lancaster County, and about an 90-minute drive from Philadelphia.
When to Go: Anytime.
The Shoofly (or Shoo Fly) Pie reigns supreme: For the uninitiated, it’s essentially a pie with a deep, gooey molasses filling and crumb top. Some have thick crusts on the bottom, while others — wet-bottom — don’t. Dutch Haven, a kitschy tourist trap with all manner of Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish goods for sale, is certainly the best place for shoo fly newbs to start.
Dutch Haven, 2857A Lincoln Highway East, Ronks, PA; 717-687-0111
The Destination:Jim’s Dock in Wakefield
How to Get There: The seaside village is an hour drive south of Providence.
When to Go: Summertime. If they answer the phone, they’re open.
Jim’s Dock is a summertime tradition, a watering hole where vacationing villagers relax on the docks and watch fishermen catch the evening meal. Clam cakes, creamy New England clam chowder, lobster, and stuffed quahogs are staples — but check the board for specials. Sit outside as the boats come and go. Bring your own beer or wine.
Jim’s Dock, 1213 Succotash Rd., Wakefield, RI; 401-783-2050
The Destination:Gullah Grub on St. Helena IslandHow to Get There: St. Helena is right outside Beaufort, less than an hour from Hilton Head, and less than two from Charleston.
When to Go: The restaurant is open starting at noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It's open for brunch on Sundays.
Gullah cuisine is one of America's great hyper-regional specialities, a Lowcountry style of cooking with roots in African-American culture that hasn't changed in generations. The focus is on rice and stews, so it should come as little surprise that those are the specialities at Gullah Grub. Fish chowder and crab soup are their forte, and there's little reason to stray.
Gullah Grub, 877 Sea Island Parkway, St. Helena Island, SC; 843-838-3841
The Destination:Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis
How to Get There: Fly into Rapid City Airport and take the I-90 West about 40 miles to Sturgis. Do it riding a hog.
When to Go: The bar is only open for six days this year during the 72nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, running from August 6 to 12.
This 30-acre Black Hills encampment earned its patch as "America's Biggest Biker Bar," with roughly 15,000 visitors a night and enough bad behavior to fill its own reality show. Live acts (everyone from Molly Hatchet to Ice-T) vie for attention with wrestling exhibitions, a “wall of death,” freak shows, and burn-out pits, all fueled by a shit ton of booze.
Full Throttle Saloon, 12997 Sd Highway 34, Sturgis, SD; 605-423-4584
The Destination: Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City
How to Get There: Drive about three hours from Winston-Salem or and hour and a half from Asheville, passing through the Cherokee National Forest on either route.
When to Go: Lunch, and regulars know to call ahead.
In the woods behind this somewhat grubby, hard-to-locate 60-year-old restaurant sits a standalone shed where whole hams are slow-smoked over hickory wood for hours. They’re served piled with a mountain of French fries or nestled in an airy bun for a sandwich that easily feeds two hungry people. The red, vinegar-based sauce that douses the meat (and which you can buy in takeout containers) is slightly smoky, as are the somewhat legendary beans.
Ridgewood Barbecue, 900 Elizabethtown Hwy, Bluff City, TN; 423-538-7543
The Destination:De Happy Cajun in Pottsboro
How to Get There: Pottsboro is about an hour-and-a-half north of Dallas, on Oklahoma-border-spanning Lake Texoma.
When to Go: Lunch and early dinner (the place closes at 8 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. on weekends).
Cajun cuisine is common in southeast Texas close to the Louisiana border, but it's rarer up north. This homey little restaurant just a skip from Lake Texoma is decked cheerily with Mardi Gras kitsch and bottles of Louisiana hot sauce on the tables. All the better to spice up Cajun eats like shrimp étouffée, fried catfish, sweet-potato casserole, and yes, even popcorn-fried alligator.
De Happy Cajun, 5005 N. FM 120, Pottsboro, TX; 903-786-4909
The Destination:Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder
How to Get There: There's a reason this place feels remote: It's four-and-a-half hours' drive from Salt Lake City, and six from Las Vegas.
When to Go:The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner from mid-March through the end of November.
Boulder, Utah has an elevation of 7,000 feet and a population of 150, so it's not too surprising that this restaurant-farm is the town's biggest employer. Chef-owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding are committed to local-minded "Four Corners Cooking," growing much of their ingredient supply on-site and taking inspiration from surrounding traditions including Pueblo Indian and Southwestern cooking. That translates to dishes like Idaho trout pâté, New Mexican pork posole, and "Cowgal" meatloaf, accompanied by Utah craft brews and domestic wines.
Hell's Backbone Grill, No. 20 Highway 12, Boulder, UT; 435-335-7464
The Destination: P & H Truck Stop in Wells River
How to Get There: Drive down the I-91 through Vermont
When to Go: Anytime you want.
Vermont-born Seamus Mullen tells Grub Street that this is his favorite comfort food for those weekends back home. With the faint scent of diesel gas swirled with fresh-baked honey bread, it's no wonder the Truck Stop is quintessential Vermont. They're famous for their pies, especially the Vermont Maple Syrup pie — a true masterpiece of the form, right off the highway. It doesn't get more New England than this.
P & H, Route 302 and I-91, Exit 17 I-91, Wells River, VT; 802-429-2141
The Destination: A&J in Annandale
How to Get There: Annandale is 30 minutes south of Washington, D.C. via U.S. Route 395.
When to Go: Bright and early on the weekends, to avoid crowds.
A&J is a treasure lodged within a labyrinth of strip malls. Arrive early with a hungry horde to share vats of stinging noodle soups, wontons bobbing in crimson chile oil, and garlic-soaked tendons. No carts here, just a small paper menu and a pencil.
A&J, 4316B MarkhamSt., Annandale, VA; 703-813-8181
The Destination:Restaurant Marché on Bainbridge Island
How to Get There: The island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle, and the restaurant is two blocks from the ferry dock.
When to Go: Open year-round and serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Local celebrity Greg Atkinson, famous for putting Seattle's Canlis back on the map in the late nineties, returned to the culinary scene this spring with a dressy new bistro on the island he's called home for most of the last decade. He's doing a fairly simple menu of things like trout meunière, onion soup, and steak frites, but he says he wants people to "re-experience onion soup, reconsider steak frites," and that he wants the food at his new restaurant to be "not complicated, not necessarily unheard of, but revelatory." As food critic Bethany Jean Clement at The Stranger puts it simply, "Greg Atkinson rules."
Restaurant Marché, 150 Madrone Lane, Bainbridge Island, WA; 206-842-1633
The Destination:Little Serow in Washington, D.C.
How to Get There: It’s is a quick stroll east of the city’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, on a stretch lined with restaurants.
When to Go: For dinner, Tuesday through Saturday.
Flush from success with his Komi restaurant next door, Johnny Monis opened tiny Little Serow — “a passion project, pure and simple,” as co-owner Anne Marler tells Grub Street, and a testament to Monis’s love for the cuisine found in the Isan region of Thailand. “You really have to push your sleeves up and get hands-on with the food; you work up a sweat throughout the meal.” Expect extreme fire and family-style warmth for $45.
Little Serow, 1151 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C.; no phone
The Destination:Main dining room at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs
How to Get There: Greenbrier Valley is an hour and a half from Roanoke, Virginia, and and hour and 45 minutes from Charleston, West Virginia.
When to Go: Year-round. Temperatures average at a pleasant 85 in summer, spring and fall hold foliage appeal, and winter is marked by holiday celebrations.
The massive century-and-a-half-old colonial-style Greenbrier Resort houses many restaurants, but none more elegant than the main dining room, where a jacket is required for gentlemen, and a dress or evening suit must be worn by ladies. Green-and-crystal chandeliers sparkle from high ceilings while underneath, diners tuck into haute fare like wild-mushroom consomme and veal medallions with lobster, a far cry from the rustic, farm-to-table ethos that's overtaken many a dining scene of late; reservations recommended.
The Greenbrier, 300 W. Main St., White Sulphur Springs, WV; 855-729-3778.
The Destination:Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison
How to Get There: Find the state capitol; the market’s on all four sides.
When to Go: Saturday mornings year-round, Wednesdays in summer.
You could pay big bucks and attend one of those fancy cheese festivals where this or that is named the best cheese in the world. Or you could head to the capitol square in Madison on Saturday morning and meet many of the same cheesemakers personally handing out samples at Madison’s massive farmers' market, which fills all four sides of Capitol Square. (Don’t miss Bleu Mont and Hook’s; if there’s one you want that you don’t see, check the nearby Fromagination shop, which faces the square.) Beyond cheese, there’s every imaginable fruit and vegetable in season, local honey, mushrooms, beef jerky, fresh doughnuts, hippie arts and crafts, and who knows what all, a weekly tribute to the creativity, craftsmanship and sheer eccentricity at work all over the state.
Dane County Farmers’ Market On the Square
The Destination:Lisa’s Western Cuisine and Spirits in Greybull
How to Get There: A three-and-a-half-hour drive north of Casper, between Bighorn National Forest and Yellowstone National Park.
When to Go: Open year-round and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, but breakfast is only offered in the summer through Labor Day.
A popular pit stop for tourists trekking between Yellowstone and the Bighorn mountains, Lisa's Western Cuisine has been serving tired travelers a hearty mix of southwestern specialties, burgers, and steaks for almost 25 years. Owners Lisa and Brad Dalin say their restaurant is "a tribute to the original cowboy camp cook as well as the Native American way of cooking on our Western Plains," and they've earned legions of fans for their pork green chile and Indian fry bread, which comes either stuffed with eggs at breakfast or topped with whipped cream and fruit for dessert.
Lisa's Western Cuisine & Spirits, 200 Greybull Avenue, Greybull, WY; 307-765-4765