Dinner at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm.
Photo: Kreis Beall & Heather Anne Thomas/? 2008 Kreis Beall and Heather Anne Thomas +1 865-681-6128. All rights reserved unless specifically granted in writing
El Bulli may be closing its doors, but the concept of the food-lovers’ pilgrimage is hardly going with it. Some people say the journey is more important than the destination — Grub Street says the journey is bunk if there isn’t something tasty waiting at the end. When summer hits and the urge to skip town strikes, it’s especially tricky to shake the desire to seek out the most unique, interesting, and, yes, delicious, food around. That’s why Grub Street’s editors have come together and scoured the country (yes, the whole country) to find a destination in every state that is worthy of your food fanaticism — okay, two in California, since getting Grub Street’s San Francisco and L.A. editors to agree on just one place would have been an impossible task. As the Michelin Guide is fond of saying, every one of these stops is worth a special journey.
That doesn’t mean Grub Street just plucked 50 fancy places and called it a day: All around the country, “great” food can come in some seriously unexpected places. So whether that means a high-end farm resort nestled in the Smoky Mountains; a tour of the country’s best bourbon distilleries; or a way out of the way, hole-in-the-wall chicken shack that serves up some of the best birds in North Carolina, we’ve looked for restaurants, tours, festivals, resorts, and activities that are well worth any amount of time it takes to get there. (In some cases, that’s a lot of time.)
Each and every one of these food-centric destinations has something that our editors find undeniably appealing — so much so that you could say these spots are all must-visits for the elite eaters out there (if not for bucket list purposes, then certainly for bragging rights). Grub Street by no means endorses the idea of hitting all of these spots this summer (though if you do attempt the feat, by all means let us know), but no matter where you find yourself over the next few months, know that there’s a journey (and a great destination) waiting for you.
The destination:YaYa’s in Montevallo, AlabamaHow to Get There: The drive from Birmingham takes a little bit longer than half an hour.When to go: WeekendsYou can get Southern Fried Pies’ namesake desserts at scores of supermarkets and restaurants throughout Alabama. But if you want to get them as fresh as they can possibly be, you have to go to YaYa’s, a mobile kitchen on a pull-behind cart at Morris Crossing, an intersection roughly three miles from where they are made. YaYa’s turns out juicy burgers and tasty barbecue, but the main act here is really the deep-fat-fried, fruit-stuffed turnovers, including an apple-and-pear combo that remains the stand’s top seller. YaYa’s, State Hwy. 119 and County Rd. 22, Montevallo, AL; 205-612-8026
The destination:McCarthy Lodge in McCarthy, AlaskaHow to Get There: You’ll have to fly into McCarthy on Wrangell Mountain Air, or take the (very scenic!) 300-mile drive from Anchorage.When to go: May through September Even though the town’s population is 42, it’s still home to a fine-dining restaurant with a pedigreed chef, Joshua Slaughter, who’s done time in the kitchens at NY’s wd~50 and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. Talk about local sourcing: All the fish is caught by area fisherman Ralph Lohse, who provides the restaurant with halibut, black cod, and Copper River Red Salmon; and all their produce comes from local gardens. Of all the destination restaurants we know of around the world, this one definitely qualifies as the most remote, which is surely worth some extra foodie cred. McCarthy Lodge — rooms available at the attached Ma Johnson’s Hotel if you book way in advance; McCarthy Rd., McCarthy, AK; 907-554-4402
The destination: Ch’ihootso Indian Marketplace in Navajo Nation, Window Rock, ArizonaHow to Get There: It’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Flagstaff.When to go: The market is open daily.Here you have the option of roughly a dozen indoor food stands serving traditional Navajo cuisine. The best: what’s colloquially known as a Navajo taco. It’s a thick oval of Native American fried dough (called frybread) spread with beans and piled with taco staples like cheese, ground beef or mutton, onions, green chilies, and tomatoes. More traditional Navajo meals, like the ones you’ll find at brother-and-sister-owned Chuck Wagon BBQ, center on mutton, with servings of mutton stew, lamb ribs, and various preparations of lamb and goat available.The Ch’ihootso Indian Market; NW corner of Hwy. 264 and Navajo Rt. 12.; Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ
The destination:The Ozark Cafe in Jasper, ArkansasHow to Get There: It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Little Rock.When to go: Chances are, it will be hot around here all summer, but do keep in mind that July is National Ice Cream Month.We agree that this is a long way to go for a burger and a soda, but it’s necessary, since there’s little else like the patty served at this 101-year-old eatery. Belly up to the wooden counter and order a deep-fried burger. That’s right: The patty itself is battered and fried before being slapped on a bun and topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. It’s a gut-buster (especially if you wash it down with one of Ozark’s excellent floats), but if you’re traveling this far for a burger, why would you want anything less? Ozark Cafe, 107 East Court St. Jasper, AR; 870-446-2976
The destination:Anderson Valley Wine Tasting in Mendocino County, CaliforniaHow to Get There: The heart of the valley is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco.When to go: Year-round, though you’re more likely to catch harvest action between September and October.Everyone knows the Napa Valley is overrun with tourists. Anyone who wants a truly relaxed and lovely wine tasting experience these days should head a little further north, to the Anderson Valley. Our favorite spots there include Navarro, which specializes in Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir; Husch, which makes excellent whites, Zinfandels, and Pinots as well; and Esterlina Vineyards, a tiny mom-and-pop operation where the back deck offers panoramic views of the entire valley. Anderson Valley; take Hwy. 128 west from 101-N. Self-guided tours are probably the best, but if you’d prefer to be shuttled and guided, the folks at Anderson Valley Wine Tour can take care of you. And the Boonville Hotel offers some cozy casual rooms starting at $125 per night.
The destination: Stone’s Brewery’s summer of craft beer.How to Get There: The event site is a 45-minute drive from San Diego and a little less than two hours from Los Angeles.When to go: A VIP Brewer’s reception is held on the evening of Friday, August 19, while the festival itself is held during two three-hour sessions on Saturday, August 20.Of course you can always visit Stone’s gorgeous World Bistro and Garden in Escondido, but Stone Brewery’s 15th Anniversary party will be the real summer event for anyone swept up in SoCal’s craft brewing craze. Held on the campus of Cal State San Marcos (to contain the crowds), Saturday’s main event will be split into two sessions, where a $40 ticket will give guests the chance to taste brews from more than 40 guest breweries, including Lagunitas, Green Flash, and Lost Coast. Real diehards can spend $70 for tickets to both sessions.Stone Brewing Co.’s 15th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival; 333 South Twin Oaks Valley Rd., San Marcos, CA; 760-750-4000
The destination:Oxford Gardens in Boulder, ColoradoHow to Get There: The farm is just outside of central Boulder, easily reachable by car off the Denver-Boulder Turnpike (Interstate 36).When to go: June 9 to September 4, specific dates hereThere are a number of seasonal, farm-to-table events in and around Boulder all summer, but in-the-know locals are especially in love with the casual-yet-elaborate ones that Meadow Lark Farm hosts at the private Oxford Gardens, where the dinner table is surrounded by growing arugula and mizuna, hidden behind a row of trees. The 35-guest dinners feature guest chefs from the area and special themes, and there’s an excellent-sounding TBA beer-pairing dinner coming up. Yes, it’s all quaint, charming, and oh-so-trendy, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing. Reservations open about a month in advance, with six on the schedule right now. Oxford Gardens, 3657 Hazelwood Ct., Boulder, CO. Join the Meadow Lark mailing list to be notified when reservations open; the nearby Boulder Marriott has rooms starting at around $240.
The destination: Italian food in Torrington, ConnecticutHow to Get There: Torrington is approximately two hours north of New York City.When to Go: Whenever the mood strikes!The setting is straight out of American Graffiti, but the reason to visit is the town’s deeply rooted Italian population and its killer Italian food. The Venetian is an old-timey, white-linen-tablecloth hangout that’s been around for generations. You’ll want to ask for the gnocchi. Everyone there is lovely. Carbone’s Market (221 Oak Ave.) is the go-to for gigantic grinders; locals swear by it. Pizzeria Marzano slings authentic Neapolitan-style pizza perfectly blistered by an 800-degree oven; ignore the strip mall setting and savor the texture of the dough. Meanwhile, insiders know to head to the Berkshire Café (71 Albert St.) for even more terrific bar pizza and people-watching; the patrons are exceedingly crusty. You’ll want to end your night here. Stop at Lombardi’s (177 E. Main St.) on your way out of town to grab some pastries for the ride back.
The destination: Sambo’s Tavern in Leipsic, DelawareHow to get there: If you can’t dock your boat in the Leipsic river, just do the 90-minute drive from Philly.When to go: When the crabs are in season, April through October The Chesapeake Bay gets all of the attention when it comes to crabs, but this tiny, seasonal spot — originally founded by Samuel “Sambo” Burrows and overlooking the Leipsic River — definitely deserves your attention. While you can get the steamed Delaware Bay crabs ($40 for a dozen) covered in Maryland’s signature Old Bay, regulars know to order theirs with Sambo’s top-secret homemade seasoning, coarse with salt. It still lets all of that great crab flavor shine, but remains sharp enough to make a pitcher of beer sound extra refreshing.Sambo’s Tavern; 283 Front St.; 302-674-9724
The destination:Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs, FloridaHow to Get There: Day-trip it from Tampa (about 45 minutes east) or Clearwater (about 30 minutes south). When to go: Whenever they are making beer (call ahead). Rather than bore you with brewer babble about mash tuns and yeast strains, brewer Bob Sylvester and his wife Anne — the two only full-time employees here — put you to work on their bottling line when you pay them a visit. With every batch of artisan ales brewed, the two need anywhere from six to ten helping hands to fill, cork, and package the bottles. In return, volunteers get a free lunch of pizza and sandwiches from one of Tarpon Springs’s best Italian-Greek restaurants (it’s the second largest Greek community in the U.S.), and six bottles of Saint Somewhere Ales. And we’re not talking about just any old sixer of suds! These are 750-milliliter bottles of highly coveted, handcrafted, and bottle-conditioned Belgian-style ales. Saint Somewhere Brewing Company; 1441 Savannah Ave., Unit E, Tarpon Springs, FL; 813-503-6181
The destination:AthensHow to Get There: Road trip! This college town, home to the University of Georgia (and where REM got their start), is in the northeast corner of the state. Most people fly into Atlanta, which is an hour-plus west.When to Go: All summer long. School’s out!We kind of wish we’d attended the University of Georgia, simply because the food in Athens is so good. A few picks: Hugh Acheson’s Five & Ten (yep, that’s Hughnibrow from Top Chef Masters). Soul food with French and Italian influences is what you’ll find. He’s also behind the National, a lush Mediterranean-inspired wine bar next door to Cine, the city’s well-loved indie movie house. Farm 225 has homegrown Mediterranean and Southern food (the owners have a five-acre biodynamic farm), a daily rotating menu, and live music. And White Tiger Gourmet has killer pecan-wood-smoked pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches. Finally, don’t leave without trying Cali n Titos (1427 S. Lumpkin St.), where fish tacos are the big attraction.
The destination:The original loco moco in Hilo, HawaiiHow to Get There: You’ll have to fly into the airport at Hilo. From there, you’ll need a car.When to go: As long as you can stand the tropical heat, these places are open all summer.Los Angeles’s Animal initiated our irrepressible appetite for loco moco with its foie-gras-topped decadence. But to revel in the roots of a dish that can be found just about anywhere in Hawaii, one must venture to the town of Hilo on the Big Island, where the weighty dish of rice smothered in a burger patty, fried egg, and gravy is said to have originated. In fact, one place that lays claim to being a loco progenitor is Café 100, still popular for its low prices and long menu of loco toppings like linguica, chili, and ahi. From there, head to Hawaiian Style Café, another magnet for moco maniacs, who come for huge portions and the Spam-laced “Big Mok.” Then, if you’re feeling fancy, hit up The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s restaurant Pahu i`a for a dressed-up version with sirloin, lobster fried rice, and shiitake gravy.Cafe 100; 969 Kilauea Ave. Hilo, HI 96744; 808-935-8683 (Closed Sundays) Hawaiian Style Cafe; 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd. Kamuela, HI. 96743; 808-885-4295Pahu i`a at The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai;72-100 Ka`upulehu Dr. Kailua-Kona; 808-325-8343Photo: James Rubio
The destination: A potato vodka tourHow to Get There: Driving — so you’ll want to make sure somebody is willing to be the designated driver.When to go: Year roundA potato farm tour of Idaho would be about as fun as a root canal, but a potato vodka tour? That’s something we can get behind! Even though it’s a tasteless spirit, distiller Greg Koenig insists that you can tell when vodka comes from a potato. “Potato vodka has a wonderful viscosity or velvety mouth feel,” he says, “a smoothness that’s unattainable by using other types of starch.” From there, you can head to Boise to try Bardenay potato vodka and gin, and eat at the restaurant attached to the distillery. And also be sure to taste Teton Glacier and Blue Ice vodka, both based in Rigby, Idaho (though the company, Distilled Resources, Inc., doesn’t have a formal tasting room at this time). Koenig Distillery and Winery, 20928 Grape Ln., Caldwell, ID; 307-455-2115; open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for tastings and tours Bardenay Distillery and Restaurant, 610 Grove St., Boise, ID; 208-426-0538;The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise has rooms starting at $139.
The destination:17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois How to Get There: Though it’s way off the interstate, St. Louis is only a two-hour drive away. When to go: Open all summer, Monday through Saturday There are barbecue gurus, life coaches, and enthusiasts, but there is only one “Legend,” and that’s Mike Mills. He and his Apple City Barbecue team were the first Northerners to win Memphis in May — the so-called Super Bowl of Swine — and were one of the first teams to smoke over apple wood (hence the name). Mills went on to dominate the competition barbecue circuit for years before becoming a partner in New York’s Blue Smoke. He’s also opened a few restaurants in Las Vegas, but if you want to see where it all began, there is perhaps no better barbecue pilgrimage than a visit to the original 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro. Mills admitted that the location was “better know for its beverages” when he bought it in 1985, but it now serves competition-quality ‘cue six days a week. 17th Street Bar & Grill, 214 N. 17th St., Murphysboro, IL; 618-684-3722Photo: David Grunfeld
The destination:Indiana Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana How to Get There: Whiting is actually closer to Chicago than Gary, making this an easy 30-minute drive from the Loop if you take I-90. When to go: July 29 through 31 Sandwiched between the industrial South Side of Chicago and the even-more-industrial Gary, Indiana, you wouldn’t guess that Whiting — with a population of approximately 5,000 — would have much to offer in the food department. But the last weekend of every July, the town swells to around 200,000 to honor Eastern-European culture and, of course, celebrate that pillowy little potato dumpling. There are also bands, polka parades, and a huge beer garden, but most people are simply here for the pierogis. One can enter a pierogi-eating contest and even a pierogi toss. Just make sure to get your picture taken with Mr. Pierogi as he makes the rounds. Indiana Pierogi Fest, 119th St. in Downtown Whiting, IN; 219-659-0292
The destination: Loose-meat-sandwich tour: Sioux City, Des Moines, and MarshalltownHow to Get There: Break up the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Sioux City to Ottumwa into two days, staying overnight in Des Moines (where, naturally, some great loose meat awaits you)When to go: AnytimeSomewhere between a sloppy Joe and a crumbly hamburger, loose-meat sandwiches are Iowa’s unofficial state food. Start your tour at the Miles Inn in Sioux City, where the main concern inside the sturdy brick digs is throwing back beers, but where the only thing to eat, the “Charlie Boy,” an American-cheese-laced loose-meat sandwich, is legendary. Or set off for Des Moines (roughly three hours away) and head to George the Chili King, where the sandwich is laced with a little bit of chili. Then head to an original Maid-Rite outlet in Marshalltown. The shop grinds its meat daily and hasn’t changed the signature sandwich much since it opened in 1928 — except that now you can get ketchup if you want it.Miles Inn, 2622 Leech Ave., at S. Linn St., Sioux City, IA; 712-276-9625George the Chili King, 5722 Hickman Rd, at Merklin Way, Des Moines, IA; 515-277-9433Taylor’s Maid-Rite, 106 S. 3rd Ave., nr. E. Church St., Marshalltown, IA; 641-753-9684
The destination:Schloegel’s Woodyard Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, KansasHow to get there: It’s a quick drive from the other Kansas City (in Missouri), or about an hour from Topeka.When to go: Any day except Sunday It’s no secret that this is a part of the country known for its barbecue, but this smoky sanctorum is best known for something you don’t see many other places: its burnt-end-topped chili, as ideal an application for the brisket points as we’ve ever even heard of. The other novel twist here: If you want to re-create the experience with your own smoker, the Woodyard (true to its name) also sells bags of any kind of wood you could possibly want: apple, pecan, pear, peach, cherry, oak, and hickory. Schloegel’s Woodyard Bar-B-Que; 3001 Merriam Ln., Kansas City, KS; 913-362-8000
The destination:The Kentucky Bourbon Trail!How to Get There: You’ll be driving, so make sure you’ve got a teetotaler willing to be your chauffeur.When to Go: Anytime you’re in the moodIt wouldn’t be too difficult to chart your own tour of Kentucky’s distilleries, but why bother when the Kentucky Distillers’ Association has done the work for you? Just head for the official site to get all the info you need to plan your pilgrimage to America’s boozy Promise Land. That said, adding a few more stops to the bare-bones list wouldn’t be a bad idea: We’d suggest adding Buffalo Trace to the itinerary. If you need something to eat to soak up all that booze, you’ll want to hit up the Brown Hotel in Louisville and grab one of their signature mornay-and-bacon-laden Hot Browns.Buffalo Trace Distillery, 113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY; 502-696-5926The Brown Hotel, 335 West Bwy, Louisville, KY; 502-583-1234
The destination:Mosca’s Restauarnt in Avondale, LouisanaHow to Get There: Avondale is a quick twenty minutes southwest of New Orleans.When to go: Anytime — except Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant is closed.Situated on a deserted stretch of highway deep in the bayou, Mosca’s white clapboard exterior doesn’t look like much — in fact, if you arrive after dark, there’s a sinister cast to the glowing neon sign. The 65-year-old family-owned restaurant is rumored to have once been a mob hangout, but these days you’re more likely to find food-crazed locals and out-of-towners, who make the drive from Crescent City for the spectacular Creole-Italian cooking. Mosca’s menu is simple and heavy on the garlic. Don’t come unless you’ve got 45 minutes to wait for the joint’s slow-cooked specialties: breadcrumb- and Parmesan-covered fresh Gulf Oysters Mosca; rosemary-flecked Chicken à la Grande, each order made with ten whole garlic cloves; and herb-flecked Shrimp Mosca, with an equal number of cloves. If you’re lucky, while you wait for those you might be able to dig into the famous Louisiana shrimp-and-crab-meat salad.Mosca’s Restaurant, 4137 U.S. Hwy. 90 W., nr. Live Oak Blvd., Avondale, LA; 504-436–8950; reservations recommended
The destination:Flo’s Hot Dogs in Cape Neddick, MaineHow to Get There: Cape Neddick is about 90 minutes north of Boston along US 1.When to Go: Open every day except Wednesday, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.People stand in line for hours just to inhale a half dozen or so of Flo’s snappy hot dogs. They’re laced with the most addictive sweet-spicy relish we’ve ever tried. (It’s a top-secret recipe, although it is now sold by the jar for you to enjoy at home.) When it’s finally your turn, mayo and relish is the way to go. (Request ketchup and everyone will know you’re from out of town.) There’s nowhere to sit, save a handful of stools, so you’ll take your boxed lunch back to your car or to a nearby picnic table in the craggy side yard. And then get in line all over again for more.Flo’s Hot Dogs, US 1, Cape Neddick, ME
The destination:Tilghman Island in Tilghman Island, MarylandHow to Get There: Unless you have a boat, you’re driving. The nearest city is Anapolis (about 90 minutes west); or the island is about two hours from Delaware’s beach resorts. When to go: Anytime, really, but there’s a Seafood Fest on June 25 and Tilghman day on October 15. Known as the “Pearl of Chesapeake” and the “Home of Maryland’s Seafood Industry,” Tilghman Island, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, is completely surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay (you have to cross a drawbridge to get there) and is a sanctuary for seafood lovers. Crabs and oysters take center stage here, but all manner of edible fish make seasonal runs through these waters. June’s seafood festival, held at the town’s Kronsberg Park, includes hard crab races, live music and a contest to name Little Miss and Miss Tilghman Island. Throughout the day, bushel upon bushel of fresh-picked crabs are steamed to order. Come back in October for Tilghman Day and eat your fill of local oysters. Both festivals are sponsored by the Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Co. and held across the street from the fire house in Kronsberg Park.Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Co., 5996 Tilghman Island Rd., Tilghman, MD; 410-886-2677
The destination:Woodman’s of Essex in Essex, MassachusettsHow to get there: Essex is a quick drive from Gloucester and about 40 miles outside of Boston.When to go: All summer long, but July 3You don’t have to be a New Englander to know that summer on the East Coast should mean at least a few fried-clam feasts. And if you’re going to do it, you may as well go to the restaurant that claims to have invented them, 95 years ago this July 3. Normally we’d chalk a gimmick like that up to something from a tourist trap. But everyone owes it to themselves to try the corn-flour-coated “chubby’s Original” fried clams here. Plump and crispy, they’re exactly what every “summah” calls for. Woodman’s of Essex, 121 Main St., Essex, MA; 978-768-6057
The destination:The Cherry Hut in Beulah, MichiganHow to Get There: The nearest cities are Traverse City (about 30 minutes east) and Grand Rapids (about two and a half hours south).When to go: May 7 through October 23This seasonal restaurant — only open during the summer — really is just about smack dab in the middle of nowhere (actually, it’s more like off to the upper-western corner of nowhere). But it’s also in the middle of Michigan’s booming, much-underappreciated cherry country, where it’s been at its current location since 1937. (The first incarnation, a roadside stand, opened in 1922.) So what makes it worth the haul? The place is essentially a diner straight out of a movie that might also make mention of drag racing and sock hops — in other words, the real-deal version of a kind of romanticized Americana. It’s also about as unassuming and unpretentious as a restaurant can be. But of course the real draw is the food, and the order here should be obvious: Anything and everything with plump, fresh Michigan cherries in it. That means outstanding cherry pie à la mode, refreshing cherry-ade, luscious cherry sundaes, and the Mondays-only special of cherry-barbecued pork.The Cherry Hut, 211 N. Michigan Ave. (US 31), Beulah, MI; 231-882-4431
The destination:SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota How to Get There: Driving from the Twin Cities is probably the best option (both Minneapolis and St. Paul are about two hours directly north). When to go: Open all summer, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Noon to 5 p.m. We don’t want to demean all of the great food that Minnesota offers, but we can’t help ourselves here: It’s a Spam museum! Okay, you may not have the soft spot for tinned meat that we do, but we’ll still make the case that it’s worth a trek halfway across the Upper Midwest to see where most of the Spam in the world is made. There are the superficial reasons, like the wall of Spam, the immense collection of memorabilia, and as many free samples as you can stomach. But the best part of the museum is that it doesn’t shy away from the factory side of things. You can can also practice canning your very own can of Spam, making this trip unique, if nothing else. They don’t call Austin, Minnesota, “Spam Town USA” for nothing. SPAM Museum, 1101 N. Main St., Austin, MN; 1-800-LUV-SPAM
The destination:Taylor Grocery and Restaurant in Taylor, MississippiHow to Get There: Day-trip it from Memphis (about 90 minutes to the north) or Tupelo (about an hour to the east). Lodging is available in nearby Oxford (about twenty minutes north).When to go: Thursdays through Sundays all summer longNestled in the northwestern part of the country’s catfish capital state is the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it little town of Taylor, where not much goes on. But you can get what’s regarded as the best whole, deep-fat-fried catfish available anywhere. And the unlikely location for this Magnolia State delicacy is a tiny, seemingly ramshackle Taylor Grocery and Restaurant, a dry-goods store turned fry house originally built in 1889. But no matter how remote it seems, you’d better be prepared to wait, because they don’t take reservations. Taylor Grocery and Restaurant, 4 County Rd. 338, Oxford, MS; 662-236-1716
The destination:Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MissouriHow to Get There: It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive due south of St. Louis.When to go: You’ll find shorter waits at the no-reservations restaurant during the week; on weekends. the cavernous digs tend to get jammed with tour groups.Though beloved for its huge portions of quality down-home fare, this family-run, 70-year-old restaurant is best known for its “throwed rolls.” Rumor has it one day in 1976 a customer found himself far away from the employee passing out the fresh-baked buttery hot rolls and asked the guy to toss him one, spawning a tradition that’s lasted ever since. In addition to flying bread, you can tuck into enormous pork chops, plate-size chicken-fried steaks, Mississippi catfish, and all-you-can-eat free “pass arounds” (fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, those projectile rolls, and more). The dining room is jammed with old-timey country memorabilia adorning each surface, and it easily accommodates groups, making it a popular tour bus pit stop (you’ve been warned) — so popular that Lambert’s now has additional locations in Ozark, Missouri, and Foley, Alabama.Lambert’s Cafe, 2305 E. Malone, Sikeston, MO; 573-471-4261
The destination:Cattle Baron Supper Club and Babb Bar in Babb, MontanaHow to Get There: Plane, train, or automobile: Babb is about 200 miles or a three-plus-hour drive north from Helena. You can take Amtrak to the east entrance of Glacier National Park, and you can also fly into the tiny Babb airport, which is just moments away from the Canadian border.When to go: It’s high-season all summer long.The reason you go to the Cattle Baron Supper Club is the rib-eye steak. Huge and juicy, it got called the “fastest disappearing steak” by Maxim, and it keeps locals and tourists to Glacier National Park coming back for more. This Native-American-owned bar and restaurant on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is also known as one of the rowdiest places in the nation, with a volatile mix on any given night of National Park employees, bikers, Canadians, and both native and non-native Americans. So, it’s a dude destination where you’re just as likely to witness a fistfight as you are to get your fill of fresh Montana beef. And for a lot of dudes, that sounds just about perfect. Cattle Baron Supper Club, Hwy. 89, Babb, MT; 406-732-4033
The destination:Kool-Aid Days in Hastings, Nebraska How to Get There: Hastings is about two hours west of Lincoln, and two and a half hours from Omaha. When to go: August 12 through 14 Stick with us here: Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings way back in 1927 by Edwin Perkins, and while the production facility quickly moved to Chicago in 1931, the town has remained incredibly loyal to the powdered drink. Ever since 1998, the town has hosted an annual three-day celebration, and last year’s event attracted over 40,000 sugar addicts. The hyperactive festival features a boat race, parade, something called a “Giant Inflatables & Kool-Aid Mini-Railroad,” a Kahuna Beach Party, and even fireworks. When you get tired, grab a cup and sample from the bounty of the world’s largest Kool-Aid stand, which includes over fourteen different flavors. Oh, and you better believe the Kool-Aid man will be there. Oh yeah!Kool-Aid Days, W. 5th St. & N. Hastings Ave., Hastings, NE; 402-461-8405
The destination: An off-strip dining tour of Las Vegas.How to Get There: You’ll want to rent a car (or drive your own) once you’re in Las Vegas.When to Go: Anytime, but we’d suggest going before summer temperatures spike to Death Valley levels.Believe it or not, there are plenty of great spots off the strip, and Lotus of Siam is one of the best (and the most heavily trafficked). Chef and owner Saipin Chutima is even celebrating her recent James Beard win for Best Chef Southwest. Of course, visiting one well-known restaurant is hardly a tour. Instead, make Lotus the starting point of an entire off-strip Asian-dining run and grab hand-pulled Taiwanese noodles at Noodle Pot, as well as prize-winning ramen at Monta. You’re bound to encounter few tourists as these spots, though you may see one or two locals using the rich, deeply flavored food to nurse, you guessed it, a hangover.Lotus of Siam, 953 East Sahara Ave. # A5; 702-735-3033Noodle Pot, 4215 Spring Mountain Rd.; 702-522-8989Monta Japanese Noodle House, 5030 Spring Mountain Rd.; 702-367-4600
The destination:Petey’s Summertime Seafood in Rye, New HampshireHow to Get There: Rye is a bit less than 90 minutes north of Boston; Petey’s is perched on Route 1A right along the seacoast.When to go: Despite the name, Petey’s is open year-round. It’s busiest on weekend evenings.First off, this place has the most delicious lobster bisque we’ve ever tried. Brothy, frothy, slightly creamy, replete with healthy chunks of lobster bobbing for attention. Fried food is magically greaseless; a fried seafood dinner is the way to go, flimsy plate quaking with heaps of fries and coleslaw. Bear in mind that mixed drinks are served in little plastic cups, the noise level is routinely deafening, and you will jockey for table space with hordes of motorcyclists — it’s a big biker hangout. But even the most intimidating Harley driver is reduced to humbleness by the majesty of their great equalizer: a perfectly bulbous fried clam.Petey’s Summertime Seafood, 1323 Ocean Blvd. (1A), Rye, NH; 603-433-1937
The destination:White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City, New JerseyHow to Get There: You’re in luck: This one’s in central Atlantic City, a few blocks from the water in any direction.When to go: Weekdays and off hours are the best times to go, though you’re apt to find a line at all times.There’s a reason White House’s subs have been shipped all over the world and enjoyed by countless celebrity clients: The sandwich shop serves two-foot-long subs stuffed with thick slices of cheese and cold cuts on bread that’s likely to be still warm. Best known are the “Special,” packed with Genoa salami, ham, capicola, provolone, olive oil, lemon, and sweet peppers, and the cheesesteak, a simple combination of round steak, fried onions, and provolone. As anyone can tell you, it’s the bread — delivered up to twelve times daily from Formica Brothers, down the street — that makes these submarines so, so good. The well-seasoned surroundings don’t hurt either: The 65-year-old corner joint beckons with a neon sign depicting a delicious-looking sub, and inside are cheery orange booths and a long lunch counter, if you can stand to wait long enough to nab a seat.White House Sub Shop, 2301 Arctic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ; 609-345-1564
The destination:The 40th Annual Hatch Chili Festival in Hatch, New MexicoHow to Get There: Hatch is about a four-hour drive from Santa Fe.When to Go: September 3 to 4Every year, almost 30,000 people head to the tiny town of Hatch to gorge on the local specialty: chilis. This year marks four decades of the fest, which makes the entire village smell like roasting peppers, and almost 100 vendors will be on hand for the extremely popular two-day celebration. But the real highlight is the annual chili-eating contest (this year it will be held at 1:15 p.m. on the 3rd), where contestants slurp down as many peppers as possible!Downtown Hatch; 575-267-5050, for more information
The destination:Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New YorkHow to Get There: Your main choice is to head north from New York City (the drive takes about four hours), or strike out from Boston, about four and a half hours east.When to Go: All summerThe big event here is the bucolic brewery’s annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival, but tickets for that go almost immediately. (Though you can still probably find some tickets around — for a price.) The weird thing is, that festival turns the bucolic brewery into drunk-central. We think it’s actually nicer (and more relaxed) during the rest of the summer, when a trip up yields daily tours and regular events that complement the brewery’s amazing selection of Belgian-style beers. Oh, and you can always swing by the baseball Hall of Fame while you’re at it.Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Hwy. 33, Cooperstown, NY; 800-544-1809
The destination: Keaton’s Barbecue in Cleveland, North CarolinaHow to Get There: It’s about an hour’s drive from Charlotte.When to Go: Keaton’s open for lunch on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as dinner on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays.We may as well just say it: This place is dingy. But in a state saturated with amazing fried chicken, the preparation here is is one of a kind. That’s because all the chicken here gets a soak in the restaurant’s signature hot sauce. It’s moist, it’s crispy, and it’s super spicy. Even better: Half a bird will only run you $6.75.Keaton’s Barbecue, 17365 Cool Springs Rd., Cleveland, NC; 704-278-1619
The destination:Norsk Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota How to Get There: Have a plane? Just kidding, but no interstate comes anywhere near it. Bismarck (about two hours south) is sort of close. When to go: September 27 through October 1As you can probably imagine, the country’s largest Scandinavian festival proclaims that you “won’t find such a wide variety of authentic Scandinavian food anywhere else in North America.” To be sure, you’ll be able to gorge yourself silly on Swedish meatballs, lingonberry jam, and even something called Viking-on-a-stick. Still, this festival has a strange pull and this year has managed to bring over Norwegian chef Geir Skeie, the winner of the 2009 Bocuse d’Or. He’ll be cooking up a $50 World Champion Dinner, featuring pan-fried diver scallops and roasted cod loin. Those looking for a cheaper option, should opt for his $10 sampler platter. Norsk Høstfest; Minot, ND; 701-852-2368
The destination:Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, OHHow to Get There:The closest cities are Cleveland (about an hour east) and Toledo (about an hour west).When to go: July 16 for the all-star Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration; May through October; check the schedule for Earth to Table Dinners Farmer Lee Jones founded the Chef’s Garden way back in 1983, and he continues to forge relationships with top culinary talent through his nonprofit nutritional education offshoot, the Culinary Vegetable Institute (a.k.a. Veggie U), which was founded in 2003. Jean-Louis Palladin, Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller are just a few of the chefs the farm works with. Even Ferran Adrià has been known to visit while traveling in the U.S. Throughout spring, summer, and fall, Veggie U teams up many of its celeb-chef clients to host monthly Earth to Table feasts and its annual gala fund-raiser, Food & Wine Celebration, which takes place this year on July 16. This year’s participants include Ruth Reichl, Aaron Sanchez, Jonathon Sawyer, and Amanda Freitag. Veggie U, 12304 Ohio Rt. 13 in Milan, OH; 419-499-7500
The destination: Fried Chicken at Eischen’s Bar in Okarche, OklahomaHow to Get There: The bar is about an hour’s drive outside of Oklahoma City.When to Go: Daily, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.Oklahoma’s oldest restaurant (it opened in 1896) is also one of its more remote. But, as one native Oklahoman told us, “the fun part is the drive out there.” Of course, the case can be made that the fun part is the outstanding fried chicken served at the restaurant. It’s so popular that the owners tell us they rarely serve anything but. Unless, of course, you count the equally popular (and equally loved) fried okra.Eischen’s Bar, 108 S. 2nd St., Okarche, Oklahoma; 405-263-9939
The destination:SakéOne Saké Brewery in Forest Grove, OregonHow to Get There: Forest Grove is about a 45-minute drive southwest of Portland.When to go: The third Saturday of each month is Saketini Saturday, where guests learn how to make sake cocktails; in August, the annual Pacific Rim Festival celebrates Japanese food, crafts, performance, and, of course, sake.Oregon’s Willamette valley is best known for wine, but it also happens to be home to country’s only kura (brewery) for junmai ginjo (premium) sake. Founded in 1992 by Greg Lorenz, SakeOne now produces a dozen varieties of sake. Free tours of the kura (at 1, 2, and 3 p.m. daily) teach guests about rice milling and the water used in sake as well as the mold known as “koji” that’s instrumental in fermentation. Sample the finished products in the tasting room: Flights start at $3, and for $10 you’ll get to pair various sakes with complementary foods. SakeOne, 820 Elm St. (off Hwy. 47), Forest Grove, OR; 503-357-7056
The destination:Utz Snacks in Hanover, PennsylvaniaHow to Get There: The nearest cities are Harrisburg (about and hour to the north), Gettysburg (about 20 minutes to the west) and York (about 30 minutes to the east). When to go: Whenever the mood strikes. Tours are run regularly between 8 a.m and 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Call to arrange tours on Fridays. Iconic snack-maker Utz (their potato chips are prominently featured in the break-room vending machine on The Office) is located in York County, which dubiously proudly touts itself as the “Factory Tour Capital of the World.” Based on the concentration of snack-food manufacturers located in close proximity to Utz, maybe “Junk Food Capital of the World” is more fitting. And we mean that in the best possible sense! So don’t stop with Utz: York County is also home to Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, Martin’s Potato Chips, Revonah Pretzels, Snyder’s of Hanover, Turkey Hill Ice Cream, Wolfgang Candy Company, and Hershey’s! And what that all means is you’ll likely develop a cavity from consuming tasty treats long before you run out of snack-factory tours. The York County Convention & Visitors Bureau website lists all of the factory tours currently offered.Utz Snacks, 900 High St., Hanover, PA; 717-637-6644
The destination:Twin Oaks Restaurant in Cranston, Rhode IslandHow to Get There: The nearest cities are Providence (about four miles north) and Boston (an hour or so north). When to go: Any day but Monday, when it’s closed.Twin Oaks started out as a speakeasy in 1928 and operated till federal agents caught on. Later that year, the DeAngelus family decided to open a less risky enterprise: a restaurant. The same family runs Twin Oaks today. Here you’ll find six cavernous dining rooms that seat 650 people. How do they fill ‘em? With massive portions of very good, pleasantly kitschy tributes to Americana. This is the type of place your parents took you when you were a kid. That means Yankee fare grandma would approve of (liver-n-onions, baked scrod) and of course that Rhode Island specialty — quahog pie. There are surely fancier restaurants in the Providence area, and certainly more innovative ones. But for sheer atmosphere and nostalgia, you just can’t beat Twin Oaks.Twin Oaks, 100 Sabra St., Cranston, RI; 401-781-9693Photo: Aaron Usher III/Aaron Usher III
The destination:82 Queen Restaurant in Charleston, South CarolinaHow to Get There: Your best option is to fly to Charleston, or Savannah, GeorgiaWhen to go: Late Spring and early summer, when the she-crabs are plump and still full of roeA true lowcountry delicacy and clearly the signature dish of Charleston, she-crab soup’s roots trace back to a dinner prepared for President William Howard Taft at the turn of the twentieth century. To spruce up an ordinary bisque-y, chowder-y crab soup native to the region, an enterprising chef decided to add the bright-orange roe from fertile female blue claws, giving it a colorful appearance and a deeper, richer flavor. Today one of the best and most authentic renditions of this coastal South Carolina staple can be found at 82 Queen, a gorgeous restaurant that dates back to the 1700s, located in Charleston’s historic French Quarter. You’ll have to dress up, but we promise it will be worth it.82 Queen, 82 Queen St.; Charleston, SC; 843-723-7591
The destination:Dutch Oven Cook-off at the South Dakota Outdoor Expo in Huron, South DakotaHow to Get there: Huron is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sioux Falls.When to Go: June 11The ancient cast-iron Dutch ovens of our country’s pioneering days have never gone out of style around here, as proven by a cooking competition that sees enthusiasts even appearing with Dutch Oven crews with badass names like the Black Hills Dutchers, and competitors named things like Lucky and the Wagon Master. Categories include breads, main dishes, and desserts, and public sampling is allowed. (Hunters, meanwhile, are encouraged to bring anything with “fins, fur, or feathers,” for their own wild-game cook-off.)South Dakota State Fairgrounds, 890 3rd St. SW, Huron, SD. Admission to the expo, and camping on the grounds, are both free.
The destination:Blackberry Farm in Walland, TennesseeHow to Get There: The nearest airport is McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, a roughly 25-minute drive.When to Go: All summer, but check the full calendar of this summer’s events for specific information.This super-luxe resort in the Smokey Mountains offers all sorts of rich-people activities: horseback riding, fly-fishing trips, and the like. But what you’ll want to do is take part in the “Life on the Farm” circuit. You can tour the farm with John Coykendall, even helping to pick the produce that you can enjoy later that night at one of the resort’s high-end restaurant, which is called, appropriately, the Barn.Blackberry Farm, 1472 West Millers Cove Rd., Walland; 800-557-8864
Photo: Kreis Beall & Heather Anne Thomas/? 2008 Kreis Beall and Heather Anne Thomas +1 865-681-6128. All rights reserved unless specifically granted in writing
The destination: Texas Barbecue Trail through Taylor, Elgin, Luling, and Lockhart, TexasHow to Get There: Conveniently, the four main towns form a loop around Austin (with none more than an hour’s drive from the capital), so you can do the whole thing in a day if you start early and have a big appetite.When to go: Anytime, though know that some of the restaurants are closed Sundays.There’s no official Texas barbecue trail, just a cluster of towns loosely grouped around Austin whose famous restaurants (about ten in total) serve the juiciest smoked meats you’ll find. That means flavorful strips of fat-stippled brisket – served on sheets of butcher paper with spongy bread and with or without sauce (depending on the establishment), and also sausage, a legacy of the Germans and Czechs who settled in central Texas in the nineteenth century. Some of these places are so famous (Kreuz’s Market, Southside Market) that you probably already know them. But each restaurant has a different character (not to mention cast of characters) from Louie Mueller, where, if you tack your business card to the wall, you might find it still there a couple of decades later to Black’s, which resembles an Elk’s lodge — luckily the elk heads are on the walls, not in the smoker. This handy map (a tourism effort by the four towns’ chambers of commerce, but still quite useful) has information about where to eat in each city.
The destination:Maddox Ranch House in Perry, UtahHow to Get There: Perry is about an hour’s drive north of Salt Lake City.When to go: AnytimeWhen the Maddoxes opened their restaurant in 1949, they were teased for setting up shop “in the middle of nowhere,” and though the place is only an hour from Salt Lake City, it has the feeling. The log-cabin-style restaurant butts up (scenically) against the mountains that form the mouth of the Sardine Canyon. The highlight is the adjacent ranch that provides the cattle and bison that become the restaurant’s famous large, tender steaks. Other down-home fare like skinless fried chicken and pecan pie (when in season) is almost equally popular, all of it served with housemade bread cornbread and signature raspberry butter. And if you really love what you see, there’s a lodge on site that hosts weddings and other events.Maddox Ranch House, 1900 S. Hwy. 89, at W. 1850 S., Perry, UT; 435-723-8545
The destination: Wayside Restaurant and Bakery in Berlin, VermontHow to get there: Not tricky if you’re in Montpelier — the restaurant straddles the town line.When to go: Thursday, the only night the restaurant serves salt pork People caught up in the current mindset of pork-o-mania should know that David Chang didn’t invent the concept: This humble, no-frills eatery just outside the state capital is known for its rotating menu of nightly specials, none more popular than its $6.95 salt-pork plate. The kitchen takes fatback (think bacon, but from a pig’s back, not its belly), breads it, and bakes it until the slab o’ pig is golden and crispy. Then they slather the whole thing with milk gravy. Practically everyone finishes their meal with a slice of maple-cream pie — you should do the same. Wayside Restaurant and Bakery; 1873 US 302, Montpelier, VT; 802-223-6611
The destination:Peter Chang’s China Grill in Charlottesville, VirginiaHow to Get There: The home of UVA is roughly an hour and a half’s drive northwest along the I-64W from Richmond, though the small city also has its own airport.When to go: As soon as possibleWhen you can catch compulsively transient chef Peter Chang in one place, you better do so quickly, as there’s no telling when the Chinese master could up and split, just as he’s done so many times in the past. Peter Chang’s China Grill opened in March in Charlottesville and serves (at least of this writing) the brutally spicy Szechuan he’s famous for, including many of the dishes yanked from his previous short-lived projects. You might burn your taste buds off on the tripe and tendon in chile sauce, the spicy duck, or “hot and numbing” beef, but once you can speak again you’ll have deep foodie bragging rights if the restaurant just happens to turn into a pop-up the next day.Peter Chang’s China Grill, 2162 Barracks Rd., Charlottesville,VA; 434-244-9818
The destination:Bremerton Blackberry Festival in Bremerton, WashingtonHow to Get There: There are ferries across Puget Sound from Seattle, and you can also drive (it’s about an hour from SeaTac International Airport). When to go: Labor Day weekend, September 3 through September 5With wild berry bushes literally lining the streets of the Pacific Northwest, it’s no wonder that the area is almost as well known for its blackberries as it is for its seafood. And when blackberry season hits its peak at the end of summer, you can find pints, pies, and preserves just about everywhere you look. But if all that isn’t enough, devotees can head to a three-day orgy of blackberry consumption: the Bremerton Blackberry Festival, held along the boardwalk in downtown Bremerton — a smallish Navy town southwest of Bainbridge Island on Puget Sound. This year marks the 22nd year for the fest, and you’ll definitely be able to get your fill of blackberry wine, blackberry jam, and blackberry shortcake, and you can wash it all down with a burger or two if you like. Also, don’t miss a confection unique to the area, blackberry slugs: a type of maple bar with blackberry filling and whipped cream. You might even get so many berries Bremerton Blackberry Festival; 150 Washington Ave., nr. 2nd St.; two hotels are within walking distance of the fest, the Hampton Inn (360-405-0200) and the Fairfield Inn and Suites (360-377-2111).
The destination:The Road-Kill Cook-Off at the Pocahontas County Autumn Harvest Festival, Marlinton, West VirginiaHow to Get there: The closest city to tiny Marlinton is Charleston, West Virginia — landing at the Yeager Airport will put you just about a three-hour drive east to MarlintonWhen to Go: September 24Could it be we’ve finally found something that even the Andrew Zimmerns of the world wouldn’t put in their mouths? The truly brave can head to this annual festival’s main cook-off event, where a dozen amateur cooks compete for $1,000. Past entries have included delicacies like “Bambi’s best chili,” armadillo tacos, squirrel gravy over biscuits, and frog jambalaya. Yum!Admission to the festival is free; tasting at the cook-off is $2; Downtown Marlinton, West Virginia
The destination:Green County Beer and Cheese Tour in Monroe, New Glarus, and Monticello, Wisconsin How to Get There: You’ll definitely need a car, but the tour starts only about 45 minutes south of Madison, Wisconsin. When to go: Open all summer, Monday through Friday Head south from Madison into one of the richest cheese and beer scenes in the country. Start the journey in Monroe at Roth Käse, a relatively recent arrival from Switzerland that produces a selection of aged Gruyères and rich buttermilk blue cheeses. Continue with Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern, which is Wisconsin’s oldest cheese store. Then take a quick jaunt north to New Glarus, home to New Glarus Brewery, one of the most acclaimed breweries in the Midwest. Its scenic hilltop facility is the perfect place to sample some of the brewery’s new selections. End the night in New Glarus at the Chalet Landhaus Inn & Restaurant, and if you possibly can take it, check out the fondue demonstration from Swiss-trained chef Mike Neval. Roth Käse, 657 Second St., Monroe, WI; 608-328-3355Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern, 1023 16th Ave., Monroe, WI; 608-325-6157 New Glarus Brewery, 2400 State Hwy. 69, New Glarus, WI; 608-527-5850Chalet Landhaus Inn & Restaurant, 801 Hwy. 69, New Glarus, WI; 608-527-5234
The destination:Chandler’s Ranch House Cuisine in Dubois, WyomingHow to Get There: Make the long haul: It’s the last town on Interstate 287 heading into Yellowstone National Park from the east. When to go: Year-round!Have you ever been driving so long you could barely keep your eyes steady anymore, and your stomach was about three hours past growling and entering an aching phase? Then suddenly you come across a beautiful oasis in the form of a lighted “Open” sign in the dark, and you eat what may be the most amazingly juicy, perfect buffalo burger you’ve ever had in your life. You’re not going to get anything fancy at Chandler’s Ranch House, but what you will get is an amazing buffalo burger after a long, lonely night behind the wheel. Make it your last stop before setting up camp in Teton National Forest and Yellowstone National Park. Chandler’s Ranch House Cuisine, 1408 Warm Springs Dr., Dubois, WY; 307-455-2115.