The drive north from Milwaukee is a grand taste of Wisconsin. First stop: Sheboygan, renowned for its butchers’ brats (rhymes with hots, short for bratwurst), cooked over charcoal at the Charcoal Inn. In Manitowoc, Beerntsen’s Confectionery cooks candy in vintage copper kettles and hand-dips toffee, turtles, and chocolate-coated sugar puffs (known as fairy food). Wisconsin’s signature butter burger is nowhere more buttery than at Basil’s II; and up in Green Bay, Packers fans love Kroll’s West just across from Lambeau Field for its huge, messy, half-pound butter burgers. Up in Door County, enjoy the unique local meal known as a fish boil at the White Gull Inn, complete with bonfire and strolling accordionist … and, of course, cherry pie for dessert.
Montreal is home to a rich lode of Jewish food (kosher and not), ranging from the city’s unique and justly famous bagels (at St. Viateur) to Canada’s own version of pastrami, known as smoked meat, served in raffish deli style at Schwartz’s. You’ll find superb babkas and ruggelah at Cheskie’s Bakery, and and one of the finest steak dinners in North America at Moishes, where side dishes include marvelous latkes (potato pancakes) and meals begin with chopped liver or herring in cream sauce. No culinary visit to La Métropole would be complete without a baloney & salami sandwich at Wilensky’s Light Lunch and a kitchen sink “Mish Mash” omelet at Beauty’s Luncheonette.
Five destination eateries across Kansas, all within minutes of Interstate 70. Heading east to west, we bid adieu to Kansas City with breakfast at Niecie’s, which opens at 5:30am to serve soulful biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and chicken and waffles. Stop at Porubsky’s Grocery in Topeka for cold-weather chili with nose-tingling horseradish pickles and at the Cozy Inn in Salina for a half dozen or more itty-bitty, pickle-topped burgers, served by the joint that invented the slider (in 1922). Two legendary chicken dinner restaurants line the route: the Brookville Hotel in Abeline and Al’s Chickenette out west in Hays.
The challenge: You have one day to eat around downtown Memphis. Assuming you don’t want to have barbecue for all your meals — there’s no place better for that strategy — this five-restaurant tour provides a broader taste of The Blues City. Start with biscuits and country ham at The Arcade, which one of the two oldest restaurants in town — since 1919. The other great oldie is The Little Tea Shop on Cotton Row (opened in 1918), where meals start with a bowl of shockingly tonic green pot likker. At Alcenia’s, masterful soul food is accompanied by love-hugs from proprietor B.J. Chester-Tamayo. And for barbecue, our two top choices are Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, which is a beer-hall party that features intense dry-rub ribs, and Cozy Corner, where Cornish hens, ribs, and pork shoulder might be the best smoke-cooked meats in town — accompanied, please, by barbecued spaghetti.
With famously good restaurants serving local and exotic meals, Santa Fe is such a powerful magnet for the appetite that it can be hard to leave. But we highly recommend a drive north and northwest of the city into the breathtaking beauty of Jemez Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo foothills of the Rockies, where you’ll find some lesser-known but worthwhile culinary destinations. A first stop on the way out of town would be Los Ojos for buffalo burgers and vintage saloon ambience or El Brunos for stacked blue corn enchiladas. Stop and Eat is worth a visit less for its classic New-Mex fare (green chile cheeseburgers, tacos, and tamales) than for drive-in ambience that seems not to have changed in decades. Up in Embudo along the northern reaches of the Rio Grande, Sugar’s serves up memorably yummy barbecue burritos; and beyond that in the tiny town of El Rito, El Farolito has become famous for its Frito pie and green chile stew.
Upon flying into Atlanta, a vegetable lover can lay delicious siege from the airport into town. Make no mistake, though: most of the city’s best vegetables, cooked with fatback or hambone, are not for vegetarians. Some items listed on menus’ vegetable roster are not even vegetables: mac ‘n’ cheese, for instance; or congealed salad (aka Jell-O). Whatever. This tour takes hungry eaters to places that make the most of the latter part of the meat-and-three meal formula, starting just minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson field, at Big Daddy’s Dish for broccoli casserole, marshmallow-topped yams, and peppery rutabagas; and the Barbecue Kitchen, where the sign outside boasts “FRESH VEGETABLES.” A full veggie repertoire at the soul-food beacon, Busy Bee Cafe, includes must-eat fried green tomatoes; and at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Dixie classicists start the meal with a bowl of pot likker (greens to the max). Up in Tucker, just northeast of the city, at Matthews Cafeteria, vegetables are rich and wanton (creamed corn especially) but, frankly, it would be a sin to eat here and not side them with a few pieces of exquisite fried chicken.
The best thing to eat in Burlington, Vermont, is ice cream: Strafford ice cream from Rock Bottom Farm, ginger flavor in particular. We buy it by the pint at the City Market Co-Op and spoon it up in the car, because Rock Bottom Farm is not an eatery. Beyond this dreamy ice cream, Burlington is a bonanza of unique restaurants. How about very early breakfast at Myer’s Bagels, where the Montreal-style bagels come hot from the wood burning oven starting at 4am? There’s no mellower way to wile away morning hours than leisurely pastries and coffee at the Chubby Muffin, where all provisions are local. Seekers of diner-style hot turkey sandwiches (or stupendously good burgers) will swoon with joy at the vintage Parkway Diner. And speaking of vintage, no culinary visit to Vermont’s biggest city would be complete without a burger and fries at Al’s French Frys.
The Lackawanna County of Old Forge has a signature dish that is perhaps the strangest style of American pizza. Bearing scant resemblance to the familiar Neapolitan formula, Old Forge pizzas are rectangular in shape and slices are called cuts. Their crust is fairly thick and vaguely reminiscent of Sicilian pizza. They come single or double-crusted, red or white. More American in character than Mediterranean, they sport sunny sweet tomato sauce, mild cheese, and uniquely puffed-up crust that develops because the pies are baked in pans greased with peanut oil.
San Diego is where fish tacos first got popular in this country, and there are none better than at The Cottage up in La Jolla, but this tour starts at The Cottage for breakfast of glorious granola and oven-warm buttermilk coffee cake. Just south, in Ocean Beach, Hodad’s serves outlandishly immense burgers in high surfer style. Other great lunch opportunities include carnitas tacos at La Fachada and a high-rise true-deli sandwich at D.Z. Akins; and you can’t go wrong for supper (or lunch or breakfast) at the grand old coffee shop Hob Nob Hill, where square meals are delivered by a team of waitresses who are consummate pros.
Indianapolis once was known for its superb cafeterias, and there is one glowing legacy of that fact, southwest of town: the magnificent Gray Brothers Cafeteria, where a dozen trips through the line aren’t enough to sample everything that’s good. Prior to lunch at Gray’s, we suggest breakfast at Shapiro’s (also cafeteria style), a true Jewish deli where the corned beef hash (with house-baked rye bread on the side) is a plate of beauty. Other excellent lunch opportunities include John’s Famous Stew (justifiably famous!) and Mug ‘n’ Bun near the Raceway for burgers and four-star root beer. For a big deal dinner, steak (and ferocious shrimp cocktail) at St. Elmo is a city legend, as is Hoosier fried chicken at the old-fashioned Hollyhock Hill.