I used to travel quite a bit in college and even grad school (not sure how I had the time for that, but I managed somehow). I know it's hard to believe since I haven't even left the state in almost a year, but at one point in grad school I actually touched the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans less than a month apart. If the opportunity for a trip arose and I could afford to go, I was there. I've managed to make friends all over the country, and I've hitched rides, crashed on couches and in spare rooms, and had local tours of cities that have since fallen in love with. You know what helps me fall in love with places? (1) History, (2) adventure, (3) beauty, and (4) food--not necessarily in that order.
Summer is rapidly winding down, and while vacations are still being rushed into the last couple weeks before fall, I thought I would share just a few of my favorite food finds from my wanderings. You'll be able to see pretty easily which cities have my heart...and my stomach.
1. Pizza: Giordano's (Chicago, IL) You really just can't beat Chicago-style pizza, in my opinion, and Giordano's is the best of the best.
2. Sandwiches: Frothy Monkey (Nashville, TN) Get the Royale. Thank me when you're done stuffing your face.
3. Breakfast food: Mother's Bistro (Portland, OR) I would put their biscuits & gravity head-to-head against any grandma's in the country.
4. Pasta: Fornello Trattoria (Chicago, IL) I have dreams about the Bow Tie Pasta dello Chef.
5. Fish: The Eight Bells (Dover, Kent, UK) Here's the thing. I'm no fish expert. I had tried fish before and hated it; I've tried fish since and still hated it (actually I hate all seafood in general). While at The Eight Bells, though, I thought, "You know what? I'm in England, and I'm going to eat fish & chips, darn it." And I did. Every last bit. And it was ah-maz-ing.
6. Hamburger: Port of Call (New Orleans, LA) I know, I know, you're thinking, "Who the heck goes to New Orleans and eats a burger?!" Well, in case you missed it in the last mention up there, I hate seafood. Fish, shrimp, crab, lobster, barf barf barf. So I go to New Orleans, and when I'm in New Orleans, I eat the best burger. So there.
7. Coffee: Crema (Nashville, TN) It really doesn't matter what you order. If you like coffee, you'll love everything Crema.
8. Asian Cuisine: Saigon Flavors (Orlando, FL) This is the single best overall dining experience I've ever had anywhere. Ever. The food, the service, the atmosphere--everything was perfect. I even discovered my favorite wine here thanks to the waiter's suggestion.
9. Burritos: Flaming Amy's (Wilmington, NC) There's nothing that isn't amazing here. Also, the whole place is just really really sassy.
10. Doughnuts: VooDoo Doughnut (Portland, OR) Okay, this is kinda a given. I mean, really, who else makes bacon doughnuts? And bubblegum doughnuts? And donuts that look like voodoo dolls with red fruit fililng? Yeah, they're pretty much a tourist attraction at this point, but for darn good reason.
11. Ice Cream: Elle's Patisserie (Springfield, MO) Didn't see this one coming, did you? (Ha!) Not only is it my favorite place to get sweet treats in Springfield, but it's also my favorite in the world. The ice cream is handmade, the flavors are unique, and don't even get me started on the macarons and spicy chocolate truffles....
12. Pink Lemonade: Hayden's BBQ (Poplar Bluff, MO) Poplar Bluff isn't known for many things--Tyler Hansbrough, Designing Women's creator, an old country song called "40 Miles from Poplar Bluff"....and of course being my little hometown. One thing it should be known for, though, is Hayden's pink lemonade. Yeah, it's a diabetic coma in a cup, but it's the best use you'll ever get out of your insulin. Guaranteed.
**I'm aware that there's no steak recommendation on my list, which seems like a huge oversight, right? The problem is, my former roommate, Billy, made the best steaks I've ever had. Ever. I've never had a restaurant steak that compares--they just all kinda lump together in my mind as not-Billy-steaks. And Billy doesn't open his house for business. Sorry.
Have you been to any of the places on my list? Where are some of your favorite places to grab a bite?