Those who travel by road are close to the sights and sounds of a place and of course — the tastes. That is, assuming you’re not on the interstate express. Our trip has taken us from town to town where we’ve run the culinary gamut: packed lunches and snacks in our cooler from a local grocery store to be eaten in a state park or parking lot, we’ve savored delicious fare at local favorites, and a handful of times found ourselves at an In & Out, and most regrettably — just once, a Cracker Barrel. As we have tasted our way across America, there are some delectable meals that we are still salivating over. Here is your guide to the 13 must-dine spots of 2016.
1. Boxer ramen
2032 NE ALBERTA ST. PORTLAND, OR
This hole in the wall spot in Portland’s hip Alberta District makes the best ramen I have ever tasted. Sit at the bar to watch the chefs at work to the tunes of some old school rap.
2. superba food + bread
1900 S LINCOLN BLVD. LOS ANGELES, CA
This bright, well lit spot makes their own bread onsite and they even serve it warm with whipped butter. There is a separate coffee bar in addition to the food and wine bar. With ample indoor and outdoor seating, and lots of natural light, Superba is a favorite.
4743 ballard ave nw. seattle, wA
While many come to Barnacle to imbibe in a cocktail while they wait for a table at the acclaimed Walrus & the Carpenter restaurant next door, I suggest staying to drink and dine at this beautiful bar. Perhaps to begin with, some freshly shaved prosciutto?
4. the shed
113½ EAST PALACE AVE. SANTA FE, NM
Photo credit: The Shed
Santa Fe is easily one of the most creative, vibrant centers in the whole U.S. and they have peppy chile to boot in red and green. Order your taco Christmas-style at The Shed with a St. Rita Margarita made with St. Germain. Enjoy the pueblo style architecture, warmth from the kiva fireplace, and a flourishing garden.
5.The bachelor farmer
50 NORTH 2ND AVE. MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Photo credit: Gentlemanbug
This spot is both romantic and rustic — a farmhouse feel in an old converted warehouse. It’s true farm-to-table dining serving up its own produce from a small farm located on the roof and locally caught red herring from Lake Superior. It’s both sophisticated and homey with a fine Bordeaux selection and $3 Hamm’s served out of the can.
6. Rose. rabbit. lie.
3708 LAS VEGAS BLVD. SOUTH. LAS VEGAS, NV
Photo credit: Eating Las Vegas
This is a true modern-day supper club tucked away in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Lounge singers serenade you (imagine long gloves and sitting on the piano) in deep blue and red lighting. Spare no expense from foie gras to tartare de boeuf to caviar tacos.
2144 E. REPUBLIC RD, STE E120. SPRINGFIELD, MO
Photo credit: Samantha Crespo
With a quaint outpost downtown and a large space at Farmers Park, there’s more than one place to enjoy this delicious bistro rooted in classic French fare. Go for a boozy brunch and try the smoked salmon with poached eggs on marble rye. The setting is rustic with lovely muted colors. Grab a baguette at their own pâtisserie next door.
423 WEST FRANKLIN ST. CHAPEL HILL, NC
Small and romantically lit inside, it’s Asian cuisine combined with North Carolina’s local ingredients and flavors. Try the pork and chive dumplings (the pork is sourced from local pastures) as an appetizer. The seasonal fried soft-shelled crab was phenomenal. For dessert go for the Yuzu pudding with fresh blueberries sided with a digestif from their wide selection.
9. The new scenic café
5461 NORTH SHORE DR. DULUTH, MN
In the summer months, wait for your table while seated on Adirondack chairs in a garden overlooking Lake Superior. Once seated, jazz plays in a room covered in pine wainscoting. At lunchtime, sip a crisp vetliner grüner while a truly fresh, farm to fork meal arrives. We began with a pistachio crusted goat cheese salad followed by a grilled walleye sandwich on crisp slices of homemade cranberry walnut bread. We tried tuna and avocado wantons with freshly made wasabi. For dessert, a marzipan tart with chunks of rhubard sided with a local coffee brew. Every course was delicately prepared. Each flavor was simple and fresh. It was so good that we bought the cookbook right there, in which the forward is written by none other than Garrison Keillor. One more Lake Wobegon-esque fun-fact, the café’s website includes directions for arriving to the restaurant from Stockholm, Sweden (beginning at Arlanda, of course). One cannot separate Minnesota from its deep Scandinavian roots, and it’s oh, so charming. Go Vikings!
10. the girl and the fig
110 W Spain St. Sonoma, CA
This French restaurant in Sonoma, California had me at it’s plentiful wine selection and delectable cheese platter. In fact, next to the beautiful wooden and mirrored bar there is a small bar entirely devoted to cheese. The ambience is also stellar, offering long, low wooden tables for those on a date sipping local cabernets to an outdoor patio with string lighting to dive in to a full course meal.
11. porkchop & co.
5451 LEARY AVE NW. SEATTLE, WA
In a large beautifully lit space in Ballard, Porkchop & Co. is serving up delicious fare made from some of the best, organic ingredients available. Like many new restaurants across the U.S., order what you like and take a number to be served, choose a carafe of water and set your own table. Then, you can take all the time you want and no need to wait for the cheque. Peruse the cookbooks which line the walls over house-smoked beets or melted gruyère.
12. five leaves
18 BEDFORD AVE. BROOKLYN, NY
Sit by romantic candlelight in this lovely, rustic space. Enjoy oysters and champagne or a lavish cheese and charcuterie plate to start. Follow with a bottle of red or a cocktail with one of their unique and delectable mains and see where the night goes.
13. Hot Chicken Takeover
59 Spruce St. North Market, 2nd Fl. Columbus, OH
This authentic Nashville-style hot chicken in Columbus, Ohio is down home goodness. Order your chicken from cold — dash of cayenne — to holy — #%*&! cayenne. Indulge in a side of fried waffles dipped in warm maple syrup or homemade banana pudding that is out of this world. You’re also eating for a great cause. HTC employs men and women who need a second chance at work.