The US road trip that we just took was pretty awesome. Seeing friends and family was wonderful, as was visiting some of the country’s beautiful places. You know us, though, and so you may have guessed that one of our primarily goals was sampling delicious food around the country. We definitely did that, and we’d like to share the best of the trip.
- Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan – We finally proved to ourselves, once and for all, that Zingerman’s truly does have the best sandwiches in the country. The top-notch ingredients and inventive combinations really do make a better sandwich here. I love the Muffaleo and Jeff is partial to the TNT Cowboy Reuben with added halloumi cheese. The sandwiches are well worth the high prices, especially considering what you get in the rest of the store: unlimited sampling of any product. An enthusiastic olive oil and vinegar section worker once placed drops of a $250 balsamic on our hands to try.
- Ike’s Place, San Francisco, California – Zingerman’s may be tops, but Ike’s is a close second. The sandwiches are huge and include a bag of Zapp’s chips. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options. I like the Al Bundy, but you can’t really go wrong.
- Devil’s Dill, Portland, Oregon – A fairly new place with only a few menu options, Devil’s Dill has some great gourmet sandwiches. We shared numbers 4 (a roast beef) and 9 (asparagus and cheese) and we were not disappointed. Details like the tomato jam on the #9 or the fact that the beef on the #4 is braised in red wine really make this place stand out.
- Earl of Sandwich, Las Vegas, Nevada – The Earl of Sandwich is a chain restaurant, though we didn’t know that until later when we spotted one in a Maryland rest area and looked it up. It turns out that this chain was actually opened up by the current Earl of Sandwich and the founder of Planet Hollywood. Indeed, the location we visited was inside the Planet Hollywood Casino. The Italian is awesome. This location is also 24 hours for your late night, gambling-related food cravings.
- The Grilled Cheese Truck, Los Angeles, California – I had to mention the Grilled Cheese Truck because of their unique and delicious sandwich option: a grilled cheese sandwich with macaroni and cheese on it. Totally my jam.
Best Ice Cream
- Salt and Straw, Portland, Oregon – HUGE shout out to Andrea from World Walk About for cluing us into the amazingness that is Salt and Straw. The flavors are seriously creative and often bizarre, and change often. Sea urchin meringue, anyone? Or how about loaded baked potato? Pear with blue cheese is one of their usual flavors. We also enjoyed the cinnamon snickerdoodle, olive oil, and coconut milk Thai pepper flavors. And, um, PS, they ship…
- Smitten, San Francisco, California – Some of the most unique ice cream we encountered was at Smitten, at least in terms of how it’s made. You see, at Smitten they make your ice cream to order with a machine that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the mix instantly. We saw a couple other places around the country using this method too. It’s pretty great, because it makes an unbelievably smooth ice cream. Smitten uses only natural, fresh ingredients. Our mint chip ice cream tasted like real mint which was cool and unusual. The flavors vary by day and by how many machines are working. It’s located in a converted shipping container which adds to its hipness.
- Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle, Washington – Molly Moon’s is a Seattle chain that makes very good ice cream, focusing on local ingredients. The flavors aren’t as crazy as at Salt and Straw but they are done super well. We had Scout Mint and Melted Chocolate. The Melted Chocolate was especially noticeable for its texture, which felt like melted chocolate on your mouth and not like regular ice cream.
- Toscanini’s, Cambridge, Massachusetts – Toscanini’s is another place with lots of interesting flavors. The line is long so we didn’t sample as many as we would have liked. We ended up getting a very refreshing lemon sorbet.
Best Macaroni and Cheese
- Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Seattle, Washington – Well, Beecher’s calls its product the world’s best mac and cheese. I have found that the US has the best mac and cheese (okay, we’re pretty much the only country that makes the dish) and Beecher’s is the best of the country, so it’s hard to argue. Note that I had a hard time choosing this though! My number two was a very close second, not to mention that Zingerman’s makes an amazing mac and cheese. This one though, has the amazing cheese but the extra bonus of a spicy kick.
- The Old Fashioned, Madison, Wisconsin – I have a confession to make. When we went to the Old Fashioned, I had my share of the fried cheese curds as an appetizer and then I ordered macaroni and cheese anyway. It was delicious, and enough to have some for lunch the next day. Wisconsin is serious about their cheese, and that made us really happy.
- Franks N’ Dawgs [CLOSED], Chicago, Illinois – There was truffle mac and cheese on my hot dog. See the hot dog section below for more.
- Mac Genie, Indianapolis, Indiana – This food truck showed up outside of Gen Con, to my delight. I got the Genie Mac, with breadcrumbs, bacon, chives, and sour cream. Decadent!
- Hungry Tiger Too, Portland, Oregon – Hungry Tiger Too offers a cool concept on their mac and cheese – add-ins. I got mine with olives, and I didn’t regret it. My friends say the vegan mac and cheese is good here too.
- Little Star Pizza, San Francisco, California – It came as a surprise that the best pizza I found was actually in San Francisco. It’s not a city known for its pizza. In addition, Little Star Pizza actually serves deep dish pizza. Which is of course famously from Chicago. Now I can’t be certain I had the best deep dish in all of Chicago, but what I had was pretty darn good. This one was just better. We got the Little Star Pizza which has spinach, ricotta, feta, and mushrooms. Delicious!
- Pequod’s, Chicago, Illinois – Pequod’s is known for having a burnt cheese crust. At first I thought that meant the whole crust was made of cheese, but that’s not it. There is some cheese on the outside of the crust that gets all crispy and caramelized during cooking. And it’s delicious! They have a fantastic weekday lunch special. By the way, “pan” pizza refers to deep dish. Go with that.
- Pauly’s Pizzeria, Rapid City, South Dakota – We found Pauly’s on Yelp and gave it a try. We weren’t expecting the pizza to be so great! We got a chicken alfredo pizza which was awesome and rich. The subs looked great too.
- Trilussa Pizza and Pane, Vancouver, British Columbia – Trilussa serves Roman style pizza. What is that, you ask? They have long, oval pizzas in different topping combinations, and you pick what you want and how much you want. So you might get five inches of the potato pizza, or three inches of sausage. It was tasty, reasonably priced, and very similar to what you find in Rome.
- Fat Boys Pizza, Lawton, Oklahoma – I wanted to mention Fat Boys because of their very interesting specialty pizza. The one we got, which my brother recommended, was the Pickle Pizza, featuring pickles, bacon, ground beef, onions, and ranch dressing. It was super greasy and also rather tasty.
- Blue Star Donuts, Portland, Oregon – Blue Star is not Portland’s most famous donut establishment (that is, of course, Voodoo Donuts), but many say it is actually the best. They have very unique donut flavors (one comes with a shot of booze) and they are certainly excellent. Both of our donuts were packed with flavor, and the donut itself was moist and high quality. While we didn’t go to Voodoo this time, this place is at the least a close contender and probably a bit better.
- Old Town Donuts, Florissant, Missouri – After we ordered at Old Town Donuts, the woman working there asked if we’d tried their bacon maple longjohn. When we said we hadn’t, that we were just passing through, she gave us each half of one to try for free. It was incredible. Definitely order that. The place is pretty cheap, too.
- Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis, Missouri – Pappy’s has a dry-erase board to show you what they’re sold out of, because once it’s gone from the giant smokers out back, it’s out for the day. I had pulled pork on a potato, and Jeff had the pulled chicken. Man, that was some awesome meat. It’s actually Memphis-style barbecue, rather than Kansas City style. They also use apple or cherry wood rather than your typical hard wood.
- Arthur Bryant’s, Kansas City, Missouri – The sauce is what makes Kansas City barbecue, and Arthur Bryant’s does have good sauce. It’s less sweet than most KC-style sauces, or so they say. It’s also interesting to note that the meat is served with a dry rub and you add the sauce at the table. Arthur Bryant’s, despite being one of the kings of US barbecue, is decidedly unpretentious. Good stuff.
Best Mexican Food
- Horseman’s Haven, Santa Fe, New Mexico – Okay, okay. To be fair, Horseman’s Haven serves up New Mexican food. But it’s fairly similar. The platters of food here are some of the most enormous I’ve seen. I got the enchilada plate which was drowning in sauce and came with a million things on the side, including pozole, and was totally delicious, although I couldn’t finish it.
- Escobar’s, Kanab, Utah – I didn’t expect to find much great cuisine in Kanab, but we decided to give Escobar’s across the street from our hotel a try. And I’m so glad, because it was great! The chile colorado burrito was simply delicious.
- Beantown Taqueria, Cambridge, Massachusetts – The huarache I got at Beantown Taqueria was yummy (a huarache is a flat sandal-shaped piece of fried masa with toppings). A good choice in Cambridge. They have tongue!
Best Italian Food or Pasta
- Naked Noodle, Bozeman, Montana – Seriously, the fettucine alfredo at Naked Noodle is incredible. It’s kind of a Noodles & Co style restaurant, but not a chain, and way more delicious. Go here if you’re ever in Bozeman.
- Perche No Pasta & Vino, Seattle, Washington – Our friends Andrea and Matt (over at World Walk About) took us to Perche No. They know the owners personally and we had a great, personalized experience. The owners actually named this place after a gelato shop in Florence and Rome – and we had been to the one in Florence! The food is good, if a little pricey.
Best Asian Food (Including Indian)
- Sushi Mart, Vancouver, British Columbia – Do you want delicious, fresh-tasting, inexpensive (for Canada) sushi? Look no further than Sushi Mart! They also focus on sustainability, as a bonus.
- Matsuchan, Canton, Michigan – Matsuchan has really excellent ramen.
- Tara’s Himalayan Cuisine, Los Angeles, California – Jeff’s brother Eric and his sister-in-law Melissa introduced us to Tara’s. I got a vegetarian thali, and it was good.
- Cardamom, Ann Arbor, Michigan – Great Indian place! Check it out.
- Super 88 Market Food Connection, Allston, Massachusetts – Super 88 is a grocery store with a food court attached to it. All the stalls are Asian, and they are pretty authentic, based on my experiences in Asia. I had some pretty nice kimchi bokkeumbap here.
Best Vegetarian Food
- Seed, Venice, California – Seed is a top-notch vegan restaurant. Jeff highly enjoyed his burger. And look at those fried zucchini tacos. Mmmm. The guacamole was great too.
- Vita Cafe, Portland, Oregon – Vegetarian and vegan food abounds at Vita Cafe. I had the vegan chili and a salad.
- Paradox Cafe, Portland, Oregon – Paradox does a good vegetarian and vegan breakfast. The corn cakes are good, and the biscuits and gravy taste nice and complex – I didn’t miss the meat.
- Poutini’s, Toronto, Ontario – We messed up opening times in Vancouver so we only had poutine once in Canada. But at least it was at Poutini’s, which often tops lists of the best poutine in Toronto. We went traditional. The curds are squeaky and the gravy is flavorful. The fries are crisp. You can’t go wrong.
- All Star Sandwich Bar, Cambridge, Massachusetts – The poutine at All Star is not very traditional. It uses mozzarella curds, instead of the usual cheddar. The gravy has a hint of green onion. I liked it. The sandwiches were not nearly as good as the poutine.
Best Street Food
- First Friday, Venice, California – On the first Friday of every month (get it?), there is a huge gathering of food trucks in Venice Beach along Abbot Kinney Blvd near the intersection with Venice. Seriously, there were an amazing number of trucks with a huge variety of food. The LA food truck scene is pretty incredible. I got that mac and cheese sandwich at the Grilled Cheese Truck and Jeff had some duck fries.
- SW 9th and Alder Food Cart Pod, Portland, Oregon – Portland does street food differently than basically everywhere else in the country. Instead of mobile trucks you have stationary carts. They are usually congregated in groups of three or more called pods, scattered throughout the city. The pod downtown at SW 9th and Alder is one of, if not the, biggest. Lots of variety here and interesting options. We ate from an Indian cart (New Taste of India) and had a really strange salty/sweet waffle at Gaufre Gourmet.
- Soma StrEat Food Park, San Francisco, California – This street food park is a daily gathering of food trucks that rotates every day. They are even open during lunch AND dinner, with different trucks for each meal! Very cool. More details including a schedule here.
Best Hot Dog
- Franks N’ Dawgs [CLOSED], Chicago, Illinois – Bacon mac and cheese dog. Need I say more? Okay, so the mac and cheese was truffle mac and cheese. Over a bacon sausage. Yes, a hot dog with bacon in it. PS, the cheese fries are awesome too. Here’s their site.
- Umami Burger, San Francisco, California – Umami is a chain in California (plus one in NYC and one in Florida). As the name suggests, they specialize in super-savory burgers. The meat is super great quality. The truffle burger had a truffle glaze, truffle cheese, and garlic aioli. Juicy!
- Loughmiller’s Pub & Eatery, Indianapolis, Indiana – Loughmiller’s is a little restaurant near the convention center. I got a beer cheese burger, and it was pretty great.
- Sava’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan – The veggie black bean burger at Sava’s is so good, it deserves consideration as a regular burger.
- Nookies Too, Chicago, Illinois – This was a place picked for brunch by the Globetrotter Girls, Dani and Jess. We met up there for a truly lovely meal. Nookies Too has a huge menu with lots of options for various dietary restrictions. The seasonal menu had such gems as the pumpkin pecan pancakes above, which were awesome. Jeff had a pesto scramble that was delectable.
- Twisted Fork, Vancouver, British Columbia – Twisted Fork has a fairly expensive brunch that is nonetheless delicious. All the options are the same price so ask your server how big the dishes are if you want the best bang for your buck.
- Veggie Galaxy, Cambridge, Massachusetts – If you want a good vegetarian/vegan brunch of diner-style food in Cambridge, Veggie Galaxy is your spot. Expect a wait.
Best Farmer’s Market
- Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington – Pike Place Market is awesome. It’s open daily and as such is more a conglomeration of fancy food stores all in one place than a traditional farmer’s market. However, there are still stalls set up by farmers, and much of the produce, meat, and fish sold is fresh and sourced locally. Absolutely a must visit in Seattle.
- St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, Ontario – National Geographic named the St. Lawrence Market the best in the world. Wow! It is definitely awesome, though certainly, like Pike Place, rather upscale. It’s open every day but Monday, and the farmer’s market building is open on Saturdays. Our one complaint was that the bakeries in it aren’t awesome. But you can find some of the best cheese shops and butchers we’ve ever seen here!
- Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, Ann Arbor, Michigan – The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, year round. It is pretty large and has some great stuff.
- Westside Community Market, Madison, Wisconsin – The Westside Community Market is open Saturdays from April to November. It’s small, but we found some awesome honey there, among other things.
- Wicked Spoon, Las Vegas, Nevada – When we went to Las Vegas, we knew we wanted to try one of the fancy buffets that have sprung up there. We looked up the best in the city and found that Wicked Spoon, often ranked second best after Bacchanal in Caesar’s Palace, was a price we could justify. It’s located in the Cosmopolitan, and brunch will run you about $30 a person on a weekday. It’s a small plates buffet, and the food is artful as well as tasty. There’s even a gelato bar!
Best Baked Good
- Cinnamon Beavertail, BeaverTails, Niagara Falls, Ontario – I doubt Jeff agrees with me on the order of these items. But what can I say, I am a real sucker for fried dough items. Langos in Hungary, beignet, zeppole, gogoşi in Romania, churros – I love them all. So it was no surprise that I absolutely loved the beavertail, a flat, paddle-shaped piece of fried dough with your choice of toppings. I chose cinnamon sugar. Yum! BeaverTails is a chain. This one was on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls.
- Almond Croissant, Thorough Bread, San Francisco, California – Jeff’s brother Patrick said this is the best croissant he’s ever had. And man, it’s pretty freaking good. Also the bakery’s name, Thorough Bread, is a great pun. The almond croissants sell out fast!
- Chile Pies, San Francisco, California – So, Chile Pies has spicy apple pies. And many other pies. And you can get a pie milkshake. A spicy apple pie is certainly… different.
- Nicey Treats, Indianapolis, Indiana – Nicey Treats is a popsicle truck in Indianapolis. There are lots of interesting flavors. I got cherry cola and it was great.
- Doo Dah Diner, Wichita, Kansas – When we found Doo Dah Diner on Yelp as we were driving past Wichita, we didn’t expect to be blown away. But we were! You start with fresh monkey bread (yum!) and the rest of the food rocked too. I had an amazing breakfast burrito, and Jeff had some incredible fantastic cream of mushroom soup. Plus the service was great.
- Kix on 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico – Located on old 66 as the name suggests, Kix on 66 serves up some mighty fine diner staples and New Mexican food. Get a giant cinnamon bun for the road – you won’t regret it.
- Mastoris, Bordentown, New Jersey – Jeff grew up going to Mastoris, and we were able to stop on the way back to Fairfax. The free cinnamon and cheese bread is great. The portions are ENORMOUS. Come hungry or split a meal (but you’ll still need to be hungry to finish half a meal).
Are you thinking of taking a road trip like ours? Get this list in a printable spreadsheet, with extra info on opening times and addresses, here!
Did we miss anywhere around the US (or Vancouver or Toronto) that you love?