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This might be obvious but I am going to announce it anyway, Ash and I love food. There it is.
It is off my chest and we can all rest easy now, especially me. I want to get off my chest how much I love to indulge myself in other cultures’ cuisine. I love finding out what the locals eat and what the traditional dishes of a nation are. Some people work hard for their six pack and pecks; I work just as hard and if not more for my slight chubbiness and my moobs. I will never be one of those people who can go to a new country and eat garden salads the entire time just to keep fit. I don’t want to limit myself on what I can eat.
I do believe in moderation and I believe one should try and eat healthy but I don’t believe that one should limit themselves to health food. You need to escape the box and explore the fat and the grease from time to time. Be adventurous and be willing to try everything; learn how to confront foreign flavors and don’t be scared. Some times you should eat for the soul and not just for that perfect figure.
I think it is very hard to understand the culture of a country if you have limits on what you do and don’t eat. To have an open mind about food and an adventurous stomach will give one a chance to fully understand the cuisine of another country. As I have said in the past, what a culture eats can give you unique insight on where they have come from. I feel like to fully understand that you can not know just what they eat but that you have to eat it yourself. When you are at home you can limit yourself but when you are out traveling the world become open minded to what a culture eats and take a big spoonful.
Our eating adventure on this trip started back in the states as we crossed from California to the southwest to the deep south and finally to New York on our journey and we came upon some spectacular eats. If you know what you are doing it is not hard to eat well in the states. We have great food cultures across the country and one will always be able to find something to enjoy. Quality and authentic food has been on the rise and the use of better and local ingredients so that we can better understand where our food is coming from. So for those of you out there who think all we do is eat McDonald’s you are in for a shock because here is basically everything we ate while cruising across the U.S and there isn’t a Mickey D’s in sight.
Chevalier Restaurant in Lafayette, CA
This was one of the last meals that we had in the east bay before we headed south to LA. It is a tiny french bistro in the tiny suburban town of Lafayette. The place was fantastic and was one of the best meals I have had in this area of the east bay. When you enter the restaurant you feel as if you just got off a plane in France. The kitchen staff and servers are yelling out orders in french as the wonderful smells from the kitchen waft out and make you just feel warm. The mushroom risotto with the poached egg on top was fantastic and something I could spend the rest of my life eating.
Yamato’s in Grover Beach, CA
It would not be a trip to my home town of Pismo beach without heading over to eat at the best sushi joint in the area. Just a 5 minute drive over to Grover beach, Yamato’s has been teaching me about sushi since I was a little boy. The cucumber special (the one wrapped in cucumber) is one of my favorites for a hot summer day, fresh and light filled with fresh fish. It is a true local joint and it is a must stop for me. Make sure you say hi to Steve the owner and order a cold bottle of Soju (Korean Sake) with what ever you eat. If you are there at the right time of year you can try monk fish liver which is on the top of the list for best things I have eaten in my life. Like I said I have been going here since the third grade and I make a stop every time I am back in town.
Napa Rose in the Grand Californian in Anaheim, CA
This was our second time at the Napa Rose which is in Disney’s Grand California Hotel. This place has top notch food with a bit of cheesy decor but worth every penny. Make sure you at least put on a collard shirt because it is a nicer restaurant. The food is fresh and seasonal so you wont be disappointed. Also the wine list is impeccable, serving some of the best California wines. This was the last dinner we had with Ashley’s parents and what a wonderful dinner it was. Thanks John and Debra for the great meal!
Porto’s Bakery in Los Angeles, CA
If any of you wonder why I fell in love with so many types of food it is because of my father and mother. We had lunch together our last day in California at a Cuban Bakery in LA. I had a pan con Lechon and Ashley had the cubano. They are two different type of pork sandwiches served with fried plantains on the side. Now this is food for the soul and some of the best you can get on the west coast of the states. I was talking about how monk fish liver was one of my top foods, these Cuban sandwiches from Porto’s make the list easily. Thanks mom and dad for teaching me about great food.
In N Out in Coachella Valley, CA
I feel like I should not have to explain this one at all. This is the best drive through burger you can get in the entire United States. This is the first thing you have to try when you get to California. I hear that they now have a handful out side the state but don’t waste your time. The In N Out’s in California are the best and will always be the best. I order a number one animal style, both kind of onions, and peppers. The menu is simple, the prices are low, and all the food is fresh and locally sourced in CA. Don’t call this fast food because it’s not. It is just a burger joint with a drive up window. Also don’t let the line throw you off there is always a line.
El Rincon in Sedona, AZ
Now being in Sedona, AZ we had to get some great Mexican food. We have plenty of Mexican cuisine in California but when in the Southwest it is a must. It is a big part of the culture in the area. El Rincon had top notch food with some great margaritas too to help get you through the hot day. The portions sizes are big so don’t be afraid to ask to take some of it back home with you. The Southwest takes their Mexican food seriously.
Georgie’s Cafe in Cottonwood, AZ
This is a place that my sister and brother law told me to go to when we were there. They claim it to have the best chicken fried steak which is a pretty tall claim. I will admit it was pretty tasty. I won’t claim it to be the best but it is really good and worth a try. The pancakes are pretty solid as well. This is not a fancy joint by any means; it is a local dive in Cottonwood (a suburb of Sedona) that is not looking to impress but just to cook you up some tasty food with cups of coffee.
Pizzeria Bocce in Cottonwood, AZ
Best place we ate in Arizona. It is an Italian joint that has really great Italian food with an American twist. This is not traditional Italian food but who cares? The place just knows how to put out great food. The pizzas are amazing and you can’t beat the gigantic meatballs. Make sure you get the beerarita which is a astounding drink and then play some bocce ball after dinner. I can’t wait to go back to this place. Thanks Amber and Taylor for taking us.
The Shed in Santa Fe, NM
The Shed was one of the places that was recommended for me to go and try the red hatch chili. When you are in Santa Fe you have to eat the hatch chilies. The best thing to do is get the enchiladas at The Shed with the the red chili. You can get the green or Christmas which is both. Be careful though the hatch chili has a kick to it so make sure you have some margaritas to wash it down. If you are not sure what to get just ask your server. They will help you out no problem. The Shed is an up beat place with fantastic food and staff. I’m glad it was the first place I tried Santa Fe’s famous hatch chilies.
La Cantina at La Casa Sena in Santa Fe, NM
Time to get classy a bit in Santa Fe. La Casa Sena was another joint that was recommended to me but unfortunately they were packed for the night. So they sent us right next door to their cantina which serves the same food but with a twist. They have live Broadway performances going on through the night. The wait staff are talented singers that take song request (stick to jazz or Broadway) and they will belt it out for you and give you a spectacular performance in between serving you. The food is phenomenal and they know how to make a proper martini which is always important to me. This was my Birthday meal that was actually purchased for us by the people at the table next to us without us knowing. I love this place to say the least. It was one of the best meals that we had on our trip.
Horseman’s Haven Cafe in Santa Fe, NM
Our waitress at La Cantina recommended this hatch chili spot. She said it is well known for having some of the hottest hatch chili in the area. It is a local dive that is not to far outside the center and it is GOOD. The portions are huge and I had to take a lot of it to go but what amazing hatch chili! I order the level one hatch chili which had a good spice that made you sweat but you still could enjoy the meal. I had our waiter bring out a ramekin of their number two hatch chili and I’ve never had anything SO HOT in my life. I just took a small scoop and put it on a tortilla and I started crying instantly yet the flavor was still amazing. So if you are brave get your enchiladas with the number 2 green chili. Their red chili is great as well and just as spicy as their number one green hatch chili. I have heard rumors that they have up to level four of spiciness on their hatch chillies and you have to sign a waver for number four. Those could just be rumors though….
The Chicken Coop in Langley, OK
On our trip we swung into Vinita which is in the northeast part of Oklahoma. It is a small midwest town that my Grandmother lives in. I am sure most people would drive right by it with out even noticing it. You do get to eat some pretty great mid western food here though. The Chicken Coop is a no thrills diner that serves great breakfast. The best thing was the biscuit and the gravy that came with my huge omelet. This food is far from healthy so if you do not work out in the fields every day I would hold off eating this kind of food every day.
Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita, OK
Oh how I love chicken fried steak! Now Clanton’s Cafe is famous for theirs and even made its way on to Diner, Drive Ins, and Dives! So I had to try their chicken fried steak. I will say that it was the best I had on this trip. It is exactly how I like it. The batter is nice and thin, the meat is tender and the gravy is savory. Another must try is the Calf fries (calf balls); I could have eaten these all day! This was the first time I have tried balls from any animal and if they are like this I think they need to go main stream. I even got Ashley to try one. I don’t think she agrees with me though. Thanks Grandma for showing us around your area of Oklahoma.
El Acapulco in Hot Springs Village, AR
The biggest surprise on our trip was the state of Arkansas. Talk about one of the most beautiful states I have been to. It is home to the hillbillies of the Ozarks and that just adds even more charm. Now, we were not in that part of Arkansas and our first stop was for some more Mexican food. Ash and I love Mexican food and it is hard to pass up knowing that once we leave the states the quality of Mexican crashes. So we sipped on some margaritas, ate some fajitas and enjoyed the Arkansas version of Mexican cuisine on Cinco de Mayo.
Flying Fish in Little Rock, AR
Little Rock might be one of the most charming towns I have visited. It has the look of a larger city but you still feel like you are in small town America. And Little Rock is famous for the Little Rock 9 who led the way for the integration of the school system. So historically for the U.S. it is of great importance. The food was superb in town as well. We were recommended the Flying Fish which is decorated with a bunch of fish with wings glued on them. It is quite entertaining. The food is what will bring me back though. I got my first spicy fried catfish Po Boy of the trip that was top quality. Plus we got fried pickles. If you have not tried fried pickles you need to experience them; they are little fried slices of heaven.
Home Plate Cafe in Hot Springs Village, AR
Did I tell you that I like chicken fried steak? Well I do and this was my last chicken fried steak of the trip with small ramekins of Lima beans and mac and cheese. This was a pretty tasty steak if I do say myself. It was at a place called Home Plate which is decorated with a ton of baseball memorabilia. I love baseball and I can spend hours watching it so chicken fried steak and baseball is a place i can call home. Also don’t forget to try the possum pie. It is amazing! I told you we were in hillbilly country.
Sucre Cafe in New Orleans
Now Miss Mangiardi is the one who introduced me to Sucre which is a great coffee shop with unbelievable pastries and deserts. Yes this was breakfast but after a long night in the quarter, Sucre put me right back on track with a sugar and caffeine high.
ACME Oyster House in New Orleans
I have already talked about the Acme Oyster house in my post about New Orleans. It is the bomb! It is so tasty and it was the best Po’Boy I had all trip, filled with tasty craw dads and then sides of barbecued and raw oysters. Oh and wash it all down with a prickly pear margarita. Yes please! New Orleans does food like no other city.
Stanley in New Orleans
Stanley is a place that two or three people had recommended for us to go to. From the iced Irish coffees and then fried oyster benedict we were glad we went. Those poached eggs and the hollandaise sauce were perfect. Ash got her perfectly crisped bacon and we were set. I know all this food is heavy but it is worth the few extra pounds you gain. This is food for the soul.
Coop’s Place in New Orleans
Coop’s is a must go! If you are from Europe and don’t know what real fried chicken tastes like then you need to go to Coop’s. It is down right ridiculous how good their food is. Plus their red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya are top notch creole dishes. Now this is a no shenanigans place and it is a very busy dive. There will be a line and you must wait because it is worth it. Make sure you tip at least 15 to 20% to keep the staff happy. They have no problem speaking their mind and that is a part of the charm. The food and the crowd is amazing and the staff brings it all together with its character.
Cafe du Monde in New Orleans
Do I really need to say much about these world famous beignets that you can get 24 hrs? I highly recommend going late at night because the crowd is less and there is nothing better to sober you up for the walk home then a hot cafe au lait and a bag of beignets covered in powdered sugar. This place speaks for itself and it is a must stop when you are in the big easy.
Brennan’s in New Orleans
Time to throw in some class at one of the many staple restaurants in the quarter. Brennan’s is a fantastic historical restaurant with an unbelievable brunch. It is the original home of bananas foster as it was created here in the 1950’s. It is set in a classic New Orleans Victorian building and they have been serving fine New Orleans dinning since the mid 1940’s. The price is up there but as it was Mother’s Day so we decided to splurge in honor of all our mothers. If they have sweet breads make sure you get them, they will knock you out of your seat.
Clesi’s in New Orleans
I will have to admit that the best meal we had in New Orleans was at Clesi’s which is outside the quarter and a little bit more of a local joint. We went for a crawfish boil and they had the best fried catfish and jambalaya that I have had the pleasure of eating. The crawfish was superb as well and make sure you can handle the spice because the broth they boil them in has a kick. Don’t forget to suck the heads of the crawfish as it is one of the best parts. If it is not crawfish season then just eat the jambalaya and fried catfish because I think I want that to be my last meal on this Earth. Hands down the best place we went to that trip to NO! All the other food was great but this place was out of this world.
Paradise Trailer Park Resort in Nashville
How can you not go to a place called Paradise Trailer Park Resort when you have been drinking all night? It was recommended to us by a local, so we had to try it. The burgers were on par and perfect for late night snacking and the huge side of tatter tots brought me back to my childhood. I don’t know why tatter tots are not a staple in every state but they should be. They are mini hash browns so how can you go wrong.
Big Al’s Deli in Nashville
Now after a night out in the honky tonks you will need a place in the morning that will bring you back on the side of the living. That place for us is Big Al’s which is a local breakfast dive. Al is one of the most friendly guys that I have ever met. He talked to me about the Scouts as he cooked us up the best breakfast of the trip. I don’t care where you go in Nashville but you have to go to Big Al’s and have breakfast with him. By the way there is no living man who makes a better pancake then him. I don’t know what he does but they are life changing especially with blueberries. You can even forgo the syrup.
Let us stick with the local spots and head over to Hattie B’s for lunch. This is on the other side of town and this has the best hot chicken in town. The name does not lie; it is hot!!!! You know you have found the right place when it is lunch and the place has a line out the door of working men and women waiting to get their lunch. If you want to make the wait easier head next door to Broadway Brewhouse and get a bushwacker which is a staple Nashville drink. It is like a frosty but rated R. Be careful on how many of these you consume because they will put you down quickly. They are deceivingly dangerous.
North Harbor Club in Lake Norman, NC
Ashley’s great family friends (I consider them her family and I’m sure Ash does as well) were kind enough to enough to take us out on the lake in North Carolina. I was able to have some fun on knee boards and inter tubes and then regain my strength at a wonderful restaurant on the lake. How can life be bad when you are drinking cocktails, eating a great burger and sitting by a lake? Life was good.
eeZ Fusion in Huntersville, NC
eeZ Fusion is an Asian fusion restaurant that does not play around. My bento box was to die for and Ashley had mahi mahi tacos. Kim and and Mark and the kids really knew how to show us a good time. I am definitely going to come back to North Carolina. What a great state to live in. Thanks Kim and Mark for hosting us, I am glad we were able to see you guys.
GCDC in Washington, DC
Grilled Cheese and Tatter tots covered in cheese and other topping, what a way to start off out tour of our countries capital. Two of the most American things that I know of. I mean, yes I know Grilled Cheese is not technically a American thing (let us all thank the French for the Croque Monsieur) but it is my childhood and I consider it a quintessential part of American culture. GCDC though knows how to fancy up their grilled cheese and makes you want to come back for more. One of the best places that we stumbled upon while wandering DC.
Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington DC
If you want a place where a bunch of famous people and politicians used to eat back in the day and still do then Old Ebbitt is the place to go. It has a long history in DC and has been serving food to some of the best for a very long time. I mean how can you go wrong when the place has oysters that look as beautiful as that? I am glad that my Aunt Teresa and Uncle Andy showed us this place. Oh, and do not forget about the drinks here because they know what they are doing. Also the shrimp and grits is a classic American dish that no one should skip.
Siroc in Washington, DC
Siroc might be one of the top Italian restaurants that I know of in the states. This place was unbelievable and the second phenomenal meal that we had with my aunt and uncle. Do you not see those scallops or that carbonarra with the raw egg on top? This place is high class Italian that is worth the money. I was a very happy man.
Chelsea Market in New York City
New York City just might be the greatest city in the world and Chelsea Market is one of the top food markets I have ever been to. Yes, it is touristy and I know people get turned off from that which I am fine with because that means one less person I have to fight with to get the amazing food that is here. You can get a full lobster in the fish market or ridiculous tuna belly sandwich like I got. It has everything you need so just go and spend a lot of money there. You won’t regret it. Oh and the food network headquarters is above the market. If you are wondering where the markets that the the competitors in all of those food competition shows go to it is these markets. The prices are still reasonable for NY as well.
The Burger Joint in New York City
I know I talked big about my In N Out burger but if you cannot make it to the west coast go to The Burger Joint and wait in the ridiculously long line for these burgers. I mean damn these burgers hit the spot! This is a place that is so punk I don’t even know what to do about it. First off a hotel had to build around them because they refused to sell, so the hotel just built over them. In order to get to them you have to enter the hotel and then go behind some curtains just to find this place. That neon light is all that tells you where it is. Also make sure you have your order ready when you get to the front of the line otherwise they will kick you back to the end without hesitation. If you don’t speak English they have the menu in 6 or so other languages. No excuses to not be ready. They are not kidding either I have seen them do it. Get a pitcher of beer and a couple of burgers and you will be good to go. Also be prepared to have to fight for seats. It is not that big of a place.
That is the food across America that we ate. We did eat more but we could not fit it all into this post. The states do have good food and this is just a very small sample of what is out there. We are a melting pot and when you have all these different cultures you get food from every corner of the Earth. Now it is not all healthy so make sure you bring your running shoes. A lot of this food is good for the soul not the gut.
The U.S. does not have a singular unified cuisine. It is impossible. We are a land of immigrants that all have brought some of their culture to make up the American culture. If you did not find something you would like to eat in this post don’t worry. In the states there will always be something for you. We don’t just have McDonald’s or Burger King; we have plenty of food and we have some of the best in the world. So when you go to the states keep an open mind when you eat, explore the different cuisines and be ready for fried food. We do have a lot so like I said bring your running shoes. This was one fantastic trip we took and the food was what I was looking for. I am glad that I am from a land of immigrants that allows me to enjoy all this different food.