I’m a simple man, with simple tastes. You won’t find me eating Sushi, and I’m not really even big on steak. When I’m traveling the country, foods like pizza, wings, and BBQ are what my pallet craves (although I also enjoy good Chinese or Mexican cuisine).
Having traveled quite a bit in the last 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to taste many of what people describe as the most amazing pizza, the greatest burger, or the best BBQ. Tastes definitely vary. The restaurants that were truly amazing have drawn me back again and again. So it’s time I compile a list of the greatest.
These are the places I’ve discovered that I will drive out of the way just to enjoy their food:
- Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago, IL (and in Tampa, FL as well). No other pizza touches Giordano’s. I’ve had all the other Chicago competitors (more about that here), and I’ve tried everything from New York to San Diego. Giordano’s is pure manna from heaven. I have considered leaving the airport on a layover and hailing a cab just to go get me some Giordano’s. My desire for Giordano’s is almost sinful.
- Las Placitas, Orangevale, CA. This place is 6 minutes from my house and has the best chicken enchilada in the country. Sorry Arizona, sorry Tex Mex. Las Placitas, a true hole in the wall (it’s next door to a pawn shop) reigns. If I have a really bad day…you’ll find me here in the corner booth drowning my sorrows in a basket of chips and salsa.
- Trolinger’s BBQ, Paris, TN. I’ve been to the so-called best BBQ places in Nashville and Knoxville. Honestly, I’ve been to BBQ places from Texas to both Carolinas. Sorry, no dice. Trolinger’s takes them all. Trolinger’s is nothing more than a deli in the back of a feed store in small town Paris, TN. You ask for a pulled pork samich and the lady behind the counter will ask, “Ya want slaw on it?” …and the rest is pure enjoyment. There are definitely some other great BBQ places in the U.S. The noteworthy ones are probably the Famous Dave’s chain and Sticky Fingers (in the Carolinas). But aside from Trolinger’s, the best I’ve probably tasted is Smokin’ Mo’s in Chico, CA.
- Alexander’s Famous Fish Co., Kihei, HI. This dive looks like nothing more than a Long John Silvers. The meals are fried, they’re amazingly fresh, and they’re usually ordered to go (so you don’t have to sit on their dirty tables). Best unhealthily cooked fish and shrimp you’ll ever eat!
- Leatherby’s Family Creamery Ice Cream Parlor, Citrus Heights, CA. Sorry Cincinnati, but as good as Graders is, I’d rather eat a Leatherby’s sundae off a locker-room floor than Graeters in a china bowl! Leatherby’s serves huge portions, extra creamy…not recommended for the lactose intolerant. Best ice cream in the nation. No comparison.
- Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW), nation-wide. Before you criticize me for including a “chain restaurant” in the mix, let me just tell you, I’d be prejudice to not include them, because hands down, they have the best wings. I’ve had Native New Yorker in AZ, I’ve had Quaker State in PA, I’ve even eaten in the restaurant in Buffalo where “Buffalo Wings” were apparently invented. None of them compare. BWW is the best, hands down. My life got one notch better a year ago when one of these moved about 4 minutes from my house (and my belt got one notch bigger).
- PF Changs, nation-wide. While I’m mentioning chains, I might as well include this chain of delicious Chinese restaurants. PF Changs and their sister restaurants Pei Wei are both amazing, better than most hole in the wall Chinese places.
- Munchies, Ashland, OR. I had to include a breakfast place in the mix, and this breakfast place is the one that sticks out to me. The restaurant is in the basement in the main strip of the artsy little town of Ashland Oregon. My wife and I discovered it one year while at Ashland’s Shakespear Festival. Amazing omelets and a really cute atmosphere.
- Legal Sea Foods, Boston, MA (and scattered places around New England). I first came upon this place in the Boston airport. Their amazing clam chowder has been served at the Presidential Inauguration of several U.S. presidents. I’m sure both coasts are full of good seafood places (I have to give a shout out to Brophy Brothers in Santa Barbara, CA, and Doogers in Cannon Beach, OR … both amazing as well), but Legal is probably my favorite.
- Barefoot Grill (Part of the Hula Grill) Ka’anapali, HI. This grill is right next to the beach in Ka’anapali, right next to Whaler’s Row. The food is great and the POG drinks are fresh and amazing. I’ve actually never eaten inside, because the barefoot bar allows you to eat at a nice table with your feet literally in the sand. I’ll drive across the island to catch a lunch here (I’d do the same with Alexander’s, mentioned above, and Matteos Pizzeria. Oh man. I wish I could afford to visit that island regularly!)
What about you?
If you’ve eaten at any of these places, what did you think? (Be nice!)
What are your favorite places to eat across the country (Mention the CITY, STATE of the location in ALL CAPS in your comments below if you are recommending a place).