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Best "destination" restaurants in the USA

h
Hugh DeMann Nov 22, 2010 12:47 PM

I'm retiring soon and would like to eat my way throughout the USA. In the past, I've often gone to restaurants with many great menu items, but because of limited time (usually one meal) I wan't able to sample them all.
With plenty of time when I retire, I'm wondering what are the best "destination restaurants" in the USA? By "destination" I mean those that I would visit for a few days - stay in a nearby motel - and dine at a number of times.
A few that come to mind are Doe's Eat Place (Mississippi) and Mosca's (outside New Orleans ~ interesting article about it in the Nov. 22 New Yorker).
Thanks in advance for suggestions!

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  1. l
    la2tokyo Nov 22, 2010 12:53 PM

    I don't know that I'd like to eat at any restaurant more than a couple days in a row, but if I did it might be Chez Panisse. And there are lots of other great restaurants in the Bay Area (The French Laundry comes to mind) that would combine to make a great once-in-a-lifetime food trip.

    1. boredough Nov 22, 2010 01:04 PM

      The Herb Farm in Woodinville, WA. You would only need ONE meal, but it would be phenomenal.

      2 Replies
      1. re: boredough
        h
        hobbess Dec 3, 2010 12:42 AM

        Jerry Traunfield left Herb Farm a few years ago so I don't know how well its held up without him.

        1. re: hobbess
          boredough Dec 3, 2010 04:57 AM

          I think it's still supposed to be great - Ron & Carrie still own/run it. However we haven't been there in a few years (sadly).

      2. j
        jhopp217 Nov 22, 2010 02:25 PM

        If in NYC (technically Brooklyn) try Peter Luger Steakhouse. Get the what they are known for - the porterhouse. Then go the next day for lunch and get their award winning hamburger (only served at lunch). Oh and don't forget to order the slab bacon, creamed spinach, home fries and tomato and onion salad (so you can use their sauce) as a side!

        1. j
          joonjoon Dec 1, 2010 11:48 AM

          How about Time Warner Center? I know it's not a restaurant, but it's home to Per Se and Masa.

          5 Replies
          1. re: joonjoon
            h
            Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 07:01 AM

            This is the Chowhound website, right? I'm a relative newcomer, but doesn't the "chow" in "chowhound" imply relatively inexpensive food? Masa? I am not a billionaire.
            Thanks anyway.

            1. re: Hugh DeMann
              thew Dec 13, 2010 07:10 AM

              no. the chow implies good food. low brow, high end, fancy, hole-in-the-wall, famous, unknown, whatever. just goodness

              1. re: Hugh DeMann
                linguafood Dec 13, 2010 07:12 AM

                Chowhound is not limited to cheap eats, but a cornucopia of good food, regardless of price.

                1. re: Hugh DeMann
                  uhockey Dec 13, 2010 08:27 AM

                  .....um, no.

                  There are hundreds of reviews of meals in excess of $1000 here at Chowhound - from all over the globe. People come here to get advice from people in the know - whether it be the best Taco truck in LA or the best White Truffle dish in Paris.

                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                  1. re: Hugh DeMann
                    goodhealthgourmet Dec 13, 2010 06:17 PM

                    the tagline on the home page used to read "for those who live to eat," and here's a link to the original Chowhound manifesto written by the site's founder, Jim Leff:
                    http://web.archive.org/web/2000051006...

                    price has nothing to do with it. if it's edible and good, it's fair game.

                    having said that, there's certainly enough moderate/afforable Hound-worthy chow in our nation to keep you busy throughout your retirement in this lifetime and at least a few more!

                2. t
                  tomatoaday Dec 1, 2010 12:17 PM

                  I have always wanted to visit Zingermans. I think I could eat off of their sandwich menus for days and browse the deli for more prepared food and cheese to take with me. If I ever do go, I will try to visit in June or July to enjoy all the summer produce and products there, especially the cherries. Being a barbeque fan, I would also love to go on a leisurely tour of the top spots in different areas - Texas, Kansas City and the South to taste what makes each region unique and good.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tomatoaday
                    h
                    Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 06:59 AM

                    Where is Zingerman's?

                    1. re: Hugh DeMann
                      t
                      tomatoaday Dec 13, 2010 08:02 AM

                      Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here is one of their business links: http://www.zingermansdeli.com/

                      1. re: tomatoaday
                        s
                        spinachandchocolate Dec 13, 2010 03:22 PM

                        I went to school in Ann Arbor and used to eat there often (my old roommate worked there at one point so lots of hook-ups and leftovers brought home, too!).

                        They now have a separate bakery, creamery, road house grill and maybe something else. So this could take up a few meals.

                        Ann Arbor also has a lot of other great "destination" restaurants/places to munch (stucchi's!).

                  2. mamachef Dec 1, 2010 12:31 PM

                    Oh, you are DeMann. May I retire with you? I can pay my own way; I'm a good cook and comfortable company and quite, quite clean. My trip would only differ in that I'd probably buy an RV to travel in as a way of keeping travel expenses down - though with gas prices my math is probably way off.
                    If you haven't already got it, you must immediately run out and buy the newest edition of "Roadfood" by two of favorite foodinistas, Jane and Michael Stern. They have pointed me in excellent directions more than once. What I love about your trip is the slant you're taking; these are not necessarily "high-end fancy destinations", but destinations in and of themselves, frequently showcasing regional cooking, which is what a good road trip is a whole lot about, right?
                    I think....I think I love you.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mamachef
                      h
                      Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 06:57 AM

                      Did I forget to mention my wife? Oops.
                      But thanks anyway for the kind words. You are indeed a kindred spirit.

                    2. c
                      centralpadiner Dec 1, 2010 02:07 PM

                      Personal short list:

                      The French Laundry
                      Charlie Trotters
                      Per Se (although may be unnecessary if I get to French Laundry first)
                      Le Bernadin
                      Vetri (can check that one off the list)
                      Inn at Little Washington

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: centralpadiner
                        uhockey Dec 4, 2010 11:16 AM

                        TFL and Per Se are very different experiences - both are "destinations" of excellence.

                        On a trip to TFL you could go north and try Cyrus or Meadowood, or south for the rest of the Bay (Coi and Manresa)

                        Charlie Trotters, L2o, Alinea on a Chicago Trip.
                        Vetri, Le Bec Fin in Philly.
                        Le Bernardin, Daniel, Jean-Georges in NYC (actually, you could eat there 2 weeks and have a "destination meal" every day.
                        I'd put The Inn at Little Washington on the list and also visit Citronelle and Restaurant Eve on a visit to the DC area.

                        Lautrec at Nemacolin Resort - go see FLW's Falling Water on the same trip.

                        New Orleans - Commander's Palace, Antoine's, Brigtsen's, Clancy's.

                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                        1. re: uhockey
                          i
                          igorm Dec 14, 2010 03:25 PM

                          Also while in Chicago, you should go to Hotdoug's for the best stuffed casings i.e. upscale hot dogs.

                      2. gaffk Dec 1, 2010 03:27 PM

                        The Reading Terminal Market in Philly. You can stay for weeks and never eat the same thing twice. Then, if you get tired of it, you can walk a few blocks to China Town and eat for a few more weeks. In between, you can savor some fine dining at a Vetri, Starr or Garces restaurant or one of the fabulous BYOBs in the area.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gaffk
                          invinotheresverde Dec 2, 2010 07:46 AM

                          Perfect.

                          1. re: gaffk
                            h
                            Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 07:02 AM

                            Great idea! The Reading Terminal Market sounds like my kind of place. Thanks!

                          2. GraydonCarter Dec 2, 2010 07:24 AM

                            Oh, you da man alright! I'd start by looking at past winners of James Beard awards. I'd include other "foodie" destinations, too, like the Berkey Creamery at Penn State, or the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Doesn't have to be expensive to be fun.

                            1. b
                              baseballfan Dec 2, 2010 07:33 AM

                              I would do a New England fried clam and lobster roll tour. I would start in Boston and work my way north trying all of the noted fried clam places.....Woodmans, Clam Box etc. eating the fabulous whole belly clams and maybe some chowder to break things up. I would continue north to Maine and avail myself of all of the lobster that I could eat. Stop at the different lobster shacks and compare the lobster rolls. Heaven on earth. Since you would need to do this in the summer, there are a lot of great ice cream places to sample for dessert.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: baseballfan
                                melpy Dec 14, 2010 10:12 AM

                                Anyone who does this should be sure to sample both the Maine (mayo) lobster roll and the CT (butter) lobster roll.

                                1. re: melpy
                                  h
                                  Hugh DeMann Dec 24, 2010 09:40 AM

                                  The Maine Diner in Wells, Maine has wonderful cold (mayo) AND hot )
                                  (butter) lobster rolls. I always have one of each when I go there. Heaven on Earth, for sure.

                                2. re: baseballfan
                                  Passadumkeg Dec 14, 2010 11:01 AM

                                  Just settle into Portland, Me and tuck into seafood, lobster roll at the Portlant Head Light House to Duck Fat to any of the other finre Bistros.
                                  Rockland/Camden Me., another seafood/fine dining mecca.

                                3. Pia Dec 2, 2010 08:24 AM

                                  The only U.S. restaurant that I've contemplated traveling for is Alinea in Chicago. One day...

                                  (Although, re-reading your original post, you said you wanted to dine there several times over the next few days -- probably not an option.)

                                  1. j
                                    jla1960 Dec 3, 2010 02:54 AM

                                    Its not a single restaurant, but I suggest a visit to North Carolina and the NC BBQ Society's "BBQ Trail"...its 24 of the best bbq restaurants across the state of NC. Would make for an awesome trip of delicious eating across our fine state!

                                    http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/bbqmap/tr...

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: jla1960
                                      Bob W Dec 3, 2010 05:05 AM

                                      Great idea. Way back in the pre-Internet days, using limited (hard copy!) resources, Mrs W and I hit 8 barbecue joints in one day on our way to Myrtle Beach.

                                      You could have a great time just sticking to I-85 from the VA line to the SC line.

                                      1. re: jla1960
                                        FoodFuser Dec 3, 2010 02:41 PM

                                        Nice link, jla.

                                        Also looking for an index that incorporates red-white linoleum tablecloths, and good Brunswick stew.

                                        (Dale Evans):: Happy trails... to you..., in the search for the ultimate 'Q"

                                        1. re: FoodFuser
                                          h
                                          Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 07:05 AM

                                          Real Brunswick stew - made with squirrel?

                                        2. re: jla1960
                                          h
                                          Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 07:04 AM

                                          Now you're talking ! The BBQ Trail sounds too good to be true. Thanks!

                                          1. re: Hugh DeMann
                                            n
                                            Nocturnalbill Dec 14, 2010 03:29 PM

                                            Do make sure to balance out the Eastern and Western styles, and listen to NC natives "feud" over which is better....though we eat both without fear or rancor.

                                            1. re: Nocturnalbill
                                              Sue in Mt P Dec 24, 2010 10:43 AM

                                              That is so true Nocturnalbill. I love the trail.

                                              Hugh, don't forget about Charleston, SC. Tons of great places to eat and a beautiful city to enjoy.

                                          2. re: jla1960
                                            j
                                            James Cristinian Dec 13, 2010 01:31 PM

                                            Then there is the Texas BBQ trail, sauce not necessary and unavailable at some joints.

                                            http://texasbbqtrail.com/index.php

                                            http://www.southernbbqtrail.com/texas...

                                            1. re: James Cristinian
                                              Passadumkeg Dec 13, 2010 04:11 PM

                                              Yes, James! Get a motel or Texas State Park lodging (cheap &beautiful) near Lockhart, Tx. and sample Kreutz, Black's and my fave, Smith's BBQ.

                                              And... the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger trail:

                                              http://www.newmexico.org/greenchilech...

                                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                Passadumkeg Dec 13, 2010 05:40 PM

                                                That's Bastrup State Park, check out the housing.
                                                Sante Fe. Be forewarned, you may never leave.
                                                The Compound, high end, The Shed, touristy but oh so good.

                                                1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                  h
                                                  Hugh DeMann Dec 17, 2010 07:11 AM

                                                  Gren chile cheeseburgers?!?! I can hardly wait! Thanks!

                                                  1. re: Hugh DeMann
                                                    Passadumkeg Dec 17, 2010 07:22 AM

                                                    Email me if ever in the albuquerque area or Maine in the summer.

                                                  2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                    alanbarnes Dec 17, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                    Don't know of a Smith's in Lockhart. You mean Smitty's? If so, I agree with you.

                                                    Smitty's is the old Kreuz Market - same building, same pit, same post oak woodpile (okay, the wood has probably been replaced, but still). And the same picnic tables with butcher knives chained to the middle of 'em. The new Kreuz Market has the name, but IMO not the history. Smitty owned Kreuz Market for years; he's gone now, but his daughter and grandson continue the tradition under a different name.

                                                    And green chile cheeseburgers - dang. Why can't they expand Blake's to California? We'll give you a couple of In-n-Out locations - it'd be a win-win.

                                                  3. re: James Cristinian
                                                    h
                                                    Hugh DeMann Dec 24, 2010 09:58 AM

                                                    I just checked out the Gumbo, Boudin and BBQ Trails. GREAT! Thanks!!!!

                                                    1. re: Hugh DeMann
                                                      h
                                                      hazelhurst Dec 24, 2010 10:10 AM

                                                      There's a nifty Tamale Trail, too, but I've only hit a few of those. I'm a veteran of the others.

                                                  4. re: jla1960
                                                    h
                                                    Hugh DeMann Dec 17, 2010 06:46 AM

                                                    I just check out their website. Great recommendation! A definite road trip! Thanks!

                                                  5. d
                                                    dcandohio Dec 3, 2010 11:34 AM

                                                    Mosca's is great fun, but you only need to go once to really get it and it's very far from anything else. If you're going to New Orleans anyway, you should also get beignets from Cafe du Monde (at the French Market) and a muffaletta from Central Grocery (these two are an excellent breakfast/lunch 1/2 day with a French quarter tour in between).

                                                    1. ipsedixit Dec 3, 2010 02:58 PM

                                                      Eataly? http://eatalyny.com/

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        GraydonCarter Dec 4, 2010 10:55 AM

                                                        NYC is like the ultimate destination. You could spend months eating your way through NYC if you could afford the rent.

                                                      2. kaleokahu Dec 3, 2010 05:22 PM

                                                        Not precisely USA, but you might like Sooke Harbor House in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. They actually have a few luxe lodgings on the property.

                                                        1. r
                                                          rHairing Dec 3, 2010 05:31 PM

                                                          First, congrats on retirement. While the destination restaurants are amazing, I'd be going for the regular places as well. If you are around NoLA, I'd side trip to Manchac(?) There is this place in the middle of nowhere called Middendorfs. They have the most amazing catfish.

                                                          Philly Chowhounders helped me out when I came up for King Tut. They steered me to DiNics in Reading Terminal Market. The pork sandwich was amazing. We also had a wonderful dinner at one of the BYOBs..can't remember which one. All I am saying is you have time..of which I am envious...stroll at your leisure:)

                                                          1. m
                                                            mangiamamma Dec 3, 2010 06:11 PM

                                                            I live in Hawaii. It is a beautiful place to visit, but for the most part, leave your taste buds at home. There are a couple noteable exceptions. Chef Mavro in Honolulu is by far the best restaurant I have tried in the state. Truly memorable. There are a couple others worth visiting, but sometimes they can get carried away with the garlic. Try Roy's (on more than one island) and when in Honolulu or Maui, definitely give Longhi's a tumble. I even have their cookbook. Not as good as Mavro's, but also much more affordable.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: mangiamamma
                                                              kaleokahu Dec 3, 2010 08:52 PM

                                                              Have you tried Hali'imaile General Store on Maui? Josselin's on Kaua'i? Sasebune on O'ahu? For the OP hele'ing to Hawai'i, they belong on the list.

                                                              1. re: mangiamamma
                                                                alanbarnes Dec 3, 2010 10:42 PM

                                                                Couldn't disagree more. I've always found it very easy to eat well in Hawai'i. The food there is different than what you find on the mainland, but IMO no less delicious.

                                                                Focusing on fine dining in Honolulu - since you brought up Chef Mavro - why not mention Alan Wong's? One of the best restaurants, not just in the state, but in the world. I could easily spend a week or two working my way through the menu there.

                                                                Kaleokahu mentioned Hali'imaile General Store. Not only do we always make a point of eating there when on Maui, it's the only place we'll consistently go to more than once per visit. Mama's in Pa'ia is another place I'd like to spend more time getting to know.

                                                                Or how about Merriman's on the Big Island? Tucked away in tiny Waimea (Kamuela), it can hold its own against most places with Michelin stars in big cities.

                                                                And that's just the high end. From Merriman's it's only a block to Hawai'ian Style Cafe, home of some of the tastiest cheapest plate lunch around. Sticking to the Kona coast, you can find home-style Japanese food at Teshima's and fusion food from before the term "fusion food" was invented at the Manago Hotel. The collision of cultures and cuisines from around the world, coupled with ready access to some of the best fish, beef, and produce you can find, puts the food in Hawai'i near the top of my list.

                                                                Sure, it's easy to find overpriced crap when you're in a place that's overrun with tourists. But there are culinary wastelands in every city and state. As Chowhounds, it's our job to see past that. And a Chowhound can eat very, very well in the Aloha State.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                  m
                                                                  mangiamamma Dec 12, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                  How long since you've been to Merrimans? Used to have a great menu in Waimea, but last time I was there, was just upscale locomoco. Why pay the price for mediocre food?
                                                                  Their marketplace cafe in the King's shops got about four attempts since the food was always good enough, but nothing to write home about. However, the horrible service and tendency to subject the diner to an even more horrible guitar player trying to lure people in from the entire shopping mall made the experience less than stellar!

                                                                  Some good other suggestions from other islands, but living on the Big Island, can only report with any reliability on what is here. Can't stand locomoco food, too much salt, too much same, same, same so Hawai'ian Style Cafe to me was nothing more than a lot of food without a lot of quality. Sorry if that's not popular from your perspective, but can only report on my own experiences and those of my friends.

                                                                  Now, Alan Wong's absolutely.! Unfortunately, he pulled out of the Big Island. Best burgers or beach cafe's for a less expensive meal with a great sunset would have to be either the Beach Club at the 4 Seasons at Hualalai or the Beach Cafe at The Orchid. Never a bad meal at either, and in the winter you can sit and eat and watch the humpback's jumping.

                                                                  1. re: mangiamamma
                                                                    alanbarnes Dec 12, 2010 01:34 PM

                                                                    Upscale locomoco? The current dinner menu at Merriman's includes butter-poached Kona lobster, local macadamia-nut-fed wild pig, and ponzu-marinated mahi. A far cry from a hamburger patty topped with an egg. The lunch menu is more casual, but the prices are relatively cheap, too, with most items under $15.

                                                                    If you disdain plate lunch, then your options in Hawai'i are definitely more limited. It's no skin off my nose, but just because you don't enjoy something doesn't mean that everybody else should "leave their taste buds at home."

                                                                2. re: mangiamamma
                                                                  mamachef Dec 12, 2010 12:06 PM

                                                                  I have heard although do not know personally, that the Manago Hotel is old-school and serves wonderful fresh food in a very casual setting.

                                                                  1. re: mamachef
                                                                    alanbarnes Dec 12, 2010 01:38 PM

                                                                    The Manago Hotel is caught in a time warp in a good kind of way. Simple food prepared well and IMO very tasty. But based on her post above, it might not be to mangiamamma's taste.

                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                      m
                                                                      mangiamamma Dec 13, 2010 01:09 AM

                                                                      Don't know about the Manago Hotel. Never ate there, but if it is loco moco, you are probably correct-and my taste buds are well in tact, thank you very much. I don't get down that way much for dinner and always have a good lunch at the Coffee Shack in, I think, Kealakekua. Sounds like you have a vested interest in Merriman's. Oh, they have lobster in butter and mahi japanese fusion style. Gee, that's novel. Lunch menu was enough to put me off and the last time I ate dinner there was, granted, over a year ago and I promised myself "never again." So if you are a chef there or the owner, I apologize, but the question that started this post was recommendations for "Best Destination Restaurants in the USA" and I am sorry if I hurt any locals feelings, but most Hawaiian restaurants fall far short of a memorable "destination" restaurant. Sure there are good ones, which is why I wrote in the first place, but I would hate to spend the money to travel to the Big Island from another place in the world for frankly, any restaurant in Waimea. Sure, they may be good for Waimea, but don't look for any Michelin awards. Sorry, but it is just one person's opinion that has eaten at many memorable restaurants both cheap and more expensive around the world. All I did was mention my personal favorites and maybe you don't agree, but I think if you are on the Big Island for 2 or 3 nights, there are better places to eat than Merriman's!

                                                                      1. re: mangiamamma
                                                                        alanbarnes Dec 13, 2010 05:04 AM

                                                                        I made no reference to your taste buds. It's just that you have expressed some strong preferences. And given the preferences you've expressed, you probably wouldn't enjoy the food at the Manago. They don't serve loco moco (which is actually a specific dish, not a cuisine), but they do serve simple local-style food, not the haole food you've said you like. Menu below.

                                                                        Your continued disparagement of Merriman's is puzzling to say the least. I have no interest in the place other than a desire to return again in the near future. There is, however, a pretty broad consensus that it's one of the best restaurants, not just on the Big Island, but in the state. Don't just take my word for it; ask Alan Wong or George Mavro or Bev Gannon - they all speak very highly of it and have the credentials to back up their opinions.

                                                                        Of course, opinions are just that. Nobody says you have to like any particular restaurant or any particular type of food. But for you to launch an ad hominem attack against someone just because their opinions are different than your own is not cool. And when you are decidedly in the minority, it makes no sense whatsoever.

                                                                         
                                                                3. deet13 Dec 4, 2010 12:25 AM

                                                                  If you like steaks and end up in Tampa, there's always Bern's Steakhouse...

                                                                  http://www.bernssteakhouse.com/

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: deet13
                                                                    GraydonCarter Dec 4, 2010 11:09 AM

                                                                    Then keep going and stop for seafood at Guppy's on the Beach in Indian Rocks Beach, then The Perfect Caper in Punta Gorda. Ah, a Florida retirement.

                                                                  2. Perilagu Khan Dec 13, 2010 06:06 AM

                                                                    CC's City Broiler in Columbia, Missouri

                                                                    Either Fresco's or Frieda's in Cape May, New Jersey

                                                                    Cancun, Maharaja or The Frenchman Inn in Lubbock, Texas

                                                                    Cafe Espana in Las Cruces, New Mexico

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                      h
                                                                      Hugh DeMann Dec 13, 2010 07:16 AM

                                                                      These sound like my kind of places. Thanks!

                                                                    2. Passadumkeg Dec 13, 2010 08:47 AM

                                                                      Have you read Blue Highways?
                                                                      I'll start close to home. The Polonaise in South River, NJ for a great variety of Polish food.
                                                                      O'Rourkes Diner in Middletown, Ct.
                                                                      In Maine, Conte's in Rockland for fresh seafood, Italian, Cuisine, and low down and gritty Ruth and Wimpey's in Hancock. A $8.97 lobster dinner and lobster served 32 ways.
                                                                      Austin, Tx, La Fonda San Miguel, best Mex I ever "et".
                                                                      Down town Albuquerque, stay in an old Route 66 motel and sample New Mexican cusine at all the local joints.; Baca's et al.
                                                                      My wife and I hope to do the same in a few years in our '67 VW camper.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                        mamachef Dec 13, 2010 09:27 AM

                                                                        Oh, that was a GREAT read, pdk. And let's not forget the calendar rule regarding breakfast spots:
                                                                        I think one local calendar means it's okay food, ranging on up to four, for superlative local grub.

                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                          gaffk Dec 13, 2010 03:11 PM

                                                                          Perfect! If you read the OP, it's clear (s)he is not looking for fine dining establishments where every meal exceeds hundreds of dollars--just good, simple food done well.

                                                                          That is why I veered toward Reading Terminal Market (honestly, you could live for weeks there) and Chinatown, with a few upscale recommendations thrown in. And Philly has great sites to see in between.

                                                                          The N. Carolina BBQ trail intrigues me as that is a beautiful state that I have visited often (both beach and mountains). And who doesn't like BBQ? And again, great sights to see in between.

                                                                          Sigh . . . I so want to be retired now.

                                                                        2. r
                                                                          Riverman500 Dec 13, 2010 02:39 PM

                                                                          I rediscovered Babbo in NYC last summer. I ate at the bar once a week for about a month, ordering three or four dishes each time, basically just going through the menu. I pretty much loved every dish. If you're a fan of Mario Batali, Babbo is the place to go.

                                                                          1. s
                                                                            spinachandchocolate Dec 13, 2010 03:29 PM

                                                                            Eden Corner in VA (right outside DC)
                                                                            Chelsea Market in NYC

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: spinachandchocolate
                                                                              Bob W Dec 15, 2010 12:38 PM

                                                                              Just to help travelers, that's Eden Center in Seven Corners. It's a large Vietnamese shopping center that is really quite cool. Banh mi, bubble tea, pho, etc.

                                                                              1. re: Bob W
                                                                                erikschwarz Dec 15, 2010 02:37 PM

                                                                                Eden Center is quite cool. If you are looking for Four Sisters Restaurant, which was one of the most popular destinations there, be advised that it has moved to larger premises in Merrifield Town Center, Falls Church VA.

                                                                                 
                                                                            2. tatamagouche Dec 13, 2010 05:28 PM

                                                                              So it sounds like you aren't using the standard defintion of "destination" (or else I'm not), which usually is synonymous with "special occasion place." Sounds like you mean the most special place one can think of regardless of price, one that comes to be synonymous with the city itself...

                                                                              I can speak to my two adopted hometowns best, then. Allowing myself only 2 off the top of my head:

                                                                              BOSTON: Neptune Oyster, Pizzeria Regina
                                                                              DENVER: Beatrice & Woodsley, El Taco de Mexico

                                                                              Edit: But, should you ever happen to find yourself in Paul's Valley, OK: Bob's Pig Shop

                                                                              1. mamachef Dec 13, 2010 05:55 PM

                                                                                If you're ever in the Mendocino, Ca. area, around the fourth of July, a destination spot that happens once a year is the World's Largest Salmon Barbeque, held in the harbor at Noyo. It is the freshest, most lovingly basted (with an amazing sauce), perfectly grilled salmon, served with sourdough bread, melted butter, grilled corn and salad; beans if you want them and know to ask (some but not all years). And the Little River Inn serves a brunch with Swedish silver dollar pancakes and a huckleberry or olallieberry or ligonberry preserve that is sublime. Personally can vouchsafe these two for the area; and Carine's Grotto makes a challenge-size burger, perfectly charred and med. rare, out of house ground sirloin - perfect for four, which is where we went after the movies in high school.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: mamachef
                                                                                  Perilagu Khan Dec 14, 2010 06:14 AM

                                                                                  I could sure go for some of that BBQ salmon, mama.

                                                                                  Another "destination" place I just remembered: Chope's Grill in La Mesa, New Mexico. There are those who consider this remote dive located between Las Cruces and El Paso to be the best New Mexican resto in the state, and I wouldn't argue with them. Not too many hotels nearby, though.

                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                    mamachef Dec 14, 2010 06:23 AM

                                                                                    I just happen to have the original recipe for the Top Secret baste. You can google it and find Bobby Flay's rendition or other "original" copies, but mine came from the fisherman's mouth 'cause he was my dad's buddy, and if you like I'll share.

                                                                                    1. re: mamachef
                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Dec 14, 2010 08:03 AM

                                                                                      I'd be interested to see the formula.

                                                                                  2. re: mamachef
                                                                                    linguafood Dec 14, 2010 07:36 AM

                                                                                    Damn, woman. You're making my mouth water for q'd salmon, and it's barely breakfast time.... please do share the secret baste - pretty please with salt on top '-)

                                                                                    1. re: linguafood
                                                                                      mamachef Dec 14, 2010 09:07 AM

                                                                                      For PK and lingua and anybody else who wants it:
                                                                                      1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
                                                                                      1 1/2 t. soy
                                                                                      1 1/2 t. Worcestershire
                                                                                      2 T. chopped parsley
                                                                                      1 T. chopped basil
                                                                                      1 t. chopped oregano
                                                                                      1/2 t. garlic powder
                                                                                      1/2 -1 tsp. kosher salt
                                                                                      good grind pepper
                                                                                      Mix well. Reserve 1/3 for basting. Marinate your fillets (w skin, please) for 30 minutes to up to 4 hours. No, it will not get mushy; I promise. Over medium heat on grill, bbq. salmon skin side down first, and begin basting again when you flip it, after about 8 minutes. Give it another 2-7 minutes, depending on your preferred degree of doneness. You can do this in a medium oven as well, if the grill's not an option, and it's still savory delicious tangy goodness.
                                                                                      It's so simple, and so amazingly good. Make no substitutions please. And the ingredient you won't find listed in any recipes online, is......the basil, and it makes every bit of difference.

                                                                                    2. re: mamachef
                                                                                      alanbarnes Dec 14, 2010 09:12 AM

                                                                                      Has Ft. Bragg been having the Salmon BBQ the last few years? Just doesn't seem right if you have to bring the fish in from out of state. Here's hoping 2011 will bring a good salmon season - or at least a salmon season - to Northern California...

                                                                                      The classic Ft. Bragg sauce recipe is as follows. This is enough for a good-sized fish; for steaks or fillets, reduce quantities proportionately.

                                                                                      2 cups lemon juice
                                                                                      3 tablespoons soy sauce
                                                                                      3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
                                                                                      3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
                                                                                      2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
                                                                                      1 tablespoon garlic powder
                                                                                      Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

                                                                                      Reserve 1/3 of sauce for basting. Marinate salmon in remaining sauce for a couple of hours. Grill fish skin side down over moderate heat until just cooked through, basting frequently.

                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                        mamachef Dec 14, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                                                        Alan, it's been going strong since 1970; no missed years and local fish. This year it's on July 2nd (Sat.), same bat time (11 a.m. till fish runs out) and same bat channel (Noyo Harbor Basin, Ft. Bragg, Ca. 95407 - Mendocino Co., Ca.) and it's 25.00 per head and it's worth it.
                                                                                        And you got it ALMOST right, AB. See above re basil.

                                                                                        1. re: mamachef
                                                                                          alanbarnes Dec 14, 2010 10:04 AM

                                                                                          I got the recipe many years ago from a salmon charter captain. But I think it was Cap'n Mike on the Aggressor, and he's out of Bodega Bay, so what does he know? I'll have to try it with some basil.

                                                                                          As far as local fish, there weren't any in 2008 and 2009. Fishing for king salmon was banned off the California and Oregon coasts both years. (See http://tinyurl.com/294czc2 and http://tinyurl.com/2e2o7cu) And although the season opened this year, the harvest was dismal - in fact, I don't know anybody who actually caught fish. Still, I suppose a salmon BBQ with fish from Washington or Alaska is better than no salmon BBQ at all.

                                                                                    3. c
                                                                                      collardman Dec 15, 2010 10:42 AM

                                                                                      There are some good responses but some of the great ones are too expensive to hit 2-3 days in a row. Doe's and Mosca's are pretty much one hit wonders. If you went with 1 or 2 other people and cross sampled you would cover all their good dishes in one sitting. There are a number of restaurants in great restaurant cities (like New Orleans) that can be affordable and good enough to hit several meals in a row.

                                                                                      My process would be to pick a city and get with the local CH people to line you up with their picks for good/affordable/locality

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: collardman
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        DaisyM Dec 17, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                                                        1. A trip to Lower Eastside of NYC--Katz's for the best pastrami sandwich....Russ and Daughter's for smoked fish (take out only) and Gus's for pickles

                                                                                        2. The Inn at Little Washington for a meal that you will always remember

                                                                                        3. The Midcoast of Maine---Red's Eats for lobster rolls and 5 Islands Lobster Company for a lobster dinner

                                                                                        4. Philadelphia--Eat your way through the Italian Market. The Reading Terminal is fun....but the Italian Market shouldn't be missed.

                                                                                        1. re: DaisyM
                                                                                          erikschwarz Dec 17, 2010 01:37 PM

                                                                                          Good suggestions from Daisy M. And a comment. If you choose the Lower East Side as a destination, add Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery on East Houston St to the list. Not because it serves good food but because it is iconic and historic. Yonah began selling knishes from a pushcart in 1890, and the current storefront location dates to 1910. More recently, Yonah Schimmel's has been the subject of several NY Times pieces and appeared in a Woody Allen movie. Now for the knishes: they are terrible! There is a Chowhound thread titled "Yonah Schimmel is a disgrace" that records 5 years worth of kvetching and ranting. Some of the more naive posters speculate about when quality might have gone down. Hah! It never was up! My father was a neighborhood kid in the 1920's, and he recalls suffering boykhvehtig (stomachache) from eating there. So go and join in the dyspepsia. It is the essence of the Lower East Side.

                                                                                           
                                                                                          1. re: erikschwarz
                                                                                            d
                                                                                            DaisyM Dec 18, 2010 04:39 AM

                                                                                            We ate a Yonah's recently because the line for Katz's was about a block long. It is pretty bad! But in Philly there is a place that sells truly fantastic knishes. It is in the NE and is called Lipkin's bakery. These are the best knishes I've ever had. You can buy and freeze them. We actually served them for Thanksgiving one year and everyone went nuts. On another note....Russ and Daughter's whitefish salad is outstanding. It has baked salmon in it. Wish I had some now.

                                                                                            1. re: DaisyM
                                                                                              erikschwarz Dec 20, 2010 01:05 PM

                                                                                              A fantastic-tasting knish? That's just wrong. A good half-sour, a nice whitefish salad, sure - the caviars at Russ and Daughters are also delightful by the way - but knishes are supposed to be a penance, not a pleasure. Serving a tasty knish - that's like putting on great entertainment on the Day of Atonement. It's a shanda! Lipkin's must be a bunch of apostates.

                                                                                               
                                                                                      2. huiray Dec 24, 2010 11:20 AM

                                                                                        Hmm, nobody has mentioned Volt/Table 21 ? Why not?

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