Trip Coach: August 12, 2008
Roadfood experts Jane and Michael Stern answered your questions about roadside dining.
Jane and Michael Stern: Good day, hungry travelers! Jane and I are here to offer whatever tips we can for finding good Roadfood stops along the way. Our goal primarily is to find food unique to its place and region, but we have no objection to such non-local treats as a great hamburger, hot dog, or pizza, and feel that just about any excellent, one-of-a-kind eatery deserves attention. So, who's going where, and what do you want to eat?
New York City, N.Y.: I love your weekly segments on Splendid Table! What's the biggest mistake people make when planning a road trip when it comes to roadside dining? Or, put it another way, what's the best advice you could give folks like me that you haven't thought of?
Jane and Michael Stern: Thanks. Probably the biggest mistake is looking for something familiar. For us, the whole point of traveling is to experience the place we are, and that means eating the food people there eat, the way they eat it. That could range from Indian pudding in a Maine diner to carnitas tacos from a truck in South Tucson. In other words, be adventurous! Try new things! Meet new people!
Los Angeles, Calif.: What is the best Jewish deli in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Jane and Michael Stern: It's nothing fancy, but for a good pastrami sandwich, matzoh ball soup, and noodle kugel, David's Deli on Geary Street is the place we've enjoyed. (I cannot miss this opportunity, however, to rave about how good the grazing is down at the Ferry Building, where I just was last week. No Jewish deli there, but the salami store has cured meats to die for.)
Pittsburgh, Pa.: We will be in the DC/No. Virginia area this weekend. Ben's Chili Bowl is a must. Any other can't miss suggestions?
Jane and Michael Stern: D.C. can be tough for finding Roadfood, especially since Scholl's cafeteria closed. You're right, Ben's is a must. We also really like the good old Florida Avenue Grill, especially for breakfast. Over in Virginia, we had time for a quick meal in Fairfax and found ourselves at Chutzpah Deli and were really impressed at just how authentic it is.
Seattle, Wash.: My husband and I are going on a coastal road trip starting from Astoria, Ore. to San Francisco, Calif. in early October. Could you share a few of your favorite diners along the way that do not require venturing off Hwy 101 too much? Thanks.
Jane and Michael Stern: We just did that trip a couple of weeks ago, but the other way, starting in San Francisco. There is no shortage of good things to eat right on—or just off—the Coast Highway. The one real diner-like gem is the Otis Cafe, just off 101 in Otis, Oregon. It is a tiny place, usually crowded. Hearty, homey food. While not precisely diners, some of the other casual Roadfood eateries along the way include the Marshall Store in Marshall, California, for oysters barbecued to order, served on makeshift tables overlooking Tomales Bay. In Oregon, a few favorites include the South Beach Fish Market in South Beach for excellent fried fish & chips (especially halibut) and fresh Dungeness crab, a place called Fresh Seafood NW in Tillamook across from the big creamery (great chowder), and the Ecola Market in Cannon Beach (fresh EVERYTHING; they have their own boats). Also in Cannon Beach, there is a bakery called Waves of Grain that makes sensational sticky buns, cheese biscuits, and cupcakes. Beyond Cannon Beach, in Gearhart, we like Norma's Ocean View Diner for a full menu of local seafood, along with a list of wines from Oregon. Oh, and one more place if you want to have a more upscale meal: Sidestreet Bistro in Florence. It is a small, cozy place with an ambitious menu of mostly Pacific Northwest seafood.
Hot Springs, S.D.: I will be in Bellevue, Idaho a few days in September while my dog undergoes elbow replacement there. Where are good, reasonable places to eat?
Jane and Michael Stern: Wow, elbow replacement. That's amazing that it can be done. Sorry to say, we have never been to Bellevue, so don't have any recommendations (please let us know if you find something good to eat there!) but if you can get over to Boise, definitely give Andrade's Restaurante Mexicano a try. They've got a salsa bar where you help yourself to chunky salsa roja, pico de gallo, four-alarm habanero puree and a large variety of other tongue-tinglers that are just right for dipping tortilla chips. Another fine place in Boise is the Westside Drive-In, run by local celebrity chef Lou Aaron, inventor of the Idaho Ice Cream Potato (!). Great burgers and stupendous, gigantic baked potatoes.