EAT LIKE A LOCAL
5 Tasteful U.S. Trips
Sussing out places that serve bona fide regional specialties is a high point of any road trip. In five corners of the country, here are restaurants worth a detour.
The center of the food scene is still Santa Fe, which made its name back in the '80s with new New Mexican fare, but great options abound across the state, especially to the south toward Albuquerque along Highway 14, a.k.a. The Turquoise Trail. This scenic byway is not only home to a disproportionate number of authentic New Mexican restaurants, but it's also one of the prettiest stretches in the Southwest.
Three essential stops: Stock up on green chile bread ($8) and biscochitos, an anise-flavored shortbread that is New Mexico's official state cookie ($3 per dozen), at the Golden Crown Panaderia (1103 Mountain Rd. NW, 505/243-2424, goldencrown.biz), near Old Town Albuquerque. In Cerrillos, on Highway 14, you'll recognize the San Marcos Café from the gaggle of chickens, peacocks, and turkeys noisily clucking about an Old MacDonald–type ranch. The croissant-like cinnamon rolls are essential (flaky and sweet), but for something more traditional, order the muchaca: a scramble of eggs, beef, and pico de gallo (3877 State Hwy. 14, 505/471-9298, cinnamon roll, $4; muchaca $11.50). Santa Fe's Coyote Café (132 W. Water St., 505/983-1615, coyotecafe.com) has been around since 1987 and is responsible for new New Mexican cuisine. So skip the green-chile cheeseburgers and opt instead for barbecued duck quesadillas ($12) and Eric's New Mexican Meatloaf, with its requisite green chiles and spicy chorizo gravy ($12).
CENTRAL MAD RIVER VALLEY, VERMONT
Head there via a four-hour drive northwest of Boston.
Vermonters were eating locally grown food long before the media injected the term "locavore" into the national lexicon. And nowhere is farm-fresh food more deeply rooted than in the 30-mile Mad River Valley between Waitsfield and Stowe Mountain Resort. Hemmed in by the Green Mountains, the valley has been a hotbed for the local foods movement since 1987, when George Schenk opened his now renowned American Flatbread pizzeria in Waitsfield. These days, small-scale farms, family dairies, and New American bistros are popping up like dandelions along Mad River's main drag, the winding Route 100.
Three essential stops: At Three Shepherds Cheese, Larry and Linda Faillace's raw milk cheeses include Cosmos, a soft-ripened cow's-milk cheese covered in organic Italian herbs, garlic, and red pepper flakes, available at the Waitsfield Farmers' Market (108 Roxbury Mountain Rd., 802/496-3998, threeshepherdscheese.com; Mad River Green, 802/472-8027, waitsfieldfarmersmarket.com; $20 per pound). While Whole Foods stores nationwide sell frozen pizza from American Flatbread, the real thing is just outside Waitsfield at the company's first location. Naturally, the restaurant serves Ben & Jerry's for dessert (46 Lareau Rd., 802/496-8856, americanflatbread.com, pizza $17.50). Nab one of 15 or so outside seats at Hen of the Wood, a charming restaurant in a converted gristmill in Waterbury. It's a bit of a splurge, but well worth it for sheep's-milk gnocchi ($16), local rib eye with fingerling potatoes and grilled leeks ($31), and a mostly Vermont cheese list (92 Stowe St., 802/244-7300, henofthewood.com).
DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN
Find your bearings 170 miles north of Milwaukee.
The upper Midwest does not leap to mind as a crucible of culinary genius, but you might want to think again. Across western Wisconsin, there's a minor revolution afoot, a movement to bring back the traditional pies, small-batch gin, Cornish pastries, and Danish kringles the area was once known for. Any given Saturday, particularly on the Door Peninsula sandwiched between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, you're almost guaranteed to happen upon roadside fish boils and farm stands loaded with fresh apples, juniper berries, Montmorency cherries, and, of course, artisanal cheeses (it is Wisconsin after all).
Three essential stops: Fruit wines are gaining popularity among oenophiles, and the county's top-rated quaffs are at Door Peninsula Winery (5806 Hwy. 42, 800/551-5049, dcwine.com). Just north of the town of Sturgeon Bay, the 36-year-old winery recruited California vintner Paul Santoriello, who has made wines for the likes of David Bruce Winery, a pioneer of cutting-edge production techniques. At the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the Voight family has been smoking fish since 1932 at Charlie's Smokehouse. There are other fish on the menu—trout, salmon, and chubs—but the maplewood-smoked local whitefish is the item to order. Grab a table overlooking the water (12731 Hwy. 42, 920/854-2972, charliessmokehouse.com, whitefish $5.50 a pound). Also just off the northern tip, small-batch gin, vodka, and white whiskey are distilled from Washington Island's wheat and juniper berries by the award-winning Death's Door Spirits (920/847-2169, deathsdoorspirits.com; bottle of Death's Door Vodka, $35).