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    Kalamazoo,

    Michigan

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    Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is the county seat of Kalamazoo County. As of the 2010 census, Kalamazoo had a population of 74,262. Kalamazoo is the major city of the Kalamazoo-Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 335,340 as of 2015. Kalamazoo is equidistant from the major American cities of Chicago and Detroit, each less than 150 miles (240 kilometers) away. One of Kalamazoo's most notable features is the Kalamazoo Mall, an outdoor pedestrian shopping mall. The city created the mall in 1959 by closing part of Burdick Street to auto traffic, although two of the mall's four blocks have been reopened to auto traffic since 1999. Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan University, a large public university, Kalamazoo College, a private liberal arts college, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, a two-year community college.
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    Budget Travel Lists

    The 10 best day trips in the US Midwest

    In the Midwest, you’ll find friendly small towns as well as urban sprawls. Roll call for the region's cities starts with Chicago, which unfurls what is arguably the country's mightiest skyline. In Cleveland, the best action is in its walkable neighborhoods. Detroit rocks, plain and simple. Day trips in this region have everything from parks and museums to architectural delights to breweries. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Chicago Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreAt the southern tip of Lake Michigan, 15 miles of white-sand dunes and more than 50 miles of trails await outdoor adventurers. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can swim, bike, fish, ski or hike, depending on the season – or camp overnight from April to October. Beaches fill up fast in the summer, so arrive early to pick the best spot. 1hr 10min by car. Lakefront walking path in Lake Geneva ©Sandy Swanson/Shutterstock Lake Geneva Shore Path, Wisconsin You’ll find something fascinating along just about any stretch of this nearly 26-mile path, which was originally forged to link Native American villages. It winds past excellent lake views, wooded stretches and beautiful estates. Strike out in either direction from Lake Geneva Library for the easiest route. 2hr by car. Windmill Island Gardens, Holland, MichiganGet a taste of Dutch life in delightfully kitschy Windmill Island Gardens. The top attraction in the aptly named town of Holland, this 36-acre park contains gardens, dykes, canals, picnic areas and, of course, a giant windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964. In the spring, more than 100,000 blooming tulips draw admiring crowds to town. 2hr 20min by car. Illinois is a great base to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's designs ©Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock Racine, WisconsinArchitecture aficionados shouldn’t miss Racine, which is home to several notable Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Manufacturer SC Johnson is based here, and its third-generation CEO commissioned Wright to build not only his home, Wingspread, but also the administration building and research tower for SC Johnson itself. 2hr 20min by car. See more day trips from Chicago. Best day trips from Detroit Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, DearbornPlunge into American history. The indoor Henry Ford Museum contains a wealth of American culture, such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The adjacent outdoor Greenfield Village features Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ airplane workshop. 30min by car. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand RapidsThe 158-acre gardens feature impressive blooms and hulking works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and others. The sculpture park offers paths and lawns bejeweled with works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor. The five-story glass conservatory bursts with tropical plants. The children’s garden provides lots to smell, touch and dig into. The tranquil Japanese Garden is another highlight. 2hr 30min by car. Sample the craft beer at the breweries in Kalamazoo ©blizzard_77/Getty Images Breweries, KalamazooKalamazoo has an offbeat charm that will surprise first-time visitors. But it’s the local beer that has got people talking; over a dozen breweries produce a huge range of them. The leader is Bell’s Brewery, one of the top craft breweries in the country. 2hr 40min by train. See more day trips from Detroit. Best day trips from Cleveland Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several waterfalls and hiking trails ©fdastudillo/Getty Images Cuyahoga Valley National ParkLike a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of "crooked river" (or possibly "place of the jawbone"). Either name is evocative, and hints at the mystical beauty that Cuhayoga Valley National Park engenders on a cool morning, when the mists thread the woods and all you hear is the honk of Canadian geese and the fwup-fwup-whoosh of a great blue heron flapping over its hunting grounds. 30min by car. Fast action thrills of a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point ©AWelshLad/Getty Images Cedar Point, SanduskyCedar Point on Lake Erie is one of the world’s top amusement parks, known for its 17 adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Stomach-droppers include the Top Thrill Dragster, among the globe’s tallest and fastest rides. It climbs 420ft into the air before plunging and whipping around at 120mph. The Valravn is the world’s longest ‘dive’ coaster, dropping riders at a 90-degree angle for 214ft. Check the park’s opening times before planning a visit. 1hr by car. Topiary Park, ColumbusIf you’ve ever thought, "I wonder what Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte would look like made out of yew trees," this park is for you. A local sculptor and his green-thumb wife created the Topiary Park some 30 years ago to brighten a neglected patch of downtown. Today you can wander around seven acres and admire the 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, monkey and cat carved from shrubs to resemble Seurat’s famous painting. 2hr by car.

    Budget Travel Lists

    Lake Michigan: 8 Perfect Summer Getaways

    It's one of the largest—and perhaps the most beautiful—freshwater lakes in the world. Remnants of the inland shipping industry that once dominated the Great Lakes can be found inside charming lighthouses and small-town historic museums, but today, visits to the shore of Lake Michigan are for swimming and sport fishing. City dwellers in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Indianapolis know that Lake Michigan has a deep catalog of seasonal destinations, but for everyone else, it’s still under-the-radar. As such, now’s the time to plan a summer escape “up north,” as locals call it, where Victorian cottages, boating festivals, and fireworks make the area feel like a midwestern Cape Cod. There are countless ways to spend your time: explore the outdoors on a camping, swimming, or hiking trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or Wisconsin’s most remote island state parks, sample locally caught wild whitefish, take a gay-resort holiday, find a favorite microbrewery, or traverse miles of uninterrupted coastline. So what are you waiting for? 1. Manistique, Michigan At With just over 3,000 residents, Manistique is a population center—albeit small—of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The town at the mouth of the Manistique River on Lake Michigan borders Hiawatha National Forest, nearly 900,000 acres of wilderness spanning the peninsula between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Camping, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing on the Manistique River or the inland Indian Lake lets you stay close to town. Savor Michigan’s fast-growing microbrewing culture at Hops on the Harbor, a statewide craft beer festival that takes place each August. Or, to dive into the real wilderness-culture of the area, find the legendary Kitsch-iti-kipi spring to learn the Chippewa Indians’ culture. An hour’s drive north takes you to Pictured Rocks, a national park with dramatic cliffs and wild dunes on Lake Superior's shore. 2. Rock Island, Wisconsin Nestled off the northwestern shore of Wisconsin, Rock Island is accessible only by ferry or personal kayak from neighboring Washington Island. Once owned by an Icelandic immigrant who made his fortune in electronics in Chicago, the mostly undeveloped island is now a state park. Its limited beach camping allows intrepid travelers to spend the night under the stars in stillness and isolation. Day visitors can hike the trail left by its former owner, who built small cottages and a stone boathouse modeled after Iceland’s parliament building. Elsewhere on the island, Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse, named after the Potawatomi tribe who first settled the island, is maintained by volunteer docents who give tours with excellent lake views. But the real treat on Rock Island is the splendid isolation. 3. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana Indiana has the smallest slice of Lake Michigan coastline, but you wouldn’t know it when visiting Indiana Dunes National Park, where the shore appears to stretch endlessly across 15,000 acres between Michigan City and Gary. Seasonal camping and fishing make the park a popular summer getaway, but hikers are rewarded any time of year as they traverse the sandy dunes all the way to the beach or hike the waterfront trail near Portage Beach. As the southernmost point on Lake Michigan, temperatures in the water are usually balmy here earlier in the season, making it a solid choice for a June escape. Away from the beach, the park encompasses historic homes built for the 1933 World’s Fair. The Bailly Homestead, a fur-trading post and meeting place for Native and Anglo-Americans in the early 1800s, is a landmark site that you can explore with a guided tour. 4. Harbor Springs, Michigan The twin towns on either side of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, sit near the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Harbor Springs, a town of about 2,000, swells during the summer months as vacationers pour in ahead of the annual regatta in July. Ugotta Regatta, paints the bay with hundreds of yachts and sailboats, while spectators take advantage of the charming, historic downtown fudge and ice cream shops in Petoskey, on the south side of the bay, generations of Victorian summer cottages founded as a Methodist church camp in the nineteenth century make up the community of Bay View. Stay at the Bay View Inn or historic Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey to experience the charm of another era. For a touch of the contemporary, try the local microbrewery, Beards. 5. Saugatuck, Michigan The lakeside village of fewer less than 1,000 inhabitants has been a cultural draw for more than a century. Saugatuck made its name over a century ago with the Ox-Bow art colony during the Arts and Crafts Movement, and continues to attract artists and curious visitors. Today, this lakeside village of fewer than 1,000 residents is easily the buzziest LGBTQ destination in Michigan. The Dunes and CampIt, a duo of welcoming gay resorts, sit across Kalamazoo Lake in Douglas, Saugatuck’s twin village. The club at The Dunes, covered in disco balls and hot pants, hosts parties every night, but in the summer months, every day on the beach feels like a party, too. Hike through beautiful wooded dunes to the peaceful beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, or take a swim at Douglas Beach. For something more chill, check out the retro-style paddlewheel boat cruise down the Kalamazoo River. 6. Two Rivers, Wisconsin Although it was known through most of the 20th century as a fishing and inland shipping hub, Two Rivers isn’t your typical port town. Said to be the birth place of the ice cream sundae (a claim the town’s historical society takes very seriously) no visit here is complete without dessert at the old-fashioned ice cream saloon in Washington House. The only museum dedicated to wood-type printing, Hamilton Wood Type, hosts letterpress workshops and other hands-on events. Design lovers should make a reservation at the Schwartz House, Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Don’t miss locally caught fish, whether you catch your own on the shore of Point Beach State Forest or order them at Water’s Edge Restaurant, a popular spot known for its panoramic view of Lake Michigan. 7. Charlevoix, Michigan The charming drawbridge that divides downtown Charlevoix makes the town a small but busy shipping port for tall ships seeking access from Lake Michigan to the interior lakes on the other side of the channel. The drawbridge action, on the half-hour, always packs this tiny community of 2,000 within tight quarters. You can witness it perfectly from Weathervane Restaurant, while eating locally-caught whitefish and other seasonal items. Locals don’t seem to mind though. You can find them in the Victorian homes around the scenic natural harbor or the charming “mushroom house” built by self-taught architect Earl Young. The round stone structures, which look curiously like hobbit homes, are made of materials found in the area and blend perfectly into the woods. At the end of July, the eight-day Venetian Festival includes a boat parade, live music, beach festival, and fireworks. 8. Port Washington, Wisconsin It might be the classical brick downtown dating from the early 1800s, the vintage Art Deco pier light, or the neighborly village feel of this harbor community, but Port Washington’s motto, “New England charm and Midwestern friendliness,” fulfills its promise. Visitors to this resort town, 30 miles north of Milwaukee, can swim or yacht on the Lake Michigan shoreline, or head deeper with Port Deco Divers weekend scuba diving trips, which explore one of more than a dozen local shipwreck sites at the bottom of the lake. Since 1964, the town’s largest annual festival, Port Fish Day, celebrates the Lake Michigan fishing tradition with a parade, rock bands, fish and chips stands, and fireworks. Turn up for the atmosphere, stay for the people.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Cheap Fall Beaches You'll Love

    To tell the truth, here at Budget Travel we've never signed off on the notion that beach season ends on Labor Day. Balmy beach breezes, warm sun, and lobster rolls remain available well into October. And one of the benefits of hitting the shore in autumn is affordable hotel rates, putting dream destinations like Hilton Head, Montauk, Laguna Beach, and even Nantucket within your reach. Here, 10 of our favorite American beach towns with fall rates that say, "Welcome!" 1. HILTON HEAD South Carolina Warm beaches, warm welcome—plus pirates! With fall temperatures in the 70s and 80s, miles of pristine lowcountry beaches, and the utterly unique Gullah culture, Hilton Head is truly like no other beach town in America. Learn more about what makes the island special at the Coastal Discovery Museum, or discover it for yourself on a quiet beach. If you're traveling with kids, don't miss Pirates of Hilton Head Island, with its ride aboard the Black Dagger ship. Or take a deep breath and explore the island on ZipLine Hilton Head's two-hour sky-high tour! 2. SAUGATUCK Michigan Step back in time in this sleepy Lake Michigan town Picket fences, a 19th-century vibe, and not a chain restaurant in sight. Saugatuck is one of the places savvy Chicagoans go to get away from the big city. Before you can plant yourself on Oval Beach, you've got to hop a hand-cranked ferry across the Kalamazoo River. 3.LAGUNA BEACH California Live the SoCal beach dream No, you don't have to surf just because you're on an iconic seven-mile stretch of Southern California sea and sand, but you can take a group surfing lesson for $75 with a guarantee that you'll "get up" on your board. Nearby Laguna Village offers excellent art galleries and shops, a nod to this gorgeous beach town's roots as an artists' colony. 4. BAY ST. LOUIS Mississippi Gulf beaches, fresh seafood, and art galleries One of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns in America 2013, Bay St. Louis was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but has done more than recover since then. Explore Historic Old Town, go fishing, and take a walking tour of 19th-century homes, Creole cottages, and galleries, or just take Main Street straight down to the beach. 5. POINT PLEASANT BEACH New Jersey The lines for the roller coaster and zeppoli are way shorter in September! One of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns in America 2018, Point Pleasant Beach is, well, pleasant enough in summer if you enjoy being part of a major scene, rubbing elbows with in-the-know New Yorkers, Philadelphians, and Jersey girls and boys who love Jenkinson's Boardwalk and the lovely stretch of beach here. But come September, the rides stay open, the cotton candy is just as sweet, but rates for hotel rooms just a block from the beach can be literally a third of the summer price. 6. PORT TOWNSEND Washington Old-timey seaport in the Pacific Northwest We love the harbor and the foodie scene in this Victorian-era Olympic coast seaport, which was one of our Coolest Small Towns last year. A sea kayaker's dream town, Port Townsend also boasts nearby mountains for hiking and biking, and is an especially great place to cast for fish. 7. KEY WEST Florida You can't go any farther—or ask for a more beautiful location—down the East Coast Well-known as one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite locales—with a party reputation to match—this gorgeous spot at the waaaaaaaaaay bottom of the U.S.'s East Coast boasts a much wider variety of activities, including tours of Victorian homes, nature kayaking, and unique art galleries. Sunset-watching here is not mandatory, but thoroughly recommended. No matter how cliché, it never gets old. 8. MONTAUK New York Parkland and board shorts at the very end of Long Island's East End Sure, this dreamy beach town at the tip of New York's Long Island has gone a bit more upscale over the years, with some classic motels closing and serious eateries moving in. But with only 17 square miles bounded by water and 40 percent of the land devoted to state and county parkland, this place is still pretty wild, and one stop at the Ditch Plains beach and its surfing scene will make you feel as if you've traveled back to the days when trekking the 100+ miles from NYC kept most folks away. 9. LAHAINA Hawaii A hoppin' main street in paradise For some people, the words "beautiful beach" and Maui are synonymous, and it's difficult to argue. But you'll also find a beautiful town—Hawaii's former capital, Lahaina—on the unparalleled island, with one of the U.S.'s most thriving main streets, the result, in part, of the 19th century whaling industry, for which Lahaina served as something of an unofficial capital as well. Nearby Kaanapali Beach, mountains you can almost reach out and touch, and a tranquil harbor make Lahaina a perfect town for kicking back. 10. NANTUCKET Massachusetts Eighteenth-century architecture meets 21st-century style "See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse," wrote Herman Melville about Nantucket in Moby-Dick. This charmingly whale-shaped island still holds its lonely position off the coast of Cape Cod, but of course these days the whaling captains, sailors, and harpooners who made the island home two centuries ago have been replaced by captains of industry who can meet the sky-high summer rates. But things cool down literally and figuratively come September, when you can have perfect beaches, 18th-century cobblestone streets lined with contemporary galleries—and a table with a view—to yourself. (And don't miss the Nantucket Historical Association, with its beautifully designed whaling exhibits and exceptional docents, in the heart of downtown.)

    Travel Tips

    Where Foodies Love to Eat

    We pestered 33 experts until they shared every last tip from their recent trips. It's food for the soul, from people whose taste you can trust (and check back next week for more places where foodies love to eat). MARIO BATALIOwner of seven New York City restaurants; author of the new book Molto Italiano; star of Molto Mario on the Food Network San Francisco The best tacos in the world are at Taqueria San Jose. 2830 Mission St., 415/282-0203, $2. Miami Beach The best skirt steak with chimichurri is at Parrillada Las Vacas Gordas. 933 Normandy Dr., 305/867-1717, $16. New York City The best pork bao is at Momofuku. 163 First Ave., 212/475-7899, $7. ALICE WATERSChef/owner of Chez Panisse in Berkely, Calif., and a champion of sustainable farming San Francisco Cocina Primavera at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market serves great Mexican food on Saturday mornings: a delicious breakfast with handmade tortillas and tamales, and salsas using pure ingredients (ferrybuildingmarketplace.com, breakfast $8). At Pizzetta 211, the pizza with two eggs cracked in the middle is very good, especially with an organic-lettuce green salad and a glass of wine (211 23rd Ave., 415/379-9880, egg pizza $14). New York City Pearl Oyster Bar still makes the lobster roll by which others are judged. 18 Cornelia St., 212/691-8211, $22. ARI WEINZWEIG Cofounder of Zingerman's, an artisanal food emporium in Ann Arbor, Mich. Kalamazoo Julie Stanley, chef and owner at the Food Dance Café, puts great energy into sourcing quality ingredients, and her efforts show. 161 East Michigan Ave., 269/382-1888, calamari $9. Chicago Pastoral is a new little cheese shop with a beautiful selection and a nice variety of wines and breads. There are a few tables outside where you can eat one of their cheese sandwiches. 2945 N. Broadway, 773/472-4781, cheese sandwich $6. Milwaukee Cuban food isn't what comes to mind when you mention Milwaukee, but there are some great dishes on the menu at Cubanitas. It's authentic Cuban cooking in a spot you'd never expect. 728 N. Milwaukee St., 414/225-1760, roasted pork with rice $10. DAN BARBER Chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in New York City, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. Berkshires To shop for the perfect picnic, start at Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic; they use their own organic flours (367 Park St., Rte. 183, 413/274-3412, loaf of sourdough $4). This part of Massachusetts is famous for dairy. High Lawn Farm is the last dairy around that produces and bottles its own milk (535 Summer St., Lee, 413/243-0672, chocolate milk $3). Then head to Rubiner's, an upscale cheese shop, for Rawson Brook chèvre (264 Main St., Great Barrington, 413/528-0488, $8). On Saturday mornings, go to the Great Barrington Farmers' Market (Castle St., 413/528-0041). PATRIC KUH Restaurant critic for Los Angeles Magazine Los Angeles I like to go to Teresita's, a family-run restaurant in East L.A. The owner, Teresa Campos de Hernandez, opened the modest place in 1983. She's still cooking and greeting customers in the front, but her son Antonio runs the restaurant now. Their chilaquiles are great--fried corn tortillas drenched in homemade red or green salsa and strewn with cotija cheese. And on Wednesdays, they have costillas de puerco en chile negro, pork ribs cooked in a black chili sauce and finished with Ibarra chocolate. It's sort of like a braising juice. 3826 E. 1st St., 323/266-6045, chilaquiles $8. BILL NIMAN Founder and chairman of Niman Ranch, purveyors of hormone-free meats Philadelphia When I'm in Philadelphia, I love to go to the White Dog Cafe, a restaurant in a row of five 130-year-old houses. You feel right at home the moment you walk in. Their food is prepared from natural ingredients sourced directly from sustainable family farms. The best thing is the barbecued pork sandwich, served in the bar and grill part of the restaurant. 3420 Sansom St., 215/386-9224, pork sandwich $11. JOAN NATHANAuthor of The New American Cooking (out next month), host of PBS's Jewish Cooking in America Providence Whenever I go to my hometown, I make a trip to nearby Fall River for delicious Portuguese English muffins from Central Bakery. On the package, they call it a "Port." 711 Pleasant St., Fall River, Mass., 508/675-7620, English muffin $3. RICK BAYLESS Chef and owner of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, both based in Chicago Oklahoma City For Oklahoma-style barbecue, I go to Van's Pig Stand in Shawnee, outside of town. Everything's made from scratch. The barbecue is dry-rubbed. It's mostly pork ribs with hickory smoke. Oh, you've got me all worked up now! 717 E. Highland St., Shawnee, 405/273-8704, ribs $11. BILL SAMUELS JR. President of the Maker's Mark bourbon company Kentucky People drive 70 miles to eat breakfast at Lynn's Paradise Café in Louisville. It's the most interesting place--not fancy, just weird. They give out an Ugly Lamp of the Year award (984 Barret Ave., 502/583-3447, bacon and eggs $5).The best fried chicken in Kentucky is at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. It's been open since 1919, and they age their own hams. Let's just say you would not be surprised to run into Robert E. Lee there (638 Beaumont Inn Dr., 800/352-3992, fried chicken lunch $9).Everyone wants a steak. At Pat's Steak House in Louisville, Pat butchers his own meat. My wife and I had our wedding reception there.... My mother was so mad that we didn't have it in the country club, she didn't come (2437 Brownsboro Rd., 502/893-2062, steak dinner $28). R. W. APPLE JR.New York Times associate editor and author of Apple's America Portland Jake's Famous Crawfish is a favorite with locals for its cedar-planked salmon ($20) and selection of Oregon wines (401 SW 12th Ave., 503/226-1419). At Mother's Bistro and Bar, Lisa Schroeder is the mom, and I'll bet she cooks better than your mother. The bill of fare features homey items like chicken and dumplings and pot roast (409 SW 2nd Ave., 503/464-1122, chicken $13). Seattle The country is full of faux bistros, but Le Pichet is the real thing, and a lot cheaper than a ticket to Paris. Try the charcuterie ($11), followed by one of the wines served in pitchers. 1933 First Ave., 206/256-1499. CHRIS BIANCO Owner of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, where the pies have inspired many pilgrimages Phoenix Burros are a southwestern soul food--basically little tacos with meat and chilis. At Rito's, they come with either red or green chili sauce; I always get green ones. It's been around for 28 years. There's no sign, it's family-owned and cash only, and Grandma's in the kitchen. As far as the food goes, it's the real deal. The burros are really killer (907 N. 14th St., 602/262-9842, green chili burro $4). Also in Phoenix, there's a new place called Matt's Big Breakfast. They make traditional American breakfast, and almost everything is locally grown. I usually get either this really great oatmeal with bananas, or the pork chop and eggs. The building itself is brick, and inside it's a funky space--tiny, clean, deco, all white with orange tables and counters (801 N. First St., 602/254-1074, oatmeal $5). SHIRLEY CORRIHER Author of Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking San Francisco In North Beach, there's Café Jacqueline. She only makes soufflés, soups, and salads. I still remember the endive tossed in olive oil and blue cheese. She said the secret is to find a white, white endive, so it's sweet. If there's any color at all, it'll be bitter. You can stop in and have a chat with her--she'll explain. 1454 Grant Ave., 415/981-5565, soufflé for two $25. RACHAEL RAY Host of three Food Network shows--30-Minute Meals, $40 a Day, and Inside Dish Austin The Salt Lick is my number-one, super-affordable go-to. It's in what looks like a huge barn with an open smoke pit. You can sit at community tables and get huge platters of sausage, brisket, and ribs. The whole barnyard is smoked and piled up on a platter--all things dead off the grill (18001 FM 1826, 512/894-3117, all-you-can-eat dinner $15). Taco Xpress--that place is crazy, too. It's this teeny, tiny shack not far from the San Jose Hotel and the tacos are awesome. It's run by a lady named Maria who put a papier-mâché bust of herself on the roof--a huge statue, like an Evita Perón sort of thing (2529 South Lamar Blvd., 512/444-0261, taco $1.75). JIM LEFF Cofounder of the cult favorite website Chowhound and producer of two new books, The Chowhound's Guide to the New York Tristate Area and Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area San Francisco A small grocery store in the Mission District, La Palma Mexicatessen is filled with a phalanx of women who are diligently pounding out various grades of masa, which is corn dough. They make the best potato chips anywhere in the continental U.S.--fried up in yummy corn oil. They also have great tamales, chicharrones (fried pork rinds), and taquitos de cabeza (beef head tacos), too. 2884 24th St., 415/647-1500, soft tacos $2.45. New Orleans Touristy though it is, I can't resist Mother's Restaurant. Debris--the stuff that falls off roast beef while it cooks--on a biscuit is a diabolical flavor bomb, the po'boys kill, and lots of other things are mega-soulful. I often eat there twice per trip, for both breakfast and lunch. 401 Poydras St., 504/523-9656, debris on a biscuit $4. DAVIA NELSON & NIKKI SILVA Known as the Kitchen Sisters, Nelson and Silva have an NPR show called Hidden Kitchens; their new book of the same name comes out next month Austin Barton Springs public pool, in South Austin, is a liquid town square where all of Austin goes to swim, barbecue, and play soccer. The snack shack there has catfish fry, burgers, and Coke floats, not to mention pigeon and duck food (2201 Barton Springs Rd., Zilker Park, 512/474-9895, burger $3). Artz Ribhouse is a roadhouse, with cacti out front that are taller than the building. You can get a half-rack of ribs with potato salad or coleslaw for $9. Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King were playing when we were there--imagine eating baby backs while Janis Joplin serenaded you (2330 South Lamar St., 512/442-8283). "A day without goat is a day without sunshine" was the motto on the Friday we went to Ranch 616. We watched them barbecue a baby goat in the parking lot, and ate their "pulled pie"--a lemon-meringue-pecan creation with hand-pulled peaks (616 Nueces St., 512/479-7616, pulled pie $6). SUZANNE GOIN Chef at A.O.C. Wine Bar and Lucques, both in Los Angeles, and author of Sunday Suppers at Lucques, to be published in November Los Angeles There's a Thai place called Ruen Pair on Hollywood Boulevard. It's in this minimall that's famous for having three Thai restaurants. One, named Palms, has a Thai Elvis impersonator. Put your name down at Ruen Pair, then go have a beer at Palms and watch Thai Elvis sing his songs, then go back and your table will be ready. It's a lot of soupy noodle things, fried noodle, meats over rice. We never remember what we ordered. We just look at what other people are eating and we point. 5257 Hollywood Blvd., 323/466-0153, papaya salad $6. MARK BITTMAN Host of the PBS series How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes on America's Chefs and food columnist for the New York Times New York City I've been going to Menchanko-Tei for 20 years, and I always get the same thing: Hakata Ramen ($8). It's a milky white broth with vegetables, meat, and delicious noodles. Craig Claiborne turned me on to it. 43-45 W. 55th St., 212/247-1585. Los Angeles Dumpling 10053 has dumplings with this amazing chili sauce. It's like an Asian-Mexican fusion, but there's nothing pretentious about it. The thing to order is the pork or the shrimp. 10053 Valley Blvd., 626/350-0188, shrimp dumplings $6. PHYLLIS RICHMAN Former critic for the Washington Post and culinary mystery writer; her latest book is Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham? Washington, D.C. One of the most upscale restaurants in town, Galileo, has a bargain lunch in the lounge. If you see the charcoal grill out front, it means that they're grilling sandwiches in the back. The best is the pork sandwich. It's $5 for a huge one with a green sauce and fried onions. Also, they have the best cannoli on the East Coast for $2.50. You'll see limousines sitting outside waiting for someone who's gone in to get his lunch. 1110 21st St. NW, 202/293-7191. FRANK STITT Author of Frank Stitt's Southern Table and chef/owner of three restaurants in Birmingham, Ala.: Bottega, Highlands Bar and Grill, and Chez Fonfon Charleston An out-of-the-way place for an oyster roast in the winter is Bowens Island, on James Island, outside of town. It's a cinder-block shack overlooking the water on a bend in the river on the way to Folley Beach. They'll roast the oysters, then shovel them onto these big wooden tables. If you're at all cool you know to bring your own oyster knife (1870 Bowens Island Rd., 843/795-2757, oyster roast $19). In Mount Pleasant, on Shem Creek right across the river from Charleston, where the shrimp boats come in, there's the Wreck, a hole in the wall. It's a reeeal dive. It's a little bit sleazy and a little bit shady, and cheap, but you get shrimp that are right off the boat, either boiled or fried (106 Haddrell St., 843/884-0052, fried shrimp dinner $15). New Orleans At Acme Oyster House the guys stand at this marble oyster bar, shucking oysters that came out of the water the day before. You drink your beer. (Wine, no way.) The guys are shucking oysters as fast as you can eat them. There's a bit of an honor code about how many you've eaten, which I think is charming. 7204 Iberville St., 504/522-5973, half-dozen oysters $4. San Francisco: Swan Oyster Depot has the most beautiful seafood on crushed ice. 1517 Polk St., 415/673-1101, seafood salad $15. CHRIS KIMBALL Founder, editor, and publisher of Cook's Illustrated Vermont At the Creamery, in northeastern Vermont, the woman who makes the pies still melts and renders leaf lard--the fat around the kidneys in the pig. It's mild and makes it taste much better than butter crust. They are delicious! There are maple cream and chocolate cream pies--stuff you usually don't see anymore. 46 Hill St., Danville, 802/684-3616, slice of maple cream pie $5.

    Budget Travel Lists

    Coolest Small Towns in America 2015

    #1 GRAND MARAIS, MN: Paddler’s paradise on Lake Superior (pop.: 1,351). Get your canoe on! Here on the north shore of Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is one of the world’s perfect paddling destinations, with miles of waterways to navigate. Whether you’re craving a romantic getaway or a real adventure, Grand Marais has a little something for everyone, including cozy B&Bs, a vibrant arts community, an annual Fisherman’s Picnic, Superior National Forest, and restaurants whose names say it all: Angry Trout Cafe, World’s Best Donuts, and Sven and Ole’s Pizza! #2 CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: A mid-Atlantic island escape (pop.: 2,941). This incredibly beautiful island town offers a mid-Atlantic summer getaway complete with perfect beach­es with trails for cycling and walking, fresh seafood (and an annual seafood festival!), and its legendary wild ponies. But it’s also a year-round hot spot, especially during its holiday parades and house tours. The town is also a favorite spot for amazing boat tours and as an ideal locale for watching NASA rocket launches from the nearby Wallops Visitor Center. #3 HILLSBOROUGH, NC: Art and literature come alive in the mountains (pop.: 6,087). Talk about local spirit! Hillsborough amassed the most nominations this year to make our list of semifinalists. The town has serious literary cred, with several bestselling authors not only making their home here but also participating in local events and the annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” Enjoy the newly opened Riverwalk trail, Last Fridays Arts Walks, historical build­ings dating back to the 18th century, and Occoneechee Mountain. Top-notch local restaurants offer live music, and you may even spot the mayor on a night out. (You’ll know him by his signature bowler hat!) #4 ALLEGAN, MI: Mayberry on the Kalamazoo River (pop.: 4,998). Locals sometimes refer to Allegan as a “modern-day Mayberry,” and we can understand why. Friendly eateries like The Grill House, Minnie Sophrona’s Restaurant, and Corky’s Drive-In, plus an old-timey movie theater and much more, make visitors feel at home here. And with the lovely Kalamazoo River winding its way through town and Allegan’s proximity to Lake Michigan, inland lakes, and ski resorts, all four seasons can be filled with outdoor fun and natural beauty. Whether you’re craving a thriving food and art scene, a buzzworthy county fair, or you just love fishing (including ice fishing!) or golf, Allegan is a warm and welcoming getaway. #5 WASHINGTON, NC: A Southeast sailing mecca (pop.: 9,744). Locals like to say that Washington has a small-town feel but big-town activities. The waterfront downtown is a major draw, with a renovated theater, wonderful shops, and a wine-tasting scene that surprises some visitors. The Pamlico River is popular with the sailing crowd 10 months of the year, and hunting and fishing are thriving activities in the area. Founded in 1776 and named for General George Washing­ton years before he became our nation’s first president, this town wears its history proudly but lightly, sometimes referring to itself as “Little Washington.” #6 DELHI, NY: Galleries, antique shops, and a film festival in the Catskills (pop.: 3,087). The western Catskills in Upstate New York make for a wonderful setting, with rolling hills and the Delaware River (yes, its west­ern branch reaches all the way up here) flowing through town. A thriving Main Street is ideal for browsing eclectic gal­leries, antique shops, and an artisan guild that features local talent. If you ever tire of exploring the hiking trails and enjoying water sports on the river, get ready for the Catskill Mountains Film Festival, the Delhi Covered Bridge Run, and the Taste of the Catskills food festival, among other crowd-pleasers in this popular town. #7 FORT MYERS BEACH, FL: This perfect island town is your gateway to the Everglades (pop.: 6,277). On Estero Island, on Florida’s southwest­ern coast, Fort Myers Beach should not be confused with the nearby city of Fort Myers. Here, everybody knows everybody, and you’re never more than a mile or so from the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Think of this as your entry point for exploring this remarkable stretch of coast­line, including gorgeous islands, Everglades National Park, and creatively prepared local seafood at restaurants such as The Beached Whale and Matanzas on the Bay. #8 HURON, OH: Beaches, craft beer, and live music on Lake Erie (pop.: 7,149). Where the Huron River meets Lake Erie, one of the Midwest’s hidden gems is waiting for you. Go hiking at Shel­don Marsh State Nature Preserve, visit the Huron Pier for some great fishing, relax on Nickel Plate Beach, or hit the local golf course. You can enjoy this town just by taking a leisurely stroll along downtown’s waterfront streets and visiting the scenic boat basin for photo ops or one of the town’s many festivals. Craft beer and live music are both on tap downtown as well, and you can take your pick of lodgings, from a resort experience to a comfy B&B. #9 SNOHOMISH, WA: Quirky festivals in the Pumpkin Capital of the Pacific Northwest (pop.: 9,098). With idyllic rolling farmland, Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains as a backdrop, this town is a Pacific Northwest paradise just a short drive from Seattle. Activities here are as big as all outdoors, with hot-air ballooning, sky-diving, and unique local festivals such as “GroundFrog” Day and the Easter Parade, with its Sauerkraut Band. You can bike or walk the Centennial Trail, be one of the first to see the brand-new aquatic center, and enjoy downtown Snohomish’s excellent restaurants and justly famous antique shops. In fall, this is the Pumpkin Capital of the Northwest! #10 OLD ORCHARD BEACH, ME: An iconic boardwalk and perfect stretch of New England beach (pop.: 8,624). There’s more to this town than its namesake beach, though truth be told the seven-mile stretch of sand is awesome in its own right, with its legendary amuse­ment park and nightlife that includes live bands and great seafood. But Old Orchard Beach is also a prime base for kayakers who want to explore area rivers, fishermen or day-trippers who crave a cruise out on the Atlantic, and those of us who are content to contemplate beautiful lighthouses (like nearby Cape Elizabeth) and watch the tide roll in and out.

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