by Hilary Sheinbaum
While most international travels were at a stand-still over the past year, many Americans decided to hop in the car and take their adventures (and appetites) on the road. Instead of far-off destinations, wanderlusts explored different parts of the United States. And, needless to say: that trend is still going strong.
But don’t let the mode of transportation fool you. You can (and should) still eat well without a boarding pass or passport in tow. Between scoping out national parks, engaging in mountain sports, or simply enjoying the freedom of the open road (and snacking along the way), there always comes a time where proper nourishment (ahem, good food) becomes a necessity.
To make the most of a cross country excursion — or make dining the sole purpose of your days-long car ride — take note of these delicious restaurants from Boston to Los Angeles, and trust that these pit stops are worth pulling over.
And did we mention they all use Made In in their kitchens? (Further proof you know this list will be good!)
o ya in Boston
With an entire trip ahead, you may be pondering what shoes to pack or where to pause for gas. One less decision you’ll have to make is what to order for dinner. At your first stop: at o ya, the chef’s choice menu offers nigiri, sashimi, and cooked dishes, on a nightly basis. Beverage pairings are also available during the 20-course omakase. Of course, make sure you’re within walking distance to your hotel or elect a designated driver for your travel crew if tasty drinks are in order!
(photo courtesy of @_o_ya_)
Le Bernardin in New York
The Parisian-born restaurant has been a city favorite since the mid-80s and a record-breaker at that. With Co-owners Maguy Le Coze and Chef Eric Ripert at the helm, and Chefs Anthony Gray, Eric Gestel, and Thomas Raquel also playing a significant role, Le Bernardin has received James Beard and Zagat awards and consistently praised with no less than four-star reviews from The New York Times spanning three decades. The accolades are impressive, sure — but alas, we’re here for the food. The (you guessed it!) French menu is largely seafood-focused, with chef’s tasting and prix fixe dinner options. Regardless of what you decide, do not skip out on dessert. Executive Pastry Chef Thomas Raquel consistently whips up the most delectable, creative treats (with fruit, cocoa, and ice cream) that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Girl and The Goat in Chicago
You may recognize Executive Chef Stephanie Izard from Bravo’s Top Chef (spoiler alert: she won). For more than a decade, she and her business partners have served up New American Fare in the West Loop. The restaurant has its fair share of awards and nominations, including a James Beard win in 2013. While menu item names are bold (for example, wood oven-roasted pig face or sticky braised pork shank), don’t be intimidated by imaginative dishes. Their flavors and composition will surpass expectations (in a good way, of course). Beyond having local beers on tap (again, make sure you have a DD handy!), Girl and The Goat is great for a casual pop-in. The restaurant is open seven days a week, and walk-ins are welcome (under normal circumstances), making it a great destination if you forgot to book a reservation in Chicago or if you’ve accidentally gotten held up in highway traffic en route.
(photo courtesy of @girl.and.the.goat)
Ajax Tavern at The Little Nell in Aspen
Skiing down a mountain is cool, but so is casual fine dining half-way up one. Ajax Tavern offers dinner and a movie on their tented patio for entertainment during winter, but this hot-spot is known for its lively lunch crowd. The wagyu double cheeseburger is the must-get order for an entrée. That said, don’t forget the truffle fries! And, if you’re feeling a little less social (or just want to relax solo after your drive in peace), no worries — there’s takeout service available, too.
Craft in Los Angeles
Like Craft’s flagship based in New York, the Los Angeles location emphasizes farm-to-table seasonal dining that utilizes local fare. In California, the 10,000-foot space includes a veranda overlooking a park. Needless to say, with this wide-open space, you won’t feel a bit claustrophobic after having spent hours and hours in a car. The New American menu boasts comforting pastas, classic desserts like chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream, and other staple menu items that will make you feel like you’ve arrived at home — or at least your final destination.
Depending on your preferences (and your passengers), there are tons of other amazing restaurants in between. You may need a second hit-list (especially if you’re making additional spots and driving back to the beginning) but, starting with these spots will surely satisfy you during the first stretch.