That's an interesting question for us, because generally we avoid eating meals at chain establishments, with their generic menus that are pretty much the same all over the US -- or the world. We prefer instead to patronize local establishments and sample the local culture. It's not always easy to stay away from the chains, particularly on travel days. Take today, for example. Breakfast was coffee and a muffin from Sheetz (a fuel stop/convenience store popular in Virginia and Pennsylvania). Yesterday, however, we each had coffee and a buttered roll from Renee's Hot Stuff Deli, in Montgomery, New York. Mmmm ... those buttered rolls. Doesn't sound like much, 'til you try 'em. But only in New York!
Where's the best food, you say? Well, New York does have a lot to offer; they do have the best buttered rolls, hands down, and any New Yorker will sing the praises of New York style pizza. Fact is, in New York good Italian food is practically a guarantee ... but they don't have the best Cuban food; that distinction belongs to La Teresita, in Tampa, Florida. Certain areas of New York offer the most amazing Chinese food ... but El Pirata, in Arcadia, Florida, will amaze you with their Mexican food.
We really don't eat out all that much. We cook "at home" a lot, using as much locally grown and produced food as we can. (Not too much point in traveling, is there, if everything's got to be the same as it is back home?) So here are some of our more memorable culinary experiences: a mix of restaurants we've enjoyed, and things we enjoy fixing for ourselves. The list is in no particular order:
Asheville, NC -- Barley's Taproom (it's not exactly New York style pizza, but it's awfully good) and Wild Wing Cafe (best wings anywhere, and if you go to the weekday buffet, you can try six different flavors)
Burnsville, NC -- Garden Deli (lunch is not just a specialty; it's the only meal they serve, and they only serve it six days a week)
West Springfield, MA -- Collins Tavern (world's best soups, hearty sandwiches, and hand-cut fries) and Memo's Deli (their breakfast is a great start to the day)
Columbiana, OH -- delicious locally-grown produce, especially corn, and a sausage ring sold at Sparkle (the local grocery) that's as good as any you might find anywhere ... even in New York
somewhere near New Waterford, OH -- a little shop that has the best, sharpest cheddar spread and makes yummy pepperoni
Great Lakes Region -- pike, walleye, and perch (I can never get enough fish)
Nashville, TN -- Jack's Bar-B-Q (by all means, visit the honky-tonks, see the legendary Ryman Auditorium, catch the Grand Ol' Opry but DO NOT miss Jack's)
Mount Dora, FL -- Sunshine Mountain Bakery (I keep sampling, thinking that eventually I'll find something there that I don't like -- but it hasn't happened yet!)
just about anywhere in FL -- buy some fresh shrimp, take 'em home and boil 'em up