The Best Road Food - From Louisiana to Michigan
Louisiana Road Food
There are so many
foods Louisiana can call its own – and all of them are incredibly good! Louisiana is a top culinary road trip destination with both Creole and Cajun influences. The best road food choices that reflect the state are shrimp or oyster po’-boys, oysters on the half-shell or grilled, muffaletta sandwiches, jambalaya, crawfish or "crawdaddies", and gumbo with a side of potato salad (the way they eat it in Louisiana). New Orleans is the home of the best versions of most of these offerings but you can find them throughout the state while on your road trip.
The best place to get it: Get shrimp or oyster po’-boys for lunch at Crabby Jack’s in New Orleans – both visitors and locals agree that these delicious po’-boys are the best in the state. Acme Oyster House in New Orleans serves incredibly good oysters any-which-way, but the favorite is char-grilled – people just can’t get enough of them! Go to the home of the muffaletta, Central Grocery in New Orleans, to get this classic sandwich consisting of sesame-seed Italian bread spread with a tangy olive tapenade and loaded with Italian cold cuts and provolone cheese. Coop's Place in the French Quarter may be a "hole in the wall", but it serves up the best jambalaya around, meaty-rich and spicy with big ol' hunks of sausage.
If there’s anything you must have on your road trip, it’s crawdaddies/mud-bugs in a big ol’ crawfish boil. Heaping platters of huge crawfish can be found at Hawk’s Restaurant in Rayne. Drive down a little dirt road past swamps and gators to this little restaurant tucked away in the middle of nowhere and you’ll not only get the best crawfish in the world, you’ll get a real feel for Louisiana. Everyone agrees that the slightly spooky drive is worth it!
The Gumbo Shop unsurprisingly sells the best chicken gumbo (consistently ranked) in New Orleans, so stop on by for this great dish. Stuffed? Extend your road trip in Louisiana if you have to, but try everything you can in this state famous for its fantastic road food.
Maine Road Food
There is no place on earth like Maine for lobster so, unless you’re allergic, plan on digging in to as many meals as possible starring this scrumptious crustacean. Why is the lobster so great here? Freshness, pure and simple, combined with the seaside atmosphere. Lobstermen agree that it takes cold water to grow the most delicious lobsters, and Maine’s water is cold. There are all types of restaurants dotting the coast – from shacks serving up lobster rolls and bowls of steamers to be eaten on picnic tables next to the water to traditional seafood restaurants serving steamed lobster with drawn butter and corn on the cob (complete with the requisite lobster-emblazoned plastic bib).
The best place to get it: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset is well-known for their outstanding lobster rolls that are piled high with fresh lobster. The line may be long, but the roll is worth the wait.
Sit outside (you won’t have a choice) and enjoy the gorgeous view of the water and five nearby islands at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown. The lobsters here are the best around due to their home being in some of the coldest water around, conditions necessary for the sweetest lobster meat. The legendary Barnacle Billy’s in Ogunquit is not only famous for its wonderful steamed lobster (and every other type of seafood you could want), but also for its picture-perfect views of the harbor at Perkins Cove where you can watch the yachts of the elite pass while you dine.
Maryland Road Food
There couldn’t be a more ideal road food that reflects the state of Maryland than crab. There are all kinds of ways to eat crab – from steamed with drawn butter to crab soup or bisque – but the one dish that says "Maryland" is the classic crab cake. Unfortunately, with cheaper overseas crab being easily available and many restaurants trying to be save money and stuffing their cakes with more filling than crabmeat, it’s easy to end up with a lump of filling or a crab cake from Indonesia rather than Maryland. Finding the perfect local crabmeat-filled crab cake is worth the effort – there is nothing like biting into one and savoring the delicate flavor.
The best place to get it: There’s a lot of heated debate on who serves the best crab cakes in Maryland – this is something dear to the hearts of locals and just okay will never do. Some say Jerry’s Seafood in Lanham serves the best "crab bomb", but there are rumors that the crab in their cakes is not Maryland crab at all. The Narrow’s on Kent Island is considered the best among many without any of the suspicions that surround Jerry’s, plus it has a little of that on-the-water charm that most seek in a seafood restaurant. If it's all about the crabcake and ambiance isn't important to you, then your choice is easy. Go straight to Faidley Seafood in Baltimore. Yes, the place is super-casual and a little shady looking (located in Lexington Market), but their revered baseball-size lump crabcakes are so good, they're - as one road tripper put it - "a crab party in your mouth".
Massachusetts Road Food
After not only being born in Boston, but also spending a great deal of time in Massachusetts, I can say that there are many foods that could be considered state foods, but the three that stand out are fried clams, Boston baked beans, and clam chowder (the creamy New England kind served with oyster crackers). Boston baked beans seem to be rarely served in restaurants, but if you find them, order them up! The other two are served throughout the state and make the perfect selections for Massachusetts’ road foods.
The best place to get it: The most famous seafood restaurant in the state is Legal Sea Foods which has multiple locations throughout Massachusetts and offers a consistently good, though bland and chain-like, dining experience. But as most of you who are on a road trip agree - it's all about the experience of mingling with locals and eating what they eat (most scoff at the idea of eating at Legal Sea Foods). In that case, head straight to the Clam Box in Ipswitch or Woodman's in Essex. Both offer up super-fresh fried-to-crunchy-perfection clams and delicious creamy clam chowder ("chowdah" if you’re a native).
Michigan Road Food
Having lived in Michigan for four years and remained friends with Michiganders I met while there, Michigan’s road food is hard to pin down. People from many different parts of Europe settled this area from the French, to the Dutch, to the English, to the Moravians. Some foods that stand out are baked goods (like apple and cherry pies) and pasties (from the miners from England who settled in the North). More of an effort has been made here to hold on to old-fashioned things like malteds and drive-ins, so things like corn dogs and soda fountains are excellent choices for road foods.
The best place to get it: The pasty, a meat, potato and onion filled pastry described as a "pot pie without the pot", is the one road food that stands out as pure Michigan. Primarily served in the Upper Peninsula (or U.P. as Michiganders call it), the pasty arrived in northern Michigan when Cornish immigrants moved here to work this area’s copper mines. Go to the widely acclaimed Dobber’s Pasties in Escanaba or Cousin Jenny’s in Traverse City for lunch or breakfast (then it’s called a Bobby and stuffed with breakfast-type fillings including eggs, sausage, hash browns and cheese) during your road trip through or to Michigan. If you don’t like meat, there are vegetarian and other novelty options, too, so there’s no reason not to try this delicious and hearty road food.
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