The Best Road Food - From Ohio to Pennsylvania
Ohio Road Food
When I think of chili, I think of Ohio. What, you say? Texas? Oh, sure, Texans make great chili. Ohio chili is a completely different breed, though – almost a completely different food. Go to Cincinnati on your road trip, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Unlike Texas’s thick hot and spicy bowls of beefy goodness, Cincinnati’s chili is finely ground beef (as opposed to thicker chunks) spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg (not smoky like Texas chili), and always served over spaghetti. Then, you can ask for it "three way" – add cheese, "four way" – add onions and cheese, "five way" - all of the above with a heaping helping of kidney beans, or "six way" top all that off with jalapeno chili slices. Sound weird? Maybe, but it’s also really good!
The best place to get it: Although there are many chili parlors in Cincinnati, there’s only one place to go to get this unique road food: Blue Ash Chili. Locals and road-trippers agree that this chili parlor has the best 6-way (or any other way) chili in town. It’s meatier than most (no skimping) and the meat is always fresh, never frozen. The service is fast and friendly and, if you don’t want their chili (why not? Come on! Try it!), they also serve awesome double-decker sandwiches and hot dogs.
Oklahoma Road Food
Oklahoma is home to the world’s largest cattle auction: Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, and so it should be no surprise that this state’s food is BEEF. If you’ve sworn off meat, you might want to take a break from your vigilance if you’re passing through this state on a road trip and enjoy some of Oklahoma’s road food.
So what way should it be served? Chicken-fried steak is actually part of the state’s official "meal" (the only state that has an official state meal), so trying out this delicacy is a must do. Another popular meal is a rib-eye steak served with a salty jus.
The best place to get it: For the most delicious chicken-fried steak ever, go to one of Rt. 66’s first restaurants, Clanton’s in Vinita, Oklahoma. This melt-in-your-mouth steak is full of beef flavor and doesn’t have the greasiness that some renditions of this state road food have, so it doesn’t give you that “I just ate a heart attack” sensation, allowing you to truly revel in the tastiness of your meal. Don’t expect the restaurant itself to look as old as it is, it was rebuilt after a fire.
To really experience Oklahoma steaks during your road trip, go to Cattlemen’s Restaurant, a state icon next door to the famed stockyards in Oklahoma City. Whether you order a rib-eye meal or the Presidential steak dinner, the beef you eat here will probably be the best you’ve ever had. There’s even Steak Soup!
Oregon Road Food
Maryland isn’t the only state that can claim crab as its state road food; if there’s any food that is fresher and more widely available in Oregon, I don’t know what it is. Now, this isn’t an eastern crab – it’s a Dungeness crab and it’s served in every way imaginable. You can get it steamed and dip the tender morsels in butter, find it in rich soups, bite into crab-meat packed crab cakes or tuck into a cheesy crab melt sandwich.
Another must-have food to have on your road trip through Oregon is oysters, and like the crab, there more ways to eat them than there are days in the week. Take your pick! No matter how you take them, they’ll be incredibly fresh and delicious.
The best place to get it: If there’s any place you must go to while in Oregon for these road foods, there’s none better than Pacific Seafood (a.k.a. Pacific Oyster) in Bay City. This oyster distribution center by the water is surrounded by mounds of oyster shells and has an oyster bar where you’ll get the best oysters of your life. To top it off, they also serve fantastic crab meat dishes including Crab Louis, crab cakes, and a steamed crab dinner. Don’t go there for a glamorous atmosphere, though. It’s very casual and rough-around-the-edges, but once you taste the food, you’ll be too transported to notice.
Pennsylvania Road Food
My husband’s family is from Pennsylvania and he says there are two road foods that are true representations of this state. Of course, you probably already know one: the famous Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. The hallmarks of this sandwich are the thin slices of beef (paper-thin or slightly thicker) and the melted cheese (white american, provolone, or Cheez Wiz) which are always placed on a long roll. Then, it’s up to you to decide if you want yours "wit" or "wit-out" onions. This greasy gut-buster is worth breaking your diet for – it’s just that good!
The other must-have on your road trip is the Pennsylvania Pretzel. Pretzel shops are everywhere in this state and they always feature hand-made “Dutch” sourdough pretzels. There are sweet versions coated with yogurt or chocolate and salty versions (best dipped in mustard). Freshly made every day, you won’t be getting anything but the best when you stop for one of this state’s prized foods.
The best place to get it: The coveted "best Philly Cheese Steak" is hotly debated – there are even contests conducted every year trying to find the ultimate version of this road food. What narrows it down is that every purist knows that it’s really not a Philly Cheese Steak if you’re not eating it in Philadelphia. From there, it’s flavor that wins, and that means head to Jim’s Steaks for the tender and flavorful meat that stuffs their beloved sandwiches. This Philly Cheese Steak is so good that people go out of their way for it, even wait in long lines for it, so make sure you make it a stop on your road trip.
Since you’re in Philly anyway, stop by Center City Pretzel Company for super-fresh and delicious hot-out-of-the-oven pretzels. Chewy and flavorful, these are worth a pit-stop even if you’re stuffed from your cheese steak. If you don’t have time, don’t worry – there are so many pretzel shops in Pennsylvania; you’ll have more than enough chances to sample this great road food.
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