A Fork in the Road: How I Miss Travelling For Food
Disclaimer: This post will make you hungry, please read with a full belly.
Some people travel to sight-see. Me? I travel for food.
Whether it’s pizza in Naples, perogies in Krakow, or beignets in New Orleans - no matter the location I always research what food that area is famous for and off-the-beaten-path restaurants that I can’t leave without trying. It’s something I’ve learned from my mother and sister who both taught me how to find the best places to eat in a city and also how much fun eating can be. Not only will you remember the meal but you will also remember the story behind the meal.
I’m lucky to have so many fun travel food stories, and right now I’m reminiscing about a few in particular which I hope you enjoy!
A Chance Celebrity Encounter
This is a true story.
In 2012, My mom and I went on an epic road trip to the Kentucky Derby. During this time I was obsessed with the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives so I was on the lookout for Guy Fieri that whole weekend as I knew he was in town (very weird, I know). I sent texts to my sister and friend joking about running into him. “Did you search maps for any nearby sunglass huts…” was a real text my friend Chris sent me.
On our last day in Louisville, an old friend recommended a brunch spot named Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. We ended up waiting two excruciating hours for a table as it was packed with Derby goers on their way out of town. When we were finally seated outside our server immediately asked if they could move us to a two-top inside. We said, “Sure, no problem” (ex-waitress here).
I had no clue that the person we were moved inside for was Guy (freakin’) Fieri! The Donkey Sauce King himself! The hostess guided him passed our new table in slow motion - straight out of a movie. I gasped and called my sister as my mom and I laughed hysterically. It was so weird and perfect and it became my favourite food travel story of all time.
And if you think for one second I wouldn’t document this beautiful moment? Come on.
“I can’t play the guitar, but I can play the griddle.” - Guy Fieri (Amen, Guy. Amen.)
I Heart NYC
If there's one thing I've been craving during this year-long quarantine it's Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC. Their hand-ripped noodles and their spicy & sour spinach dumplings are maybe the best dishes I've ever had. Last month I was dreaming of their food again so I went to their website and found out THEY RELEASED A COOKBOOK. I immediately checked online if Perfect Books in Ottawa had it and THEY DID (hallelujah)! I had it in my hands the next day.
Steve and I went all out and bought a cheesecloth and a rolling pin for this (we've never owned either lol - we are adults just ones who love takeout). It took us an entire day – but we made the dumplings! While it wasn’t exact (we have yet to perfect our dough rolling and folding technique), just tasting the delicious dumpling sauce almost made me cry. I have to thank my sister for introducing me to them when she lived in Brooklyn. They have locations all over the city now and seriously it's 😘👌
I miss my family in South Jersey of course, but I think my first stop once I can get across the border may be Xi'an Famous Foods (sorry, Mom).
One Hour in Savannah
Every year (minus 2020 *brb crying*) we drive from Ottawa to Gainesville, Florida for “The Fest” which is the music festival where Steve and I met in 2011. In 2019 on the way down, we decided to take a pit stop in Savannah, Georgia.
We had one hour. Thankfully the heavens opened up, the Yelp gods screamed out, and Zunzi’s a South African inspired restaurant called my name. This place ticked all my boxes:
- They had vegetarian options for Steve - check
- They had intriguing sandwiches - check
- They had curse words in their menu items - f***ing check
I wish I could properly convey how good this dang sandwich (appropriately called the Conquistador) was – and I quickly realized why their “Sh*t Yeah!” sauce made them so famous. It was so good that we stopped in Savannah on the way back from Gainesville to Ottawa to eat there again. We got two sandwiches each for the long drive ahead and we made sure to tell Zunzi’s how we would now take a yearly pilgrimage down to see them every October (2020 strikes again!).
The second we hear someone mention Savannah, we look at each other with longing in our eyes and say “Remember Zunzi’s?”
Don’t Count Out The Veggie Spots
Back in 2014, I had no idea vegan food could be so good. We drove to Chicago to see my favourite band “The Lawrence Arms” play a three-day gig and to stay with my cousin Sean. As you can probably tell, we don’t just travel for food we also travel for music (but that’s a blog for a different day). With Steve being a no-dairy vegetarian, it can sometimes be a struggle to find a balance between finding spots I’d like to try and spots Steve can eat at. So we were so lucky that in between the concerts and wandering around one of my favourite cities, Sean introduced us to the infamous Chicago Diner. They have been serving up delicious vegan diner food since 1983 hence their slogan: Meat-free since ‘83! They have perfected meatless buffalo wings and their vegan milkshakes are to die for. For us, The Chicago Diner is now as synonymous with Chicago as deep-dish pizza and the Bean.
I hope you enjoyed a few of my favourite food travel stories, and that they didn’t make you too hungry. I can think of no better way to end this blog post than with a quote from the King himself…
“I wake up in the morning thinking about food.” - Guy Fieri
Until quarantine is over, I’ll be dreaming of traveling for food. Next stop? Ramen in Tokyo.
Do you travel for food or is there a place you think we should travel to just to eat? Leave us a comment below!