Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Road Tour 2010

Nashville Restaurants and Food

Road Tour 2010

We’re back from a two-week odyssey spanning 11 states and several major American cities, all in the quest to visit 22 relatives. We are beat, but we had lots of fun and plenty of good eating. We could go on for days about Indian food in Washington, D.C., pasta in the North End of Boston or crab cakes in Baltimore. Instead we offer a couple of surprises:

West Asheville, NC: Most people know that Asheville, North Carolina is a funky little city nestled in the mountains. They have so many great restaurants that it’s hard to keep up with it all. We did love our lunch at Rosetta’s kitchen. It’s a vegetarian joint and the tempeh Buffalo wings were awesome, both in crispy fried texture and the sweet-hot buffalo sauce.

The big revelation for us was actually West Asheville. It’s kind of the East Nashville of Asheville. It’s primarily a local neighborhood with a strip of bars, restaurants and funky shops. We had a bartender suggest the Admiral restaurant for dinner. We called and found out they are booked for weeks. We took a chance and found room at the bar. I guess you would call the Admiral a gastro dive-bar. It’s housed in a cinderblock bunker of a building. Aside from the little logo and cool retro paint job you might never know this place serves top-notch food. Inside it’s completely black and still fairly divey, with the open kitchen taking up most of the bar area. The punk rock vibe gives way to great food. The arugula salad is a huge mound of fresh greens with two big wedges of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog sheep’s milk blue cheese. Perfectly dressed and a real treat. A rib eye comes with a bit of seasoned char on the outside and perfectly medium rare. Combined with a potato puree, crunchy asparagus and caramelized onion and you have a great plate. The cocktail list is limited. The Manhattan went down quite smoothly thank-you. If you go, be sure to go across the street to Mike’s Corner Pocket and look for the crickets behind the bar…

Stew Leonard’s: This Connecticut superstore was a revelation to me (none in Boston sadly…only a few in Connecticut and Westchester). It’s kind of a Trader Joes on a massive scale. They are apparently known for their dairy products. Over the years they’ve moved into all sorts of foods. Local and select sourcing is a hallmark of the place. It’s like walking through a Wal-Mart where everything is of a reasonably high quality and with plenty of interesting items. The lobster that night was awesome.

Lowell, Mass: We had some great food in Boston. Probably the most fun though was in the former industrial mill town of Lowell. It’s about 45 minutes northwest of the city. Lowell used to be a hell hole of mill fires and crime. It’s come a long way, with a renewed downtown and a strong Asian and Latin American immigrant community. Lunch buffet food is usually mediocre at best-not at Southeast Asian restaurant. They serve up a Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese buffet that is fresh and tasty. They also don’t dumb down the food. The owner describes how the locals will now holler if she makes the Phad Prik Bai Gra Pao (chopped chicken and chili peppers) anything but red hot. I dug it as well.

New York, New York: We trekked through the Village and SOHO, finally opting for Joe’s Shanghai for lunch. It’s an institution in Chinatown, with quite a few other restaurants in the area trying to trick unassuming diners into assuming they are the Joe’s Shanghai. Do not be fooled!!! We know, we know, the best Chinese in New York is not in fact found in Chinatown (fine, please bust us for being tourists). But if for no other reason, you must go to Joe’s Shanghai for simply the best cold sesame noodles; it’s not just the dish, but the creamy, tender noodles themselves that are phenomenal. Service is curt, hurried, and not very friendly, but it makes a perfect lunch spot for a quick meal while out sightseeing. There are several locations in the New York area (and also now in Tokyo, should you happen to be that way).

Pompton Lakes, New Jersey: Although most humans would never have reason to be in this neck of the woods, if you do, be sure to check out Thatcher McGee’s Irish pub. It’s just off of I-287 and was a delightful surprise for lunch on the road. We were choosing from the typical awful fast food options for lunch, when we happened upon this gem. It was already bustling with regulars enjoying Guinness at noon on this Friday visit. The goat cheese salad was very good and they happily obliged the Veggie Eater’s desire for a veggie Rueben and were kind enough to take $5 off the cost of the sandwich since it had no corned beef. It was one of the better veggie Rueben’s/fancy grilled cheese sandwiches consumed in recent past. Service was excellent and somehow a Guinness at lunch makes a 7 hour car drive more bearable.


mIKES said...

Well hey! Did you manage to notice or stop at Flipside II record shop also on Wanaque Avenue?? My most frequently visited shop after Pier Platters closed. I drove from Vernon down route 23 to the Wayne train station every day for around 14 years. Tell me you did not stop for a Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sammich while in NJ? That is always my first priority. Then it is breakfast at the Candlewyck Diner in East Rutherford. My trip to the north is right now in the planning stages~! Egg sammiches, pizza, and perhaps the obligatory visit to the home office in NYC and Chinatown for some Guk Char siu bao from the Mee Sum Cafe..

Welcome back! Did you notice a partial jar of pickled okra on your counter?

mIKES said...

One last thought - did ya notice the dearth of craft brewed beer in the northeast? I just looked at Thatcher McGees beer list... Wow. Meanwhile we have Yazoo, Sweetwater, Terrapin, BBC, Blackstone, Big River, Bosco's, and Cool Springs. The craft brews here are as ubiquitous as the AB's and Millers. Who needs Guinness when you have Yazoo's Onward that has traveled maybe 5 miles from its brewing source??

Eric and Katie said...

mIKES: Have to save those for the next voyage. Did have some great, floppy Jersey pizza in West Paterson and a fun Italian dinner at a hole in the wall joint named Tony's in Wayne. Kinda freaks you out when you realize the standard strip mall Italian in Jersey is better than much of what you can get in Tennessee. I think it's where you go when it comes to beer brewing out east...they have a bunch of craft brewers in Portland Maine and fewer than you would think in places like Boston. And thanks for the Okra, we were wondering about that...mysterious and wonderous things happen when Margie is in charge.