At the end of the year, I like to reflect on the best meals I ate during my travels. It gets harder and harder making my list because I end up finding the most amazing dishes!
Whether recommended by a tourism board or that I found the restaurant myself via the internet, a magazine I was reading, or a drive-by, I’ve eaten some superb meals at incredible places in 2018.
Have a look at my best eats in the USA of 2018, arranged in alphabetical order by state. Quite sure you will be drooling in no time!
Foodies will croon over the menu and offerings at The Preacher’s Son in Bentonville. Claiming the first spot on my best eats in the USA list is a fantastic Gnocchi served alongside sweet potatoes, carrots, and a delicate fromage blanc. The gnocchi sauce had a hint of local honey, too, adding a sweetness to the vegetables that takes them to another level. I could easily go back to being a vegetarian with dishes like this in The Natural State.
Lucille’s Creole Cafe is not the type of cuisine you’d expect to find in the Rocky Mountains of Denver, but seeing that they serve my favorite type of cuisine, creole, I had to go. Lucille’s is one of Denver’s top 20 restaurants out of 2700! I ate the most fantastic Cajun Breakfast with red beans (w/meat), perfectly poached eggs, and hollandaise. My meal came with cheesy grits and a huge cathead biscuit. I never thought I would eat grits so amazing in the North! Lucille’s is one freaking awesome find!
An amazing tapas menu and cocktails await you Eclipse di Luna in Dunwoody, Georgia. I sampled 5 dishes at Eclipse di Luna and each was exquisite. The one that topped the list for me was the Coliflor Roztizada, a roasted cauliflower dish with Marcona almonds and fresh basil. It was tossed in an agave-white balsamic vinegar and whole grain mustard reduction. So much thought went into each tapas dish, made with creative flair. It would be so cool to have an eatery like Eclipse di Luna in my town.
The Top is a downtown Gainesville restaurant the consistently stays in the top 10 out of 400+ eateries according to Trip Advisor. The dish I really loved sinking my teeth into was the Fried Kimchi Cauliflower, paired with sriracha mayo and cilantro. It was so original, plus utilized one of my favorite vegetables. The cool city of Gainesville has stellar vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
Florida (Jensen Beach X2)
Hutchinson Shores Hotel is home to the Drift Kitchen + Bar, the premier restaurant at the luxury hotel situated oceanfront in Jensen Beach. Though I didn’t go there to have a pasta dish, once I found out that all of their pastas are handmade daily, I quickly changed my mind. The Bucatini Carbonara was truly off-the-charts. Paired with crispy pancetta, Cremini mushrooms, and peas, the pasta was properly finished with a Pecorino Tuscano Cream sauce and traditional egg yolk. It even came with warm bread and a tasty herbed butter spread. I was in a trance from the food bliss from this meal.
A second restaurant in Jensen Beach topping my list is The Gafford, a farm-to-table restaurant with superb culinary creations. The Grilled Avocado from here is another of my best eats in the USA this year. The avocado was topped with an heirloom tomato and a smoked jalapeño coulis. It was sprinkled with cheese and served with some mixed greens. I’m mad for avocados anyway and this dish just pushed the boundaries of the usual things I do with them. The Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower with roasted red pepper cream was a close runner-up.
Taste what might be the best pizza of your life at BoomBozz Tap House, a craft pizza and taphouse restaurant. Their pies are made with the Old World Style thin crust and interesting toppings combinations. My Carnitas Libre Pizza was topped with slow-cooked pork, caramelized onions and peppers, mozzarella and asiago cheeses, and a tangy ranchero sauce. I dipped my pizza slices in the garlic sour cream and green chili jam that came on the side. My mouth is watering just thinking about how good this pizza was!
Louisiana (Lake Charles)
I love remembering my awesome meal from Ember Grille & Wine Bar at the L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles. While I also ate a delicious Wedge Salad and bowl of Seafood Bisque, the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio was the stand out dish! It was truly the best I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten carpaccio all over the world! The paper thin beef was topped with Parmesan cheese, white truffle oil, capers, and arugula and was eaten with lavash crackers.
Michigan (Traverse City)
After studying up on Traverse City before my northern Michigan road trip, I knew I had to eat at Patisserie Amie. I ended up having Sunday brunch there— lucky me! My taste buds were wowed by the Croque Madame. Varying from the traditional sandwich, Patisserie Amie served it open-faced. The Bechamel was on point, perfectly rich and creamy. This delicious sandwich could have had 100,000 calories and I would still have eaten every bite.
Michigan (Mackinac Island)
Mackinac Island is a great city for foodies, and this one found her best meal at Chianti in the Mission Point Hotel. While the entire meal was simply amazing (including the service), the Asparagus and Zucchini Salad makes my best eats in the USA list. It was chock full of fresh vegetables and herbs with a goat cheese base. The combination was genius! The Antipasti and Arancini were also noteworthy.
The 3rd Michigan city to make my best eats in the USA is Supino Pizzeria at the Eastern Market in Detroit. During my Feet on the Street food tour I ate Polpette Meatballs, the signature dish. These are far from ordinary meatballs. Packed with flavor from the meat combination (turkey, lamb, and beef), the meatballs sit on a bed of roasted polenta and are topped with a magical marinara sauce.
I had no idea that when I arrived in Springfield, Missouri I would find such a fantastic foodie city. I ended up eating at the Aviary Cafe twice, and both meals were so good that that I am including both of them on this list. The Crêpe Lorraine was perfectly prepared in the classic manner and drizzled with a delicate mornay sauce and crumbled bacon. My “Is It Morning?” crêpe was filled with eggs, bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar-jack cheese, and dotted with crème fraîche. I chose the mashed sweet potatoes as my side item for both meals which were utterly delicious.
Picture me screaming “Omaha!” in my best Peyton Manning voice…now, moving on. In Omaha, some girlfriends and I wandered into a hip looking restaurant, Twisted Fork Grill and Saloon, and happened upon what was a life changing dish—Chicken Fried Bacon. Yep, you heard that right. In Omaha’s historic Old Market district you will find the best bacon dish ever! Thick slices of bacon coated in traditional Chicken Fried Steak batter, deep-fried, then served with a side of peppercorn white gravy for dipping. Oh heavenly day, it was good!
New York (Finger Lakes/Pittsford)
Simply Crêpes is located on the scenic Erie Canal Park waterfront. It takes sheer willpower not to order 2, 3, or 4 meals per person from the tantalizing selection of menu items. I had the Chicken Tarragon Crêpe, loaded with juicy grilled chicken, broccoli, and hearty mushrooms, and topped with a tarragon cream sauce. I don’t think I even came up for air after I started eating. The dish was extraordinary! (I’m starting to see a trend with my best dishes of 2018)
New York (Pittsford)
Oak & Vine, at the Springside Inn in Auburn, New York set the bar really high for a classic dining experience with wonderful food that doesn’t cost a fortune. The best, and most ordered item on the menu is their signature Cheese Soufflé. It was light and cheesy with a desirable consistency and flavor. My photo didn’t turn out so good so pictured here are the next courses (French Onion Gratinee and Oysters).
North Carolina (Charlotte)
While in Charlotte, I was invited to the omakase tasting (Chef Gene Keto picks the menu) at Upstream, a fantastic seafood restaurant I’d dined at in the past. Each course was worth mentioning and Instagram-worthy, but I narrowed down to my favorite—Angry Crab. This dish was similar to a sushi roll and full of baked king crab Gunkan. It literally melted in my mouth. The flavors of the Angry crab were delicate, but scrumptious.
If you’ve ever been to Columbus, you are probably familiar with restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. While dining at one of his genius creations, The Guild House in the Short North Arts District, I had a meal that was one for the books, but the appetizer is making my best eats in the USA list. The Guild House’s Stuffed Poblano appetizer is filled with rock shrimp, roasted corn, goat cheese, and coated with a cool and yummy tomatillo lime dressing. This is one smart recipe right here and mmm, mmm, good!
It takes a spectacular appetizer to make the best eats in the USA list, but Wheat Penny in Dayton delivered a home-run with their Eggplant Fries—nom, nom, nom. The fat sticks of eggplant are dredged in rice coating, then dipped in yogurt sauce and topped with seasonings. I liked them paired with Wheat Penny’s homemade marinara sauce. Even my daughter, a no veggie kinda gal, enjoyed them.
Oklahoma (Oklahoma City X2)
Breakfast at Hatch Early Mood Food is a must when visiting Oklahoma City. This smart restaurant has a pancake trio on the menu, allowing you to choose from all sorts of winning pancake and toppers creations. A friend and I enjoyed a sampling of the Bananas Foster, Blueberry Streusel, and the Famous PanOKCake, with bourbon maple and bacon pecans. I’m not typically a sweets fan but each one of the pancake trio won me over. We also had a side of the Hash Brown Tumblers, the perfect side dish.
If you’ve ever been inside a 21C Hotel, you know that the food, as well as the hotel and its art collection and modern rooms, is going to delight the guest. It should come as no surprise that a dish on Mary Eddy’s menu threw me for a loop, then wowed my taste buds. The dish—Watermelon and Popcorn. It may sound odd, but after a complex procedure of pressing the watermelon, pairing it with fresh avocado, feta cheese, Tasso spice, and an herb puree, the result is sheer genius. May I have another?
Rhode Island (Providence)
Having never attended a restaurant during Restaurant Week, I was afforded the opportunity to dine at Gracie’s during theirs in Providence, Rhode Island. I indulged in a three-course meal, with each round being epic, but the second course, Gracie’s Rigatoni Campanaro, was reason to strike up the chorus! Heavy, homemade tubular pastas were a great vessel to hold the hearty sweet & spicy meat sauce that was dotted with plum tomatoes. What I found really amazing were the little squares of ricotta that gave the heavy dish a nice tangy bite. The thinly sliced onions on top lightened up the dish. The portion was so big I had to eat the rest for breakfast, and nobody had to twist my arm.
In Beaumont, Texas I came across a unique dish that made me want to lick my fingers and the plate it was served in. Say hello to the Creamy Shrimp and Crab Bread Bowl from Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp. This “spread” was a mix of the seafood and a creamy pepper jack sauce. The spice level made my nose run; and that is good in my book. Well done, Beaumont.
Though not in the US, there were 2 other dishes that were quite noteworthy.
One was my Filet Mignon with bearnaise sauce from the Pinnacle Grill on the Holland America’s Oosterdam ship and the Ceviche from Mariscos El Güero on my Vallarta Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a cruise port we visited on the Holland America cruise.
Meals Fit for a King (or Queen)
2018 was a year of epic proportions and amazing meals. Which of the restaurants from my best eats in the USA list would you most like to try?
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