Road Trip! Help Kim Chart Her Course

There's change on the horizon at Casa Appetite. Next month, Mister MA starts a new job in Seattle, and just as soon as I can pack up my pots and pans here in Arlington, Va., I'll join him on our new adventure in the Pacific Northwest.


Should I just close my eyes and pick a place to get a bite to eat? (Kim O'Donnel)

Because I've seen so little of this country (fewer than half of all 50 states), I've decided to take my time getting to my new neighborhood and embark on my first-ever cross-country road trip.

If all goes as planned, I'll bid adieu to the nation's capital in early August and begin my coast-to-coast eating/blog-stravaganza, filing regular dispatches in this space along the way.

So far, I have no set itinerary, but I'm inclined take a northerly route (with a few southerly detours). And that's where you come in: Help me plot my route across the country! All destinations -- great, small, obscure and even out of the way -- will be considered, as long as there's an edible connection. I want truck stops, diners, markets, creameries, breweries, farm stands, food festivals and everything in between.

So vote with your forks and tell me, o' wise ones, where and how I should eat and drink my way across America. My mouth is watering with anticipation.

P.S.: Since I am flying back to Washington today, there will be no regular What's Cooking chat. Check in with me this Thursday, June 5 at 1 ET for What's Cooking Vegetarian.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 3, 2008; 6:45 AM ET Travel
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Kim, You MUST make a stop in Toledo, Ohio at Tony Packo's. It is a Hungarian restaurant, made famous in M.A.S.H. They have amazing hot dogs and Pickles and Peppers. Here is the website: http://www.tonypackos.com/.

Posted by: Toledo, Ohio | June 3, 2008 8:47 AM

I don't know how long your trip will take...but if it happens to coincide with either the Iowa or Minnesota State Fairs, you might want to hit those. The Iowa State Fair boasts the biggest food competitions as well as the Butter Cow. The Minnesota State Fair says they have more food on a stick than any other state fair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-5Lr2IhB_o

I've wanted to go to both for sometime now. Maybe I can live vicariously through you!

Posted by: Fairs | June 3, 2008 8:50 AM

Could you do a stop at Cowgirl Creamery in CA? I had some of their cheese when I was at the Ferry Terminal Market in SF and I still dream of it.

Also -- Cascadian Farms. When I buy frozen organic veggies and fruit I always end up buying their brand. I am very curious about them and whether they are as great as they sound :D

Posted by: Brooklyn, NY | June 3, 2008 9:08 AM

If I were you, I'd get a copy of Jane and Micheal Stern's "Roadfood".... it's all about this very thing, must-eat stops all over the country for intrepid foodies.

Posted by: Katie | June 3, 2008 9:19 AM

Hey Brookland, If you ever make it down to DC, there's a Cowgirl Creamery right here- it IS delicious!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 9:22 AM

Start the road trip by reading 'Blue Highways', by William Least Heat Moon. He talks about getting off the highways, and driving down the old roads where people live -- and judging diners by the number and quality of their calenders.

Posted by: Betsy | June 3, 2008 9:29 AM

As long as your route is a northerly one, you should make it to the U.P. for a pasty!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 9:41 AM

Whether of not you make it to the Iowa State Fair, make sure you stop in the Amana Colonies (http://www.amanacolonies.org/). Amazing German food, cute country shops (including candies and meats), and dandelion wine - what more could you want?

And be sure to get a pork tenderloin sandwich while you're in Iowa - they are only available there, usually in local diners and similar - and they rock!

Posted by: Iowa | June 3, 2008 9:48 AM

Good recommendation, Katie!

Posted by: Yes! | June 3, 2008 9:48 AM

American Pie is a neat eating road trip story, if you're looking for something to to inspire.

Posted by: MG | June 3, 2008 10:35 AM

We made this trip to a new job in the early '80s. We didn't have much time to venture off the highway, most of the food we ate was unremarkable. The one exception was the Iowa Machine Shed in Davenport. I've read that it has other branches now, so I don't know if the quality is the same, but it was a meal we still remember. The roast pork loin was delicious as were the side dishes and breads (blueberry) they gave you. Halfway through the meal we realized we New Yorkers were the only non-blondes in the place!

Mostly I remember the relentless driving and some incredible scenery. In western Nebraska we had to pull over to try to grasp what we were seeing: flat land as far as you could see ringed with thunderstorms in the distance. Parts of Wyoming looked like the moon. We experienced exhaustion from high altitude and constant wind in Cheyenne. And the Salt Flats in Utah were another alien landscape. If you're driving by yourself, I would avoid that - there's nothing, but nothing there.

Anyway, it's a trip that everyone should make at least once. Good luck!

Posted by: Fran | June 3, 2008 10:39 AM

Kim,

Hope you and your hubby can put up with the weather in Seattle. My girlfriend has been stationed there for about 18mos and works at Fort Lewis. She hates the weather there. Way too cold for her. Prefers the heat and humidity of DC. We had to get her a special lamp for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I would hit Memphis and KC for barbecue and then down to TX for barbecue and Tex/Mex. back up through Colorado for some grass fed organic prime beef and lamb. Then up through Idaho and Montana for the scenery. Shame you will miss the big sheepdog herding trial in Meeker, CO Sept 3-7 and the national Finals in Sturgis, SD the week of Sept 9-14.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 10:46 AM

Kim,
I highly recommend hitting Wisconsin for some frozen custard, especially since you'll be doing this road trip in the summer. Culver's is the big chain, and it's pretty good, but my choice would be Le Duc's in Wales or Hefner's in Cedarburg (both suburbs of Milwaukee).

Posted by: Former Cheesehead | June 3, 2008 11:01 AM

It's not a northern route, but I'd highly recommend traveling through New Mexico, where they have the best green chile. You can stop at Michael's Restaurant in Taos for stuffed sopaipillas and in Chimayo (Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant)...taco carts in NM are great, too!

Posted by: NM | June 3, 2008 11:25 AM

Hey vaherder, or Clifton, or whatever you go by on a given day - Maybe your girlfriend is just depressed from having to listen to you talk about grass fed beef and your collies every chance you get.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 11:26 AM

Kim,

You are in for a treat! I did a similar trip from Boston to Seattle in 1993. So much fun! Here are some ideas for stops along the way:

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. Experience waves crashing on sandy beaches and Karner Blue butterflies landing on wild lupines.

Deerfield, IL and the Deerfield Area Historical Society. You have to stop by and see my great-, great- grandfather Caspar Ott's log house!

The bluffs along the Upper Mississippi, in Alma Wisconsin. Beautiful! Rivals any view in the US.

The Painted Canyons of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. We discovered this park by accident and loved it!

Of course there are great cities between here and there: Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis.

Be sure to take your time. As you get further west, look for National Parks and Monuments. There are many so many to enjoy: Dinosaur Nat'l Monument, Rocky Mountain NP, Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Arches NP.

And once you get to Washington, you have to check out North Cascades NP.

Posted by: phoebesnow | June 3, 2008 11:31 AM

I can second Fran's recommendation of the Iowa Machine Shed in Davenport, IA. My family stopped there at least once a trip on our visits to my grandparents in Northern IA.

I would also suggest the Northwestern Steakhouse in Mason City, IA. This place is amazing and has been owned and operated by the same group of friends/family since it opened in 1920. Its a Greek steakhouse like none you've ever visited. My grandparents started going there not long after they opened and my family still celebrates my grandparents' anniversary there every year, even though none of us live in IA.

Posted by: Katie | June 3, 2008 12:07 PM


Check out the Saveur Magazine for July, great article on road trips and road food, may it inspire your planning. I second going thru Wyoming and Montana for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, both are fantastic and shouldn't be missed.

Posted by: Cheryl | June 3, 2008 12:20 PM

Congrats to Mr. Mighty Appetite and I hope a change of locality does not mean that we won't be seeing you around Washington Post online!

I recommend the Upper Penninsula of Michigan as a start of your northern route straight west to Seattle. You can head straight west from there, almost literally, and explore lower Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on the way there. I recommend it for two reasons: one is the beautiful scenery. It is truly a gorgeous land. The second is for the pasty (past-EE, not PASTE-ee). That is a turnover filled with beef, potato, and rutabaga. It's yummy goodness to warm yourself to the tootsies. I don't know of any other part of the nation that serves that exact dish, though of course many cultures and states have pocket pies of all sorts. The source of the pasty are the Cornish immigrants who came there to work the mines.

I think this is an awesome idea. I have been planning a coast-to-coast road trip for ages. My plan is to go the southerly route, to San Diego, or maybe Rt. 50 beginning to end. I envy you this opportunity.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | June 3, 2008 1:05 PM

Wow, I'm loving all of these suggestions!
DC Cubefarm: I should have made a note in the body of my piece: but the answer to your question is YES! I will continue to share my Mighty Appetite with you from the west coast. Everything will carry on as per usual -- after all, that's one of the beautiful things about the Web.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 3, 2008 2:24 PM

Come to Ann Arbor, MI and eat at Zingerman's! My family always looks forward to that whenever they visit me. What a wonderful trip you are going to have -- I can't wait to read about it

Posted by: Kaylee | June 3, 2008 2:26 PM

I am so happy to see someone beat me to the State Fair recommendation. The Iowa State Fair is Aug 7-17 this year - my kids haven't been to Disney - but we go back home to Iowa for the Fair almost every year. There's the food - in addition to everything you can imagine or can't on a stick - my personal favorite remains the peppermint ice cream sandwich - the sandwich part is oreo cook and caramel and then a big wedge of peppermint ice cream in between. We already have our tickets for this year's trip. Corn dogs are only good at the State Fair - and besides the eating extravaganza - there's so much to see - it's a blast. You won't look at a pork chop the same again after you seen the biggest hog. And getting a milk shake from the stand right next to the dairy demonstrations - well - it's great. I'm sure the MN is almost as good;)

Posted by: Maria - Iowa State Fair | June 3, 2008 2:31 PM

I see there are other Iowa recommendations. Don't forget Pella and the Dutch Letters - my parents make a special trip to get me a dozen before they come to visit. You can get them at the State Fair too;)

Posted by: Maria - More Iowa | June 3, 2008 2:34 PM

If you're a fan of bizarre phantasmagoric midwestern Jewish Delis filled with paper mache Rube Goldberg contraptions and good matzo ball soup, I'll direct you to Madison, Wisconsin's own "Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor." Your head may explode, but it's got great food and you can ride the carousel when you're done. While swinging through town, you can pick up some fresh cheese curds, which are one of the few truly regional food items left in America. Sooooo good.

Posted by: John A | June 3, 2008 2:36 PM

Kim,

I love your chats and blog -- almost as much as I love a cross-country road trip! I did the northerly route to Seattle once, via I-90 after catching I-94 in Chicago. Here are a few highlights along the way, both culinary and non:

-New Ulm, MN -- great German food and a town glockenspiel, about an hour west of the Twin Cities
-South Dakota is all-around awesome awesome, who knew? Badlands, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, ghost towns...
-Bozeman Brewing Company in Bozeman, MT -- great beer and food!
-Of course, Pike Place Market in Seattle, where I'm sure you've already been

Have a great time!

Posted by: DEO | June 3, 2008 3:40 PM

Unfortunately, my suggestions would all be in the south. But the thought of driving the southern route (anything south of I-70) in July/August and with gas prices this high is crazy.

Although, it seems kind of hard to see you leave the east coast without hitting Lexington, NC, Knoxville, TN, Memphis, TN and Kansas City to see how BBQ changes as you move west.

Posted by: RT | June 3, 2008 4:25 PM

What does this mean for the blog in the long term? I know you'll be keeping the blog up in Seattle, but what I love is the focuse on local foods--where will I turn now that your local is no longer the same as my local?!

Posted by: m.e. | June 3, 2008 4:34 PM

Go to the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR! It has amazing blue cheese. And there are all kinds of other sightseeing things you could do in the general area, including Crater Lake and all the stops along the coast. You should also hit the Rogue Brewery (no connection to the creamery) in Newport.

Posted by: B. F. | June 3, 2008 4:47 PM

John A, I second the cheese curds recommendation. I get them every time I'm back home. Thankfully Carr Valley Cheese (http://www.carrvalleycheese.com/) does mail order. They are still squeeky when they arrive.

Posted by: Former Cheesehead | June 3, 2008 4:56 PM

Congrats on moving West! It's fabulous here. If you come through Sonoma County way, in NorCal, there is a fabulous little restaurant called the Willowwood Cafe in Graton that is a lovely place for a meal. And of course, SF is full of all sorts of good things, namely Bi-Rite creamery and a ton of really good burrito joints (conveniently, burritos and ice cream are in the Mission ...).

Have a fantastic trip!

Posted by: nicole | June 3, 2008 5:45 PM

Cheese curds! Deep fried and eaten at the Minnesota State Fair. What great memories. Get a milkshake from the Dairy Building and check out the butter sculpture of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

I second the suggestion of stopping in New Ulm, MN. Have some of the local brew, Schell's. Affectionately referred to as "Deer Beer" for the buck on the label.

In Wisconsin, see if the Elegant Farmer is still in business in Mukwanago. Great farmer's stand. Once in college we made a road trip from Mpls to Milwaukee to see the Baltimore Orioles play; stopped at the Elegant Farmer and bought a bushel of apples; made apple pies for days afterwards.

Posted by: B'more Cat and Deep Fried Cheese Curd Lover | June 3, 2008 5:53 PM

First off, I'm thrilled to see all of the Iowa recommendations--I'm pretty new to the area and now I have a list of where to go!

Also just wanted to add that Des Moines has a GREAT farmers' market on Saturday mornings--and knowing what a fan of the farmers' market you are, Kim, I thought you might want to put that on your list. Blocks of vendors selling all kinds of produce, meats, dairy, flowers--and Dutch letters! Yum!

Posted by: Des Moines | June 3, 2008 8:23 PM

Kim, You must stop in Chicago for an Italian beef sandwich. Portillo's is the big chain that serves them, but you can get it just about anywhere. And while you are there eat some pizza too! Maybe check out the original Uno's, so much better than the franchise. Oh, and get a hot dog. So much good food in Chicago.

Posted by: Italian Beef | June 4, 2008 9:28 AM

Madison, WI seems to be directly on your northerly route.

If you land there, I have two recommendations: Marigold Kitchen, which I mentioned in an earlier post about strawberries. I have no affiliation with the place, but went there often when I worked in the Capitol. Absolutely fantastic food, all made there. Terrific muffins and full breakfasts, great lunches. They have fresh, seasonal salads that are creative and delicious. Good sandwiches and entrees too. The owner/chefs are always on hand behind the counter and are very friendly. Can't say enough good things about them. It is just off the Capitol Square, SE of the capitol bldg.

Also nearby is Mercury Deli. Well, it was. I don't know if it is still there, as it has been several years since I looked. It was off the NW side of teh capitol on Mifflin. Incredible sandwiches, hand made. Great ingredients, lots of homemade side salads (e.g., tabbouleh, pasta salad, etc.) They have sammy specials, but will make anything you want. Neuske's meats, great cheeses, fresh ingredients, lots of humor.

And, if you happen to be in Madison on a Wednesday or Saturday, you'll love the farmer's market. It is the largest farmer's market in the nation (Saturday version) that is entirely comprised of locally produced foods--any baked goods or cheeses or other products have to be made by thepeople selling them, not resold from other producers. The selection of veggies and fruits is tremendous, and will of course vary depending on when you are there.

That's my 2 cents. Milwaukee is another story, and also has GREAT locally owned, ethnic restaurants and little local spots that are well worth investigating. If you think you'll take that side swing, holler and we'll post some recommendations.

All the best to you and Mr. MA in this new adventure in your loves. Blessings.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 10:42 AM

Wow, you are one lucky lady! Seattle is my very favoritest food town in the country. I'll be back with a recommendation of a divine Thai place in your new hometown. :-)

I don't have much to offer about places to stop, on a northerly route... just have fun! And I second the suggestion about the most recent issue of Saveur, there's one article that makes a really good point about how sometimes the best places are found by accident, and no amount of online recommendations will uncover every little gem. :-)

Posted by: Divine Ms K, Arlington | June 4, 2008 10:46 AM

Kim, I do hope your trip takes you through Colorado. As I mentioned last week, you have a place to stay with me (right inbetween Boulder & Denver). I'd recommend dinner at Frasca in Boulder..the owners met while working at French Laundry and have been nominated for a James Beard Award this year. It's fab. Then we will hit all of the state's many microbreweries...Colorado has some great beer! If you are here in late August it will be peach season and Colorado's western slope peaches are the best I've ever had (and i'm a southern gal). We also have great green chile and lamb!

Posted by: Hoolia | June 4, 2008 11:07 AM

The historic Trempealeau Hotel in Trempealeau, Wisconsin has outdoor seating right on the Mississippi River and serves a famous walnut burger.

While in Wisconsin, I concur on cheese curds, both fresh and deep fried, and frozen custard. You should also hit up a "brat fry" (often to be found in supermarket parking lots) and a brewery (new glarus in Southern WI is my favorite.)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 11:46 AM

Kim--
I would rec some time in the Great Lakes region. If you want Old World sausages, you might look in to The Sausage Shoppe at 4501 Memphis Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44144-1912. If you find yourself in Cleveland at all, please stop by the West Side Market. Founded in 1840 (building built in 1912), it offers a ton of local produce and food (at prices which would make most of us in the DC area drool). Keeping with the Midwestern deli theme: Slymans on St. Clair Ave in Cleveland might be worth you time.

If you turn sharply north, the region around Erie, PA is full of grape vines and has a tradition of producing (rather sweet) wine.

As for northern Michigan: amazing. You will not regret a visit. I hesitate to mention it lest this paradise become more widely discovered.

Safe travels and best of luck.

Posted by: RustBelter | June 4, 2008 11:49 AM

If you're on I-80 through Wyoming, stop in Laramie and have lunch (or dinner) at Sweet Melissa's (for the homesick vegetarian, with organic wines & beer) or Jeffrey's Bistro (love the Thai burrito). If you're heading through Colorado, have breakfast at Luciles. They're in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and Longmont (mmm, Eggs Pontchartrain).

Posted by: lib | June 4, 2008 12:03 PM

Visit the store that gave birth to Penzey's -- somewhat literally. Bill Penzey, of the aromatically and deliciously wonderful chain, is a son of the couple who run the Spice House just 5 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. It is quite literally a house -- on a tiny, oddly shaped lot on a funny corner. Marvelous little local spot and great proprietor.

A daughter (I think) also runs the Spice House downtown and in Chicago. All the same quality Penzey spices, just not the big brand. There is also a Penzey "warehouse" and showroom site about 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee.

Plenty of other treats to be had here as well, and we can even put you up for a night.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 12:12 PM

I'm going to second B'more Cat's suggestion of Elegant Farmer. The summer camp my brothers and I attended was in the same area and the highlight each year for every camper was the Elegant Farmer trip! I haven't been there in a few years but I would recommend everthing from the fresh, crisp pickles to the apple pie in a bag to the local cheeses. Amazing!

The other thing you must hit up if you'll be taking the Midwest route is the town of South Haven, MI. They're home to the National Blueberry Festival in early Aug (always was around my dad's bday on the 9th). And if you go, you must stop at Sherman's Dairy, which has the best hommade ice cream in the Midwest!

Love the state fair ideas, too, though I'm privy to WI....nothing beats their cream puffs!

Posted by: Midwest Gal | June 4, 2008 3:04 PM

I second the recommendation for Tony Packo's.

Also in Ohio is a gem of a little diner in Lancaster, Ohio, White Cottage, which is located at:

157 W. Main St.,
Lancaster OH 43130

It is mostly diner fair, but very good price and even better quality. Don't skip on the pie.

Also, the Ohio State Fair is July 30th, through August 10th in Columbus. Two things worth going to. Almost in the middle of the fairgrounds is the Taste of Ohio Cafe. The different Producer's groups each have a section, so you can get steak, pork, lamb, or chicken dishes, plus fresh sweet corn, watermelon, etc. Then for desert head over to the Dairy Barn to get some fresh made Ice Cream and get a picture of the butter cow ( A life sized cow in a refrigerated display made of butter)and whatever they decide to "honor" with a butter sculpture.

One other place worth considering if you are going from Columbus to Toledo is a little place in the Town of Waldo, which is between Delaware and Marion, OH on Rt. 23. It is the G & R Tavern. They make a very good fried bologna sandwich, which is quite tasty. It is not made with the typical Kahn's like bologna but something closer to trail bologna.

103 N. Marion St.
Waldo OH 43356

Posted by: Dennis | June 4, 2008 3:38 PM

Re-read your inital post and thought of two other places in Central/Northeast Ohio.

http://www.velveticecream.com/mill/ye_olde_mill.asp

It is an ice cream museum in an old grist mill from 1817. It is run by the Velvet Ice Cream folks and it has a 19th century style Ice Cream Parlor. How can you not go to an Ice Cream Parlor in Licking County?

Up the road from Utica a ways is Holmes county which has the largest population of Amish in the United States. There are several restaraunts up that way and they are fairly similar in quality, price and menu. I'll suggest Chalet in the Valley mainly because you can also stop at the Guggisberg Cheese Factory across the road. My parents would take me up there when I was a kid and I always loved getting some of the green Moon Cheese.

Here is a link for the restaraunt:
http://www.chaletinthevalley.com/

Here is a link for the cheese store/factory:

http://www.babyswiss.com/catalog/find_us.php

Posted by: Dennis | June 4, 2008 4:04 PM

I still dream about the food in my hometown of Cincinnati. Beyond the Graeter's Ice Cream (the best is raspberry chocolate chip), beyond the three-way at Skyline Chili (spaghetti noodles topped with a cocoa-tinged meat sauce and a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese), and even beyond the sticky sweet ribs at Montgomery Inn, the food I miss most of all is Shanghai Mama's.

The noodle shop is a Cincinnati hidden gem and a favorite of local chefs and restaurateurs. The place is open until 3 a.m., and they serve enormous bowls of homemade noodles. They even do a weekly demonstration of the noodle-making. (http://tinyurl.com/59ue46)

Posted by: Maggie | June 4, 2008 4:41 PM

You can't drive cross country without stopping at at least one Cracker Barrel. :-)

I'd get a milkshake from Steak n Shake in the midwest--miss those from when I lived in Indiana. Thick and with real whipped cream.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 7:55 PM

I'm surprised and pleased to see all these recommendations of places to go in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. As someone who used to lived in DC, your blog and food discussions have kept me reading the WP. And as someone whose brother lives in Seattle, don't let them bum you out about the weather. The people, the sights and the Asian cuisines will keep you happy on the Left Coast!

I want to second the recommendation for Madison's farmer's market. Then as you head West on I-94 stop by Native Bay in Chippewa Falls for lunch or dinner. Chef Nathan Berg's creations and the view of Lake Wissota will leave you smiling (www.nativebayrestaurant.com)! As already mentioned, the Trempeleau Hotel is the place for walnut burgers.

Posted by: PJ | June 4, 2008 8:56 PM

Come to Madison! The biggest food draw is obviously the Saturday morning market around the capitol square (one of the biggest in the country, I think). An earlier poster recommended Marigold Cafe and Mercury Deli--well, Mercury Deli isn't here anymore, and Marigold is honestly not that great, and they certainly don't focus on seasonality or local produce (their menu is exactly the same year-round, with corn and snap peas and tomatoes in January, etc). Instead, if you're interested in a place that truly focuses on local and seasonal ingredients, try Cafe Soleil, on Mifflin Street, the breakfast and lunch version of L'Etoile restaurant (directly upstairs and probably one of the best restaurants in Madison -- Harvest right next door would be my other choice, also focused on local and seasonal food). There's also a great food cart on the square during the Saturday market - Ingrid's Lunchbox - that has great fried egg sandwiches and crepes (rhubarb crisp crepe I got a couple weeks ago was fantastic!). For a more casual spot, try The Old Fashioned (also right next door to Cafe Soleil/L'Etoile and Harvest--same owners as Harvest, I think) for true Wisconsin classics, such as Friday fish fry, Old Fashioneds (obviously) and macaroni and cheese with sausages on the side. Basically, Madison is a great food town if you know where to go.

Posted by: Phoebe | June 5, 2008 9:43 AM

I know you said northerly route but I'll throw this out anyway - who knows when it might come in handy. Lockhart, Texas for THE.BEST.BBQ. As in to-die-for, now utensils, no sauce, no plates, just dig in! Also can be convienently combined with a trip to Shiner brewery for a tour and free samples. Have a good trip whatever rought you take!

Posted by: Colleen | June 5, 2008 10:14 AM

If you decide to dip below I-70 a bit. a couple of non food reccomemdations : Check out the Diamond field in Arkansas and look for some gems. Then you can swing thru the Ozarks, check out any cave to cool off. If you pass thru Springfield MO try the Cashew Chicken or get a Taco burger at Mexican Villa.

Posted by: Susquanhanna Twps | June 5, 2008 10:47 AM

Yeah Kim! I moved from DC to Seattle last summer. I was born and raised here so knew what I was getting into. That said, when it is sunny and warm it is soooooo beautiful! And don't forget Eastern Washington, sunny and hot in summer, sunny and cold in winter...
For your road trip, I would recommend Stanley's Market in Toledo, OH. They have the best Polish sausage(and most authentic, from what my relatives say) that I have ever tasted!
Happy Trails and welcome to Seattle!

Posted by: Seattleite | June 5, 2008 11:01 AM

On I-80 in Nebraska, stop for lunch at Maggie's Vegetarian Vittles in Lincoln NE. It's in the Haymarket, Lincoln's old warehouse district. I used to live in a loft above Maggies, and I often floated down the stairs in a waft of garlic, tomatoes, and cumin for lunch. Amazing food, all vegetarian, some vegan, and the chef is the former deli manager for the local organic and natural foods coop. I strongly recommend whatever the special is that day, the Avacado Melt, or the Coconut Curry Tofu wrap. Or, if you want to get off the interstate a bit, head north off 80 on Highway 79, and go to Prague NE. It was, yes, founded by Czech settlers. Stop at the Kolache Korner Kafe. Last time I was there, the only options were, according to the waitress, Duck or Pork. Then you get a plateful of roast duck or roast pork, czech dumplings with sour gravy, cabbage with caraway, and a kolache for dessert. No, not good for the arteries. But an experience that can't be duplicated anywhere!

Posted by: Organic Gal | June 5, 2008 11:24 AM

Danny Boy's in Cleveland seriously has the best pizza ever - and Calzones
http://www.dannyboyspizza.com/main.php

Posted by: Cleveland Recommendation | June 5, 2008 11:38 AM

The U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) is definitely worth a stop if you can take the time to get there. Definitely second the idea of having a pasty, which you can only get in the U.P. And you must also try smoked whitefish, which you can get only around the area of the bridge, in the topmost part of the Lower Peninsula or right across the straits in the U.P. It is ambrosia of the gods. Look for the smaller fish markets with a smoker out back - you'll see the signs. Get yourself a big chunk and have a nice picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan or Superior, depending which side of the bridge you stop.

Posted by: Gloria | June 5, 2008 10:11 PM

Phoebe,
Interesting to see the comments about Marigold Kitchen. (I am the person who originally recommended it.) It must have changed since I was there, as it was certainly fresh, seasonal ingredients -- and a rotating menu at that time. Also was praised by Bon Appetit and others. Good to know that isn't necessarily the case any more. It will at least reduce my hankerings... Sad to see that Mercury has left. Thanks for the other tips. I'm not making Kim's trip, but I do occassionally make it back to Madison and will be interested to see take a look at your review in that context. L'Etoile is certainly an A+ -- or, was when I was around. I have heard that the mgt. and chef have changed but am told it is still quite excellent.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 9:20 AM

If you're looking for winery tours, take your first leg up north through NY's Finger Lakes. Keuka has the oldest and most established wineries, so we always thought the wines were the best there, but Seneca and Cayuga have more wineries. We like Hunt Country (on Keuka) since they aren't terribly wine-snooty, the wine is good, and the people are incredibly friendly.

If you're making the swing to attend the Minnesota State Fair, then do so by swinging Eau Claire, WI on I-94...but make sure it's a Thursday or a Saturday night.

Mike's Smokehouse (just off of Clairemont Avenue/Route 12 on the west side of town) has a Smoked Prime Rib special that is incredibly affordable and downright delicious.

You'll see a lot of so-so or bad reviews for the place. I don't disagree in theory - if you're used to Southern style BBQ, it is kind of a let down. Their ribs and pulled pork don't compare to, say, Dixie Bones down in Woodbridge. They barely compare to Famous Dave's on some nights.

But that d@mn Prime Rib special is fabulous. My parents - who have eaten in many excellent restaurants big and small - always insist we hit Mike's on Saturdays when they come to visit. And they aren't even big steak people!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 6, 2008 3:50 PM

I have made numerous trips to the Twin Cities area over the years. Some friends took me to a quaint German restaurant in downtown St. Paul called The Glockenspiel. It is just off I-90 as you come into the city.

Posted by: a79hoo | June 6, 2008 10:46 PM

Don't know if you are considering going up to Canada, but just 30 minutes away from the NY border in Kingston, Ontario is a life changing restaurant called "Luke's Cafe". The chef (a proponent of the 100 mile diet as well as sustainable farming practices) is only 17 years old and is an absolute genius. Think romaine lettuce ice cream, duck creme brulee... it's mind-bogglingly amazing. It gets customers from all across Canada as well as many nearby US states!

Want to know more check http://lukesgastronomy.com/ I highly recommend you experience the genius!

Posted by: Chantal | June 6, 2008 11:52 PM

I second the Zingerman's suggestion! I live in Chicago so I'm partial to all of the great stuff here: Concerts with wine/picnic in Millennium Park, the beach, the Hopleaf in the Andersonville neighborhood, Marigold for contemporary Indian food, North Pond (restaurant), the Art Institute, architectural tours. I could go on forever. Also, I'd definitely stop in Wisconsin for cheese and in Wisconsin or Michigan or elsewhere in the vicinity for Bell's beer (it's not distributed in Chicago under that label anymore). Have a great time! Can't wait to read about your trip.

Posted by: M | June 9, 2008 11:56 AM

It's great to see so many recommendations and suggestions - it makes me think maybe you'll need to make this an annual trip and on alternating years take the northly route followed by a southerly route.

As a Wisconsin resident, I'd only be repeating many of the comments that have already been made but I'll add a couple of points.

If you're hankering for one of those pasties but don't know if you're going to be able to drive to the Upper Penisula in search of one, the Cornish also settled in Mineral Point, Wisconsin which is located a little more than an hour's drive from Madison in SW Wisconsin so you can see one of the nation's historic sites and pick up a pasty, too. Also, my Cornish husband thought the pasty from V Richards in Brookfield, 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee, tasted very authentic.

Second, the Madison Farmers Market is very well known but the Brookfield Farmers Market, open every Saturday from the first of May to the end of October, is also considered to be very good. It features seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers but natural and organic meats such as beef, elk, lamb, pork, etc. with some prepared foods are also sold.

Posted by: JSD | June 9, 2008 4:45 PM

Missoula, Montana's awesome--such a great foodie town too, with a great farmer's market on Saturdays (and Tuesday evenings in the summer). And if you eat downtown at Scotty's Table in its brand new location I will be jealous.

Posted by: Kim Carlson | June 9, 2008 5:53 PM

Kim, How much fun! You are going to have an amazing time. I definitely recommend hitting up Memphis for the BBQ. Corky's for great pulled pork and Rendevous for the ribs. Unbelievable! Also, Gus' Fried Chicken is supposed to be the best.

Posted by: Native Memphian | June 10, 2008 5:07 AM

If you need some pie -- and who doesn't have that urge at least a few times on the road? -- here are a couple of Great Lakes locations I can heartily endorse:
1. In Vermillion, Ohio, which is right on Lake Erie west of Cleveland, go to Papa Joe's. It's a pizzeria, but also has some amazing fruit and sweet pies. You can grab a pick-me-up and take it to the lakeside park. If you have some time in Vermillion, the Inland Seas Museum is excellent. As a transplanted Easterner, I learned a lot of about the history of this part of the country, which is rife with disaster and romance. Who knew?
2. Betty's Pies, near Two Harbors, Minn. It's on the north shore of Lake Superior, one of the most beautiful wild places in the US. Get the five-layer chocolate pie for a little piece of heaven. Actually, I would just just go ahead and buy the whole pie and take it along, You will want more than a single piece. Sadly, the dinner at Betty's was strictly average -- for a meal, go to the nearby Vanilla Bean cafe, which has wonderful sandwiches and other delights. You will find both on the main road that goes northeast from Duluth, hugging the shore. Stop at Gooseberry Falls SP -- well worth the time to see some spectacular waterfalls.

Final thoughts: If you go through Toledo, Wixey's Bakey on Glendale just off the Anthony Wayne Trail makes the best chocolate-iced cake donuts I have ever had. Get there early -- this family-run bakery does excellent business. Their blueberry muffins are also outstanding. If you're craving cinnamon or pecan rolls, go to nearby Thrush's on Glanzman. Again, simply fantastic. (Skip the brownies, though -- they're prettier than they taste.) For a good basic breakfast diner experience, go to the Monroe Street Diner on Monroe Street near Secor Road (great hash browns!) or the Mayberry Diner in Sylvania, one of Toledo's northwest 'burbs. For one of the finer steaks you'll ever eat, go to Mancy's on Phillips. It's been there forever, now run by the grandsons of the original owner. When I ate there, I always got the 7-oz filet and was never disappointed. Their French onion soup is heavenly. Need good produce? Go to any of the three The Anderson's locations. Check out their "House of Meat" counter, too.

Good luck, and have a fantastic (and safe) road trip!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2008 11:09 AM

Hi Kim, I did this exact trip in reverse 10 years ago (I believe I was leaving town the same day as Mariners great Randy Johnson, it really felt like the end of an era). I'll dig up my old journal to see if anything worth noting in addition to all the great recs already here. It sounds like this will be a leisurely journey so you probably will not run into this going west, but do be aware that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in SD is August 4-10. There will be no lodging (including camping) pretty much for 75 miles in any direction, and probably for a day or two before and after unless you have it booked already. When I was traveling I had no clue of this (through what I can only describe as incredible travel karma and the kindness of strangers I was able to find a place to overnight in nearby Buffalo, Wyoming, which is a recreation area gateway, beautiful area and great people). But if you are passing through the area at the time, totally worth checking out the rally, it's one of those things that the news pictures just cannot communicate the scope of. Bon voyage and looking forward to hearing your Seattle tales!

Posted by: garine | June 10, 2008 12:16 PM

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