It’s the most delicious time of the year! I love looking back at the last 12 months to see what all deliciousness I was able to consume. This has become a regular feature here (see 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). In this year alone, I traveled to one country and 13 states. You might be surprised with some of the dishes! They range from pub food to fine dining. Eating in the Dominican Republic (twice!) was certainly a highlight of the year!
Sushi, O-Ku, Atlanta, Georgia
I’ve never been a sushi fan. Maybe it was the cheap California rolls I’d been introduced to in college. But during my staycation at the Loews Atlanta Midtown Hotel, I went to check out O-Ku, the latest outpost of the Charleston restaurant. I went into it with an open mind and let the chef choose what I should try. I left stuffed, having sampled everything from tempura shrimp to hamachi to sake shots. If you’re not convinced about sushi, this is the place to change your mind.
Eggs Benedict, The Willcox Hotel, Aiken, South Carolina
Every trip should end with Sunday brunch. I spent a few days exploring North Augusta and Aiken area of South Carolina and got to stay in one of the state’s oldest hotels, The Willcox Hotel. Cocktails and coffee were a must, along with Eggs Benedict. Locals and guests alike come on Sundays to enjoy the delicious food in the dining room.
Peri Peri chicken and grits, The Bradley, Aiken, South Carolina
The Bradley was a surprise find in the town of Aiken. Owned by a British expat, the restaurant in The Alley has top-notch dining, cocktails, wine, and beer. Other favorites included the Asian-inspired pork belly, duck fat potatoes, and coq au vin.
Sancocho, Chef Martin, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
I ate so much delicious food while in the Dominican Republic, but one dish stands out. We went to Chef Martin’s cooking class, where we learned how to make, and later ate, sancocho. The stew includes potatoes, yams, pork, chicken, and rice. The spicy taste slightly resembled a gumbo, but if you find this dish somewhere, be sure to try it!
Fresh seafood, Boca Chica Beach Club, Boca Chica, Dominican Republic
Another great meal was all the fresh seafood we enjoyed on a beach day in Boca Chica, a community not far from Santo Domingo. Calamari, fried fish, conch, shrimp, mussels, and, my favorite, langoustines were all on order. Wash it all down with a bottle of bubbly and you’re set.
Chicken wrap and juice, Juice and Java, Miami, Florida
After a dinner of fried chicken in Miami, I needed something fresh and light. I found Juice & Java, where I had a beet smoothie and chicken wrap. I loved the cafe’s sunny interior and wall of plants. They also have light breakfasts, acai bowls, crepes, and sandwiches.
Breakfast croissant, Persephone, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
A number of people recommended Persephone Bakery to me when I mentioned we were going to Jackson Hole and I wasn’t disappointed. The hip cafe had a number of design elements I recognized from my former life as a wholesale furnishings employee. Their baked goods are as good as their coffee!
Fish, Grits and Collards, Home Made, Athens, Georgia
If you haven’t been to Athens, Georgia, you’re missing out. home.made is one of my sister’s favorite restaurants so we brought the whole family before her graduation. The restaurant uses ingredients from local farms and regional providers. I loved the trout and grits, but their pimento cheese and burgers also come recommended.
Chicken and Waffle BLT, The World Famous, Athens, Georgia
Every time I would go to Athens to visit my sisters, we’d go to The World Famous Athens, a favorite bar with delicious food and cheap beers. Their chicken and waffles BLT is wedged between two pieces of waffle with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried chicken, and hot sauce. Fries and dipping sauce are also included.
Bucatini, Giada, Las Vegas, Nevada
After a particularly hellish day that ended at the doctor’s office, I treated myself to a tasty dinner at Giada. I’d heard about the reservations people make months in advance, but since I was traveling solo, I was able to rock up and grab a seat at the bar. I treated myself to a cocktail, arancini, and bucatini sans cheese.
Dan Dan Noodles, China Poblano, Las Vegas, Nevada
On my final night in Las Vegas, I walked next door to The Cosmopolitan for dinner at China Poblano, which combines Mexican and Chinese dishes. Chef Jose Andres created dishes like the spicy dan dan noodles, pictured above, dumplings, and tacos. Be sure to try the salt foam margarita!
Big Fish Style, Big Fish, Orange Beach, Alabama
Big Fish Restaurant was my favorite restaurant on my trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The self-taught chef focuses on fresh seafood and this dish was no different. I chose one of the catches of the day, made with greens and rice with an Asian influenced sauce. I also had the firecracker shrimp, crab cakes, and beef tataki.
Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles, X’ian Famous Foods, New York City, New York
After MANY trips to New York City, I finally made it to the appropriately named Xi’an Famous Foods. I first heard about it from an episode of Anthony Bourdain and walked to the Times Square-adjacent location. After ordering at the front, I wedged my way into a small stool in the back and crouched over my plate of spicy lamb noodles. I highly recommend it!
Tamales, The Donut Shop, Natchez, Mississippi
On a trip to Mississippi, my friend and I passed this to-go only donut shop and tamale stand. It sounds like an odd combination, but The Donut Shop excels in both. The tamales are more Delta than Mexico, but are delicious. Take them home for later like I did.
Seafood Platter, Stinky’s, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
My mom took me to Florida for a week this summer for some rest and relaxation, or at least work away from home. She raved about Stinky’s Fish Camp, so we went one night. I ordered all the best seafood, including fried catfish with roasted potatoes, a crawfish pie, and a crab cake. This is basically my heaven.
Spaetzle and goulash, Bodensee Restaurant, Helen, Georgia
If you’ve never heard of Helen, you might be surprised to know that it’s home to some great German food. Bodensee was my favorite, where I went to dinner my first night there. The portions were massive, but I had a salad, spaetzle, and Hungarian-style goulash with a beer straight from the motherland.
Roasted chicken with Carolina Gold rice, Odette, Florence, Alabama
I spent a few days in the town of Florence and was pleasantly surprised with the dishes at Odette. I chowed down on roasted chicken and Carolina Gold rice. They also had funky cocktails. Grab a seat at the bar and stay on the lookout for music legends and celebs.
Bun cha, Viet Huong, Huntsville, Alabama
I was staying a bit out of town closer to the mall when I found a listing for a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. It was packed when I got there, but I was seated quickly. Viet Huong had all the authentic favorites and while I can’t remember the exact name of the dish I ate, it reminded me of bun cha, which I ate repeatedly in Vietnam.
Donut, The Donut Friar, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
I spent years going to Donut Friar in Gatlinburg during church trips and on my most recent trip back, the deep fried dough goodness totally holds up. The same woman has been running it for decades. Grab a coffee to go with it and enjoy on a bench outside.