Ed Levine travels across the country seeking out the best local fare for his hunger-inducing website Serious Eats. Sample some of his picks when you hit the road this summer.
"There is so much delicious food in this country, so no matter where I am, I go out of my way to find it and eat it. And when I stumble on something really special, I can't help but share it with everyone I know and then some."
-- Ed Levine, seriouseats.com
Six Spots Worth a Detour
Ayden, North Carolina
There's only one thing to get here: a chopped whole-hog sandwich with coleslaw -- no barbecue sauce necessary. Every sandwich has some crunchy bits and some nice soft, tender pork pieces. Then the meat mixes with some of the vinegary coleslaw and it's the perfect little sandwich.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
I love fried chicken and I'm very partial to Gus's. They fry your chicken to order. It's properly salty and has a beautiful dark-brown crust that creates a oneness between the skin and the really juicy meat. It's a fine piece of fried chicken. I've eaten plenty of it when I'm not even hungry, just because it smells so good.
My favorite classic lobster roll comes from New England, which I suppose is appropriate. At Red's, everyone waits in line, which feels really touristy, but it's worth it when you're holding almost half a pound of lobster inside a warm, buttered hot-dog bun. You can get mayonnaise or drawn butter on the side. Go for the butter -- it's just the right way to have a lobster-eating experience.
Mahony's Po-Boy Shop
Once, on a visit to New Orleans, we went to 15 po'boy places in one day. I couldn't say that there was a clear "winner" because New Orleans' po'boys are all pretty great. But I did love the new-school one at Mahony's. They do it with grilled shrimp and fried green tomatoes -- so you still get a little something crispy -- and a nice remoulade. Get a side of homemade french fries with beefy gravy and you're fixed for days!
New York City
These are my ideal doughnuts because they taste like something other than sugar. The coconut-cream doughnut actually tastes like coconut and cream -- what a radical concept! I'm also fond of the tres leches cake doughnut and the creme brulee doughnut, which is filled with custard and has a glassy top. The fruit flavors, though, are really special. The owner makes them with seasonal fruit, so the berry ones are wonderful in summer.
Frog Hollow Farm
What's a better summer pleasure than a perfect peach? Right inside the famous Ferry Building Marketplace, Frog Hollow Farm has a stand where you can get the greatest stone fruit in the world. These guys are equal parts scientist and farmer, so they know how to grow really incredible fruit. It's like tasting a peach for the first time! You end up getting it all over your shirt, and that's when you know it's good.