I kicked off summer in a fun way by playing with my ultimate frisbee team, The USC Hellions of Troy, at the 2016 USA Ultimate College Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina and then road-tripping with four of my teammates up the East Coast. During our five days on the road, I ate a wide variety of food, from Peruvian food in Raleigh to pizza-flavored chocolate in New York City. If you’re a lifelong West Coaster planning on heading to the other side of the U.S. for the first time, heed my recommendations and praise to build your own beginnings of an East Coast food tour.
Stop #1: Bojangles in Raleigh, NC
Bojangles is a Southeastern chain of fast-food restaurants specializing in biscuits and fried chicken. I continue to dream of their biscuits at night. Send help. And a half-dozen biscuits.
I dozed off in the car after this, lulled to sleep by a full stomach and the hot, humid weather.
Stop #2: Le Caprice DC in Washington, DC
This is a French bakery serving up freshly baked pastries, coffee, and other goodies in Washington, DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Breakfast #3, the Fresh Bun Sandwich, consists of scrambled eggs, slices of tomato, and swiss cheese on a fresh bakery bun. The highlight of the sandwich was the bun, which was soft and chewy with sesame seeds on top. It got me wondering about Le Caprice’s other baked goods like the golden brown croissants in the display case, but the only thing more valuable on a road trip than stomach room is leg room.
Stop #3: Ben & Irv’s in Huntingdon Valley, PA
This Jewish deli serves up huge portions of mouthwatering in-house roasted meats, peppery potato knishes, sweet blintzes, and more. My group had fun sampling the complimentary pickles, which included pickled tomatoes, something none of us had seen before. The Stack, a literal stack of meat and cheese piled up on two potato latkes, comes highly recommended.
Stop #4: Boat Basin in New York, NY
This place is worth a visit if only for the magnificent view provided by the restaurant’s location on the Hudson River waterfront. The food, featuring fresh seafood and regional brews, is also tasty.
Stop #5: Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York, NY
I wanted to come here after watching the episode of Project Runway where the contestants make garments out of candy found at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Unfortunately, I only got to try some pizza-flavored chocolate (a product so abominable, it isn’t even listed on Dylan’s Candy Bar’s website) as part of a bet I lost earlier in the day.
Stop #6: Xi’an Famous Foods in New York, NY
Xi’an is located in northwestern China, a region known for its noodles and lamb. Indeed, Xi’an Famous Foods did Xi’an proud with N1 on their menu: Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles. I opted for N9 (Zha Jiang Hand-Ripped Noodles), which stood up to my expectations, having had the dish at home.
#SpoonTip: Don’t underestimate the spice scale here, and skip the Jasmine iced tea, which tasted watered down and bland. If you aren’t much of a tea drinker yet, check out this beginner’s guide to tea drinking.
Stop #7: The Original Soupman in New York, NY
Seinfeld fans, rejoice and be merry. The soups here are flavorful and pair wonderfully with the bread, fruit, and Lindt chocolate truffle included with every soup order. My crab corn chowder was smooth and filling.
Stop #9: Momofuku Milk Bar in New York, NY
Chef David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants were ranked the most important restaurants in America by Andrew Knowlton for Bon Appetit. After sampling whimsical desserts like cereal milk soft serve, “crack pie,” and too many cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar in midtown New York, I could see why. If you can’t make it to the store or don’t want to pay $5.50 plus tax per slice, this crack pie recipe you can make at home your second best bet.
Stop #10: Mŏkbar in New York, NY
Hidden away in a corner of Chelsea Market is mŏkbar, a Korean ramen bar started by Chef Esther Choi. The Happy Hour menu, available from 3 to 5 pm, offers good deals on drinks and tasty bites like halmoni dumplings, which are stuffed with ground pork, zucchini, cabbage, tofu, kimchi, and garlic chive relish. While the limited seating here can make it difficult to sit down for dinner, mŏkbar makes for the perfect place for a quick happy hour snack before you return at a later hour, or try somewhere else for dinner.
Stop #11: Tuck Shop in New York, NY
The Australian meat pies here feature flaky, golden brown crusts and hot fillings, which made for satisfying and cheap dinners for college students. Happy hour here is from 6 to 9 pm and, during this time, all pies are discounted to $4. The spinach feta, classic beef, and chicken pot pies are all tasty. If you’re looking for a kick, try the green thai curry pie.