“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.
We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world…”
Pico Iyer, Why We Travel
Traveling and especially traveling for food opens you up to new experiences while deeply stirring the soul. Traveling does not always mean going far away. If we look hard enough we can find many delightful options right in our own backyards
Our travels in 2018 were mostly domestic, in the United States. While we started out the year in Portugal, where we discovered bacalhau, the national obsession and more, the U.S. is where we spent the majority of our time.
Exploring the local food domestically took us to some of the best food cities in the U.S. Many of them are worth discovering or rediscovering in 2019.
In three top cities of South Carolina (Columbia, Florence, and Charleston) as well as Austin, Chicago, and Las Vegas, we were amazed at the quality, diversity, and creativity of the local food scene.
From the best tacos and barbecue to Southern classics, make your food travels in 2019 special. Give yourself the gift of memorable food experiences and delight at any of these ten affordable places to eat in the U.S.
The Best Texas Barbecue at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX
During a month long stay in Austin, Franklin Barbecue was one of the places to check out on our quest for the best barbecue in Texas.
Named the #1 barbecue restaurant in the world, it was not surprising the name came up consistently whenever we asked locals.
Due to its popularity, tasting Franklin barbecue can be quite challenging. People can queue for 4 to 6 hours, to taste Franklin’s famous brisket, ribs and sausages.
Armed with a helpful hint from a local to cut the line by going for a late lunch between 1:00 pm- 2:00 pm, we only waited about 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, due to the timing, Franklin’s had sold out of the ribs, but there was plenty of brisket and sausages to enjoy.
Accompanying the half-pound of brisket and sausage links, we chose a serving of coleslaw, pinto beans and potato salad. These are the typical Texas sides that go with barbecue.
The brisket was perfectly seasoned, and just melted in the mouth. The sausages were juicy, slightly crackling, and with a nice balance of fat and meat.
When we originally ordered, we asked for the lean brisket. The server, knowing what was best, had us taste both the lean and fatty versions. We ended up preferring the fatty brisket over the the lean. The fat added moisture and tenderness, making the meat even more desirable.
If Austin is on your travel plans for 2019, we recommend making a stop at Franklin’s barbecue. Whether it was due to the time spent waiting, or the positive reviews, we thought Franklin Barbecue lived up to its reputation.
Where to Eat the Best Texas Barbecue in Austin
Address: 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX.
Hours: Open every day 11:00 am – 3:00 pm or until sold out; Closed on Monday’s
Pro Tips: To avoid a long wait go closer to 2:00 pm, though you have to be comfortable with the risk of some items running out.
Click the link to this video to watch our quest for the best barbecue in Austin
Best Breakfast Tacos at Veracruz All Natural in Austin, TX
One of the most popular food specialties in Austin is breakfast tacos. They are unique to Texas, and Austin takes them to a higher level with their creativity and flavors.
If you have time for only one place to have breakfast tacos, head straight to Veracruz All Natural
This no-thrill tacos eatery started as a food truck and quickly became so popular that it was named one of the top 5 tacos place in America by the Food Network.
Now, with five locations in Austin and the surrounding area, Veracruz All Natural is a sure bet when it comes to soothing your breakfast tacos cravings.
Best Migas and Tacos
Known for migas and breakfast tacos, we suggest you order both to get a taste of these fantastic tacos. Migas are simply breakfast tacos inspired by the Mexican ingredients from the leftovers also called migas in Mexico.
It is hard to find anything not to like on their menu. We tried the migas, breakfast tacos, chips, and salsa and we liked it all.
The tacos are filled with high-quality ingredients such as eggs, freshly made tortilla chips, poblano peppers, red onion, queso fresco, black beans, and avocado. Everything is made to order and tastes fresh with wonderful flavors.
A stop at Veracruz All Natural is a great start to your Austinite morning.
Where to Eat the Best Breakfast Tacos in Austin
Veracruz All Natural – Original Location
Address: 1704 E Cesar Chavez, Austin
Hours: Open every day from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm
Prices: $3 to $5 per tacos or migas
More location can be found on their website.
Pro Tips: Plan for some wait and grab an aguas frescas with salsa and chips to calm your hunger while waiting for your order of migas and breakfast tacos.
Click the link to this video to see the Veracruz All Natural experience
America’s #1 Hot Dogs At Gene’s & Jude’s in Chicago, IL
Hot Dogs are a Chicago staple. Known as the sausage capital of America, you’ll find a number of spots serving Chicago traditional style hotdogs.
For the uninitiated, a Chicago style hot dog is a steamed all beef (Vienna) hot dog topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, onions, tomato wedges, pickle spear or slice, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt served in the all-important steamed poppy seed bun.
Our favorite and one of the best spots for a Chicago hot dog is Gene & Jude’s. Located in River Grove, just outside of the Chicago city limits, it’s worth the trip to this institution that has been serving hotdogs and french fries since 1946.
With the mantra: “No Seats, No Ketchup, No Pretense, No Nonsense” expect nothing but the very best Chicago style dogs.
Gene and Jude’s has their own unique twist to the typical Chicago style dog. The toppings include only mustard, onion, relish, and sport peppers and this style of hot dog is called the Depression Dog.
What makes the hot dogs from Gene and Jude’s so special is they put the warm french fries on top of their dogs. The fries are perfectly salted and when combined with the hotdogs, the experience is divine.
Where to Eat the Best Hot Dogs in Chicago
Address: 2720 N. River Road, River Grove
Hours: Sun – Thurs: 10:30 am – 1:00 am; Fri – Sat: 10:30 am – 2:00 am
- Gene & Jude’s is cash only. There is a nearby gas station with an ATM if you need to get cash.
- While a single dog is tasty, enhance the experience by choosing a double dog for only an additional $0.80.
Best Carnitas in the U.S. at Taqueria Carnitas Uruapan in Chicago, IL
After one month in Austin eating our way through breakfast tacos, we learned that Chicago was home to one of the best Mexican Taqueria in the country.
Carnitas Uruapan serves the best carnitas in the U.S. since 1975. We love these kinds of eateries which specialize in just one meal, perfected over decades.
You’ll find Carnitas Uruapan in Pilsen, a neighborhood on the lower west side of Chicago. The Latino community is the largest community there and has been the majority since the 1970’s. The area is a thriving art hub where Mexican restaurants and taquerias lined up the streets next to murals and street arts.
Carnitas Uruapan is a small and popular taqueria. As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice the ordering process is more like a street stall, at the counter, rather than seated in place.
This is eatery dedicated to their craft of making pork carnitas exclusively. As mentioned on their website, carnitas are chunks of pork slow-cooked for over two hours. While chicharrones (crispy pork skin) are the only other item available during the week, a few side dishes complete the menu on the weekends.
You can order carnitas by the pound or by the taco. We recommend ordering by the pound. Then you choose your cut – shoulder, leg, skin, stomach, rib, belly. We tried it all. Though if you are not fond of offals, choose the “meat” only, less fatty option.
The order comes with a big plate of cuts of pork, warm tacos, with a side of salsa, cilantro and lime. The meat is moist and flavorful. The fresh salsa has a nice bite to it and the tortilla are soft and warm making each mouthful a memorable delight.
Where to Eat the Best Tacos in Chicago
Address: 1725 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
Hours: Mon to Fri; 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sat & Sun; 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Prices: $8.95 for 1 pound of carnitas
Pro Tips: Get a refill of tacos and salsa for just an extra $1.
Best Southern Classic at Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC
Hominy Grill is one of Charleston’s beloved institutions. In 2008, chef and owner, Robert Stehling, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast for classic southern cooking.
Open until 3:00pm, the restaurant is popular for breakfast and brunch. On the menu are hearty portions of southern favorites like fried okra, Southern biscuits, grit bowls, eggs, pancakes, waffles and buttermilk pie.
Try the Charleston Nasty, a local favorite. This Charleston classic consists of a massive fried chicken breast with a cascade of cheddar cheese and sausage gravy.
No visit to Hominy Grill would be complete without ordering a bowl of shrimp and grits. Hominy’s deluxe version includes sautéed shrimp with scallions, mushrooms and bacon over cheese grits. With a touch of Tabasco and lemon juice, the flavors are tantalizing.
The restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood right outside Charleston’s historic core.
Look for a huge mural on the building featuring a waitress named Rosie, holding a steaming bowl of grits with the appropriate motto: “Grits are good for you.”
On the other side is an outdoor intimate courtyard where you can eat or enjoy drinks.
Where To Eat The Best Southern Classic in Charleston, South Carolina
Address: 207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30 am – 3:00 pm; Sat & Sun: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
- Voted as serving the best breakfast in the Carolinas, you can expect a wait. Go during the week to avoid the weekend brunch rush.
- The restaurant does not accept reservations and will only seat tables with a complete party.
Best Southern Lowcountry Style Cuisine in Florence, SC
Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish in Florence, South Carolina is a popular lunch spot known for Southern and Lowcountry-style cuisine.
Located in an old refurbished gas station, you can enjoy incredibly fresh fish, seafood and a variety of local dishes.
One of the local dishes not to miss is the iconic shrimp and grits. Tubb’s soulful twist to this local speciality includes shrimp etouffee, andouille sausage and house cured bacon lardons.
As you relish the flavors, you want to absolutely leave room for dessert. The sweet potato cheesecake topped with pecans is to die for. This dessert is also on the South Carolina Pecan Trail.
The sweet potato cheesecake filling is mild and creamy. The incredible toppings of pecans and marshmallows makes it irresistible.
Where To Eat The Best Lowcountry Style Cuisine in Florence, South Carolina
Address: 1500 2nd Loop Road, Florence, SC
Hours: Mon-Wed:11:00 am – 9:00 pm; Thur – Sat: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm, Sun: Closed
Pro Tips: The serving sizes at Tubb’s are quite generous. Go hungry or plan to share.
Best Southern Comfort Foods at Prosser’s BBQ in Myrtle Beach, SC
Prosser’s BBQ is a family-owned restaurant known for their Southern barbecue style and comfort food. It’s one of the best places to eat home-cooked Southern food in the Myrtle Beach area.
Although you can order off a menu, the main attraction is their large country-cooking buffet filled with Southern comfort foods. Pulled pork, fried chicken, chicken bog, collard greens, peach cobbler are the stars of the buffet.
Everything is homemade, slow cooked and makes you feel like you are eating at your grandma’s kitchen table.
As you line up in front of the large buffet, you get to see what is available and make up your mind on what to fill your plate with. The best part is that you can always go back to taste more, though you might need to line up again.
Prosser’s BBQ is the perfect place to discover and taste all your favorite Southern comfort foods. The line and full parking lot attest to the popularity of this local gem.
Where to Eat the Best Southern Comfort Foods in Myrtle Beach/Murrells Inlet
Address: 3750 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday 7:30 am to 2:00 pm, Thursday to Saturday: 7:30 am-2:00 pm & 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Prices: Lunch Buffet Menu: $9.95
Pro Tips: Get there early for lunch before the rush and while the food is hot off the stove. Go with an empty stomach and try all your favorite Southern dishes.
Click to watch the short video below of the Prosser’s BBQ experience
Best Affordable Buffet Experience at Feast Buffet in Las Vegas, NV
The buffet tradition is very much a part of the local Vegas food culture. The buffet concept was pioneered by El Rancho Vegas in 1945. What started as a “chuck wagon” evolved to become the “all-you-can-eat” buffets.
Today, buffets have now gone gourmet with casino’s competing against each other for the best buffet in town.
While many of the popular buffets can be found on the Las Vegas Strip, most come with a hefty price tag.
One of our favorite local buffet experiences is Feast Buffet in the Summerlin neighborhood, about a 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip.
Feast buffet, at Red Rock Casino & Resort, has been voted one of the best buffets by Las Vegas locals. This affordable buffet experience takes you on a culinary journey around the globe.
Feast buffet offers a wide variety of food options. You’ll find Italian, American, Sushi, Barbecue, and Asian food stations. These are complemented with salads and healthy options from the Farmers Market and Wellbeing stations and sweets from the Pastries & Desserts section.
Overall, Feast Buffet offers a wonderful buffet experience. The service is friendly and attentive and the quality of food is better than expected. The food stations are clean and replenished often.
Get off the Las Vegas Strip and enjoy the local atmosphere at Feast Buffet, one of the best affordable buffets in Las Vegas.
Where to Enjoy an Affordable Buffet Experience in Las Vegas
Address: 11011 W. Charleston Blvd, Summerlin, Las Vegas
Hours: Champagne brunch Sat & Sun from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Prices: $16.99 per person for weekend brunch with unlimited champagne or mimosas
Pro Tips: To save on the buffet experience, sign up for a “boarding pass card”, which is a casino players card to receive your discount. You can sign up as soon as you get to Red Rock Casino & Resort. Look for the staff walking around the gaming area.
Best Korean BBQ at Hobak Korean Barbecue in Las Vegas, NV
Korean cuisine is one of the most popular food trends in Las Vegas. Eating Korean barbecue, where meats are cooked at your table, is one of the best local food experience to have.
Hobak Korean BBQ, an authentic Korean restaurant coming straight from South Korea, offers some of the best Korean barbecue in Vegas.
We suggest trying one of their combo meals and going with friends to share their copious portion sizes. We chose the Hobak Family Combo where we could taste Angus Brisket, spicy beef short ribs, Hobak pork belly, and aged pork ribs.
The combo came with an assortment of side dishes called banchan. Kimchi, bean paste stew, salad, steamed egg and cheese that melts on the grill were served with our meal. We also had small balls of sushi rice and wasabi. The food at Hobak is quite a feast to indulge in.
We had an incredible time savoring the fresh flavors, the meats, and the tangy sides. The waiter makes the experience seamless preparing and cooking the meats in front of you. A stop at Hobak makes for a delicious and fun night out off the Las Vegas Strip.
Where To Eat the Best Korean Barbecue in Las Vegas
Address: 5808 Spring Mountain Rd. #101, Las Vegas, NV 89146
Hours: Open daily,11:30 am – 1:00 am
Prices: Hobak Family Combo $89.99 for four people – $22.5 per person per meal
Pro Tips: Hobak does not take reservations, plan to go early and wait in line. The line moves fast and there are a number of coffee shops and cafes close by where you can wait.
Click the link to this video to see the Hobak Korean barbecue experience
The Best Wines of the Desert at Vegas Valley Winery in Las Vegas, NV
While not a food or dish, discovering wines from the Las Vegas desert was one of the highlights of our 2018 food experiences.
Vegas Valley Winery, which opened in December 2017 is the first winery in Las Vegas. Prior, it was illegal in the state of Nevada to run a winery in counties with a population of over 100,000 residents. But the law changed in 2015, allowing Vegas Valley Winery to open for business.
Vegas Valley Winery is located in Henderson, about 20 minutes southeast from the Las Vegas Strip. The winery offers tastings priced at $10 for five wines. The wines include whites, reds, and one Rosé wine.
To be called a Nevada winery, 25% of the grapes have to come from the State of Nevada after the first 1,000 wine cases are sold. At the time of our visit, Las Vegas Winery was still within its first 1,000 cases of wines with most of the grapes sourced from California.
Grapes for the white and Rosé wines come from Suisun Valley in California, which is on the backside of Napa Valley. And the grapes for the red wines are from Paso Robles, California.
At the same time, Las Vegas Winery is establishing relationships with vineyards in Nevada that will provide them local grapes to maintain their status as first and only winery in the Las Vegas Valley.
Take a winery tour with K.J. Howe, the in-house Professor of Yeastology. Learn about the wines and the winemaking process.
K.J. is a wealth of knowledge and an entertaining storyteller. Each of the barrels on the tour has a story. Take delight in Let K.J.’s stories of the families and friends who have made each one.
In addition to wines, you can also get food including pizza, a cheese and meat charcuterie platter and wine infused cupcakes.
If you are in Las Vegas, it’s worth making the trip to Henderson and taste wines from the first Las Vegas winery.
Where to Drink the Best Wines from the Las Vegas Desert
Address: 7360 Eastgate Rd, Ste 123, Henderson, Nevada
Hours: Mon – Thurs: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Fri: 2:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Sat: 12:00pm – 10:00 pm, Sun: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Prices: $10 tasting for 5 wines
- While visiting Vegas Valley Winery, be sure to ask for a tour of the facility. One unique aspect of the tour is that you can take your favorite glass of wine with you.
- In Henderson, where Vegas Valley Winery is located, is affectionately known as the “Artisan Booze District.” In addition to a winery, you’ll also find three breweries and a distillery. Plan to spend a full day sampling local craft brews from Nevada.
- To avoid drinking and driving, take an Uber or Lyft to fully enjoy the Artisan Booze District experience.
As this new year unfolds, we trust this round-up of delicious eats at some of the best places to travel for food in the U.S. will entice you to explore new local flavors.
Whether your travels take you to a new destination or keep you close to home, lose yourself in new flavors as you open up to new tastes and food experiences.
Thank you for all your support in 2018 and we wish you delicious food travel experiences in 2019 and beyond.
In the comments below, please tell us your favorite 2018 food experience and what you would like to try in 2019.
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Claire is a culinary explorer and the engineer brain behind Authentic Food Quest. Together with her partner, Rosemary, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.
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