The Boston Eat Party takes it on the road!

summer-roadtrip

In our opinion, the great thing about traveling is seeing what makes each city unique in its own right. That is the point of traveling after all — to broaden your mind through experiences you may not find elsewhere. Oddly enough, the same thing goes for food.

Forget different areas of the world — there are tons of cities in North America that boast great food culture that you might not otherwise realize by just staying in Boston. Every city or state has an iconic dish or type of food to offer.

So, we took the Eat Party on the road and set out to try some of the most iconic foods in North America, spanning across Upstate New York, the Midwest and Ontario, Canada. Here is a map of our route and all the delicious, weird, and very unhealthy foods we ate along the way.

Finger Lakes, NY

Food to Try: Cheese

History: The Finger Lakes region is well-known for its wine trails, but a lesser known trail in the Finger Lakes is the Cheese Trail, which features a collection of local farms and creameries producing artisan cheeses that range type and age. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is a recent addition to the region, founded in 2010. It was a collaborative effort by local farms to bring bolster tourism in the area.

Where to go: Muranda Cheese Company seems to be the top choice in the region. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon it after doing a wine tasting. There were 16 different types of mouth-watering cheeses sampled.

Finger Lakes Cheese Trail

Not only were the samples delicious, but the tasting room was a renovated barn that overlooked a farm full of cows.

Muranda Cheese CompanyA few other notable cheese tastings on the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail are Engelbert Farms and Kenton’s Cheese Co. It’s also crazy cheap to go – it was only $3 for a tasting, plus they hook it up with free samples of jelly to put on pretzels afterward!

Buffalo, NY

Food to Try: Buffalo Wings

History: The Buffalo chicken wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo, the co-owner of Anchor Bar.Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NYThe story is that their son came in at 11 pm with a posse of college friends, drunk, demanding food. Teressa needed a quick way to serve up food. At the time, chicken wings were generally used for soups, but Teresa took it upon herself to create It was then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where to go: If you ask any Buffalonian, they will tell you it’s a debate between the Anchor Bar and Duff’s Famous Wings – and it’s NOT both – it’s one or the other. Due to the amount of history tied to it, we went to the Anchor Bar, which is well-known nationally among tourists and outsiders (hey, that’s us!). Duff’s is more popular among the locals who hate tourists and have to prove them wrong by saying Duff’s is better. In their defense, Duff’s has a more expansive list of wing sauces, while The Anchor Bar’s flavors were limited mild, medium, hot, death-wish and BBQ. Still, I’m glad we tried the buffalo wing where it originated.

Buffalo Wings at The Anchor BarWe could see and feel the history inside of the Anchor Bar with endless memorabilia hanging on the wall including autographed pictures of famous people who have popped in (and also one strangely placed portrait of Christopher Columbus for reasons unknown).

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If you’re a tourist looking to get a sense of Buffalo (like we were), it’s a really good choice in my opinion – plus top quality wings. We will have to try Duff’s next time to compare the tastes and flavors.

Cleveland, OH

Food to Try: The Polish Boy

What It Is: Grilled Kielbasa or hot dog in a bun, and covered in layers of french fries, a layer of southern style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and coleslaw on top.

History:  Unlike the stories behind some of the other foods we tried during our trip, there isn’t much to the history of the Polish Boy.  The first version of the sandwich dates back to the 1940s, when Cleveland restaurateur Virgil Whitmore, owner of Whitmore’s Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, created a kitchen sink sandwich consisting of a smoked beef sausage and a bunch of ingredients he had on hand, including coleslaw, French fries, and his homemade barbecue sauce. Other BBQ restaurants around the city followed suit, and the Polish Boy made a name for itself as a Cleveland culinary staple.  

Where to go: We wanted the authentic Cleveland experience, so we headed over to Seti’s Polish Boys, a food truck located in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland and the best place in the city to get a Polish Boy.

Seti's Polish Boy TruckLauded by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Michael Symon, Seti’s take on the Polish Boy is a true Cleveland classic (and it’s an incredible value — $7 for a heaping portion that will keep you full for hours). Served on a perfectly grilled all-beef hot dog and generously topped with French fries and coleslaw slathered in the most flavorful sweet BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted, I can safely say that Seti’s Polish Boy is literally one of the best foods you’ll ever try.

Polish Boy in Cleveland, OHPlus, we got to meet Seti (who makes each Polish Boy to order) and his wife (who runs the truck) — two of the nicest people we ran into during our trip.  Despite having gone to both an Indians game and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while we were in Cleveland, I think Nate will agree with me when I say that this sandwich was definitely the highlight of the Ohio leg of our journey.

Detroit, MI

Food to Try: Coney Island Dog

What It Is: It’s an all-beef hot dog plopped on a steamed bun and topped with chili sauce, chopped raw onion, and a squiggle of yellow mustard.

History: While the hot dog itself got its start in Coney Island, New York (with the first hot dogs being sold at the amusement park as early as 1867), the Coney Island Dog is a staple specific to Detroit — over 500 diners in the Metro Detroit area alone serve some variation of the Coney Dog. The Coney Dog made its way from New York to Michigan in the early 1900s as hundreds of thousands of Greek and Macedonian immigrants traveled to the Midwest after arriving at Ellis Island.

Where to go: Several Detroit diners claim to be the true originator of the Coney Island Dog. We decided on Lafayette Coney Island, a no-frills diner located in the heart of downtown Detroit.  Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit, MITheir version of the Coney Dog came smothered in a slightly spicy chili. The raw onions gave the otherwise soggy chili dog a nice crunch and the yellow mustard added a nice, tangy flavor that brought the whole sandwich together.Coney Dog in Detroit, MI

The Coney Dog was an enjoyable variation on the classic chili dog, but it was a little plain — a little cheese, or perhaps a higher quality hot dog, would have improved the experience.  Simply put, Detroit’s Coney Dog was good but was really nothing compared to Cleveland’s Polish Boy.

Toronto, ON

Foodie Neighborhood to Visit: Chinatown

History: Toronto doesn’t have a specific dish per se, but because it is such a diverse and multicultural city, it boasts a wide variety of authentic international cuisines. Toronto is home to one of the largest Chinatown districts in North America — in fact, there are six Chinatown neighborhoods to explore in the greater Toronto area. Old Chinatown, which is the main Chinatown district located in the heart of the downtown, has no shortage of restaurants to get an order of noodles, dumplings, or any other kind of Asian cuisine you can think of.

Where To Go: There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown, serving food from China to Korea to Vietnam and everywhere in between. After deliberating for what seemed like hours (but was probably closer to minutes), we decided on Ka Chi Korean Restaurant, where we indulged in traditional Korean noodle dishes. I got the Bulgogi — sliced sirloin marinated in a traditional sweet sauce and served over thick, gummy noodles and steamed veggies.

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Nate opted for a spicier dish — the Bibimbap (rice) served with spicy Bulgogi and squid. Both dishes were served on stone hot plates.

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We also shared an order of steamed beef dumplings, which came with a myriad of sides, including steamed noodles, spicy kimchi, steamed greens, roasted potatoes, and a sweet soy sauce for dipping. We left full and satisfied, happy with our choice but also dying to try to some of the other restaurants on the street (there’s always next time, Toronto).

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Because You Always Leave Room for Dessert:  While traveling from Chinatown to the Rogers Centre (where we were going to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, naturally), we stumbled across a small cupcake shop called Cutie Pie Cupcakes, where we tried what can only be described as the greatest dessert you will ever eat — the Unicorn Twist Ice Cream.  It’s amazing — pink champagne and blue vanilla soft serve piled in a rainbow waffle cone, topped with your choice of sauce (I went with dark chocolate, Nate went with Cherry Coke), dry topping (I went classic with confetti sprinkles, Nate went with cotton candy crumbles), and homemade mini whoopie pie (I went with a rainbow swirl because it was SO PRETTY, Nate went with cookies and cream).  The end result was a customized version of Heaven that made me very much wish I lived in Toronto and could visit Cutie Pie Cupcakes on the regular.

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Rochester, NY

Food to Try: The Garbage Plate

What It Is: The “Garbage Plate”, a highly-caloric plate that includes basically combines every type of food you could ask for in a cook-out – either hamburger patties (with or without cheese) or hot dogs, thrown on top of some combination of beans, fries (or home fries), mac salad, along with meat sauce, chopped onions, and mustard.

History: In 1918, Alexander Tahou opened a restaurant in Rochester called Hots and Potatoes. On the menu was a dish that included just about everything the kitchen could cook — meat and potatoes with a few other things thrown in to make a one-plate meal. Alexander’s son, Nick, took over the restaurant operations and updated the name to Garbage Plate. The dish has long been popular among college students in the area. Legend has it that long-ago college students asked Nick Tahou for a dish with ”all the garbage” on it. So, he concocted the garbage plate.

Where to go: When we arrived at Rochester on a Sunday, many of the hots restaurants were closed, including Nick Tahou’s. We settled for Mark’s Texas Hots, which was great, but they only have garbage plates with hamburgers and hot dogs. The size of the plate was pretty big at Mark’s Hots, but honestly no bigger than any other place. For a more expansive menu, try Henrietta Hots or Nick Tahou’s.

Garbage Plate in Rochester, NY

Fun Fact: The University of Rochester’s Sigma Phi Epsilon has a charity event called “the garbage plate run” that starts on campus, and involves running 2+ miles to Nick Tahou’s, eating a garbage plate and running back to campus. Many people actually tag team it, with one or two runners and one eater, but there are “iron men” that actually do it solo.

Tennessee’s Real BBQ – Braintree, MA

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Ever since our trip to Nashville, We’ve have been on the lookout for delicious BBQ in the Boston area (because surely the South can’t be the only place that does BBQ right). We’ve had some definite missteps — after hearing rave reviews, we went to Sweet Cheeks BBQ in Fenway, only to be sorely disappointed in the small portions, overpriced food, and lack of authentic flavor. However, on a recent excursion to Braintree, we stopped in at Tennessee’s Real BBQ, which is the closest we’ve come so far to recreating the Southern BBQ experience we’ve been craving.

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Look to the right as you walk in and you’ll see their wall of accolades — Tennessee’s has won basically every award possible for everything from their ribs to their spices to their sauces. And their food really lives up to the hype. The center of it all is the sauce. There are three kinds — sweet (my personal favorite), tangy, and spicy. Each is thick, with the perfect creamy consistency and packed with flavor. They keep extra sauce in barrels for you to help yourself to during the meal and if it wasn’t for common decency and a desire to not be banned from the restaurant for life, I would literally drink the sweet BBQ sauce directly from the barrel and have absolutely no qualms about it. It’s really that good.

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Nate got the North Carolina Pork BBQ sandwich with a side of homemade cornbread. The sandwich was packed with a generous amount of pulled pork that was smothered in the tangy sauce. I got the BBQ Dixie Chicken — I opted for the quarter bird option (although I could have gotten a half-chicken if I had been hungrier) with the sweet BBQ sauce. It was juicy and delicious and came with three sides of my choice. I decided on the macaroni and cheese (creamy with a little bit of crunch on top and especially good with a little bit of the BBQ sauce mixed in); the cucumber salad (slightly salty, slightly sweet, and it was green so I counted it as a “healthy choice”); and the BBQ baked beans (hearty and a nod to our Boston heritage!).

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Tennessee’s is a bit of a dive, but that’s part of its charm. The ceilings are covered in bottle caps, the walls are covered in pictures of cartoon pigs, the napkins are actually paper towels, and the silverware is plastic. But the portions are huge, the food is reasonably priced (we ate for about $20 and left absolutely stuffed), and everything comes out impressively fast. If you’re looking for Southern comfort food, Tennessee’s Real BBQ in Braintree is really the next best thing to being there.

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Trip To Nashville

Nashville

This is the first post ever on the Boston Eat Party. We recently took a trip down to “music city” aka Nashville, and it rocked (pun intended). Our trip was filled the best food and drinks that Nashville has to offer, including delicious southern comfort food. Perhaps the best of the best in Nashville is Hattie B’s. Holy sh*t is their chicken delicious. It was so good, we went there not once, but twice in the three days down there. Each day we went, the line was literally out the door, and it was a half hour wait. You can’t go wrong with any order, but we split some sides and order the spicy chicken sandwich and chicken thighs.

We also went to Patterson House, a house-turned-bar that has a very cool, unique prohibition-style bar. We literally walked by the Patterson House – that’s how much of a house it looks like! If you are searching for unique mixed drinks that you won’t find elsewhere, paired with great appetizers to pick at.