How do we pass time over the many miles we’re driving? We talk about the food that we’ve enjoyed on the road. We relive the best of the meals, discussing each dish: the presentation, flavor, how each dish is paired with others. The miles go by faster.
Our conversations about food quickly turn to our favorites. (We don’t dwell on the mediocre.) Ours is a biased judging, of course. We have our peculiar standards that may not match others’. Michael Pollan’s 3 guidelines describe our approach to eating: 1. Eat real food (not processed), 2. Mostly plants, and 3. Not too much. However, we sometimes veer away to deep fried food, chips of various types, and confections, and we sometimes eat too much. Still, we prefer healthy food, lots of vegetables, and modest portions. These days that is asking a lot when eating out.
So, during our drive from New Orleans, LA to Houston, TX, we agreed on 7 BESTS for the first 70 days of our road trip:
Best Atmosphere – The Island Fish Co, Marathon, FL We’d driven to the Florida Keys and had been in the car too long when we arrived for a late lunch. The waitress seated us outdoors at a picnic table on the water. We had a front row seat to view the activity around the dock: boat traffic, pelicans diving for fish, and, best of all, a manatee swimming just a few yards away. We really had arrived at the Keys!
Best Hospitality – Casa Ole, Beaumont, TX Late one afternoon, we visited the McFadden-Ward House in Beaumont, and afterward we were beyond hungry. Where to eat? On our way out of town, we spotted Casa Ole by US 10 and gave it a try. The food was good and the service perfect. We chatted with the waiter about our trip and next thing we knew, the owner came over and presented us with little drink shakers imprinted with “Casa Ole” to take with us as mementos. Nice!
Best Salad – Starland Café, Savannah, GA Sometimes a salad is more than a salad. This was a meal in itself and very satisfying.
Best Meal – Yanos, Ft. Myers, FL Start to finish – every dish was amazingly good. The biggest surprise was how few people were dining there. We ordered too much and had an entire meal the next day with the leftovers and let us tell you – it was just as good the next day. What a treat!
Best Sandwich – Lazy Flamingo, Sanibel Island, FL We’ve had a lot of grouper sandwiches, and the one we had a few years ago on a visit here was our all-time favorite. Would it still be as good this time around? Yes! A perfectly cooked piece of fish with just the right bun.
Best Dessert – Cap’n Con’s, Bokeelia, FL Hands down, their 3–berry pie gets our triple-A rating. Maybe it was the long drive to Pine Island to get pie that made it so tasty?
Best Seafood – Mangrove Cafe, Naples, FL We strolled down a lovely shopping street trying to decide where to eat. A number of the restaurants had offers advertised on sidewalk billboards for 3-course meals. $19.95 says one. $24.95 says another, and this one at $39, including a bottle of wine. How to decide? A table was immediately available at the Mangrove Cafe and the price was right. Their tilapia dish was extraordinary. We used every bit of bread on the table to mop up the sauce in a grand finale.