On Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan, Eden travels the country to meet the most outrageous and original food bloggers and social media stars who invite her to devour their favorite dishes. We connected with them to pick their brains and score some exclusive advice and tips.
You know when you’re watching the Cooking Channel and they are featuring great food from all over the United States and you think to yourself, one day I have to make it out there to try that? For those of us who consider ourselves food fanatics, we always want to try the best of the best no matter where it is. Well, as a truck driver, I have the unique opportunity to travel the United States and experience some of the best cuisine this country has to offer while doing my job of keeping America moving. Here are a few of my top picks of places you just have to experience if you’re a food fanatic like me:
1) Just Oxtails — Houston
This place feels like going to your grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. Everything I’ve ever tried here is delicious and has that authentic soul food taste that you can’t really get anywhere other than down South. As the name states, one of their specialties is tender meaty oxtails, which are a must-try. However, their menu changes daily, serving up everything from smothered pork chops, fried chicken and meatloaf to turkey wings, fried catfish and even meatballs. An extensive selection of homemade sides like candied yams, mac and cheese, and greens finish off your meal to make it an experience you will not soon forget!
2) Frog City Travel Plaza — Rayne, La.
This is my gumbo spot! I have tried gumbo at many places but always seem to enjoy it from here the best. Although they do have a variety of items on the menu that I enjoy, the gumbo is what keeps me stopping here every opportunity I get. When you are traveling as much as I am, it is always good to have a taste of home, and this is a winner every single time. The service in this place reminds you that you are in the South, where it’s all about Southern hospitality.
3) Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen — Pharr, Texas and Pappas Bar-B-Q — Houston
If there is one restaurant I absolutely never get tired of, it’s Pappadeaux. Serving up a fantastic assortment of Cajun seafood greats in a warm family atmosphere, this is one of those places you can enjoy often without ever worrying about having to order the same thing twice. Fresh seasonal items keep the menu interesting while menu standbys like lobster, shrimp etouffee, Mardi Gras pasta or fried catfish are there if you are looking for a familiar Louisiana flavor. Being a food fanatic, I was overjoyed when they finally brought a Pappadeaux down to south Texas where I live. I must say, the service at this Pappadeaux is even above and beyond what you have come to expect from the family-friendly Pappas restaurants. From the moment you walk in the door, the welcoming staff will make you feel like a VIP for your time there with them. I have said it time and time again: The United States of America will be a better and happier place when the Pappas chains expand to all 50 states. There are reasons that we’re so happy in the South, and Pappadeaux’s Seafood Kitchen and its barbecue counterpart, Pappas BBQ, are two of those reasons! You will always find me getting my barbecue on at Pappas BBQ because it is the only place I have found that can deliver a big juicy BBQ beef rib other than my BBQ pit at home. Everything else is just a cherry on top! If you get there early, order up one of their legendary breakfast tacos to hold you over until lunch, then come back to enjoy that Texas barbecue — beef ribs, turkey, brisket, pork, chicken, ham and sausage. You won’t find all of the grandiose fanfare that comes with some of the “famous” Texas BBQ joints, but you will find your favorite BBQ, just like you imagined it.
4) Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill — Las Vegas @ The Cosmopolitan
If you know me, you know I love Chinese food. I also love oxtail. So when I learned that this place had oxtail fried rice on the menu I had to check it out. I am so thankful I did because it is now my favorite place to hit up on the rare occasion that I make it through to Las Vegas. The decadence of oxtail combined with fresh vegetables and top-notch fried rice is a memorable experience that you will want to relive over and over again. There is a myriad of options in Sin City, but the great atmosphere, amazing food and incredible service at Blue Ribbon make it a must on your next Vegas trip.
5) Cattleman’s Steakhouse — El Paso, Texas
This is in my opinion the epitome of what a steakhouse should be. Everything about this place just screams authentic Texas — the
decor, the friendly servers, the attention to detail paid to everything on the menu and the Texas-sized portions. I have enjoyed many steaks at many steakhouses throughout the United States and I can confidently say that no other place has ever surpassed my experience at Cattleman’s. I left there planning my next trip back for more of what is truly heaven!
6) Grilled Cheese Grill — Portland, Ore.
Sometimes you just want to keep it simple and this place will help you do that. While I had my reservations about a food truck in a renovated school bus, I quickly learned that the quirky location just added to the charm of the ooey gooey deliciousness they were serving up. These are not your kids’ grilled cheese sandwiches! With plenty of variety and combos, they have something for everyone. I have found myself trying to recreate these bad boys at home but they don’t seem to have that special touch that comes from picking up your sandwich at the big yellow bus.
7) Trail’s Iron Skillet — Albert Lea, Minn.
I am no stranger to truck stop restaurants, so to be honest, I was not expecting what I got when I walked into the Iron Skillet at Trail’s Travel Center. The atmosphere made me forget for a moment that this was a “truck stop diner”; it felt more like a casual family restaurant than a truck stop. The food surpassed my expectations so much that I have added this to my list of must-visit places when I am on the road. Their menu consists of what you would typically find at a diner, with my personal favorite being the baked chicken: nothing fancy — just tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken at a reasonable price.
8) Platillos — Harlingen, Texas
I can’t give you the list of BigCat-approved places without mentioning my hometown favorite — Platillos. After moving to south Texas and marrying into a Hispanic family, I have dubbed myself an expert at identifying authentic Mexican food, and this place delivers each and every time! When you look over the menu you will find that it features all the common Mexican greats — enchiladas, chile rellenos, taquitos, carne guisada — but the breakout star of this amazing place is definitely the fajitas. You have to try the fajitas on your first visit to this wonderfully delicious gem of south Texas. If more people get a taste of Platillos’ fajitas, I don’t think my quiet little restaurant find will be so quiet. Nonetheless, it’s a must-add to your restaurant bucket list!
With all the unique tastes and treats that this expansive country has to offer, I know my top picks will grow and evolve. So keep up with me — your fellow foodie — on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for reviews, tips and photos of my food journey throughout the United States.
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