A Perfect Day of Diners – Best Eateries in the US
My brother Joel and I ask each other thought-provoking questions constantly.
While a lot of them can get pretty weird and random, one of my favorite remains centered around the perfect day of dining experiences.
Joel and I love to travel whenever we get the opportunity. While on the road, we always have a desire to explore the best hole in the wall, hodgepodge, unique and favorite local diners serving up high quality food.
While I certainly don’t have Gordon Ramsay’s high culinary standards, the diverse palate Anthony Bourdain once had (may he rest in peace) or Guy Fieri’s notable taglines and frosted tips, I’ve made it a mission to explore all of the local favorites whenever exploring a new part of the country.
The below list is what I’ve found to be the perfect day of dining experiences for US eateries, ignoring the fact that actually trying to hit all of these places in one day would be a logistical nightmare.
BUTLER’S PANTRY – STOWE, VERMONT
Practically the entire state of Vermont is the epitome of small town charm. With the Billboard Act prohibiting billboards and limiting development, and only 6 Walmarts existing within its borders, the Green Mountain State takes the mantra of supporting local very seriously.
It’s easy for one to feel stuck in time in Vermont, in the best way possible. With most big businesses being essentially non-existent in the state, local hot spots such as The Butler’s Pantry have a chance to thrive.
Nestled in the heart of Stowe at a historic inn, this staple breakfast joint earned the title as one of the top 100 restaurants in the US by yelp in 2019. A title it rightfully deserves after taking one bite of their jalapeno cheddar pancakes. If the countless articles from foodies giving a nod of approval to this cozy mainstay aren’t enough to pique your interest, they also offer the two greatest words any breakfast spot can advertise: bottom coffee.
And this isn’t just any coffee. Butler’s Pantry proudly serves the bold, robust and full-bodied java from the Vermont Coffee Company. Joel and I drink a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot of coffee. And I’m not kidding when I say that we order coffee from the Vermont Coffee Company regularly to keep around the house as our go-to. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill cup of joe.
If you’re spending time in the Green Mountain State, the Butler’s Pantry is a must to kick start the day. After filling up on pancakes and at least several cups of that delicious coffee, take a 7 minute drive into town to check out the Alchemist for some IPAs that are held in high regard by craft beer aficionados. Because it’s never too early to start drinking, right?
Shut Up and Eat! – Toms River, New Jersey
Pine State Biscuits – Portland, Oregon
Frank’s Diner – Kenosha, Wisconsin
Good Truckin’ Diner – Lansing, Michigan
Cateye Cafe – Bozeman, Montana
The last place I would expect a German Village to exist is in Columbus, Ohio. But lo and behold, it exists! In the midst of the charming brick houses, quirky book shops, artisan coffee shops and German pubs lies the New York style deli Katzinger’s.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed within this east coast inspired stop, as the space also serves as a specialty foods store offering artisan cheese, meats and breads. The diverse menu also offers some staple Jewish dishes, such as latkes, blintzes, kugel and knishes.
The Katzinger’s Reuben is their best selling sandwich, and certainly lives up to the hype. With the exception of their European style breads that are delivered daily from Mediterra Bakehouse in Pittsburgh, practically everything on their menu is made from scratch. The home cooked and sliced to order corned beef is tender and tasty, and compliments the other ingredients to give a fantastic flavor.
As if the deli doesn’t already sound like heaven, they offer complimentary pickles to be enjoyed with your meal by grabbing them out of their pickle barrels. Yes, literally barrels of pickles sit by the dining area, offering a regular or garlic soaked option.
Soak in the afternoon with a scratch-made sandwich at this Ohio staple, and make sure to take a stroll up the road to the Book Loft afterwards to get lost in their 32 rooms of bargain books in order to find new reading material.
Biju’s Little Curry Shop – Denver, Colorado
Vegan Love Cafe – Oakhurst, California
Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey – Cincinnati, Ohio
Zingerman’s Delicatessen – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Duluth Grill – Duluth, Minnesota
RED IGUANA 2
It may be hard to believe that some of the best Mexican food I ever had was Salt Lake City, Utah, but Red Iguana 2 absolutely knocked it out of the park. Originally opening in 1985, founders Ramon Sr. Cardenas & the late Maria Cardenas bring a mixture of authenticity and experience to the table, with a mission to bring the Mexican cuisine that they loved to the Salt Lake Valley.
With Ramon Sr. growing up in San Luis Potosí and Maria in Chihuahua, the dishes are all gastronomical interpretations created by the Cardenas family of popular cuisine served in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The Cardenas family has been serving Mexican food in the Salt Lake Valley for 55 years now, and have caught national attention by being featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2008.
Red Iguana and Red Iguana 2 are both virtually identical in Salt Lake. They’re only a few blocks from one another, and serve the same food. The second location was opened to expand the business since a combination of construction and high demand was causing patrons to endure up to an hour and a half wait on a nightly basis at the original location. There’s even a smaller-scale fast-food style location called Taste of Red Iguana.
Today Lucy Cardenas and her husband Bill Coker run the daily operations with their team of employees, and the dishes are still authentic and unique concoctions passed down in the Cardenas family. The mahi mahi used in the fish tacos were seasoned and cooked to perfection, and remain the best I’ve had to date. I was so moved by the food and experience that I had to buy a t-shirt before I left.
Load up on some killer Mexican food and drinks at this Utah hot spot before exploring the famous Salt Lake or hitting the trails at one of Utah’s five national parks.
Traffic Jam & Snug – Detroit, Michigan
Tea House Chinese Restaurant – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Chicago Joe’s Restaurant – Las Vegas, Nevada