As we have mentioned before, we do not go to fancy restaurants when we travel with our 4 kids due to money, their lack of appreciation, and their lack of desire to sit for long meals. We often eat street food, or buy stuff at grocery stores instead. We know that we miss great eating opportunities everywhere we go but do not value food more than our sanity. The one time we make a habit of eating out is when we have food contests on our trips.
If we are going somewhere that is known for a certain food, we try as many of that item and rate them until we have chosen our favorite. We have done this with pizza in Chicago, schnitzel in Germany, cupcakes across the country, macaroons in France, and Hallal in NYC. Our kids love the opportunity to be food critics and find relief in the fact that they are going to have food they like at least one meal each day.
Chicago Pizza- We went to Chicago with the family and already had our favorite pizza from years past. Turns out after our contest we changed our minds. My husband’s college roommate introduced him to Lou Malnati’s pizza in college and it was our favorite since that time. We had even brought it home frozen on past trips. Night one we had it and it got pretty good reviews from everyone. The next afternoon we ate at Giordano’s, and from the first slice where the cheese stretched 3 feet we all had a new favorite. The sauce was better, the crust was flakier and pretty much everything about it put it in the lead. We took a pizza break the next day but followed up the day after with pizza number 3, Gino's. This pizza was ranked third out of the three. Our last day in Chicago, we just had to have Giordano's one more time, so we went back and our second experience sealed the contest. Could we have eaten other great food in Chicago, sure, but why when you can have pizza almost every day.
Cupcakes—Our daughter wants to open a cupcake shop some day so we consider our trips to as many cupcake shops as possible as market research for her. We have differing opinions on this one, but her top 5 spots in the country are: First place goes to Magnolia in NYC. This is the classic shop that everything else is based on because it was around before cupcakes were the craze! They have a sister store called Buttercup Bake Shop that by relationship ties for the first spot. In second place is Molly’s Cupcakes in Chicago because of their great frosting and "swings" for seats in their adorable shop. Third place goes to Baked by Melissa in NYC. Their $1.00 tiny cupcakes give everyone the opportunity to have a few flavors at once and their monthly specials score points. Fourth place goes to Little London Cake Shoppe in Colorado Springs. This shop is in an old house in the middle of nowhere. The London Cake Shoppe has unique flavors that are all amazing and the most beautiful cakes. Also, in the middle of nowhere is the 5th place winner: The Sweet Shoppe in Chester, New Jersey. They had the most amazing fillings and flavor! Because five isn’t enough she also has two special awards. The most unique cupcake experience goes to Sprinkles cupcake ATM’s where you order outside and get your cupcakes delivered from a machine. The best local shop goes to the Vail, CO shop Batter Cupcakes, because of their s’mores cupcake.
Schnitzel- Rather than chose our favorite place to get schnitzel in Germany, we tried to figure out our favorite type. We soon realized that we could continue the research in many of the neighboring countries as well. In case you don’t know, schnitzel is thinly sliced meat that is breaded and fried. First of all, there are various meats used. Two of us prefer chicken and two pork (one couldn’t tell the difference and one refused to try schnitzel until the last night of a 3 week trip, so his data is insufficient). Choices for how it was cooked were plain with a lemon to squirt on it, covered in mushroom gravy (jäger), or on a sandwich. Again there was a tie for this with two people loving jäger schnitzel and two liking it plain with a lemon. The other factor that scored points was how big it was. If it filled the entire plate it was a win!
Macaroons—We decided to try the same thing in Paris but quickly lost track of the names of all the places we grabbed one. They varied in flavor so depending on which type you chose the vote was different. Overall though, we were shocked to figure out that our favorite macaroon shop was in London, not Paris. Paul's Patisserie was hands down the best, especially when we bought the giant chocolate ones.
Halal food trucks in NYC- Our love of food trucks is great and we will often chose food from them for lunch. The first time we tried saffron rice and chicken from a Halal truck in NYC , it became an obsession. We have had it in all neighborhoods in NYC and unanimously think that Adel’s (which sets up at 6pm kitty corner from Radio City Music Hall) is the best. I literally cannot write this without wanting some, it is that good. If I am in NYC I will eat this every single night, usually after 10 pm when somehow I decide I am still hungry. The best part is that a $6 serving feeds two or three of us so it is not only amazing, but very economical.
We are currently working on the best street taco in the country and I am personally working on best local beer. (So far both are in Vail so I need to do some more research before I give it to a local choice.) If you live somewhere that is know for a certain food let us know and we will try our food critic trip next time we visit.