Ones for the Road

Put your pedal to the metal for these 10 dining destinations.

By Lydia Woolever - August 2015

Ten Restaurants Worth The Drive

Put your pedal to the metal for these 10 dining destinations.

By Lydia Woolever - August 2015

-Illustration by Stephanie Schafer

Sometimes, when the craving strikes, you just need to head out on the open road. There, you will find out why foodies flock outside on winter mornings in Manhattan for a Dominique Ansel cronut, why they endure the sticky heat of Austin for a tray of ribs from Franklin Barbecue, or brave the sun-drenched sidewalks of L.A. for a Hollywood hot dog at Pink’s. Yes, Baltimore has become a culinary haven, but we still love the thrill of the chase. So get out of Dodge and heed your hankerings—and wanderlust. These dining destinations—listed from nearest to farthest—won’t disappoint.

Toki Underground

Washington, D.C., 37 miles // The Lowdown: Despite its rabid fans, long waits, and endlessly Instagrammed food, Toki Underground has managed to keep its cool. From the skate-shop vibe to the inspired take on Asian comfort food, this postage-stamp-sized hot spot is even better than the hype. Kitchen Cred: Remember this hip young chef’s name: Erik Bruner-Yang. The one-time Sticky Rice alum turned 2015 James Beard Rising Star Chef finalist is joining the ranks of trend-setting dining deities such as Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese) and David Chang (Momofuku). Food For Thought: The lineup is approachable (and affordable) but no need to mull the menu: Head straight for a steaming bowl of noodle soup. The rich tonkotsu broth comes in simple, yet complex, arrangements, from classic pulled pork with soft-boiled egg to inspired kimchi infusions. Make it your own with add-ons like melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and house-made “endorphin sauce,” made with five different chilies. However you bedazzle your bowl, sip slowly. And don’t be ashamed to tip it back: There’s a reason Bruner-Yang moves over 200 orders a night. Trip Tip: For good kitchen karma, order the Xie Xie, a round of beers that go to the ramen-making masters in the kitchen. 1234 H St. NE, Washington, D.C., 202-388-3086

Rose's Luxury

Washington, D.C., 39 miles // The Lowdown: The “Rose” in question is chef Aaron Silverman’s grandmother, so it’s only fitting that every element of this charming eatery—mix-and-match plates, antique touches, fresh flowers—is reminiscent of the little luxuries in your own nana’s house. It might take a few hours to get a table (no reservations accepted), but if awards alone are any indication (James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 and GQ’s Most Outstanding Restaurant of 2015), it’s well worth the wait. Kitchen Cred: Silverman has worked with the crème de la crème including David Chang, Sean Brock, and George Mendes. Now at the helm of his own spot, he wraps past into present—melding the French, Asian, Italian, and Southern influences of his former haunts into something completely original. Food For Thought: Despite the hype, Silverman keeps it real with his eclectic blend of flavors, marrying homespun comfort food with high-end gourmet. Start with the fan-favorite pork sausage, habañero, and lychee salad, which is anything but a bowl of boring greens. Don’t miss the crispy Chesapeake soft-shell crab or spicy strawberry spaghetti, topped with house-made ricotta. Trip Tip: If you’re eating at a table for one, at least one dish will be gratis. 717 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C., 202-580-8889

Rasika

Washington, D.C., 41 miles // The Lowdown: One of the most trusted names in Washington, D.C., isn’t a Capitol Hill congressman or POTUS appointee. Instead, it’s a restaurant in the Penn Quarter (with a second location in the West End), where a luminary cast of VIPs from the Clintons and Obamas to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg choose to break bread. (Or should we say garlic naan?) For the past decade, Rasika has remained a tried-and-true stalwart for its modern take on classic Indian cuisine, but this isn’t your common curry. Rasika continues to top best lists for its intricate, inventive meals. Kitchen Cred: Props to the power duo of Bombay-born, James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam and New Delhi-native and veteran restaurateur and James Beard semi-finalist Ashok Bajaj. Also of note: Penn Quarter chef de cuisine Neraj Govil spent 18 years at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. No biggie. Food For Thought: Given Sunderam’s ability to amaze the palate, Rasika—derived from “flavors” in Sanskrit—is aptly named. Start with small plates like the famous palak chaat, or signature flash-fried spinach, before moving onto classics like chicken tikka masala, swaddled in a swoon-worthy tomato sauce. Trip Tip: While you’re in the ’hood, saunter down the street to beloved landmarks like the Newseum, National Gallery, and National Mall. 633 D St. NW, Washington, D.C. 202-637-1222

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm

Lovettsville, VA, 63 miles // The Lowdown: To beat the heat, head south to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and pastoral Patowmack Farm. Opened in 1998 as one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in America, the organic eatery is locavore to the core, with locally grown goods plucked and plated the very same day. Kitchen Cred: Foraging farmer-chef Tarver King might focus on back-to-basics, but his culinary education—from Philadelphia’s Le Bec-Fin to Napa Valley’s The French Laundry—was anything but. A James Beard semi-finalist, King uses the land’s bounty to create cuisine that’s artistic and avant-garde. Each plate is a little masterpiece, adorned with fresh flowers and herbs, as inspiring as a walk through the nearby woods. Food For Thought: Three menus are broken up by mode of source—“raised,” “grown,” and “found”—rotating regularly based on King’s finds. Taste the seasons as you move through your courses, like the summer cherry gazpacho with pistachio, cucumber, and cardamom cream. Trip Tip: Don’t forget to order one of Loudon County’s award-winning bottles of wine. 42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville, VA, 540-822-9017

Clockwise, from left: An artful plate at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm; the dining room at Bartlett Pear Inn; the goods at Federal Donuts; canoodling at Toki Underground. -Courtesy of Patowmack Farm; Jenna Walcott; Michael Persico; Daniel Krieger

Bartlett Pear Inn

Easton, 70 miles // The Lowdown: In the heart of historic Easton sits a beautiful pink house. On the outside, its faded Colonial brick tells the story of days past, while inside, something new stirs on the stove. Step through the door and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a dear friend’s home. With a bright interior and colorful walls covered in art, the little inn is imbued with warmth, and its tender, loving care is equally evident on every plate. Kitchen Cred: After years of working for acclaimed eateries like Michel Richard’s Citronelle in D.C. and Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, chef Jordan Lloyd and his wife, Alice, returned to their tiny hometown to raise a family. Luckily for us, he brought his bountiful experience back to the Eastern Shore, and in 2009 transformed the 18th-century inn into a beautiful dining room and boutique hotel worthy of its rave reviews. Food For Thought: The rotating, regional menu of contemporary cuisine is concise and enticing. Start with small plates like braised pork cheeks and belly from nearby Black Bottom Farm with braised radicchio and saffron-glazed turnips, or cornmeal-crusted soft crab with spring peas. Move on to mains like inn-made pappardelle or summer-truffle risotto in maitake mushroom fricassee. Trip Tip: Browse the nearby Academy Art Museum, featuring works by Thomas Moran, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt. 28 S. Harrison St., Easton, 410-770-3300

Robert Morris Inn

Oxford, 80 miles // The Lowdown: Just a short drive from the Bartlett Pear sits the Robert Morris Inn, also on the Eastern Shore. One of the oldest inns in the country, the historic home remains little changed since 1710, albeit with the addition of chef Mark Salter, who started the restaurant, and breathed new life into the inn’s kitchen. Kitchen Cred: Over the course of his international career, Salter has fed the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Diane Sawyer, and Paul Newman. More recently, the English epicurean spent 17 years as executive chef at the acclaimed Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, before moving down the road to this truly hidden gem in 2010. In this classic Colonial dining room and tavern, Salter fuses British-American fare with regional cooking and seasonal ingredients. Food For Thought: Try Salter’s Chesapeake classics like an award-winning crab cake, but don’t overlook the pub-perfect burger with white corn succotash and watermelon and yellow tomato sauce. Trip Tip: After your meal, take a shortcut home across the Tred Avon River on the oldest privately run ferry in the U.S. 314 N. Morris St., Oxford, 410-226-511

Federal Donuts

Philadelphia, PA, 99 miles // The Lowdown: Move over waffles and biscuits: Chicken and donuts are the hot new take on savory and sweet. While this foodie fad was born above the Mason-Dixon Line, it was still raised in the South—South Philly, to be exact. As the world’s first dedicated shop for both downhome delicacies, Federal Donuts (aka “FedNuts”), started as a micro-sized brick-and-mortar shop and quickly became a local legend. Kitchen Cred: Since its original location on South Second Street, FedNuts has hatched five locations, part of the growing empire of James Beard-winning chef Michael Solomonov and restaurateur Steve Cook. Food For Thought: Inspired by Korean fried chicken, the twice-fried birds have juicy meat and skin as crisp as a Lay’s potato chip. Pick your kick with seasonings and glazes ranging from mild to mouth-tingling, but no worries: Your little red basket comes with a honey donut to beat the heat. Need another reference? These deep-fried delights are favored by Philly native drummer Questlove and notorious sweets lover Vice President Joe Biden. Trip Tip: Fancy donuts like French toast and lemon ricotta often sell out by 2 p.m. 1219 S. Second St., Philadelphia, PA, 267-687-8258

Jim's Steaks

Philadelphia, PA, 100 miles // The Lowdown: The Cheesesteak Wars are practically a sport in the City of Brotherly Love. Most argue between South Philly behemoths Pat’s and Geno’s (whose fans run the gamut from President Obama to Snooki). But on a corner of South Street, amidst a colorful collection of head shops and pizza joints, the real champ is Jim’s Steaks. From the minute the doors open in the morning, the crowd begins to build as the line moves out the door and around the corner down Fourth Street. Kitchen Cred: This second-generation sub shop has been a Philly institution since 1976, winning five “Best-ofs” and cementing itself as a bucket-list landmark. Celebrity glossies on the walls add to the ambiance. Food For Thought: To sound like a local, order “Whiz wit” (read: Cheese Whiz) from the guys behind the counter. Their hands move like magic on the grill as they tend to the mountain of meat and sizzling onions before stuffing them into soft sub rolls, lacquered with liquid cheese. Trip Tip: Philly is a wonderfully walkable city. From Jim’s, you’re just a short stroll to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. 400 South St., Philadelphia, PA, 215-928-1911

Zeppoli

Collingswood, NJ, 100 miles // The Lowdown: This quiet Jersey suburb is home to an abundance of old-school red-sauce joints, but Zeppoli is in a league of its own. The little BYOB has the quintessential charm of your classic Boot Country trattoria, but shakes things up with an extra dollop of gusto. Kitchen Cred: Growing up in South Philly, Joseph “Joey” Baldino learned to cook from the masters—his Sicilian mama and aunts. From there, he went on to work with legends like Alice Waters and Daniel Boulud, eventually landing a gig as chef de cuisine at the venerable Vetri in Philadelphia. Since opening his own eatery in 2011, Baldino has become a four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist. His years in the big leagues are an indisputable influence, but one taste of his authentic country cooking, and you’ll realize it’s in his blood. Food For Thought: Fine-dining meets la famiglia on Baldino’s modest, Mediterranean menu, which is surprisingly simple, with rich pastas, rustic meats, and fresh ingredients sourced from Philly’s Italian Market. Carbo-load on classics like homemade tagliatelli with lemon and prosciutto, or revel in Baldino’s Southern Italian roots with a hearty fisherman’s stew. Be sure to save space for the namesake fried dough. Trip Tip: Collingswood is a dry town, so don’t forget to bring your own wine. 618 Collings Ave., Collingswood, NJ, 856-854-2670

The Inn at Little Washington

Washington, VA, 107 miles // The Lowdown: It’s a bit of a schlep to Rappahannock County, but you won’t regret expending the extra effort. Here, at the Inn At Little Washington, you’ll be transported straight to the set of a Jane Austen novel. With antique accents, period furnishings, and elaborate wallpaper, this five-star foodie manor is impeccably dressed to impress. Kitchen Cred: Back in 1978, chef Patrick O’Connell started his internationally acclaimed food mecca out of a garage-turned-country inn. A forefather of the modern-day farm-to-table movement, he befriended nearby farmers to stock his pantry with the freshest local supplies. Today, the James Beard-winning chef and New York Times bestselling author continues the pastoral practice, also picking produce from the inn’s own farm. With pomp and precision, the D.C. native turns plain white plates into imaginative American masterpieces. Food For Thought: Before you unfold your napkin, prepare for the fit-for-a-prince price, as the special-occasion eatery starts at $178 per person. (And if you drink too much wine from the 14,000-bottle cellar, stays start at $495 per night.) Splurge for a front-row seat in the kitchen, or settle into the lap of luxury in one of its intimate dining rooms. With three seven-course menus, consider the Tin of Sin (caviar, peeky-toe crab, and cucumber rillettes) and then order the herb-crusted lamb loin carpaccio with Caesar salad ice cream. Trip Tip: It’s easier to nab a table on weekdays, but book your reservations at least three weeks in advance. Make a day of it and explore the scenic byways of the Shenandoah Valley. 309 Middle St., Washington, VA, 540-675-3800


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