Most vacation travelers consider dining out is part of the fun. They want to savor every morsel. They want to taste the culture of a place, one bite … one sip … at a time.
If you believe that describes you, you might be interested in the following dining suggestions found in four fairly popular vacation destinations.
Vacation Destination Cuisines No. 1: Lowcountry Love
Charleston, South Carolina, is known as the Gastronomic Capital of the South. If you’re vacationing there, you’re in store for some fantastic Lowcountry Cuisine. With its roots in Southern, Caribbean and African cuisines, Lowcountry cooking is comparable to Cajun cuisine. It’s most commonly associated with the South Carolina and Georgia coastal regions. The coastal waters and fertile estuaries provide arguably the finest, freshest shrimp, fish, crab and oysters that you’ll find in the country.
One of the best restaurants for tasting impeccable, yet innovative, Lowcountry cooking is Slightly North of Broad. The “approachable upscale” eatery, located in a 19th century brick warehouse, features the creative talents of award-winning Chef Frank Lee. Their focus is on fresh, indigenous ingredients supplied by local farmers and fishermen. So much so that each day’s fish special is determined by what the fishermen bring in off the boats that day. The star attraction is the Shrimp and Grits—the house version of a traditional Lowcountry entrée is a winner of GQ magazine’s Golden Dish Award, given only to the top 10 dishes in the world.
Servers are highly educated and knowledgeable. Take our advice and listen to your server’s menu recommendations. They’re not very likely to steer you wrong.
Another Charleston institution for fine Southern fare is the Hominy Grill. Chef and owner Robert Stehling is a past winner of the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” Award. Try the Fried Cheese Grits and She-crab Soup with Sherry—both famously loved Low Country delights. Stop by Hominy Grill in the morning for simply spectacular breakfast and brunch menus that include Ginger Pumpkin Bread and Fried Green Tomatoes.
Vacation Destination Cuisines No. 2: Florida Keys Fish & Seafood
The mere mention of the Florida Keys conjures images of crystal-clear water and ice-cold Coronas. The translucent water and plentiful reefs of the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving, not to mention kayaking, spear fishing and lobstering. But, the name of the game in these parts is deep-sea fishing. The Keys are one of the premier spots in the world to reel in the Big One. The most memorable dining experience in the Keys is an all-day affair that begins around sunrise. Grab some buddies, climb aboard and head out to sea. To increase your chances of catching something, charter a boat with a knowledgeable captain. Return to land and, fresh catch in tow, head to one of the many local dining establishments.
Most restaurants in the Keys will take your fresh catch and cook it in any number of ways—grilled, blackened, fried, baked, sautéed—and serve it to you with other local favorites like conch fritters.
Vacation Destination Cuisines No. 3: Vegas Over-the-Top
As far as dining goes, few destinations are as over-the-top as Las Vegas. This town is filled to the brim with celebrity chefs and other worldly dining and drinking experiences.
Let’s talk steak. Hands down, the best steak this writer has ever experienced was at Craftsteak at MGM Grand. The food is a vision in simplicity. James Beard Chef Tom Colicchio removes all but the necessities in is entrees, which allows natural flavors to stand on their own. If you go, get the Kobe Skirt Steak and order a side of Hen of the Woods mushrooms. The woody, earthy flavor is unique to this somewhat rare mushroom and perfectly complements the steak. For dessert, the Monkey Bread is a must.
If burgers are a true American art form, then Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay is the Louvre for the classic sandwich delight. Create your own gourmet burger from a pleasing palette of choices. Choose the meat—Kobe beef, buffalo, turkey and many more—then choose your bun and toppings. Toppings range from decadent truffles down to the classic cheeses and pickles.
After a long night whooping it up on the Strip, nothing satisfies hunger like a great Vegas buffet. The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is one of the best, an all-you-can-eat triumph with 16 cooking stations.
Vacation Destination Cuisines No. 4: Shenandoah Valley Vino
The Shenandoah Valley is one of the nation’s most exciting wine regions, even if it isn’t as well known as Sonoma or the Napa Valley in California. But make no mistake, its fan club is growing, and great food and seriously impressive wines can be found all along the Shenandoah Wine Country Trail. This area is dry with abundant sunshine, 1,000-foot elevations, and rocky soil all situated on limestone—ideal growing conditions for a great many varietals. Barboursville Vineyards offers an impressive lineup of varietals. True wine lovers should try their acclaimed Octagon: a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The 2005 vintage won the Gold Medal of the Monticello Winegrowers Competition in 2007. The winery describes the wine as, “Dark, rich garnet color with an intense aroma of plum, cassis, coffee and berries woven together in barrel for a phenomenally full and silky palate.” Jefferson Vineyards is built on the site of Thomas Jefferson’s original 1774 vineyard and is located about one mile from his historic home, Monticello. Jefferson can be considered the father of Virginia wine.
There you have it. Four very different vacation destinations. Four distinct cuisines or food and wine traditions. We promise that if you choose any of them, you won’t go wrong.