New York City: The playful vibe (yellow leather banquettes; framed photos of boomboxes) belies the serious dishes coming out of Charlie Bird($$$), the SoHo spot from chef Ryan Hardy and sommelier Robert Bohr. The wines—many made from little-known grapes—can all be ordered by the half bottle.
Philadelphia: Peter Serpico earned his chops as second-in-command at New York’s Momofuku empire. Now he’s partnered with restaurateur Stephen Starr at Serpico($$$). The seasonally driven menu includes raw diver scallops and an indulgent deep-fried duck leg.
It all started—as many ideas do—with an off-the-cuff conversation. While brainstorming concepts for a possible restaurant project in Pittsburgh, artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski started listing types of food they couldn’t find in the city. “We realized we were naming cuisines from countries that the U.S. government was in conflict with,” Weleski says. And just like that, Conflict Kitchen was born.
Every three months, the take out-only spot in Schenley Plaza rotates its menu—and its design scheme—to reflect a different destination, one that they hope will stimulate thoughtful political conversations. So far, they’ve featured Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Iran, and Cuba is up until October.
When Greg Vosits arrived to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport on July, 9th, he was headed to Vienna en route to the medieval city Györ, Hungary, his hometown, to spend the summer. But when the University of Connecticut doctoral student was approached by a woman clad in Heineken regalia proffering a chance to scrap his plans and play travel roulette—a game show-style contest with a far-flung destination waiting on the other end of a button—his mind raced.
“My friends will think I’m stupid if I don’t do this, I will regret it for the rest of my life,” he thought.
And so, with cameras in his face, he took his chance, Cyprus shuffled onto the board, and the Mediterranean beckoned. Now to just clear it with mom.
Last week, a six-clawed lobster was found off of Midcoast Maine, and just a week earlier a two-toned lobster was pulled from similar waters. But most lobster fans have been buzzing over the rare affordability of lobsters these days—prices per pound are the lowest they've been in 20 years. Maybe this is the one good side of Global Warming?
Americans consumed 231 million pounds of Maine lobster last year—a record high. The conclusion? A trip to Maine—especially in the late-summer or early fall—is not complete without eating lobster. In warmer months, lobsters molt, and their shells become so soft you can eat them with your hands, without the aid of crackers. Just ask for a "shedder" and you'll sound like a local. Maine native Luke Holden, of Luke's Lobster in New York City, shows you just what to do.
Over-the-Rhine (OTR)—known for its Italianate architecture—has gone from historic to hip.
Inventive Japanese gastropub and sushi bar Kaze amps up its ramen with littleneck clams and red miso broth; turkey sliders are piled high with sugar bacon, shiitake mushrooms, and house-made pickles. 1400 Vine St. $$$
The founders of 21c Museum Hotel set their sights on a landmark building for their second art-filled property. Technically just outside of OTR, it displays works in unexpected places; take the lobby floor, where a panel of wormlike neon patterns changes as you walk on it. Make sure to grab a drink on the rooftop terrace. 609 Walnut St.$$
Susana Balbo has been making a name for herself in the wine industry for over 30 years. She was Argentina's first female winemaker and the first woman president of Wines of Argentina, an organization that promotes the country's wine industry to a global market. Blending is Balbo's specialty and her talents have served her well. In 1999, she began building Dominio del Plata Wineryin her hometown, Mendoza, Argentina. Today, the 75,000-square-foot winery is surrounded by 47 acres of vines that produce two million liters of wine per year.
Harkening back to an age of classic diners and Americana, Harlem Shake features a green-and-white retro design with painstakingly restored high coffered ceilings. Locals and visitors alike are flocking to the restaurant for its fresh take on diner food, with a wide range of burgers, dogs, and milkshakes. Our favorite? The Hot Mess burger—topped with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, American cheese, and a chipotle mayo. Another crowd pleaser? A cholesterol-be-damned hot dog wrapped in bacon.
On the corner of 124th and Lenox, Harlem Shake sits just a two-minute walk from Red Rooster, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s hotspot, and within earshot of Alexander Small's duo of soon-to-open restaurants, The Cecil and Minton's, in the former Minton's Playhouse jazz club.
All this goes to show that while Baauer’s song went viral then disappeared, the restaurant scene in Harlem will be shaking (in a good way) for the foreseeable future.
Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.
Somewhere above the Bering Sea on the long haul flight between Tokyo and New York, a Japan Airlines flight attendant kindly brought me a steaming bowl of rich broth and chewy udon noodles. Mine was the only seat lit at this late hour in the darkened cabin while glued to a subtitled crime drama marathon. (I'm a sucker for film noir in any language.) Recently, JAL launched its new business-class "Sky Suite" service on international routes to New York, London and Paris; service to Chicago and Los Angeles follows shortly. It's almost like having your own capsule hotel room, complete with a fully reclining seat, 23-inch LCD screen, and bed slippers. Definitely request a window seat for utmost privacy.
Last summer I took a road trip to “secret” Amish country—a little-known stretch of farms on route 772, east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But how did I get away from the touristy version of Ye-Ancient-Country and experience the reality of America’s oldest locavore movement? We followed insider tips from the horse (-and-buggy)’s mouth: Joel Cliff, of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau: “The stretch of Rt. 772 that runs Southeast from Route 23 at Leola in the North to Route 340 at Intercourse in the South is chock full of authentic ‘finds’ without being a main tourist corridor.” Cliff was right. At the first roadside stand we pulled into, a twenty-something (barefoot!) couple sold us their homemade cheeses, mint tea, and the best cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted, all as their sweet-natured dogs lazed nearby in the sun. We asked what was down the side road that ran by their house, and the man answered: “Well, everything,” as if his whole world could be found along that gravel path. For two people from New York City, it was very nearly heaven.
Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.