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Road trip from DC>Boston>Portland>Montreal>Toronto>Niagara Falls


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The girlfriend and I were talking about making a cross-country trek, but budgetary constraints and the practicalities of being employed forced us to whittle that down a bit to a northeast, early fall tour. As we're a bit limited in terms of funds, but still both insatiable foodies, we're trying to find the best of the cheap as well as a few, nice, can't-miss dinners along the way. Our itinerary looks something like this, with all **starred locations places we're planning on stopping in for the night, the other spots just places we're passing through but could use good breakfast/lunch/snack thoughts:

DC>

**New Haven, CT

Providence, RI

**Boston, MA

**Portland, ME

(Through NH and Vermont-not sure what's worth seeing here besides leaves)

**Montreal

Ottawa (Might spend the night)

**Toronto

Niagara Falls

Pittsburgh

We're not wedded to the route-if there's something really worth eating elsewhere along the way we'd be happy to detour, but the main sleeping spots are things we'd prefer to keep. So does anyone have any recommendations? Little dives with amazing clams? Historic diners with greasy awesomeness? The best poutine in Montreal? Lobsters so fresh they nearly crawl off the plate? We want it all-thanks in advance!

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No time for full response now, but if you're in Maine & sick of seafood, try an Italian sandwich from the small Amato's chain. (The original Amato's in Portland claims to have invented the Italian sandwich in 1902.)

We had Amato's fare 3 times in 10 days in Maine, which just ended. Can't eat lobster every day, however hard I try.. The wonderful thing about Amato's: flavorful, RIPE tomatoes. How many places have you been to that serve otherwise decent sandwiches with crunchy underripe tomatoes? I was impressed with Amato's, at least the one in Bath, Maine.

I will have more Maine suggestions in due course, as I'm sure others will.

Where are you staying in Portland? Lots of options, of course. The bay view rooms at the downtown Holiday Inn are worth the $$, IMHO, tho it's cheaper to stay outside of town & drive in, but not as much fun. Portland is a great little walking city. There's a nearby Starbucks 2 blocks away, which is a cheaper breakfast option than what the HI offers. There's also a funky little biker diner in the opposite direction that looks like a great spot if you want eggs & that sort of breakfast.

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You're reversing much of the path we took last fall. Some suggestions:

DC>

**New Haven, CT

- pizza, natch

Providence, RI

**Boston, MA

**Portland, ME

(Through NH and Vermont-not sure what's worth seeing here besides leaves)

- obligatory Ben & Jerry's factory tour. not actually all that enlightening, plus they're now part of the Unilever empire but hey, you'll have done it.

**Montreal

- tons of possibilities, but: La Banquise for poutine...unless you're making a reservation at Au Pied du Cochon, in which case you must try the absurdly rich foie gras poutine. Schwartz's smoked meat is mandatory.

Ottawa (Might spend the night)

- walk around the Byward Market area. we had an excellent meal at Domus Cafe, which is adjacent to the Domus housewares store. finish off with a "beaver tail" from the obvious shop in the market.

- between Ottawa and Toronto and a little south of the beaten path lies Prince Edward County, not to be confused with PEI. I'm not sure if PEC is actually an island or just a peninsula, but it's home to a fair number of lakeside vacation cottages, but also to the charming town of Picton (check out the hotdogs at Buddha Dog), and on the rural east side of the island are the award-winning Fifth Town cheesemakers. Their compound itself is pretty interesting - "the greenest dairy in North America" - a newly built, LEED Platinum facility that disposes of its waste whey through a series of artificial wetland ponds. Mostly unpasteurized goat and sheep cheeses.

**Toronto

Niagara Falls

- wine tasting, Niagara-On-The-Lake on the Canadian side. see my photo of the pie shop in the Niagara thread.

Pittsburgh

- instead of Pgh, we came up through Williamsport and the Finger Lakes region, but I won't discourage you from heading farther west. I still need to check out the pizza place that pizza man reported on south of town: http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?showtopic=3835&st=0&p=131063&fromsearch=1entry131063

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In Montreal, I'd recommend Maamm (or MA-Am-M) Bolduc for their beef bourgignone poutine. I still like La Banquise, but this place might be a little better.

On your way to Pittsburgh, if you can stop in Rochester, you can get a Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou Hots.

Then there's Primanti brothers for sandwiches in Pittsburgh.

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I've been stopping in Portland twice a year for almost thirty years now. As much as I like Fore Street, Hugo's, Twin Lights Lobster Shack, the Maine Diner, Bob's in Kittery, the clam shack by the bridge in Kennebunkport and fifty other places I've tried over the years today there is one place that I obsessively, faithfully return to twice or more a year: Duckfat. Simply the best french fries on the face of the earth with probably the best dipping mayos I've ever had. I am including Amsterdam's Vleminckx and Brussel's Maison Antoine in saying this. Outstanding paninis, too, but this is not what you think of Portland for. Still, Duckfat is owned by the Beard winning Hugo's and is worth the trip. The place is also known. Expect a wait even at three on, say, Tuesday afternoon.

http://www.duckfat.com/

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OK,

As said above, there are some decent spots in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I'm not too familiar with them, so I'll let others chime in there.

However, when you cross the border in the U.S., there are a couple more interesting places worth checking out -- places that serve regionally exclusive items, as opposed to food that's well prepared but could be found elsehere.

The only unique place in Niagara Falls, NY, that I think worth is mentioning (save for maybe DiCamillo's below) is Viola's Submarine House. They have one small outpost elsewhere in the city, but the Military Road location is where you need to go. If driving from the Canadian border to Pittsburgh, you'll pass fairly close to it. Their specialty is the steak and cheese. You could also go away happy with any of the steak combos such as steak & sausage, steak & chicken finger (aka "the stinger"), or steak & capicola. (Here's a story, with pictures, about a guy who liked them so much that his family had the staff flown to Hawaii for a special occasion.)

In going from Niagara Falls to Pittsburgh, you also pass through or close to Buffalo. (Buffalo/Niagara Falls is one big metropolitan area.) The two most famous food items in those parts are chicken wings and beef on weck sandwiches.

For beef on weck, Charlie the Butcher's is the best all-around choice. They're on Wehrle Drive by the aiport.

For chicken wings, the two big contenders in this area are the Anchor Bar and Duff's. (They recently went head to head on the TV show "Food Wars." Duff's won, but the Anchor Bar originated them.)

For Duff's, you need to hit the Sheridan Drive location, the original. I'd probably agree that Duff's wings (and bleu cheese) are better than Anchor Bar, but Duff's tends to oversauce their wings, leaving them soggy by the end of your meal. You can request that they go easy on the sauce.

Anchor Bar, even if it's second place, is still fantastic, although they've gone through major expansion -- losing some of the original ambience. They're in downtown Buffalo.

p.s. Also notable for the sake of completeness:

Pizza Junction, in the suburb of North Tonawanda, is a spot that was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives." You can get decent (but possibly bigger than necessary) wings and beef on weck here, but lately I've been impressed by their amazingly delicious beef on weck pizza.

Gabriel's Gate, in downtown Buffalo, is worth mentioning because they have excellent renditions of both wings and weck. (Most places do one better than the other, but Gabriel's gets high marks for each.)

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Thanks all-the suggestions have been enormously helpful. I think we've decided to cut out Pittsburgh and instead drive through west-central PA on the way home, though, camping somewhere in the Allegheny National Forest, so while it's a long shot if anyone knows of some spots there that'd be great. For some inexplicable reason I thought this trip would be light on my waistline because we wouldn't be cooking typically extravagant and rich meals every night and couldn't afford a week and a half of nice dinners out, but clearly I don't know myself very well... Definitely trying pizza in New Haven, the Duck Fat in Portland, bagels and poutine in Montreal, and wings in Buffalo. Keep them coming-especially more suggestions for Ottawa and Toronto-does anyone have any good recommendations for a Chinatown stop in Ottawa? If it's supposedly as authentic and bustling as San Fran's I'd love to get a real meal, nothing like Gallery Place downtown here...

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more suggestions for Ottawa and Toronto-does anyone have any good recommendations for a Chinatown stop in Ottawa? If it's supposedly as authentic and bustling as San Fran's I'd love to get a real meal, nothing like Gallery Place downtown here...

I think it's Toronto's Chinatown that has the world-class reputation, not Ottawa. And, like DC, the best Chinese is in the burbs, not downtown. (Markham/Richmond Hill area - check the Toronto topic here on the board.)

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I'd also recommend Ulrich's tavern in Buffalo for authentic German fare. They don't appear to have a website, but they are featured on this site for Buffalo history. They serve various kinds of sausage plates (listed by wurst) and potato pancakes. Definitely NOT for those looking to decrease the waistline, though.

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I think it's Toronto's Chinatown that has the world-class reputation, not Ottawa. And, like DC, the best Chinese is in the burbs, not downtown. (Markham/Richmond Hill area - check the Toronto topic here on the board.)

Toronto's Chinatown is absolutely fantastic. And the best thing about the city is that it's so easy to eat well for not much money. Check out a Petite Thuet while you're there.

Also don't stay more than one night at Niagara Falls. There's some stuff there, but it's all touristy and overpriced, especially compared to what's in Toronto and Buffalo in terms of food. And definitely go to the Canadian Side and prepare for it to be bitterly cold.

In Pittsburgh I never liked Primanti's- I always thought the coleslaw tasted like Cigarette smoke and the bread was mediocre. It's good drunk food, but if you're lookin' for more than that I'd go elsewhere, like Aiello's in Squirrel Hill (pizza), Monte Cello's downtown (pizza), Le Pommier on the South Side (French Bistro), or China Star on McKnight Rd (excellent authentic Szechuan). Definitely research the restaurants that you want to go to in Pittsburgh, because it's extremely spotty when just driving around and looking. We've had some memorable dining experiences there, but quite a few were memorable for the wrong reasons.

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Went to the Anchor Bar last night as we're spending the week in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. At the border crossing, we said we're only going to Buffalo for dinner and the guard replied "you've discovered the secret!" We did the wings, beef on a weck, some stuffed shells and a basket of fried veggies. The wings were very crispy - which is the style I like. They're not huge juicy wings that some restaurants serve. The beef on a weck was flavorful without soggying up the buns - again, something I enjoyed in a sandwich. The Chicago style Italian beef is dipped which makes the buns soggy, the whole thing messy, and generally unappetizing to see. Nothing else on the menu really looked great to someone who's watching his cholesterol count. We barely ate the fried veggies and my wife and her mom ate about half the shells. A pint of Gennesee cream ale is only $3, and Guinness for only $5. In contrast, the Romano Macaroni Grill in the Fallsview Hilton charges $8.5 each for Tetley's and Kronenbourg. If it wasn't 30+ minutes of driving each way, I'd eat in Buffalo the remainder of the week.

Double Deck tours do a quick tour of major attractions in Niagara Falls - journey behind the falls, aerocar, and maid of the mist for about $60 per person. Clifton Hill is for kids. The safari and the bird kingdom are only for avid animal fans with too much time to spend in Niagara Falls. Fallsview casino doesn't offer free drinks.

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Ok, so I know it's been a while, but it was a hell of a trip-saw so many places, took so many pictures, and, of course, tried so much darn awesome food it's taken me a while to get my thoughts in order, so let me start from the top:

New Haven:

We were only here for a night and a morning, so we didn't get a lot of time to really see the city. So our hosts suggested we stop by one of the best combo destinations in the city: Bar. Homemade beer, awesome pizza, and a dance club all in one. Seems a bit overblown, and I guess taken individually none of their aspects were the best they could have been, but the beer and pizza really stood out. I didn't have anything to compare it against in the city, and I was a few beers deep when we got to the pizza, but it was exceptionally good. We tried the mashed potato & bacon white and hot cherry pepper pizzas. Both had excellent thin, crispy crusts that weren't soggy or overly salty. The mashed potato/bacon was a bit different-was laid out like a classic margarita-just lumps of potatoes around the pizza-took some getting used to, but I got to relish those little pockets of creamy, potatoey love by the end of my first piece. The hot cherry pepper pizza had us all sweating in no time-not exactly your average banana pepper topping, but very good and helped showcase the tasty tomato sauce that thanks to the beer and my lack of notes I can't quite remember more of than it was good and didn't taste straight out of a can. So while I'm sure Bar isn't the best place for any one thing, the combination of great beer, great pizza, and the option for dancing with college students made it a pretty solid one-stop destination. (That said, they have a separate restaurant section where you can enjoy just the first two and avoid the latter).

Boston:

To be honest we didn't really get very culinary here-I couldn't even tell you where we ate both nights-we wandered around the South End, but everything seemed overpriced for what it was-I think we cooked one night and got something fast the other night. That said, we did check out Mike's Pastries, which we only heard of thanks to the scores of labeled boxes being carried around the streets by tourists and locals alike and the half-block-long line in front of the shop. I got a canoli and the girlfriend got an eclair. The canoli was very tasty-although it was pre-filled they must go fast because the shell wasn't soggy at all. Filling was spot-on, though not earth-shattering. Though I'm not an eclair fan, the GF reckoned it was the tastiest one she'd ever had. I took a bite, but creamy/chocolaty/too-dry crust was all I could get, but that's the way I feel about nearly all eclairs, so I'm not the best person to ask. All in all, though, worth checking out if you're in the area.

Portland:

Absolutely awesome town! So quaint, so neat, and so full of great food. Unfortunately we were on a budget, so while we would have liked to do, say, Fore Street, we couldn't really afford it. So one day we did Duck Fat. All I have to say is wow, but there's been enough said about it elsewhere I'll just confirm-it's as good as everyone says. The dipping aoilis are amazing and the fries are nothing short of heavenly. I'll leave it at that for praise-go there if you're in town. Wait for a seat in the pounding snow-you'll thank yourself. The next night we went down to the fish market, bought ourselves two lively fresh caught lobsters, suckered our hotel into loaning us a big 10 quart pot from their kitchen and whipped up some chopped lobster tail in a local white wine cream sauce served over some fresh-made pasta we got at an italian deli in town. I wish we'd dabbled more around there-needless to say we can't wait to go back. And if you're into beer, check out Alagash Brewery and Geary Brewery just outside of town. Alagash was small corporate shop that took us around and gave us far too much beer. Geary's, on the other hand, didn't have 'formal' tours, so we got there to find 3 ancient chocolate labs greeting us at the door, immensely friendly staff, and a private tour led by a brewer who kept topping his glass off the tanks as he filled ours as well-great people, solid beer that's been around since the late 80s.

Well I have to break now-more to follow on Montreal (Fairmont or St Viteur), the trip through the Thousand Islands, Toronto's Chinatown, and Niagara Falls!

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