I had the pleasure of dining at Owamni in Minneapolis earlier this year, before it received the James Beard Award for best new restaurant but after it had already received accolades. The unique concept ensures a menu that you’ve likely not encountered before: all ingredients must have been used by indigenous people prior to the colonization of the Americas. No dairy, no beef, no chicken, no egg. Non-vegetarians can order fish, bison, turkey, or elk. For the bulk of the menu, Owamni uses ingredients such as berries, corn, wild rice, beans, and maple syrup, making it largely vegan-friendly. Wines come from Mexico and Central America because of the regions’ use of non-European grapes.
The best places to eat in Anchorage range from food trucks to fine dining restaurants. On our trip, I tried to sample it all. Of course, salmon is to Alaska the way lobster is to Maine, so if you arrive during salmon season, as most visitors do, do as the grizzlies and feast on it. Keep in mind that different kinds of salmon run at different times, with king salmon starting off the season and silver salmon finishing it off.
In addition to salmon, look for crab, oysters, steelhead trout, and halibut. Due to its price, king crab can be found mostly in more expensive restaurants. The listing of reindeer on a menu can give out-of-state visitors the willies, but perhaps not as much if you think of it as venison.
Due to the city’s outpost town vibe, even upscale dining does not require the dressiness that you might find in a major lower-48 city. When in doubt for dinner, adopt business casual.
I’ve divided the best places to eat into categories, so scroll down to find what you’re looking for. The sidebar contains only some of the restaurants I review below.
As you plan for an upcoming visit to Maine, you’ll need to make your dinner reservations early if you want to eat at some of the top restaurants on the Maine coast. You will be well-rewarded if you do. Note that many coastal restaurants do not open for the season until mid-April or May and then shutter for the winter.
Although I’ve already detailed the best lobster rolls on the coast, I wanted to share here some of the best restaurants for dinner. As in many New England towns, the top restaurants are often associated with inns. On our trip, we stayed at B&B and inns that didn’t have their own kitchens, so we had to venture out and explore.
When I searched for the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes on my first wine tour of the region, F.L.X. Table came up on top, time after time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a reservation on our first trip. With seats for only 16 people per seating, available spots can fill up quickly. Knowing that, we reserved our dinner as soon as we knew we would return to the area, two months in advance. The trendy farm-to-table restaurant in Geneva, New York did not disappoint.
Because F.L.X. Table has two seatings per evening, you will have to choose between dining early and dining late. We opted for the earlier seating, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of finishing dinner after 10 pm. But if you don’t mind that, or if you can only reserve a late seating, you should go for it. You won’t regret it.
Dress: Business casual
Seatings: 5:45 pm and 8:15 pm
Menu: Prix fixe, set course
Dietary Accommodations: Yes, when notified in advance
Location: 22 Linden Street, Geneva, NY
I can’t think of Maine without dreaming of a succulent lobster roll. Because I spent many of my childhood summers in New England, eating a lobster roll outside in the warm sun evokes carefree and seemingly endless days. But, of course, vacations do have endings. They seem especially short for an adult. So where to get your precious few lobster rolls? Lobster pound, lobster shack, or seafood restaurant? And which one, specifically? Even with the high 2021 prices for lobster, Maine teems with people eager to devour the ever-favorite sandwich, and that means you can stand in line for up to an hour waiting for yours. You want to make the wait worthwhile by knowing in advance where to find the best lobster rolls on the Maine coast.
Best Fresh-From-the-Ocean Taste: Thurston’s Lobster Pound
Most Unusual Lobster Roll: The High Roller
Best Lobster-and-a-Beer Place: The Barnacle
Best Roadside Eatery: Sprague’s Lobster
When you’re in Napa Valley, sipping wine from late morning until late afternoon, you’ll want to find the best places for lunch to break up the day – and the alcohol. Much depends on where you happen to be and where you plan to head next on your Napa Valley wine tour. Maybe you’re based in Napa but find yourself in Yountville after a tasting at Domaine Chandon. Or you want lunch in St. Helena before an afternoon tour at Castello di Amorosa. Maybe you find yourself closer to the town of Napa. Because the Napa Valley is an agricultural area with only a sprinkling of towns, you need to plan, especially since many restaurants require reservations even for lunch.
Finding the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes region requires both less and more research than I’m used to. Less, because the options are limited. More, because we found it difficult to find the truly good among them. In keeping with the rural and outdoor nature of the Finger Lakes, even the fine-dining restaurants listed below retain a relaxed, semi-casual vibe.
Best romantic restaurant: Pleasant Valley Inn
Best Menu: Ports Café
Restaurant With the Best View: Ginny Lee Café
Most Relaxing Restaurant: Blue Pointe Grille
Because of covid-19 restrictions, we selected restaurants that either served outside or, by law, at well-spaced tables inside. Reservations are either required or strongly recommended since seating can be limited, particularly on the weekends. Note: Since pandemic restrictions can change, check out the current status before reserving.
Curbside pickup from White Orchids, one of our local Thai restaurants, brought the spicy flavors we love to our date night during life in the time of coronavirus. We’ve tried to spread our support of local businesses over several of our favorite restaurants. Although we hadn’t eaten at White Orchids in several months, the time seemed right to do curbside pickup. I pulled an actual white orchid off my planters’ rack, and my husband looked up music from Thailand on his phone. We were ready to satisfy our “spice teeth.”
(In case you haven’t been following my Life in the Time of Coronavirus series, check out my first installment to see how to make takeout into a special occasion.)
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: White Orchids
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Pickup Hours: Daily, 11:30 am-7:30 pm
Recommended music: Thai classical music from YouTube
Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.
If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Torre
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Pickup Hours: Wed. – Sat. 4:30-7:30 pm; Sun. 3:30-6:30 pm
Recommended music: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (Joaquin Rodrigo, composer)
Most of us are at home, adapting to life in the time of coronavirus, struggling with losing a job or being kept from loved ones or wanting to scream at the walls closing us in. World Oyster, usually devoted to travel and fine dining, will temporarily shift its focus to dealing with the isolation and to supporting the local community. Life in the time of coronavirus means that we all have to be creative.
Because several nearby restaurants offer curbside pick-up, my husband and I decided to support them while treating ourselves to a special evening. After all, we still have to tend to ourselves. We started with curbside pick-up from Cascade at Durham Springs and found ways to create an intimate, elegant dinner in our own home.
To set the stage for the evening, you will have to do some pre-planning. After you’ve decided which restaurant you’ll support, consider how to enhance your upcoming meal with ambience. Think dining, not eating. Take it as far as you’d like.
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Cascade at Durham Springs
Location: 5065 Lehnenberg Rd. Kintnersville, PA
Pick-up hours: 4 pm-7 pm, Tuesday through Sunday
Wine recommendation: The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
Recommended music for pop music fans: It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense by Ingrid Michaelson
Recommended music for classical lovers: One of the late Mozart Piano Concertos.