We are living in unprecedented times with a lot of time for reflection. For me, one of the great perks of writing for The Hockey News was the opportunity to visit different NHL cities and get a chance to see both their arenas and the towns themselves. If you know me at all, you know that I love to find tasty eats on the road and I do not count calories. I actively research food spots before I travel, particularly American barbecue cuisine - but I don't limit myself if a city is known for something in particular.
With that in mind, I have decided to put together my top 15 food experiences from throughout my THN career. Here's a couple caveats first: I have not travelled to every NHL city - never been to Denver, never been to Winnipeg - so the list is admittedly not exhaustive. I've also tried to steer away from some of the more obvious choices - cheesesteaks in Philly for example - because on some trips you don't have time to explore for the best and you just grab whatever you can. OK, now let's take a trip down flavor lane.
- Konan BBQ (Tampa Bay): I've talked to people who live in Tampa who don't know about this gem, but frankly it's some of the best barbecue I've ever had. Fun, bare-bones atmosphere and incredible mustard-based sauce that made my rib sandwich transcendent.
- Oohhs & Aahhs (Washington): Another spot with great atmosphere to go with the food, this soul food spot featured the best mac and cheese I've ever had, plus some fantastic fried chicken wings. Hot tip: head upstairs for the sit-down experience.
- Pecan Lodge (Dallas): It's hard to beat Texas for barbecue, especially brisket. Pecan Lodge is quite famous and though it's always busy, it was worth the wait. It feels like a ritual when you eat there.
- Iguanas Burritozilla (San Jose): No lie, the THN crew ate here multiple times when the Sharks hosted the All-Star Game. Best burrito I've ever had and shout-out to the special orange sauce it comes with.
- Pappy’s (St. Louis): Once again the All-Star Game led the THN posse to a great local spot. Known for their ribs, Pappy's also boasts some game-changing burnt ends.
- Schwartz’s (Montreal): Any trip to Montreal requires a smoked meat pilgrimage. Schwartz's does it perfectly and I have never been let down by this classic spot.
- Chef’s (Buffalo): My most-frequented restaurant thanks to geography, Chef's is my spot nearly every time I go to Buffalo. It's an old-school Italian-American joint that sells its own tomato sauce and the portions are amazing. I get the meatball sandwich parmed, which has become a running gag with my co-workers.
- Hattie B’s (Nashville): Hot chicken is a Nashville calling card and Hattie B's is one of the most famous purveyors. This place checked all the boxes for me and one of the cooks was even rocking a Predators hat when I walked in.
- Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle (Los Angeles): I went to the Long Beach location and the biggest surprise for me was that the waffles stole the show. Don't get me wrong; the fried chicken was great too, but these were the best waffles I ever had. Got myself a fun multi-level fruit drink, too.
- Dinosaur BBQ (New Jersey): I know there are a few locations, but the Newark one (right next to the arena) stole my heart. Great BBQ choices and awesome sides.
- Swatow (Toronto): Had to put my hometown fave on the list. Swatow is a no-frills Chinese spot that I have literally been going to for two decades. Never lets me down.
- Slows BBQ (Detroit): Like Chef's, I've hit Slows a bunch of times thanks to Detroit's proximity to Toronto. Not only is the pulled pork perfect here, but you get a range of sauces to squirt at your leisure.
- Frantoni’s (NY Islanders): Located near the Isles' practice facility, this is a smashing pizza joint. Great atmosphere and tons of choices. Seemed like corner pieces were big with the locals.
- Victoria Chinese (Vancouver): I've always been a huge dim sum fan and Victoria does it right. Shout-out to former THN intern Jason Chen for taking me here during the world juniors.
- Al’s Beef (Chicago): The idea of dipping an entire beef sandwich in au jus really tickles me. True, you need a lot of napkins, but it's worth it.
Bonus Junior Hockey faves: Poutine from Chez Ashton in Quebec City, schnitzel from Metro Restaurant in Kitchener and food trucks from Little Fleet in Traverse City.