hop & go fetch it: united states of america

States are in alphabetical order


Joshua Tree
Ricochet Gourmet
If you have ever been to the Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia, you'll know what I mean when I say this little café seems like it's been plucked straight off a Gulf Island. It's quirky and delicious and appears to be run by kind hippies. We sat a picnic table at the back and I was very happy with my cheese tamales and salad. But then: I experienced my first date milkshake. It was wonderful; somehow, vanilla ice cream brings out the buttery flavour of the dates . . . Just what we needed on a sunny, hot day as we set out to explore Joshua Tree National Park.

Palm Desert
Los Pepes Mexican Grill
I vacillated between fear and hope as I thought about eating Mexican food in the Palm Springs area. Los Pepes gave me hope. In a land of giant strip malls, it seems to be family-run. The pork carnitas were tender and full of flavour,  the beans had just the right texture, and the tacos were soft and warm.

San Francisco
Brioche Bakery & Café
By the time I had walked to Union Square and through Chinatown, I knew I really needed a tea and a pastry. Brioche Bakery didn't disappoint. I had a flaky raisin pastry with cream in it and a cup of tea. Just what I needed to fuel up for my trip to City Lights bookstore, just about a block away.

San Francisco
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
It wasn't yet 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but this wine bar beckoned me. It was hopping with people tasting wine and ordering small plates in the midst of the market that is the Ferry Plaza. I pulled a seat up to the bar and ordered a taste of Zocker's Grüner Veltliner and a small Acme baquette. The wine was lovely and crisp and the baguette was the perfect thing to keep me from falling asleep for the rest of my one afternoon in San Francisco. There were even two locals sitting by my, which hopefully means the wine bar isn't just for tourists. Either way, I'd happily go back.

San Francisco
Molinari Delicatessen
It seemed like the whole neighbourhood was lined up to get a freshly-made sandwich and have a picnic on the sunny Saturday when I visited. I ordered a "North Beach" sandwich: layers and layers of tender prosciutto, provolone, roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. I could picnic on it every day and never grow tired of that proscuitto.


Lilburn (near Atlanta)
Taqueria Los Hermanos
I always said that I would like Mexican food once I had eaten good Mexican food – as opposed to the standard North American Tex-Mex fare we generally have in Canada. Well, this is where I first ate really good Mexican food with friends who live near Atlanta. This place is in a strip mall where you might not expect great culinary experiences, but do not judge a restaurant by its strip mall! Our food was delicious and the prices very reasonable. Make sure you start with homemade tortilla chips with cheese dip. Ask for limes to squeeze on the chips. I am still dreaming about this cheese dip . . .


Killer Tacos
Let's be clear here: these are American tacos. But you know what? They're tasty and they're cheap and after a long day of exploring and snorkeling, they hit the spot. Scott had the pork and I had the fish. It was so good we both went back for seconds.

Opal Thai Food
Almost a year before we went to Hawaii, I saw Opal's food truck featured on a Food Network show about – you guessed it – food trucks. It looked great and I made a mental note to find it if we ever went to Oahu. Turns out Opal has now opened a little restaurant in Haleiwa, on the north shore of Oahu. The food is fabulous and the experience is incredibly fun. Opal asked us all kinds of questions: where we were from, what we usually ate at Thai restaurants, if we had any allergies. We told him and he said he'd take care of us. The food kept arriving and it was all a delight: crispy lettuce wraps, creamy coconut mushroom chicken soup, pad Thai that actually tasted good and had a kick . . . I think we might go back to Hawaii just to eat at Opal's again. I mean, who knows what he'd cook up for us next time?

Cafe Julia at the YWCA 
Café Julia was our favourite restaurant in all of Hawaii. The food, the service and the atmosphere were exceptional, and yet it was casual and unassuming and altogether wonderful. In eight days on Oahu, we ate five meals here because we fell in love with it. We sat outside in the courtyard at shaded tables, with the pool's blue water reflected across the courtyard. The food is local and prepared with an Asian touch that is absolutely perfect. Here's some of what we ate for breakfast: vanilla yogourt panna cotta with granola and fresh fruit, homemade macadamia nutella on toast, eggs benedict on squares of crispy-soft polenta. For lunch, we had a panzanella salad with big chunks of chewy bread and local yellow, red and green cherry tomatoes, tempura asparagus with aioli, Vietnamese pork salad with soy beans and vermicelli, Chinese chicken salad with a light dressing that was so tasty I practically begged for the recipe.

Roy's also has a location in Hawaii Kai, which is a suburb of Honolulu. The one we went to in Waikiki is a block away from the beach with no view . . . but, I would argue, much better food than many restaurants that did have a view. Plus, you can sit outside and watch all the tourists stream by and that's pretty entertaining. Roy Yamaguchi, the original chef, is Japanese and this is Japanese-American fusion food. We had one of the best maki (rolls) of our lives. Every grain of rice was perfect. We also have a new code for delicious: "butterfish." The butterfish has been marinated in sake and is served with Chinese black rice, honeyed carrots and a wasabi cream. I love it.


Less than an hour from Portland, in the rolling hills of Oregon’s wine country. We walked into Tina’s, two stunned tourists, and they were kind enough to find us a seat on a busy Friday night and make us an excellent dinner, including one of the best fresh tomato salads I’ve ever had. And they were happy to accommodate my celiac husband. We got the sense the owners have always been using exquisite local food . . . and other restaurants are just now catching up to them.

Oh, dear, dear Besaw’s. We went here for breakfast twice over our long weekend in Portland. We would have gone a third time, but were sad to pull up and find it is closed on Mondays. This is our favourite place to go for breakfast, possible in all of the United States. Everything was hot, fresh, local and tasty. We loved it all. It’s also open for lunch and dinner, and I would guess those meals would be just as yummy.

The Daily Café
A great, reasonable café to go to at any time of day. Lots of fresh, local food and friendly service.

Grüner says it has cozy Alpine cuisine. That seems to mean a mix of German, Austrian, Swiss and Northern Italian. Everything -- from our big bowl of salad with hazelnuts and buttermilk dressing to our cheese plate to our homemade sausage to homemade blackberry jam doughnuts -- was wonderful. And the atmosphere was clean and sophisticated. Cozy Alpine, indeed.


Mount Vernon
The Porterhouse
If you’ve been longing for a classic gluten-free pub meal, go to the Porterhouse. They have gluten-free cider on tap. And, my celiac husband was very excited to order gluten-free fish and chips. This was the first time he has eaten fish and chips since he was diagnosed eight years ago. The pub takes gluten-free seriously and the deep-fryer is completely safe from cross-contamination. We were underwhelmed by other food on the menu, but would happily go back for gluten-free fish and chips.

Macrina Bakery and Cafe
I am still dreaming about the waffle I ate at Macrina. Specifically, it was a buttermilk waffle with vanilla poached pear and espresso whipped cream, and applewood smoked bacon on the side. It is possible I will plan a trip to Seattle just to go back to Macrina for breakfast.

see also:
hop & go fetch it: Canada
hop & go fetch it: Europe