At Cook's Country, we're big fans of road trips. For the last decade, our team has traveled all around the country in search of the very best traditional and down-home fare. We've visited small towns and big cities, home kitchens and busy restaurants, truck stops and taco trucks. Why? To bring recipes that have flown under the national radar back to the test kitchen and then to Cook’s Country magazine, so anyone can recreate the best in American fare at home—no matter where they live.
Since we love stories—and food—from the road, I reached out to our Cook’s Country team to ask them about their ultimate, no-limitations road trip.
Today’s dream trip comes from Scott Kathan, Deputy Editor of Cook's Country. He’s no stranger to hitting the road: he’s crossed the country by car three times already, and has stopped in or driven through every one of the 48 continental states. Here’s where the experienced road tripper would go on his dream trip.
What are your top 5 must-visit destinations and what are you eating when you get there?
The first stop from Boston is Austin, Texas. I’ve never had Aaron Franklin’s brisket at Franklin Barbecue and it’s famous for being some of the best barbecue in the world. It’s the kind of thing where you bring a cooler of beer and a lawn chair and you get there at 7 in the morning and you wait for them to open at 11:30. And while I’m in the Austin area I need to check out other Texas barbecue. In Lockhart, Texas, in the Hill Country, there’s a whole bunch of small barbecue joints, so I’m going to Texas to eat meat.
From there we’re going to roll west to San Diego. We have long, hard Boston winters, so I’m going to be psyched to eat some warm-weather food in beautiful San Diego. The big thing is going to be the fish tacos, which were supposedly invented there. So I’ll eat my weight in fish tacos and drink my weight in margaritas while I’m at it.
Then I’ll pop up to Los Angeles. I’ve never eaten my way through Koreatown in LA, which is supposed to be amazing—I love Korean food. There’s obviously great Mexican food there too, and there’s also a new David Chang restaurant called Majordomo. I’d definitely nerd out and try to worm my way into a meal there.
The final two stops are going to be in northern Washington State—past Seattle, close to Canada—which will be great because I’ll get to drive up Route 1, through northern California and the Oregon coast, which are some of the most beautiful parts of the country. My good friend Rik lives out there and he’s taken me to a place in Bow, Washington, called Taylor Shellfish. It’s an oyster farm, and it’s right on the Puget Sound so you’re looking out over islands and beautiful water. It’s off a road called Chuckanut Drive, which is one of the scenic roads I've ever driven. At the shellfish farm, you can buy a sack of oysters, and they have grills right on the water, so you can just light up a grill and throw the oysters on or pop them open and slurp them back raw. Just buy some nice Washington state beer or wine and sit there along the water, eating oysters and chilling.
Also in Washington is a place called The Willows Inn. It’s on Lummi Island in the San Juan Islands, and you have to take a ferry out there. There chef is a guy who used to work for René Redzepi at Noma. The deal is most everything they serve is farmed, hunted, fished, and foraged on the San Juan Islands. They serve all kinds of stuff like seaweed and herbs and strange sea creatures you’ve never heard of. It’s definitely one of those restaurants that’s “of a place,” where everything they serve is hyper-local. I've heard it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Who are you bringing along?
I’d bring my wife Emily and my two kids. My wife and I, as we were falling in love a long time ago, took a cross-country road trip, and this time we could do it with our two kids in the car. So it would be a different vibe, and I’m sure we’d have to come up with some games to keep the kids occupied. But no iPads in the car.
What will you be jamming to while on the road?
I’ve been listening to the new Janelle Monae record. I love it. I think she’s awesome and creative and it pops enough to sustain you when you’re falling asleep on a stretch of highway. And I’ve been listening to a ton of the Black Panther soundtrack. There’s all kinds of cool hip hop and R&B on there—some stuff I hadn’t been too familiar with, along with some great Kendrick Lamar tracks. So that’s a good one for the car.
I’m a huge fan of old, Jamaican rocksteady and roots reggae, like early Bob Marley and before, so I’d have a bunch of that in car. I’m also a jazz guy, so I’d have some of the earlier Miles Davis records from the late ‘50s. That stuff keeps me going.
Any car snacks?
Fast food! Sorry. Especially if there’s some regional take on it. But it’s going to be fast food.
Is there anything you plan to bring back with you from your travels?
I like things I can eat. There are only so many t-shirts and hats that you can collect, and after a while you throw those away anyway. So I want to bring home barbecue sauce, or seasonings, or spices, or vinegars. And, from Seattle, Rachel's Ginger Beer—so good! We’re lucky that we have access to a lot of things here in Boston, but I’d hopefully find something regional—food, condiments, ingredients—that I can’t get here.
Cook's Country MagazineEach issue of Cook's Country is full of foolproof recipes for easy, weeknight meals; heirloom recipes for the modern cook; regional favorites that showcase little-known local specialties from across the country; pull-out recipe cards for 30-minute meals; objective equipment reviews and taste tests; and lots more.
Cook's Country Eats LocalNo matter where you live or where you're going, we have 150 foolproof recipes in this cookbook for you.
Don’t forget to check out our other team members' ultimate road trips below.