Travel's Best Summer Foods 2015

Besides sunbathing on the beach and surfing, nothing else completes the long summer days like great food! From slow-smoked, fatty brisket and sweet fried plantain chips with guacamole to ice cream and apple pie, you’re not going to want to miss out on our essential Travel’s Best Summer Foods 2015. From where to go and what to eat, we’ve put together a delicious list with the help of our panel of experts, including Top Chef Season 10 winner Kristen Kish, host of the new Travel Channel show 36 Hours, and restaurateur and chef Frank Prisinzano.

Best Brunch: The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA

The Beachcomber, ahi tacos, Newport Coast, Crystal Cove, California
The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove

A weekender favorite — brunch — is good in any season. But summertime lends itself to some unique places, including the Beachcomber. This café has the location, set right on the beach in the Crystal Cove area of Newport Coast, CA. "This place is amazing! Every blue moon, I will have dessert for brunch, and it consists of beach beignets," says Marianela Pereyra, host of Marianela’s Best Beaches. Along with its can’t-miss beignets, the Beachcomber serves a variety of brunch options, such as lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes and crab cake Benedict.

Best Barbecue: Smitty's Market, Lockhart, TX

Smitty’s Market, smoked meat, sausage, brisket, Lockhart, Texas
Smitty’s Market

Perhaps in the dead heat of summer, you don't think about traveling south to Texas. However, Smitty's Market in Lockhart is nestled between 2 of our favorite cities: Austin and San Antonio. Minus the heat, both cities have tons to offer year-round. But back to the barbecue. For a purely authentic Texan barbecue experience, Smitty's, which is roughly 30 minutes south of Austin, provides it all, but not forks or sticky-sweet barbecue sauce. "I didn’t expect that at one of the best meals of my life — and hands down the best barbecue — I would be refused a fork,” says Kristen Miglore, executive editor at Food52.com. “They don’t even have them at Smitty’s Market, so don’t bother asking. Be sure to order the slow-smoked, fatty brisket and the sausage, wrapped up in paper by the pitmaster, and tack on a Lone Star beer at the register. Smitty’s will provide a knife, hot sauce, soft white sandwich bread to mop it all up, and a severe but unexpectedly charming ambience.”

Best Seafood: Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis, MD

blue crabs, steamed, tray
iStockphoto.com/Joanna Pecha

It's summer, so that means seafood, and lots of it! What better place for crabs than Annapolis, the capital of the blue crab state, Maryland. A stone’s throw from the United States Naval Academy, Cantler's restaurant is located on Mill Creek, which flows from Whitehall Bay. Side note: If you want to arrive by boat, docking is free (first come, first served)!

The family-friendly atmosphere with community-style tables is perfect when you’re elbow-deep in crabmeat, hot butter and Old Bay seasoning. “I love the blue crab with the potatoes, corn and bread that come with it," says Chris Grundy, host of DIY’s Cool Tools and Blog Cabin, as well as Travel Channel’s new show 50/50. "It's not just the food, though. It's right on the water, with big picnic tables, and you just eat with whoevers sitting at the table with you. People pulling up on boats and joining the party is fun, too."

Best Summer Pie: Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NY

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, caramel apple pie, New York
Gentl & Hyers

Sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen have brought their rural farm baking skills from South Dakota to the artisan streets of Brooklyn, NY, at their Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop. Their pies are so beautiful that even if you aren’t a pie lover, you will wish you were. The 2 sisters “turn out an absolutely perfect all-butter crust that's always golden brown and amazingly flaky, with just a little bit of tang from apple cider vinegar,” says Brendan Spiegel, a food and travel writer who’s been featured in The New York Times. "It's their innovative seasonal fillings that really make the pies, though, from rhubarb crumble to birch beer float, and the year-round salted caramel apple is a perfect mix of savory, sweet and salty. "Also check them out at their spin-off cafe in the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library or at all 3 Brooklyn locations of Shake Shack!

Best Ice Cream: Laduree SoHo, New York City

Ladurée, Coupe Glacee, Soho, New York
Ladurée

Entering Laduree in SoHo is like walking into one of the finest pastry shops in Paris, and rightfully so: The Laduree dint was established in 1862 with the opening of its first bakery at 16 Rue Royale in Paris. With shops and restaurants all over the world, Laduree is commonly known for its beautiful macarons, cakes and ice cream. "Sitting in its outdoor garden, digging into a Coupe Soho (salted butter ice cream and ginger ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce and toasted macadamia nuts) feels like a vacation in itself,” says foodie, traveler and actress Meghan Markle, who is known for her role as Rachel Zane on USA's Suits. "Francophiles flock to this New York outdoor hot spot, so tuck in to a cup or bowl of one of their many macaron glaces (raspberry, citron, pistachio, rose petal!) and feel as though you've just made a jaunt to the south of France. It's absolute bliss!"

Best Ballpark Food: Blue Smoke on the Road, Queens, NY

Blue Smoke, sign, Citifield, New York
Nicole Franzen

Whether you're a baseball fan or not, you have to admit that summer isn’t complete without attending some kind of ballgame. Going to the game is much more about drinking and eating really well. At their home stadium, Citi Field, the New York Mets have figured out how to keep their baseball and non-baseball fans pretty happy. Say hello to Blue Smoke on the Road and its “gotta-have” North Carolina pulled-pork sandwich. Opened by famed Shake Shack owner Danny Meyer, Blue Smoke serves "meaty sandwiches stuffed with applewood smoked pork and topped with a soft brioche bun," says paper-goods designer and travel blogger Kelly Purkey. "This tasty sandwich isn't available at the regular Blue Smoke locations, so making a trip out to see the Mets and picking up this sandwich is definitely worth putting on your summer bucket list."

Best Food Truck: Mei Mei, Boston

Mei Mei, food truck, Double Awesome, Boston, Massachusetts
Caviar

We love food trucks here at Travel Channel. We’ve made no secret of that. So we were pretty excited when Top Chef  Season 10 winner Kristen Kish, who's now part of the Travel Channel family, too, with the show 36 Hours, picked Mei Mei in Boston as the best food truck for Travel’s Best Summer Foods 2015. Its menu changes daily to take advantage of the freshest of ingredients in dishes such as the Double Awesome, which has Cabot cheddar, pesto with local greens, and 2 oozy eggs. Another favorite, the Summertime Noodle Salad, has ginger-soy dressing, carrots, seaweed, tofu, pickles and peanuts. Stay on top of Mei Mei's Twitter feed for location and menu updates. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday. You can also catch the food truck at SoWa Open Market on Sundays (May through October) on Harrison Avenue. The "farmers-market-esque section includes produce, doughnuts, potted herbs and honeys," Kristen says. There are "food trucks galore. All the favorite trucks in Boston, including Mei Mei, gather in a parking lot and dish out food to long lines with eager bellies."

Best Food Festival: Feast Portland, Portland, OR

Feast Portland, market, crowd, Oregon
Courtesy of Feast Portland

Food festivals abound across North America, especially during the warm summer months. But this festival in Portland, OR, is about more than just eating and drinking well. The mission of Feast Portland, which is held in September, is to end hunger in Oregon and the US by supporting organizations such as Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, which has served more than 700,000 meals to at-risk kids in the past 5 years.

Like Californians, Oregonians are "obsessed with supporting local" resources, says chef and traveler Jackie Kai Ellis. “But they strike a playful balance with their down-to-earth food and cheeky humor. Feast Portland pays homage to this culture. From elaborate collaboration dinners, hands-on butchery or brewery classes, discussions on social topics, and twilight markets, the festival brings chefs from around North America (including yours truly this year) for a celebration spanning the entire city. And everyone parties hard for the noble cause of awesome food."

Best Bar Food: Bartaco, Atlanta

Bartaco, chips, guacamole, West Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia
Manny Vargas

We've got "Hotlanta" on our radar this year. The atmosphere of the Mexican-themed Bartaco in West Midtown is the essential summer go-to spot for drinks and food served inside or out. The menu focuses on small bites, such as tacos starting at $2.50. "It is almost impossible to pick my favorite bar food here, but the sesame rib-eye taco — which speaks to the Asian and Mediterranean influences at Bartaco — is definitely a winner," says Nadeen White, an award-winning travel blogger who created and edits the travel and lifestyle blog TheSophisticated Life. "The meat is juicy and flavorful, with just the right amount of spice. My other favorites include the baja fish and the curry shrimp tacos." Nadeen is also a fan of the sweet fried plantains and guacamole with chips. You can find additional Bartaco locations in New York, Connecticut and Virginia.

Best Restaurant With a View: Da Salvatore Ristorante, Ravello, Italy

Da Salvatore Ristorante A Ravello, restaurant, view, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Da Salvatore Ristorante A Ravello

We love Italy, so we'd be remiss if we didn't mention one of its charming small-town restaurants with a jaw-dropping, spectacular view of the Amalfi Coast. East of Sorrento and Positano, Ravello is home to Da Salvatore Ristorante. "The wine list is to die for, and the entire bounty of the Mediterranean and the Campania countryside is at your fingertips," says Frank Prisinzano, a restaurateur and chef. "Go for the local mozzarella di Agerola, the burrata with tuna crudo, the spaghetti with clams, the cocoa- and coffee-braised veal cheek with ricotta gnudi, and any of the whole, roasted, local fish they are offering."

One of the joys of summer cuisine is the ability to use seasonal ingredients at their best. The French and Italians have nailed that concept. There are plenty of great restaurant options along the Amalfi Coast, but if we’re picking the best, it's Da Salvatore. "Go for a long lunch, ask for Pino, tell him I sent you, and let him guide you through the incredible wine list for pairings," Frank suggests.

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