The City: Seattle, Washington
The Restaurant: Sawyer
The menu’s fun at Sawyer, but they’re deadly serious about good food. The New American menu offers Asian influences and lots of regional fare (read: some of the best seafood you’ll ever have). Even the most straightforward dishes come with some unexpected flair – behold the sirloin with its porcini mushroom rub and bacon salsa verde, served with tater tots (duck fat, of course).
And absolutely save room for dessert – if the words “s’more choco taco” don’t get your attention, we’re not sure what will.
Washington’s an American leader in wines and beers so you can get an interesting beverage that started life a quick drive from the restaurant.
The restaurant’s housed in a former sawmill dating to 1927. A stunning refurbishment gives it a look that’s both in keeping with its industrial roots and cozy. It’s located in Ballard, historically a working class neighborhood with Norwegian roots, today a haven for cafes, shops and bars.
What else: It’s hard to be bored in this city of industry and culture. Chihuly Garden and Glass is dedicated to the works of master glass artist (and Seattle local) Dale Chihuly. It’s in the Seattle Center, the park and complex surrounding Seattle’s most recognizable landmark, the Space Needle. The other big tourist attraction, Pike Place Market, still functions as the public market it was envisioned as more than a hundred years ago, albeit with probably a few more tourist souvenirs for sale. (Also make sure you find the stand that does nothing but little, freshly baked doughnuts.) South of downtown, the Museum of Flight sits amid one of the city’s several Boeing sites and offers a fascinating, all-ages trip into not just the city’s contribution to flight, but the entire history and present of flight.
On a sunny summer’s day, you’ll find locals kayaking on Lake Union or hanging out at Gas Works Park, the lakeside park that takes its name from the disused early 20th-century coal gasification plant that was largely left intact and today is one of the city’s most unique local landmarks.
The City: Charleston, South Carolina
The Restaurant: Husk
There are also Husks in Nashville and Savannah, but the Charleston locale is the flagship. The restaurant prides itself on Southern dishes made with Southern ingredients, which means the menu can change frequently and seasonally. You are going to get high-end cuisine – and you’re going to get it with collard and mustard greens, catfish, butter beans or maybe Atlantic grouper. Executive chef Travis Grimes is a South Carolina low country native, and he’s serious about the suppliers the restaurant uses and their geographic relationship to the Mason-Dixon Line.
Next door to the main dining room, the Bar at Husk is an adventure in Southern culture all its own. In an atmospheric wood-and-exposed-brick room, expert bartenders mix drinks meant to invoke new takes on old Southern flavors. The beers all come, naturally, from the region – most from small breweries in Charleston, where the brewing scene is thriving. Wine seems to be the one potable allowed in from outside the South, and even the US.
What else: Charleston’s one of the East Coast’s most historic and atmospheric small cities. For history there is, of course, Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. But Charleston history can also be found down so many side streets on the walking (or sometimes, horse-drawn carriage) tours of the old city. City Market dates to the 1790s, while another impressive place to visit is military college The Citadel. For tour groups who book ahead, the college offers tours led by cadets (don’t call them students) – hear the fascinating history of the place while taking in some imposing, Moorish-style architecture.
The City: Columbus, Ohio
The Restaurant: Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus
While travel is opening up again, some travel may be tricky or unavailable for some time. If that trip to Germany isn’t quite back on yet but you have a hankering for some of that encased meats cuisine, a spot in a lively Midwestern city will set you right.
There’s been a Schmidt’s in Columbus since German immigrant Fred Schmidt opened a meatpacking business in 1886. His son, George, first tried his hand at sausage selling at the 1914 Ohio State Fair, but it was George’s son, also George, who brought the family meats fully into the restaurant business when he opened the restaurant in 1967.
What else: If you’re there in mid-September, you can visit Columbus Oktoberfest (which the Schmidts, perhaps inevitably, put on). This year’s festival, which runs September 10 through 12, coincides with another great Columbus tradition, an Ohio State Buckeyes home football game. (It’s a fun one, too – a rare regular-season encounter with a PAC-12 opponent, the Oregon Ducks.) The campus itself is worth a visit, as is the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, with its ornate glass-and-metal palm house, styled after the great Victorian palm houses of Europe. Speaking of ornate, the Ohio Theatre began life as a 1920s movie house before being saved from the wrecking ball in the ’60s. Today it hosts live events – as that starts to happen again in theaters, upcoming 2021 events include Hamilton, Neil Degrasse Tyson and, um, The Price Is Right Live.
Columbus is a fun, hip and surprisingly affordable city with a party atmosphere even if you’re not there on game day.