Rants & Raves
April 1, 2023
On the Road Again. What's for Dinner?

The culinary news from local "influencers" in small towns, especially here in Jacksonville, tends to focus on the opening of new franchise restaurants. To truly understand what's happening in the culinary world, I find leaving town and testing boundaries is essential.


Having recently returned from the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, I've been thinking about how excited I am to attend this, as well as the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago and the Summer Fancy Food show in New York, year after year. While these events certainly provide industry insights, allowing me to discover new products, meet with producers and find new content for my various writing channels, they also provide an opportunity to explore theses cities.

What's most exciting are the seemingly endless number of distinctive, innovative, well-presented and independently operated restaurants that each of these cities has to offer. In addition, there is an impressive selection of ethnicities represented, providing opportunities to try foods that are altogether new and different.

I must admit that, as of this writing, I am excited about my next visit to Chicago in May, checking out some of the noteworthy offerings in Chinatown including Lao Sze Chuan, Daguan Noodle and Chiu Quon and the buzz emanating from Rose Mary in the Fulton Market neighborhood. While it may sound a bit touristy, there's also a deep-dish sausage pizza with my name on it at Labriola.

I'm also planning for visits to Washington DC and New York. The lists of places I would like to visit are far too many considering the time I have. These are just a few of the places on my "short" list.

In DC, I'm curious about Seylou Bakery, a repeat visit to Ben's Chili Bowl (chili dogs rock!), checking out Bold Fork Books and investigating a handful of restaurants serving West African cuisine (I am eager to find a really good Thieboudienne).

In New York, there are several Kosher-style delis, a long list of restaurants in the Lower East Side, disco fries at Thai Diner, Scotch eggs and meat pies at Lord's and Malaysian foods at Kopitam. Let's not forget about the many places in Brooklyn worth exploring. So many choices. So little time. Sigh!

Most recently, while judging desserts at the 22nd Annual ProStart Culinary Team competition in Orlando, I made sure to put a little extra time in my schedule to see what sorts of culinary delights this city had to offer. While I barely scratched the surface, the Mills 50 neighborhood was a wonderful surprise. I squeezed in time to visit Black Rooster Taqueria and Deli Desires . I need to go back to try Pig Floyd's and see what else this accredited Main Street America neighborhood has to offer.

Needless to say, seeking out new restaurants and boldly eating what no one has eaten before (thank you Gene) is something I take very seriously. If all you encounter are the bland and somewhat moderated mass-market foods that franchises have to offer, I sincerely believe you are missing out on an amazing world of adventure.

Jeffrey Spear has been writing about food, creating culinary brands, developing recipes and producing cookbooks for more than 40 years. If you're looking to enhance the impact of your culinary brand, or simply need someone to tell your story in ways that are visually and emotionally appealing, give Jeff a call: 866 787 8761 - or shoot him an email: jeff@studiospear.com