“Why are you visiting Ireland?”
This was an actual conversation Sharon had with the immigration agent when we visited Dublin in 2016. My questioning was about how long we were staying, which was for 8 hours before flying to London that evening.
Traveling on points and miles opens up options you never had before. This includes scheduling stops at places just to visit for a little while, or just for lunch. We do have a short list of places that we’ll go out of our way, a little bit, just for a meal.
The Boxty House
20 – 21 Temple Bar, 2 Dublin, Ireland
We first ate here in 2011 when visiting Ireland on an Adventures by Disney tour. It was recommended to us by my college classmate. We loved it, so much so that we ate there twice. We NEVER do that in a city we’ve never been because there are usually so many different places to eat.
The specialty here is boxty, a potato-based flour, and they make dumplings or pancakes out of it. The pancakes they serve are then stuffed with various meats, sort of like an Irish burrito. We’ve been unable to find ANYWHERE in the U.S. that even makes the stuff.
So when I was able to schedule a 12-hour layover into our trip to London, we jumped at the chance to go back. We even sent a message to the restaurant on Facebook and they reserved a table for us, even though it was the day of the Irish Football Championships and Dublin was packed solid.
Dahl & DiLuca
2321 AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ USA
We found this restaurant in Sedona using an old trick I learned from my father. I call it “The Question.” He always would ask hotel concierges about places to eat, and they’d rattle off a list or would ask what type of food we were looking for. My dad would then ask, “If you were in town and only had one night, where would you eat?” It was the question that led us to discover Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa (on our list of favorite places to eat outside of Disney World), and it also led us to Dahl & DiLuca.
We were visiting Sedona on our first Adventures by Disney trip and had a free night in the town. We asked the guides for their recommendation and this was their answer to “the question.” We were not disappointed.
When I was putting together our trip to the southwest, and it looked like Phoenix would be our starting point, I suggested we make an overnight stop in Sedona for dinner. Sharon agreed immediately. The restaurant is listed as casually elegant, so it’s a place you’d probably feel more comfortable wearing a nicer outfit instead of a t-shirt and jeans (but we’ve seen people there dressed that way).
The food here is classic Italian dishes. Lasagna, linguine bolognese, chicken parmigiana, and linguine with clams are spotted on the menu. The servers here have all been top-notch, and the ambiance was set with live piano music in the main dining room (standards from the 40s to 70s, but that fit the demographics of the diners there on a Monday evening). Not to make your mouth water too much but I just had a cioppino filled with chunks of lobster, two huge scallops, two massive shrimp, mussels, and clams that was amazing. It took us 11 years to get back here for our second meal, but it was worth the wait,
I’m making this one an all-encompassing category instead of just mentioning one place. I could pick one location or another but that’s missing the point. You see, when you talk about Texas barbecue, you just compare it to all barbecue that’s not from Texas. You can then argue about which Texas location is best for brisket, pulled pork, sausage, smoked turkey and ribs.
We visit Texas Hill Country area every year, more recently twice a year, to visit New Braunfels and our favorite waterpark, Schlitterbahn. While that’s the main reason for our trip, just behind that is knowing that we’re going to get to eat some awesome barbecue.
Our go-to place has always been The Salt Lick, in Driftwood. While some say that it’s too touristy and the food is only average, for us it’s the perfect combination of good food and atmosphere. It’s what we expect a barbecue place to look like. Since we’re tourists, it’s OK for us to act like one. If you were worried about our choices, we have experienced the center of the Texas BBQ universe, Lockhart, TX.
If you’re in Austin, you can line up with the rest of humanity for a taste of Franklin Barbecue. But honestly anywhere you go is going to be better than what you’re used to. At the end of My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Travel Day (With A Happy Ending), Sharon picked up a pulled pork sandwich for me at Buc-ee’s and it was one of the best ones I’ve ever had (not like she needed an excuse to go to Buc-ee’s)
700 US Hwy 1 North, Iselin, NJ and
647 US-46, Fairfield, NJ
There is only one word on the sign outside, but it says it all:
This Central New Jersey location just outside the Woodbridge Mall has been packing in the crowds for decades with its chips & salsa, huge margaritas, and Tex-Mex specialties. Just a vast place of moderately priced food that sticks to your insides like Elmers Glue.
Sharon and I both grew up in the area, so we ate here both before and after we met, However, we don’t have much chance to visit the area since we’ve moved 1000 miles away, You can bet that when we had a rental car for a visit to New Jersey, we took the opportunity to eat there (on Sharon’s birthday, no less). It’s that good.
I was recently reminded there’s a second Jose Tejas location in New Jersey in Fairfield. I had the pleasure of eating lunch there with my uncle (without Sharon) (note from Sharon: I still haven’t forgiven him) on the quick trip for my grammar school reunion.
We have one more place on the list that we really wanted to visit again. I’ve been trying to make this work for several years and I’m happy to report that we’ve completed our task.
Morio’s Sushi Bistro
1150 S King St. #103 Honolulu, HI USA
There I am, not knowing that in about ten minutes, I would be eating some of the best sushi of my life. In a room that sat maybe 20 people, with Christmas lights hanging on the wall (in February). I found this place on Yelp! (at the time they didn’t have a website), I made a reservation by phone, they just took my name, and I know it was written on a napkin or something. It’s an experience. I’d recommend reading the reviews to get a feel for what the place is like.
We’ve wanted to visit so much in the last ten years but Hawaii is FAR!!!!! We had several false starts over the past decade but I’m happy to report that we were able to revisit Morio’s on our recent Hawaii trip. Sure, he’s moved next door to a fancy building and there are no more Christmas lights on the wall. However, the sushi is still the best we’ve ever had and the Omakase dinner is cheaper than you’ll find than any other place serving the same quality dishes.
Here’s the closest you’ll get to a “how it started, how’s it going” photo you’ll get from me.
Revisiting these places is something that would never have been possible without miles and points, simply because I could never rationalize the cost just for a meal. When you start to learn the tricks of the trade, thoughts of doing things like stopping in Ireland for lunch go from “That’s crazy!” to “How can I make that work?”
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