eating east coast road trip

Each year, thousands of Americans take to the highway in the summer, embarking on an East Coast Roadtrip. Be it for vacation, for college visits, for family reunions or for romantic getaways, these summertime sojourns span the Northeast.

In this edition of our East Coast Road Trip series, we’re highlighting a pivotal feature of any road trip: where to eat along the way. Here, we highlight restaurants from Boston down to D.C. that you should be sure to hit during your overnights in each city.

Where to Eat in Boston

The home of The Boxer Boston Hotel has revolutionary roots, and the history of its cuisine incorporates New England’s world-class seafood, strong Italian and Irish heritage, and a wave of contemporary standouts. Here are some recommendations on where to grab a bite in Boston on your East Coast Road Trip. 

O Ya

O Ya is a contemporary sushi bar that’s earned rave reviews from Boston diners for over a decade. This is an upscale establishment, and it’s worth the price of admission for its well-designed, unforgettable constructions of sushi classics and new inventions. High-end sake flights come hand-in-hand with small plates that burst with color and flavor. 

Among our favorite dishes: the smoked carrot served with ito togarashi, togarashi mayo, and dill. We also love the fried Island Creek oysters with yuzu kosho aioli, and squid ink bubbles. The omakasake is a 17-course Chef’s selection that comes in at $185 per person. 

O Ya. 9 East St. Boston, MA 

Harvest

Just across the Charles River from The Boxer Boston Hotel, Harvard Square is a central hub of culture, education, and restaurants in Cambridge. One of the area’s staples is Harvest, which has kept up an admirable reputation since the 1970s. The American restaurant serves seasonal dishes, and has a lovely garden courtyard. 

The menu incorporates philosophies old and new, and works with local purveyors to ensure the freshest produce. We love the Scituate lobster bisque, and jonah cab tortellini, with mushroom broth and black radish. 

Harvest. 44 Brattle St. Cambridge, MA 

James Hook & Company

There’s an air of royalty surrounding dishes like the lobster roll and clam chowder during the summer months in New England. Seafood here is king, and one of its best purveyors has been the takeout hotspot James Hook & Company, open since 1929. The waterfront shack of a building is right downtown by Fort Point Channel. 

There are several local classics to grab here: obviously, the lobster rolls are a must. But don’t ignore the lobster mac and cheese or the New England clam chowder. Other worthwhile eats include the stuffed scallop, crab roll, and a whoopie pie for dessert. Take your meal to the chairs along the Harborfront for a classic Boston picnic.

James Hook & Company. 15 Northern Ave.

Cafe Vittoria

Anyone who knows the Boston dining scene will recommend that you visit the North End neighborhood while you’re in town. The historic section of the city has maintained small streets, red-brick buildings, and a collection of revered Italian restaurants. Cafe Vittoria has been a stand-out here since it opened in the late 1920s. 

The four-floor space is charming as can be, with vintage Italian decor—plus some of the best desserts in town. We recommend a chocolate cannoli, tiramisu or a chocolate ganache. Add in a perfectly-made espresso, and you have yourself an ideal Italian evening.

Cafe Vittoria. 296 Hanover St.

Where to Eat in Tribeca

Taking the East Coast road trip down from Boston to The Big Apple, travelers can find a number of delectable eats in of the city’s best neighborhoods. Tribeca is not only home to Duane Street Hotel, but also a cultural hub with historic lofts, unique museums, iconic landmarks, and a dynamite restaurant scene. From seasoned classics, to new additions, these are some of our favorite places to eat in Tribeca.

The Odeon

The Odeon is a long-standing bistro in Tribeca with an iconic neon-red sign hanging over its front awning. Those who are looking to dine at a true New York City classic should not overlook this downtown staple, which has famously served the likes of icons like Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and of course Tribeca’s beloved Robert De Niro. 

In addition to its social prestige, The Odeon has a great menu that’s skillfully straddled the line between French-American classics and new age over the years. Dinner here can range from French onion soup and steak tartare, to grilled Colorado lamb and Island Creek oysters. 

The Odeon. 145 W Broadway

Saluggi’s

Whether you’re coming into town after a long drive from Boston, or heading off for another stretch of East Coast road tripping—it’s always good to know where to grab a quick bite. Those who don’t want to sacrifice flavor or quality for time should check out Saluggi’s, one of the best places to grab a pizza, sandwiches, or bowl of pasta in Tribeca, and all of Lower Manhattan. 

For appetizers, everything here is enticing, but we’ll widdle our recommendations down to the buffalo calamari and the mini house-made meatballs. The Italian deli hero will keep you full and satisfied for a whole day, and the veggie Capri hero brings rich Italian flavors to those whose diets are sans-meat. The variety of brick-oven pizza will satisfy all palates and preferences. 

Saluggi’s. 325 Church St. 

1803 NYC

This New Orleans-inspired restaurant serves fresh takes on Cajun and New American cuisine in a beautiful, two-story dining room whose oversized windows keep it feeling light and breezy. The menus here feature fresh-shucked oysters, pork chops and grits, zesty salads and po’boys. An extensive wine list and live jazz music enhances the ambiance.

1803 NYC. 82 Reade St.

Graffiti Earth

Last, but not least, one of our favorite restaurants in Tribeca is Graffiti Earth, at the Duane Street Hotel. It’s the brain-child of Food Network’s Next Iron Chef alumni Chef Jehangir Mehta, whose Indian and Persian background inspires the restaurant’s focuses on sustainable, vegetable-forward dishes. 

Kick things off with a lychee martini before delving into garlic coconut soup with chickpea caviar, scallop brulee with cauliflower and wasabi yogurt, duck fried rice with chili squid, and the Indian street burger with fingerling potatoes. 

Graffiti Earth. 190 Church St. New York, NY

Where to Eat in Brooklyn

Moving across the river from Tribeca to Downtown Brooklyn, East Coast road trippers will open themselves up to a whole new world of restaurants and food. From the world-famous Brooklyn pizza, which is an absolute must-try, there are restaurants both old and new throughout the borough representing worldly cuisine, as well as new, progressive flavors. 

Grab yourself a room at NU Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn for an artful, and cozy homebase, and then head out to check out these recommended restaurants in BK. 

Bar Tabac

Located a short walk down Smith Street from NU Hotel, Bar Tabac is one of the favorite places for a bite or a drink amongst our staff and guests. The adorable Parisian-style bistro has a warm and colorful atmosphere that’s often complemented by live, in-house tunes. You can stop by here for brunch, lunch, dinner, a cocktail, or even a late-night bite on your road trip. 

We love many of the dishes on the menu at Bar Tabac and some of the French classics include onion soup gratinee, baked Burgundy snails, and tuna tartare with a seaweed salad. Come dinner time, we recommend the black ink linguine with shrimp and spicy tomato sauce, and the moules frites “Bar Tabac,” steamed Canadian mussels with fries. 

Bar Tabac. 128 Smith St. Brooklyn, NY

Haenyeo

Haenyeo, in Park Slope, is one of the newest and hottest restaurants in Brooklyn. Chef Jenny Kwak’s outpost combines ingredients from the sea with Korean gastronomy. Come here for twists on classics like bibimbap and kalbi, as well as some fusion with Mexican and Cajun flavors. 

Among the small plates here, grilled oysters with seaweed butter are fantastic, as well as the mung bean-kimchi pancake. All of the main courses impress, but we are particularly in love with Haenyeo’s spicy bouillabaisse with cod fish, mussels, clams, shrimp, and rice cakes. For dessert, go to New Orleans with a sugar-dusted beignet. 

Haenyeo. 239 5th Ave. Brooklyn, NY 

Mo’s Original

It really feels like you can find any combination of cuisines in Brooklyn, and places like Japanese-Caribbean favorite Mo’s Original definitely contribute. From restaurateur and chef Wlliam Garfield alongside partner Junior Felix, the restaurant has an exceptionally creative menu, a vibrant space filled with live plants, and colorful decor from the area’s various roots.  Some of the dishes you’ll find include a smoked ramen bowl, as well as American classics like burgers and fried chicken. 

Mo’s Original. 453 Rogers Ave. Brooklyn, NY 

Lucali

When you’re passing through Brooklyn on your East Coast road trip, you absolutely need to sample some of the borough’s world-famous pizza. At the top of countless “best of Brooklyn,” lists is thin-crust staple Lucali. There’s often a long line hanging outside of celebrity chef David Chang’s favorite pizza spot in all of New York City, and for good reason. In fact, on the website, the folks at Lucali have become accustomed to the rush and just put up a note that reads, “Show up before 5. Put your name on the list. Go have a drink. We’ll call you when your table is ready.” 

The pizzas are simple, cheese with an option for pepperoni with basil and garlic included. Rolling his dough with a wine bottle instead of a classic wooden roller, chef Mark Iacono has created a pie that creates a commotion every day of the week, and there’s only one way to find out why. 

Lucali. 575 Henry St. 

Where to Eat in Philadelphia

Moving further south on your East Coast road trip this summer, Philadelphia is just a two-hour drive from New York City. Here you can come stay at The Independent Hotel right in the heart of the city, and enjoy a world with exceptional restaurants in every direction. From world-class restaurants in unassuming spaces, to classics of the city—like cheesesteaks of course—these are some of our favorite restaurants in all of Philadelphia. 

South Philly Barbacoa 

For years, South Philly Barbacoa has been a hidden gem amongst Mexican locals looking for a taste of home, and amongst in-the-know foodies looking to tag along. Chef Christina Martinez barbacoa tacos, a dish that originated in her hometown, have landed her numerous accolades. She’s been named Eater’s Philly Chef of the Year, and she was featured on an episode of the critically-acclaimed Netflix series Chef’s Table. This all stems from the fact that the fairly-priced barbacoa, and other traditional Mexican dishes here are absolutely delectable. 

South Philly Barbacoa. 1140 S 9th St. Philadelphia, PA

Vernick Food & Drink

Located in a charming Rittenhouse brownstown Chef Greg Vernick’s restaurant is among the top creators pushing the realm of New American cuisine forward in town year after year. A James Beard Award-winner, he continuously evolves his menu of large and small plates, which can each find tasty company with a craft cocktail. 

There’s a section of dishes to enjoy on toast (don’t miss the scallop with black truffle). Raw dishes include fluke with key lime and coconut, plus sea urchin with warm scrambled eggs. Other plates to check out include the saffron fettuccine with tuna bolognese, and the ginger-and-orange lacquered duck breast. 

Vernick Food & Drink. 2031 Walnut St. 

Cheu Noodle Bar

Philadelphia is a city that’s filled with exceptional art of a wide variety. Cheu Noodle Bar celebrates the area’s colorful style with its own graffiti-covered walls and a sensational menu of ramen noodles and other delightful dishes. It’s a simple and sleek space with a long counter and  a few tables in the sun-soaked dining space. 

The noodle bar has a build-your own style menu with various broths and add-ons like pork shoulder, fried chicken, and a soy-marinated egg. You can also order bowls of miso ramen, brisket ramen with matzo balls, shrimp dan dan noodles, and cold temomi noodles. Favorite small plates include Vietnamese sausage with broccoli, and samosa rangoons. 

Cheu Noodle Bar. 255 10th St. Philadelphia, PA 

Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

An East Coast road tripper can’t pass through Philadelphia without stopping off at one of the city’s many proven cheesesteak proprietors. The classic sandwich consisting of shaved beef, cheese whiz, peppers, and onions is a beacon of greasy deliciousness, and a well-known staple of local dining. 

Check out The Independent Hotel’s post on 5 Can’t Fail Cheesesteaks in Philly for some of our locally-approved recommendations. Among them is the Fishtown favorite Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop, Old City stop-off Campo’s Deli, and the beloved Jim’s Steaks on South Street. 

Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.

For the bottom leg of your East Coast road trip this summer, head down to Washington, DC for some American culture and dynamite food. Named America’s Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit in 2016, its many neighborhoods offer a diverse array of delicious options. Two of our favorite neighborhoods include the leafy, residential streets of Capitol Hill, home to the Capitol Hill Hotel, and chic Dupont Circle, home to The St. Gregory Hotel. Both offer close proximity to the city’s best attractions and most sought-after tables. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants in D.C., the perfect last stop on your East Coast road trip.

Ted’s Bulletin

Washington, DC seems like an ideal city in which to eat some classic American comfort food, and Ted’s Bulletin is a neighborhood favorite for just that. The spacious dining room has a vintage diner appeal with art deco designs throughout, and sometimes it’s an event space with old film screenings. For hungry visitors, you can enjoy anything from a hearty entree to a sweet milkshake. 

The all-day breakfast menu has several powerhouse options including T.U.B.S. (Ted’s Ultimate Breakfast Sammy) which comes with applewood bacon, sausage, fried egg, scrambled egg, cheddar cheese and hashbrowns. At dinner time, you can fill up on a number of satisfying favorites including the short rib pot roast, crab cakes, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes. 

Ted’s Bulletin. 505 8th St. SE. Washington, DC

Rose’s Luxury

Rose’s Luxury is another favorite Capitol Hill restaurant, and it’s well known for critically acclaimed food and a charming atmosphere. Set in a converted DC townhouse, the New American restaurant has a small-plate menu, and a cozy bar upstairs serving up craft cocktails. One of DC’s impressive collection of Michelin Star restaurants, Rose’s Luxury is not to be overlooked by foodie travelers. 

Dishes we love: spicy “happy” oysters, which come with pickled ramps and cultured cream; hand-shaped farfalle with ‘nduja, honey, and pecorino; and the family-style tandoor-style chicken with curried tomatoes, mango chutney, and basmati rice. 

Rose’s Luxury. 717 8th St. SE. Washington, DC 

Zorba’s Cafe

One of our favorite things about eating out in Dupont Circle is the exceptional variety of worldly cuisines available here. Zorba’s Cafe is a good example of that, serving up Greek dishes to guests in its counter-serve dining room, and scenic outdoor patio. Zorba’s is also home to various literary events that travel through DC every week. 

For starters, the tiropita is a must try. For those unfamiliar, it consists of bite-sized, golden baked Feta cheese turnovers. You can also get breaded calamari, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, olives and pita. There are tons of delicious dips here including classics like tzatziki, hummus, and babaganoush. You can also get grilled shish kebab, souvlaki, and myriad excellent sandwiches. 

Zorba’s Cafe. 1612 20th St. NW. Washington, DC 

Tredici Enoteca

Last, but not least, Tredici Enoteca, at The St. Gregory Hotel, is one of our favorite places to eat in all of Washington, DC. The acclaimed restaurant in Dupont Circle features a curvy, emerald banquette, marble top bar, and an extraordinary menu of Greek, Italian, and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. You can stop by for an espresso or cocktail, as well as a hearty meal. 

Small plate options at Tredici Enoteca are perfect for sharing amongst friends. We love the veal and ricotta meatballs, as well as the bacon-wrapped dates with spinach crema, manchego and blue cheese. Tredici Enoteca also has an exceptional raw bar menu, with tuna carpaccio and tuna rib.

Tredici Enoteca. 2033 M St. NW