2022 Cross-country Drive (Part 4: Food)

As someone who has worked entirely too much, and grinded through too many 12+ hour days, food has been one bright spot the past ten years. That occasional chance at a meal that is above and beyond, that becomes breaks, lunch, dinner, and an island of enjoyment in an otherwise crappy day. With a three week cross-country trip, I made sure good food was on the agenda.

This started with reservations in Chicago and New York for Michelin-starred restaurants, and plans to do Michelin take-out in Washington D.C. I then loaded up my cross-country route with a dozen places from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Coming down the East coast from New York to Atlanta, GA, the plan was simple; enjoy as much fresh seafood as I possibly could.

Along the way there were other bits of good food and drink.

Sometimes good, but simple, comfort food is just as rewarding as the fancy dinners. Several times I got to enjoy proper jumbo lump crab cakes, an occasional cocktail, and other tasty things. The hot dog was of course in Chicago and I ate it under the ‘L’ on a picnic table. About as authentic as it gets there I think.

Smyth (Chicago)

My first Michelin-starred restaurant of the trip was at Smyth, in Chicago. I had tried to get a reservation at Alinea but a month in advance wasn’t enough of course. I got a recommendation that Smyth was on par, worth going to, and happen to get a reservation. My friend and I were fortunate and got the chef’s table, but that is a bit different than most as it was directly in front of the pass, not in the kitchen. It also happened to be closest to the front door, but the place was small.

The tasting menu was wonderful and for the second time in my life, I managed to visit a starred restaurant while white asparagus was in season resulting in an amazing dish. One thing the menu did well was walk the line between sweet and savory dishes, with some immediately making you wonder what was intended or if that indecision was precisely the goal.

Jungsik (New York)

In New York, I joined two friends for a meal at Jungsik, offering modern upscale Korean food. Chef Yim’s menu was extraordinary in both presentation and flavor. For most of my readers, and myself, the menu sent afterwards wasn’t much help in remembering which dish was which sometimes.

One highlight of the evening was asking the head Sommelier, Debbie Jones, that if she had one hour left what bottle of wine would she pick? We had already noticed bottles of wine on the menu for over $10,000 so we expected something outrageous. She said it would be a 2013 Eric Rodez ‘Les Beurys’ Pinot Noir Ambonnay Grand Cru so I asked if it was on the menu and to point to it. There it was, all of ~ $400. Why that bottle? In exquisite words she basically said it beautifully paired with everything. I decided to test that statement and offered her a glass as well. She was right, it is an amazing champagne.

As for the food, this is what I think represents Michelin dining and Jungsik earned their two stars easily. Every bite was packed with amazing layered flavors, every dish perfectly executed, and staff that was impeccable. Not only professional, but they all followed my lead in not taking the night too seriously, laughing and joking in stride. We finished the meal with a shot of tequila with some of the staff.

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