You know the feeling you get when you’re shopping and come across an amazing dress that’s 90% off? Finding a great bar or restaurant when you’re on vacation across America, is kind of like that. Whether you’re catching waves in sunny Southern California or singing along to some sweet tunes in Nashville, I want to help get you out of the tourist traps and into the local hangouts.
1. King Taco, Los Angeles
First stop on our adventure is a taco shop that can only be found in L.A. Throughout your stay you’ll come across a few others that try and compete, but none of them hold a candle to the King. Their first location is in the heart of East L.A. which can make some out of towners weary. Not to worry, there’s another King Taco just off Colorado Boulevard in the center of Old Town Pasadena, blocks away from a Tiffany & Co., Juicy Couture and Apple Store.
Must try: Carne Asada Tacos and Horchata
Location: 45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, CA 91103
2. Luna Park, San Francisco
Picking the perfect Sunday brunch is crucial. You need great food and bottomless mimosas to either start off your Sunday Funday or help you recover from your Saturday night shenanigans. Lucky for you, Luna Park offers both great food and mimosas that are constantly topped off. They also top their Bloody Marys off with a tiny trinket! Nestled in the heart of the Mission District, this local eatery has an array of breakfast items, all reasonably priced. Call ahead to make reservations, as the space itself can get pretty crowded and wait times can be upward of two hours. Once you’re finished, take a stroll along Valencia Street and check out all the great shops the Mission has to offer.
Must try: All-American Breakfast and Bottomless Mimosas
Location: 694 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
3. Peso’s, Seattle
You will be anything but sleepless after visiting this local treat. Can you say “Breakfast Happy Hour?” This Queen Anne hot spot doubles as a restaurant and lounge. The drinks are strong, food is great and prices are spot on. Locals love this place and it’s a great place to unwind or start your day. Their standard happy hour menu ranges from tapas to chimichangas, so you’re bound to find something that’s up your alley.
Must try: Seared Chipotle-Sesame Beef Bites and ‘Bartender’s Margarita’
Location: 605 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109
4. Volare, Chicago
On my first flight to Chicago, I made friends with the man sitting next to me; he was the one who opened my eyes to this Italian treasure. We called ahead and made reservations, just as he told us to, and we were pleasantly surprised. The food was incredible and the service was just as great. In a city known for its pizza, breaking away for some delicious ravioli was a treat in itself. I squealed when the restaurant was in an opening scene of The League last season, that shows just how much I love this place!
Must try: Ravioli di Ricotta
Location: 201 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
5. North Street Grille, Boston
While bottomless mimosas don’t exist in Boston, Strawberry Shortcake French Toast does. Subbing standard bread for angel food cake is just the tip of the iceberg. Their menu consists of standard brunch items like pancakes, omelets, but they also have a variety of ways to spice up those American standards. Feel like chocolate? Add Nutella to your pancakes. Want to get creative? Try the Banana Bread French Toast. The space isn’t too big, so be prepared to wait on a Sunday morning. I can assure you that it’s well worth the wait and your taste buds will thank you.
Must try: Strawberry Shortcake French Toast, Nutella & Banana Sliders
Location: 229 North Street, Boston, MA 02113
6. Rudy’s Bar & Grill, New York
A bar that offers $7 pitchers and free hot dogs? Sign me up. I randomly stumbled across this place after dinner one night and was pleasantly surprised. I mean, who can say no to a bar with a giant pig statute outside? It’s a standard dive bar for the most part, but the people and setting are what made this place special. The bar offers your standard beers, but also brews their own which start at $2.50 per pint. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, this place is a steal.
Must try: Rudy’s Blonde and a Hot Dog (it’s free, come on.)
Location: 627 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
7. Demos’, Nashville
If you find yourself in Downtown Nashville, you have to swing by this local eatery. Don’t judge a book by its cover. From the outside it looks like a standard diner, but as one of Nashville’s oldest restaurants, it’s bound to have some wear around the edges. Their menu is extensive which means you’re guaranteed to find something that’ll appease your appetite. After dinner, head out to Broadway and listen to some great local artists, you never know who you’ll find in a honk tonk. Some of country’s biggest starts have been known to pop in and perform a quick set!
Location: 3015 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203
8. The Red Door, Nashville
In a city known for its music, most visitors spend a good portion of their time in Downtown Nashville. Broadway is full of honky tonks, bars and some decent places to grab a bite. The downside is that these bars generally attract an older, touristy crowd. If you get a chance, head over to East Nashville and pop in at The Red Door. It’ll give you a break from the tourists, crowds and will let you interact with the locals. Last time I visited the bar, I bumped into Nashville star Hayden Panettierre, so you never know who you’ll come across once you treat into local territory!
Must try: Any beer your heart desires
Location: 1010 Forrest Avenue, Nashville, TN 37206
9. Mother’s, New Orleans
While the French Quarter is bursting with tourist traps and souvenir shops, Mother’s is one of the only places in the Quarter where locals and tourists come together. Mother’s makes what very well may be the best po’ boy you’ll ever have in your life. The line for this place can get pretty long, so get there early to avoid the lunch rush! Up until recently, the only employees were the grandchildren of Mother herself, but given their popularity, they had to bring on employees from outside the family tree. Another interesting fact is that you’re not allowed to tip any of the workers. You’re just up the way from the St. Charles Streetcar that will take you on an adventure across town once you’re finished with lunch. I can try and tell you how amazing the sandwiches are, but they really are something you need to experience first hand.
Must try: Turkey Ferdi
Location: 401 Poydras, New Orleans, LA 70130
10. The Rooftop Lounge, Laguna Beach
I’m ending this adventure the same way it started, in sunny Southern California. We all love a nice rooftop bar with a view, but this beach side hangout takes the cake. The building itself is an old hotel turned bar and the view from the rooftop bar is to die for. I popped in here for drinks on a Sunday afternoon and ended up staying until they closed, which was shortly after the sun had set. Snagging a table can take a few minutes, but the bar is a great alternative. The service is questionable at times, but the food and ambiance are far compensation. This is a great place to enjoy tapas, a corona and unwind before heading back into the office on Monday. Did I mention how stellar the view is?
Must try: Chicken Empanadas, Hawiian Ahi Poke
Location: 1289 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651