One of the best parts about RVing is that you bring your kitchen with you wherever you go, along with your refrigerator, microwave, stove top and oven. Cooking your own meals helps make RVing more affordable — or so I’ve been told.
As a single guy traveling the country by himself, there isn’t much call for elaborate meal making. After all, what’s the point of slaving over a stove making a meal for one and eating leftovers for the next three or four days?
So, I keep my meal preparation simple with things like cereal, sandwiches and pasta. I’ve been chastised more than once for consuming what some call “human dog food,” my favorites being Chef Boyardee mini ravioli and Dinty Moore beef stew.
At the urging of the Fulltime Families group, where the ladies there are all aquiver about the Instant Pot, I broke down and bought one as a birthday present for myself a few weeks ago. My first foray into that culinary adventure was positive, and it will facilitate making a great meal quickly. I intend to learn ways to make some more nutritious easy-to-create meals using the recipes shared by these full-time moms as well as those found in Evada Cooper’s RV Centennial Cookbook.
But, let’s face it. Cooking isn’t my thing. I can microwave like a pro, and it doesn’t take rocket science to add milk to a bowl of Reeses Puffs (which makes a great meal any time of day, by the way).
When I want a really good meal, I prefer to let others prepare it for me. One of the benefits of travel is to visit different regions of the country, each of which offers a unique style of food. I have learned to avoid the big national chain restaurants whenever possible in order to zero in on establishments that are unique to that area.
This makes for some memorable experiences and it’s easier for me to remember where I’ve been by what I’ve eaten.
For example, just last week I had dinner with a bunch of industry friends at Fenicci’s Italian Restaurant in Hershey, Pa. The lasagna was to die for with a very generous portion for which I was awarded a certificate after eating it all. I certainly could not have made a meal like that in my RV kitchen!
A few weeks ago, I joined an RV dealer and his family at Gervasi Vineyard, an outdoor restaurant overlooking a pond and vineyards near Akron, Ohio. It offered delicious sangria, an excellent chicken sandwich, and tasty brownie and vanilla ice cream desert, which I shared with one of the kids. The ambiance of eating outdoors on a nice late summer evening was hard to top.
Some friends from National Interstate Insurance took me to lunch at a place called Melt Bar and Grilled near Cleveland. I enjoyed a huge cheesesteak sandwich topped with a very unique, but savory sauce. The menu was printed on the back of old album covers. It was a very unique place.
When I arrive in the area, I always ask the campground host if there is a restaurant nearby that I should not miss before I leave. That has opened the door to some delicious steaks and fresh seafood — all with much more generous portions than you find at national chains. Other campers who are familiar with the area have also recommended some fabulous out-of-the way places to eat, as well as signature dishes at the establishment.
For me, ambiance is often just as good as the food itself.
I’ve enjoyed fresh pick-your-own lobster at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, a small place with outdoor picnic table seating right on the bay in Maine.
The Boston baked scrod I enjoyed at Tavern By the Sea in North Kingstown, R.I., was scrumptious, but eating outdoors overlooking a harbor at dusk made the experience especially memorable.
Fire Island Grill in Simi Valley, Calif., offered a scrumptious steak and chicken with brown rice dish topped with teriyaki sauce that left me wishing it was a national chain.
Charlie’s Chili in Newport Beach, Calif., serves a mouth-watering mahi wrap in an outside dining area where people watching by Newport Pier is at a premium. In nearby Huntington Beach, Ruby’s Diner is situated at the end of a long pier and offers 1950s-style food with spectacular ocean views.
Trust me, there is nothing like sitting around a fire in the fall at Door County’s Pelletier’s Restaurant in Fish Creek, Wis., waiting patiently for a fish boil to finish cooking. When dinner is finished, you’re treated to a piece of special Door County cherry pie. Yum!
While traveling along Route 66, I enjoyed a special ice cream desert at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard just west of St. Louis. The roadside shop was founded in the Great Depression and served as an iconic stopping point along the way to California.
Banana creme pies are a real weakness for me. The Mid-Point Cafe in Adrian, Texas, which is located exactly 1,139 miles from Chicago and 1,139 miles from Los Angeles, did not disappoint. Neither did the pie at Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City, Ariz., served in what was once a stagecoach stop.
A very old, very small diner in Palmer, Mass., called Day and Night Diner served up a hearty club sandwich when I enjoyed lunch with an industry friend last summer. The depression-era establishment had seating for 20 — at best. Rollin’ On TV Producer Jose Moniz treated me to a wonderful meal at The Inn in Shipyard Park, which has been serving people since 1799 as one of Massachusetts’ oldest continuing dining establishments.
Some of the names of places I visited are as priceless as the meals themselves, like the Buglin’ Bull Restaurant in Custer, S.D., or Aunt Chilada’s Mexican Restaurant in Glendale, Ariz.
The view from the Hungry Clam Restaurant in Friday Harbor, Wash., was as much of a treat as the clam chowder and fish-and-chips.
The locals in Erie, Pa., recommended Five Guys Burgers and Fries. While that might be an acceptable cheeseburger for a New Englander, people who want real cheeseburgers will crawl through the desert on their knees for an Inn-N-Out Double Double. That delicacy is available only in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Oregon and Utah. It rivals a Gritty Burger served at the Nitty Gritty Bar in Madison, Wis.
Whether it is steak or fresh seafood, a club sandwich or pizza, I don’t mind skimping on food prepared in the RV to enjoy a great meal and pleasant dining experience whenever I travel.