French Fry Friday: The Best of the Best

I take inspiration from wherever it comes from. And I was completely drawn into the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network. Watching my favorite Food hosts drool over their favorite eateries is pretty amazing! So, you can imagine my delight when I flipped on the tube to find that the Travel Channel copy catted the Food Network with their own show – The Best Places I’ve Ever Been.

And here are some of my best – the best of the best that I’ve experienced in my 26 years of living. Note: I have not traveled as extensively as some of my peers, but I’m not apologizing for that because what I’ve seen and where I’ve been is the best of the best (thus far!).

Best place to go outlet mall shopping: Freeport, ME. I pretty much settle for Albertville and every other shopping outlet I’ve ever shopped at. Even other East Coast outlets don’t hold a candle to the experience you’ll get at Freeport. Your favorite stores and brands — J.Crew, The North Face, Polo, Horny Toad, Banana Republic, etc. discounted for a budget-friendly day of shopping! Everything about Freeport is unique and quintessentially East Coast. Go. You won’t regret it.

Best Burger I’ve ever had: Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet, MN. Grease greets you the minute you step out of your car and walk in to Gordy’s – you’ll stand in a long line and when you get to the counter you better order fast. Burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes. You’ll want it all. The burgers are made to order with toppings of your choice. Sit inside or out – take it in the car and go – whatever you please. It will please you.

Best place to catch a live show: Broadway – New York City, NY. Now, I must say, Minnesota is well-known for being home to some great musical theater/performing arts talent. Even high school and children’s theater level is well-known and respected across the board. So, trust me when I say that I’ve seen some great locally grown theater performances. And trust me when I say that because of those experiences, I can honestly say that Broadway is the place to see a live show! Don’t pay out the nose to see a show, though. Stand in line at the TKTS Ticket Booth. Because wherever you sit in the theater, you’ll see and hear a musical performance that will not be forgotten.

Best place to watch a hockey tournament: MN Boys’ State High School Hockey Tournament in St. Paul, MN. I don’t care where you’re from or how many hockey games you have or haven’t seen – the Boys’ State Tourney is by far the most rockin’ awesome place to watch some incredible puck. You won’t find another tournament at any level that is as amazing as the dazzling dangles and dekes you’ll see right in the heart of St. Paul every single March!

Best place I’ve ever been: historical city – Boston, MA. History and modern mesh together and you can’t tell if history was built around the modern or if the modern was built around history. The Freedom Trail weaves you in and around Quincy Market and you are immersed in the history of our nation, walking the same streets that Paul Revere rode through at midnight.

Best place I’ve ever been: city shopping experience – New York City. 5th Avenue is a destination in and of itself. And even if you don’t like shopping, you won’t be able to resist at least wandering into famous label stores just out of curiosity. Plus, you may or may not run into famous celebs and New York bazillionaires.

Best place I’ve ever been: fishing tournament – Jaycee’s Ice Fishing Extravaganza, Gull Lake, MN. Every January the biggest fishing tournament in the world takes place on the ice. Layers upon layers of Under Armor Cold Gear and North Face fleece barely protect you from the cold. You wake earlier than early, dress in your layers, drive to a parking lot, park, and hop on a window-fogged bus. The bus drives you to the lake and you walk out on roads with snowmobiles, cars, and trucks pulling trailers coming at you in all directions. Tents with food greet you with some warmth and hot chocolate. Music blares from a local radio station – the DJ is live – and keeping everyone moving to country faves. And there are people everywhere. Hidden under hats and balaclava’s. Auggers going full speed and holes dotting the ice. Sign up. Layer up. Go Fish!

Best thing I’ve ever eaten: grilled cheese sandwich – Sir Winston’s Cheese Toasty at Brit’s Pub and Eating Establishment in Minneapolis, MN. For $8.96 you get the best grilled cheese you’ll ever eat in your life. The cheese is incredible – cheddar is a given on the sandwich, but what makes it better than anything you’ll whip up on your own is the English Cotswold cheese! The crunch of the perfectly grilled bread and the rich, thick English Costwold cheese is all melty and stringy. Order it. Eat it. Oh, and the tomato soup is far superior to any can of Campbell’s you’ll ever open with a can opener.

Best place I’ve ever been: haircut – Juut Salonspa, Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN. In all my years of getting my haircut, I’d have to say Juut Salonspa is the best place to get a wash, mini head massage, and cut. Not only is Aveda a smell-a-rific brand, but the haircuts at Juut pamper you to perfection.

Best place I’ve ever been: book store – Scholastic Warehouse Sale (multiple locations). No e-book downloading here! We’re talking about a hardcover-softcover-smell-the-pages-get-a-paper-cut-turning-too-fast-book. My idea of a great shopping experience includes books – always. And my favorite place to buy books is at the December Scholastic Warehouse Sale. Books upon books line a Costco-ish warehouse. Large shopping carts rattle around and people pile up a library worth of books. You need some connections to get in the door, but you will not regret it!

Best thing I ever ate: ice cream – The Chocolate Ox – Nisswa, MN. I enjoy myself a good scoop or two or three of ice cream. And what makes the ice cream at The Chocolate Ox is the kid-in-a-candy-store feel. The fresh fudge and penny candy set the stage for the unique flavors of ice cream you can choose from. I need to go on a road trip…!

Best thing I ever ate: pizza – New York City, New York. Notice I didn’t list a restaurant. That’s because I can’t remember the name of the place I ate at. It wasn’t any of the famous ones you see on TV. I can’t remember where in the city we were. I think it was on the Lower East Side…but really, I can’t remember. It was late, after a day of traveling, and I was actually sick – unable to taste anything. Yet, I can tell you that it was the tastiest pizza I’ve ever eaten. Someone, somewhere, is probably mortified that I’m not being specific — but pizza in New York City is incredible. No matter where you go.

Best place I’ve ever been: tourist experience – Lobstering on the Lucky Catch in Portland, ME. The crew is fun and funny. They care about all of their clients. Call ahead of time to set up your appointment – it’s easy and the staff is very accomodating! Yes, lots of families with kids were on the boat, but anyone – any age – will enjoy lobstering in Maine! The authentic experience will make you a lobster-lover for life. And you won’t even feel that corny doing a tourist thing because it’s so exciting! Just leave your black socks and Teva’s at home…

Best thing I ever ate: fast food breakfast – Hardee’s Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved these warm, soft, gooey, frostingy biscuits. Two in a box is not enough. You need to order two boxes. No, it is not fancy. No, it is not healthy. But it is good. Use the plastic fork provided or pick it up with your hands. However you choose to eat it does not matter. I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow.

Best place I’ve ever been: roller coaster – Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, IL. The last time I thoroughly enjoyed riding roller coasters was at Six Flags. There with friends, I laughed and screamed hard and loud. I rode rides I don’t think my stomach will ever be able to handle again. Favorites were Batman the Ride, Iron Wolf, and American Eagle. All day long, into the night, we rode rides and made memories I’ll never forget.

Best place I’ve ever been: clean city – Washington, D.C. After a day in NYC, I always feel like I need to shower and wash away all the grit from the daily grind of the city. But I never felt that way in D.C. It was a clean city where you don’t feel the need to Purell your kid to death. You won’t feel like your lungs are black from second hand smoke. You’ll just feel fresh – fresh with information – fresh with city-life.

Best place I’ve ever been: dinner and a show – Ellen’s Stardust Diner, NYC, NY. Fun. Fun. And more fun. The wait staff sings and dances on the tables. Kids and adults laugh, dance, sing along, and cheer on their waiters and waitresses all while chomping on burgers, fries, and milkshakes! Worth the crazy lines and craziness of Times Square.

Best thing I ever ate: family-style meal – Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota, FL. On family vacation with family friends, water logged and sun burned, we jumped in the mini vans and headed to Yoder’s one night for din din. We stuffed ourselves silly on food that makes Thanksgiving look like a snack. I never knew someone’s food besides my mom, grandma’s or aunt’s could taste that good. It’s as home-cooked as home-cooked gets.

Best place I’ve ever been: museum – Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York City, NY. Weird art and an awesome upstairs cafeteria along with a beyond cool gift store and amazing restaurant (The Bar Room) make this museum no where near dull or educational! The food was oddly labeled, but melt in your mouth incredible. A cultural experience you need to experience.

Best place I’ve ever been: water park – Wisconsin Dells, WI. Too many to choose from, but Noah’s Ark is a wet and wild trip you will love. Water slides that make your mom scream is all part of the experience!

Best thing I ever ate: chocolate – Fudge from Mackinac Island, MI. I don’t think I even like fudge that much. But I remember ducking into a little shop after sight seeing and loving the chunks of chocolatey fudge. I hate bridges – driving on them – and I would suck it up to go back to Mackinac Island for fudge. That’s how good it was.

Best place I’ve ever been: scary train ride – Royal Gorge, Canon City, CO. The Incline Railway. It was scarier than any roller coaster I’ve ever screamed my way through. Again, like with Mackinac Island, there is a long, high suspension bridge. Well worth it for the views. Colorado has so much to offer, skiing, rafting, hiking, rock climbing…but you can’t go to CO without checking out the gorgeous views at the Royal Gorge.

Best thing I ever ate: Sunday Brunch – Granite City (multiple locations). The spread is phenomenal. Caramel rolls fresh from the oven. Scrambled eggs scrambled to fluffy deliciousness. French toast. And the best hash browns you’ll ever eat. Throw in some fresh fruit to feel somewhat healthy and you’re set. You won’t need to eat for the rest of the day. If you go on Mother’s Day, it will take you forever to get a table!

Best thing I ever ate: fresh fruit – Hawaii, Big Island. Relatives of mine live on the Big Island. Before they moved there, we vacationed with them on the Big Island. When they officially moved there, we stayed with them on the Big Island. My uncle, a horticulturist, always had the freshest fruit for breakfast. Mangos and papaya and lycee. My favorite were the mangos. It made me realize that the fresh fruit in the grocery store is pathetic compared to what the island has to offer. Every morning we ate freshly sliced mangos and papaya along with our peanut butter toast. If you want your kid to eat fruit, go to Hawaii. They’ll be hooked for life.

Best place I’ve ever been: something I expected to hate – Quarries near Charles City, IA. In tenth grade, I went to Iowa. Thrilling. And on our trip we went to these quarries. The thought of walking around a dusty quarry was not my idea of a fun time. But we were all forced out on the adventure. And ya know what, I loved it. We had so much fun. I don’t exactly remember everything we did when we were there…I know we were concerned with power lines running through the water…but we managed to turn a very boring trip to the quarries into a teenage memory I kind of relish. I have no idea where the quarry was located exactly – but if you ever find yourself in Iowa, sick of corn fields and cows, hit up a quarry!

Best thing I ever ate: street food – Minnesota State Fair. Sure, it is not New York City or some amazing European city, but it is street after street of fried foodtastic masterpieces on a stick! Walking along crowded streets, filled with people, gobbling up unhealthy treat after unhealthy treat – what’s not to like about that?

Best place I’ve ever been: lake to watch the sunset – Rainy Lake, Ontario, Canada. Imagine it – you’re sitting in a boat, gently rocking in the water, or quickly cutting through the peaceful waters all around you, reflecting the orange, red sun rays slowly saying goodbye. Just let it surround you. Feel it. See it. Smell it. Taste it.

Best thing I ever ate: college dorm food – Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. I’ve stayed in a few different college dorms, not including my own alma mater, and from what I recall – Purdue University had some great food in their dining halls. I remember enjoying the ice cream. And the breakfasts were incredible. I have no idea if it was the novelty of eating at a college or if was actually good, but I liked it. Maybe a current Boilermaker can enlighten me as to whether or not the dorm food is actually good.

Best place I’ve ever been: to see wildflowers – South Dakota. At some family reunion, many years ago, we went to South Dakota. Of course, we stopped at Wall Drug, saw the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, some dark caves, and other SD wonder. That was all fine. But what I remember most was playing. Running and romping with second and third and other distant cousins in fields of wildflowers. Tall grass waving all around us and flowers beckoning us to pick them. Think of Laura on Little House on the Prairie – the opening credits when she runs through the grass. That’s the scene I remember from South Dakota.

Best place I’ve ever been: laser show – Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta, GA. I vaugely remember the actual light show – the sequence of flashing, bright, colorful lights. But I remember loving the atmosphere. Sitting in the grass, looking up at the huge rock formation. The Mount Rushmore-esque feel was hard to ignore. Yet, Stone Mountain offered more of a 4th of July firework feel. More of a picnic in the grass experience. A real summertime event the whole family will love.

Best place I’ve ever been: Scary drive – the Road to Hana, Maui, HI. Just gonna say right now, my family didn’t complete our drive. That’s how scary it was. It was starting to get dark and driving in the dark on a winding cliff is not how we wanted our vacation to end. Or our lives for that matter. But I can say that the drive was unforgettable with breathtaking views. I’d go again if it was daylight!

Best place I’ve ever been: feed wildlife – Sha Sha Resort on Rainy Lake, International Falls, MN. Buy a bag of peanuts. Not to eat. Well, not for you. But throw out a peanut and you’re bound to make new friends. Lots of cute little chipmunk friends who will scurry over and fill their tiny mouths full of peanuts. It’s a sight to see. People feeding rodents. But they’re so cute, even I enjoy it!

Best place I’ve ever been: mansions that make you feel like you live in a shack – Newport Mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Think of the nicest house you’ve ever seen. It doesn’t come close to the summer cottages of the wealthiest of wealthy. These places make an up north cabin look like a fishing shack. Pictures don’t do them justice. You have to see them up close and personal.

Best thing I ever ate: fresh-baked bread – Lancaster, PA. Take a ride in an Amish buggy, driven by a bearded Amish man. He’ll swing by authentic Amish homes. If you’re lucky, a bonnetted Amish woman will be standing at the back door, selling fresh-baked bread and chocolate chip cookies. Buy it. It is not a tourist trap.

Best place I’ve ever been: historical re-enactments – Williamsburg, VA. In Minnesota, I’ve been to places like Murphy’s Landing, Fort Snelling and The Oliver H. Kelley Farm. I also have fond memories of Plimouth Plantation, Fort Mackinac, Strawberry Banke, Gettysburg, USS Constitution, and maybe some other sites I can’t remember! But of all those places, rich in our nation’s history, my favorite was Williamsburg, VA. My family spent two days exploring Williamsburg. I felt like the American Girl, Falicity, as we walked on the cobblestone streets and saw life from the eyes of the founding fathers.

Best place I’ve ever been: Southern hospitality – Charleston, SC. Charleston is charming. A southern city that has much to offer. The houses are beautiful, historical. The people are welcoming. You’ll want a sweet southern voice, too! Head to Folly Beach for some seaside fun.

There you have it. A few of the best things I’ve ever eaten and a few of the best places I’ve ever been. Come up with your own list. Eat some of the things on my list. Go to some of the places on my list. Share your list with me.


I ask. You answer.

  1. Been to any of the placs on my list? Do you agree with me? Do you disagree?
  2. Do you like the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate? Have you seen the Travel Channel’s – The Best Places I’ve Ever Been?
  3. Have you eaten at or been to any of the places on those shows?

3 thoughts on “French Fry Friday: The Best of the Best

  1. I have been to a FEW of those places and share the same love of them that you do 🙂 makes me miss you! come visit!!!! I havent seen the show 😦 so maybe someday I will be able to answer the last two questions!
    GREATTT!!!! post!

  2. I totally agree about the scary drive. Road to Hana is beautiful but one Greg and I will never repeat.
    And I will think of you, my friend, when we’re shopping in Freeport next week 🙂 Can we pick anything up for you?
    Emery needs a new coat and I’m hoping North Face will carry some 2T options.

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