Listen to this story
By Greg Gerber
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 who traveled around the country by himself, there wasn’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 kept 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 folks there are all aquiver about the Instant Pot, I broke down and bought one as a birthday present for myself a few years ago. My first foray into that culinary adventure was positive, and it helped facilitate making a great meal quickly.
Over the years, I learned ways to make some more nutritious, easy-to-create meals using the recipes shared by other RVers as well as recipes found in Evada Cooper’s RV Centennial Cookbook. Facebook is a great source for RV-friendly recipes.
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 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 ate.
For example, 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 for eating it all. I certainly could not have made a meal like that in my RV kitchen.
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 fall 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 sauce. The menu was printed on the back of old album covers. It was a very unique place.
Since then, I have been on a mission to find the perfect cheesesteak sandwich.
Whenever I visit a new area, I always ask the campground host if there was a restaurant I should not miss before I leave. That has opened the door to some delicious steaks and fresh seafood.
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 local establishments.
I’ve enjoyed fresh pick-your-own lobster at a small place with outdoor picnic table seating right on the bay in Massachusetts.
The clam chowder and baked scrod were exceptional at Tavern By The Sea in North Kingstown, R.I., again an outdoor setting overlooking a river a short distance from the bay.
If you ever visit Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula (the state’s thumb), don’t leave without trying the fish boil at Pelleitiers in Fish Creek. Cooked over an open fire, it is a very unique experience — especially during during cool spring or fall nights. Just around the corner, be sure to pick up a half gallon of cherry apple cider at Lautenbach’s Orchard.
Fire Island Grill in Simi Valley, Calif., had the most unique steak and chicken brown rice bowl topped with teriyaki sauce, and 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.
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 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.
Whether it was steak or fresh seafood, club sandwich or pizza, I didn’t mind skimping on quick meals prepared in my RV just so I could enjoy truly great meals wherever I traveled.
What out-of-the-way restaurants have you discovered on your journeys? Share in the comments below.