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On the Road With DotCom

by J. Douglas Foster / Dallas Stars

The Best Of Road Eats

Contrary to what most of you believe, road trips in the NHL aren't just about playing hockey.

Well, there is that three-hour window in each city where the important stuff happens -- the reason for us being there in the first place. And the events filling that window determine how pleasant the plane ride will be to your next city.

But for the most part, being on the road with an NHL team is like any other trip you might take with your friends or co-workers. In the end, it's all about the food, and savoring the best possible local fare with what little free time you have.

So in case you're an NHL stalker planning on pestering your favorite NHL player on his next road trip, we want to make sure you don't go hungry along the way. That's why we're giving you the Dallas Stars guide to fine NHL dining, with cheaper options for the frugal and / or the unlucky losers on a limited expense account, and higher-end choices for those of us with a fat schwack of NHL per diem waiting for us on our expansive, 757 charter upon arrival (we just call it "the goody bag").

We can't go through all 30 cities, even though space is infinite on the worldwide web. So we'll give you a sampling of the best cities for food, and where you should dine while following the Stars there.

Vancouver: One of the most palate-pleasing cities in all of North America, the beauty of Vancouver's dining centers around its Asian fare and its fresh seafood. For sushi, there's no beating Tsunami Sushi on Robson anywhere this side of the south Pacific. But don't sit at a table -- belly up to the sushi bar island and grab your plates off the boat a-la-carte as they pass. Make sure to get plenty of freshwater eel and the most tender, flavorful yellowtail anywhere. After digesting that lunch, get a cab to Stanley Park for dinner and check out the Fish House -- where I believe they serve fish. Incomparable appetizers, freshly made chowder and a revolving door of daily fish specials are always worth trying. If you can't decide, go with the sticky chili sablefish.

One trip to Joe Forte's did include a Jessica Alba sighting years ago, but that has absolutely nothing to do with food. Just worth mentioning. Trust me on this one.

Montreal: There are lots of places -- literally hundreds -- to get a good steak on the NHL tour. Not sure you'll come across one better than what's served at Gibby's in old town. Start with the pickles -- so much better than can possibly be explained -- and follow with the Gibby's salad (anchovies if you dare). After that, hammer the rib steak or the beef Wellington filet for an entrée. Don't forget the nice bottle of Bordeaux to go with it. On game day, however, it's all about the chien chauds at Montreal's Bell Centre -- hot dogs toaster-pressed into the bun. Even the most health-conscious diner can't help but take down at least two.

Los Angeles: No secret here, but it still has to be mentioned. In & Out Burger is an absolute must, any time you are in California, Nevada or Arizona. Anyone tries to sell me on White Castle, Harvey's or any other random burger chain is barking up the wrong tree. Look, I'm a Texan by birth, childhood disciple of the Whataburger with cheese. But I would trade that for a Double-Double animal style any day of the week. There is no argument. In & Out is the Wayne Gretzky of burger places. You just look silly arguing anyone else's case.

Fish Tacos at Wahoo's or Rubio's are also worth trying, and are consistently gratifying. Want more of a dinner setting? Check out Pacific Dining Car in downtown, and have a fantastic filet oscar while sitting in a real-life locomotive car. And if you've got an off night, make the drive to Malibu and have lobster on the beach at Geoffrey's. Just don't expect to come back with your per diem envelope.

Anaheim: While in So-Cal, drop by the Anaheim White House. It's worth the trip just to eat in a place that looks like Southfork Ranch, but somehow sits in the middle of an Orange County neighborhood. Don't even bother with the menu. Pick a red wine, and as Mel Gibson said in Tequila Sunrise -- "just shut up and try the sand dabs."

Boston:  Rule No. 1: Get clam chowder, as often as you can. Each of the stands in Faneuil Hall has better chowder than you'll find anywhere else. Rule No. 2: Get lobster. Hey, you're in Boston, and having lobster in Boston is a necessity. It's like paying taxes. And while many will sell you on Legal Seafood (which is stellar), our personal recommendation is the baked stuffed lobster at Durgin Park, one of the most succulent, tender lobsters you'll ever have in a restaurant that's more than 100 years old.

Buffalo: If a certain food is named for the city in which it was invented, shouldn't you have it there? Just as you must have New England clam chowder in Boston, you have to have Buffalo wings in Buffalo. Might as well go where they were invented -- The Anchor Bar. Only big, meaty wings are served here, without the deep-fried breading. Sit at the bar, have a cold beer, order the wings and harass the locals about the 1999 Stanley Cup Final (Goal!).

Chicago: An entire column -- or better yet, a book -- could be written about the food in Chicago. Family-style Italian cuisine unparalleled anywhere in North America, some fantastic pizza, with dozens of places claiming the title of the windy city's best, and great steaks are just a few things on the menu here. If you're staying at The Drake on a cold winter's day, just have the clam chowder delivered -- in a sterling silver urn -- to your room and enjoy. A good friend and co-worker introduced our group to Pompei Pizza, which is as good cold as it is hot, and for a great steak you can't go wrong at Gibson's or Tavern on Rush, both located in the Rush/Division area, and both worth the price. Don't ignore a tiny little family Italian joint, named Papa Milano, if you want a huge meal for a great price.

Columbus:  Bring a big appetite and prepare to spoil yourself at Hyde Park Steakhouse -- one of the few chain restaurants we'll ever recommend. One of the greatest appetizer platters ever is just the start of things, but the blackened scallops and crispy calamari as good as you'll ever have. The Hyde Park wedge salad, with candied pecans, is nothing short of spectacular. All this and we haven't even gotten to the entrée menu, which is highlighted by a 22-oz bone-in ribeye or the steak a la lobster, a filet crowned with lobster & béarnaise.

Detroit: Best place to eat in the motor city? In your hotel room. Close the blinds, dead-bolt your door and have the turkey club from room service at the Marriot. Have security escort the delivery to your room, ask for an ID and a password from the member of the delivery staff and immediately lock the door again upon their departure. Eat on the bed, as far from the window as possible, and pray. Get below the bed if you hear gunfire.

Denver: Former Bronco John Elway didn't just make great passes. He makes a great steak at Elway's.  Once you get through that wonderfully expansive wine list and pick out one of many stellar reds, start with a crab cake or the calamari, then follow with the red pepper soup or a wedge salad. For the entrée? How can you pass up the bone-in ribeye (obviously a personal favorite). If not in the mood for steak, the japanese sea bass is supposedly fantastic. No. 7 certainly threw a touchdown with this place.

Minnesota: You can never, ever go wrong on a cold Minnesota day with the Minnesota wild rice soup at the St. Paul Grill, located in the St. Paul Hotel. It's so good, you might opt for the bowl, and stick strictly to that, for lunch. Breakfast is a treat at the St. Paul Grill too with arguably the best French toast anywhere in the league. If you can venture over to Minneapolis, we highly recommend Vescio's in Dinkytown. You will not, anywhere this side of Calabria, find better meatballs than the ones at Vescio's. Start with meatballs, and after that you can't screw up. Huge, square pizzas with fantastically homemade crust, are impossible to pass up no matter how many visits you make.

San Jose: Speaking of Italian, the number one selling point of visiting one of the Stars' biggest rivals is the chance to dine at La Pastaia in the DeAnza Hotel. Choose a chianti or Barolo and try the oil and vinegar combination with fantastic homemade bread to start. Can't decide between the tomato basil soup and the caprese salad? Get both. After that, closely consider the pancetta pizza (yep, you read that right -- pizza with bacon!). The ravioli al sugo, filled with ricotta in a tomato meat sauce, is always a solid choice.

Philadelphia: The obvious answer is cheesesteak. The next question is where to get it?  You can listen to tourists and travel magazines and visit the two landmarks -- Geno's or Pat's, which sit at opposite corners. Or, you can go where those who really know cheesesteaks, the Philly locals, would choose. That comes down to Jim's Steaks or Tony Luke's.  The line at Jim's is worth the wait for a mushroom steak with onions and provolone, melted on to the steak face down on the grill (no dressing necessary). Wash it down with a can of Dr Pepper, and you are in gastronomic heaven.


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