Newport, Rhode Island
Some notable highlights for good Rhody food include a hidden delight, Belle’s Cafe, at the Newport Shipyard with really good lobster rolls and an interesting setting featuring many of the yachts and sailboats in the area. Relax and enjoy all the activity around you.
Flo’s Clam Shack (in Middletown), is a local favorite for fresh fried clams and fried everything else! Best fried clams I’ve ever had. Bring your appetite.
Bodega Bay, Northern California
The Russian River flows into the Pacific on the Sonoma Coast and much of the coast is part of the Sonoma Coast State Beach. Highway 101 runs along this dramatic, protected area. We drove the stretch between Bodega Bay and Jenner. It was uncrowded and seemed so remote, with wild, uncorrupted beauty. There was no cell service.
All this scenery and wine tasting made us hungry and we headed back towards Bodega Bay (where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds) and the Spud Point Crab Company. You don’t come here for a luxury setting, comfortable chairs (picnic tables outside), bathrooms (across the street at the marina), or heat (it was cold and windy); what you will get is terrific crab, shrimp and clam chowder. They have won awards for the best clam chowder on the Pacific coast and I can taste why, it was wonderful. Service was fast and friendly and we were soon on our way to San Francisco.
Key Largo, Florida
Alabama Jacks has the best conch fritters ever. We can’t even remember how long we’ve been coming to this great South Florida spot – at least 25 years, and it is always consistently fun. First, let me say, the food is great. The Conch Fritters are incredible, actually one large mound, not wimpy, little bite-size croquettes like most places. Other favs include the smoked fish pieces, fish spread, and peel & eat shrimp.
The setting? Well, it’s special too: all the way down deserted-looking Card Sound Road, right where Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties meet, on a permanently anchored barge, with a water view on the Gulf side.
It’s casual, very casual; a weekend-bikers destination that attracts boaters who dock, as well as a mix of locals, tourists, kids, Coast Guardsmen, red hat ladies, and every type of person you can imagine. From tattoos and designer shorts to sunburns and square-dancing costumes, nothing is out of place. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons they play host to a country music band, and patrons will be even more entertained by the friendly local clogging crowd.
Alabama Jacks is the way Florida used to be and has a vibe far too few get to experience these days. So, when you’re in Miami/South Beach for a visit, keep driving south and see what Florida is really about.
Pensacola is pleasant, walkable and friendly. We were visiting on a Monday and the historic tours weren’t operating, but on the plus side, Monday is 25 cent oyster night at Atlas Oyster House. So, that’s $3 for a dozen terrific, plump Louisiana Gulf oysters! I think we ate about three dozen.
Just where Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties meet, you’ll find Alabama Jack’s. “Docked” off Card Sound Road, before the bridge to Key Largo, a slice of real Florida still exists. For more insight about the adventures enjoyed by AJ’s eclectic mix of loyal fans, see my latest article in Pinecrest Lifestyle Magazine: