You might want to fasten your seatbelt, because a trip along the food trails of Canada and the U.S. could be a wild ride. And what better way to explore than in your RV? It’s the perfect setting for pandemic-friendly takeout; it provides the opportunity to shop markets and cook regional dishes in your own RV kitchen; and having a fridge and freezer onboard means that storing leftovers is a snap.
Taste your way across the food trails of Southeast U.S.
The Southeast states are known for fresh seafood, Lowcountry specialties and mouth-watering barbecue. The influence of the salty ocean is never far from the dinner table and here they start talking about “what’s-for-dinner” as they are wiping the dishes from lunchtime.
Virginia’s mild climate and fresh year-round products create the perfect recipe for many food trails. As the oyster capital of the East Coast, the Virginia Oyster Trail has details on where to find the seafood from a local grower, as well as where to enjoy the tastes (raw or cooked). There are 31 oyster farms included in Virginia’s River Realm, with information on tasting zones, festivals, farms to visit and places to taste.
The Salty Southern Route in southeast Virginia, bills itself as the path to the state’s peanuts, salt-cured hams and pork products. The city of Suffolk is home to the world-famous Planters Peanuts, peanut processors and small communities that trace their farming heritage back to the 17th century. At growers like the Wakefield Peanut Company or Edwards Virginia Ham Shoppe, you can have your lunch served picnic-style.
The North Carolina Barbecue Society Historic Barbecue Trail includes 30 authentic barbecue pits that use the old-fashioned, pit-cooked method. Pits included on the trail must cook their meats on pits fuelled by wood or charcoal, make their own sauce, provide a sit-down experience and have an excellent track record. Using an interactive map, RVers can design a custom barbecue driving route, tasting as they go and tucking leftovers into the fridge.
Boudin – the Cajun speciality of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers and seasonings, pulverized and stuffed into a sausage casing – may be an acquired taste but it’s an integral part of south Louisiana cooking. The Cajun Boudin Trail celebrates it all with Lafayette area stops at a dozen-plus butchers, grocers and diners.
Yes, they celebrate eating in Louisiana with an interactive guide and map to the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, a short drive from New Orleans. This food trail includes restaurants, festivals and special events (think: the Louisiana Gumbo Festival and the Mud Bug Boil-Off). Regional dishes that take centre stage include jambalaya, shrimp po’ boys, crawfish and oysters.
Explore the tastes of Northeast U.S
Buffalo, NY proclaims itself as the World Capital of Wings, and they amplify that title with the Buffalo Wing Trail. The interactive website lets visitors search for the perfect place to find wings that are hot, saucy, classic or unusual. This is definitely a stop where carrying a stock of wet wipes and a sink is testament to the RVing lifestyle.
Covering a larger swath of upper New York state, the 362-kilometre Upstate Eats Trail gets RVers onto the smaller roadways to discover off-the-beaten path neighbourhoods, mom-and-pop restaurants, hideaway cafes and roadside stands. The interactive food trail map is filled with suggestions of the best places to grab specialties like Buffalo wings, Garbage Plates in Rochester, salt potatoes in Syracuse and spiedies in Binghamton.
There must be something in the milk of the New England states. We literally had to unbutton our jeans on the New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail , which zigzags across the state and includes 42 ice cream scoop shops. A must-do along the Maine Ice Cream Trail are the homegrown Gifford’s Ice Cream stands. The ice cream purveyor has a history stretching back centuries, with 100 unique flavours and enormous portions. The Vermont Maple Creemee Trail is all about swirls of maple-tinged ice cream, somewhere between hard scoop and soft serve, unique to the Green Mountain State.
The Vermont Cheese Trail is a calorie-laden, fat-infused, deliciously salty hit of curds and whey. Search the online map (or follow the paper version) and choose from dozens of cheesemakers showcasing a wide variety of tastes and flavours of cow, sheep and goat cheeses. Some stops are large enterprises, but most are family farms; there’s even a state historic site at the Plymouth Cheese Factory, the second oldest cheesemaking operation in the United States, located on the boyhood home of President Calvin Coolidge.
Pennsylvania can’t hold itself to just one trail – there are six official culinary food trails including a Bread Trail, Charcuterie Trail, Apple Trail, Ice Cream Trail, Pickle Trail and Maple Trail. Each speciality is divided into regions and highlights of suggested stops.
In the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, the Berkshire Farm & Table Taste Trails has suggestions for stops at small, independent cheese, farm and charcuterie producers as well as local eateries that incorporate the flavours in their dishes. On routes like the Cheese Trail, visitors can tour the farm, meet the animals, watch the cheesemaking process and buy some cheese to store in their onboard fridge.
The Western U.S. offers a road trip with non-stop flavours
The West has wide, open spaces, cowboy culture and big flavours to match. It turns out that fiery foods and incredible spiciness are an everyday part of the communities that pepper these states. In the Southwest, the green chile reigns supreme and locals will happily share their secrets of freshly made salsa and condiments. In the coastal and mountain regions there is no shortage of taste-driven reasons to get out the map and plan a food-themed RV road trip.
Across New Mexico, you’ll often be asked, “red or green?” when ordering a dish. The heart of the question is your preference for the chile condiment. Browse through the state’s online Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. The interactive website map helps travellers design a personalized route. Once you’ve tasted a hamburger topped with green chile sauce, well, there’s no going back. Autumn is a wonderful time to visit, when the harvested chiles are roasted in front of many grocery stores.
Nailing Texas down to one iconic cuisine is near impossible. The state is known for traditional beef barbecue, the authentic Tex-Mex hybrid of Spanish, Mexican-Indian and Anglo fare, hand-cut steaks and freshly caught Gulf Coast seafood. And there are food trails and suggestions aplenty. Start with the Texas Barbecue Trail. Texas barbecue is custom made for an RV food lovers road trip, no matter what part of this vast state you find yourself in: look for dry rub brisket in Central Texas, cowboy-style grilled over a mesquite fire in West Texas, the Mexican-American flavours of South Texas and the saucy-style of East Texas.
The Arizona Salsa Trail has an entire route dedicated to salsa, connecting several Mexican restaurants, taco shops and a tortilla factory in the southeast reaches of the state. You can pick up a trail map at any of the 16 stops or at the Safford Visitor Center. Mark your September calendar for the annual SalsaFest in Safford.
Canadians have easy access to Central Montana by following Interstate 15 south from Alberta. This is a part of the West to think “dessert” by exploring Montana’s Pie A La Road pie trail. The state is famous for huckleberry pie, but it would be a mistake to ignore the summertime bounty of raspberry and gooseberry pies. Local eateries on the trail include the Log Cabin Cafe in Choteau (with 16 types of pie on the menu, including peanut butter cream and strawberry rhubarb), Ma’s Loma Cafe (super thick sour cream raisin pie) and Wake Cup Coffee House in Fort Benton.
Oh Canada! We love the tastes right across the country
Nova Scotia boasts several culinary trails, including the irresistible Chowder Trail and Lobster Trail. Online travel maps show suggested stops to indulge in traditional lobster dinners, lobster rolls and more different styles of chowder than you can imagine.
On Prince Edward Island, Canada’s Food Island Culinary Trail gives an overview of all the tasty ways to experience fresh produce and seafood. Charts show what’s in season – from mussels and oysters to potatoes and corn – with listings for producers, fishers, markets and farms open to visitors.
In Quebec’s Eastern Townships – to the south of Montreal – Les têtes fromagères – Cheesemakers circuit is an introduction to fine, curd, cow, sheep, and goat milk products crafted by artisan cheesemakers. A must-do stop is the picturesque Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, established by Benedictine monks in 1943, famous for its award-winning blue cheese using only milk from local farms.
Ontario Food Trails reach into all corners of the province. Try the self-guided Kawarthas-Northumberland Butter Tart Tour with 50 stops, each with their own spinoff of Canada’s classic butter tart. An online, interactive map helps with planning what can only be described as a delicious calorie infusion!
South Georgian Bay is the largest apple growing region in Ontario and orchards blanket the rolling countryside – many orchards, cideries and eateries are linked together as part of the Apple Pie Trail. In late winter, when the sap is running, visit Lanark County’s Maple Trail, for tastings at sugar bushes while you inhale the sweet air over steaming vats of boiling liquid. Other suggested stops on the route include producers of everything from maple butter and candy to maple sausage.
In the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, the self-guided Greater Victoria Flavour Trail is a self-guided, RV-friendly meander through the local flavours on display at apple orchards, growers, farmsteads, cider presses, bakers, honey farmers, distillers, brewers and growers. Sweet Nanaimo bars trace their name to the small city on Vancouver Island. The Nanaimo Bar Trail has 39 stops you can pick and choose from on the official trail map. And there are lots of interpretations – from deep-fried Nanaimo bars at Pirate Chips to classic style at Javawocky Coffee House.
Poutine is that oh-so-Canadian dish and there are several official poutine trails to choose from. A dish with French-Canadian roots, the plate of French fries topped with squeaky cheese curds and slathered with gravy is found across La Belle Province. The Outaouais region – just to the northwest of Ottawa – boasts The Great Pontiac Poutine Trail. An interactive map directs hungry road trippers to a dozen-plus small eateries. In central Canada, the Poutine Trail Manitoba includes stops with perogy-topped poutine, steak fajita poutine and tourtière poutine.