Everyone wants something different from a spring break experience. College kids away from home for the first time are happy with cheap tequila shots and regrettable Facebook pictures, while parents with younger children want somewhere interesting for the whole family. And then there are those that are on the endless hunt for good food. They’re the spring breakers that want to stop at local street food vendors, hike to another neighborhood for the best coffee around, sit at the bar at acclaimed eateries, stroll through farmers markets and gourmet food shops, and try out that fake I.D. at the coolest bars in town.
But the gastronomically inclined who kicked off March with the panicked realization that they hadn’t made plans for spring break yet, shouldn't fret. These five destinations are perfect for the last-minute food lover — they’re relatively close by and offer some fantastically good eats that are rife for exploring.
Palm Springs, Calif.
Palm Springs, if done right, lands somewhere in the middle between sun-drenched debauchery and fantastic food finds. For spring breakers, there is no better landing pad (or watering hole) than the Ace Hotel. It is all kinds of cool, with rustic and hipster accents throughout (think record players in each room), and a pool bar serving strong and clever concoctions. Tamales, tacos, and enchiladas come naturally to Palm Springs, and are done best at El Mirasol. The Tropicale is a throwback to Palm Springs' true golden era (though we feel like it’s coming back into the mainstream), with its lump crab Louis, Hawaiian pizzas, and bananas Foster. Another eclectic spot that reminds diners of old times (despite being recently renovated) is Purple Palm in the Colony Palms Hotel. Find the best lunch in town from Jake's Ready to Eat. Palm Springs is also 80 degrees in March… enough said.
If it’s an island getaway you’re after, book it to Barbados where the sun is shining and the fish is freshly caught. If for no other reason, go because it’s home to the "only fish sandwich you’ll ever need to eat in life," according to a Daily Meal editor. But then there is also Oistin’s on a Friday night, when all the stalls stay open late and serve fish beignets with Scotch bonnet sauce and fresh lobster. Need more? Waterside Restaurant in St. Lawrence Gap is a high-end restaurant with innovative twists on local ingredients, like grilled dorado with breadfruit mash and caper butter, coconut and lemongrass seafood over rice, and tiger prawns served on bamboo with papaya relish. Spring break wouldn’t be spring break without a little nightlife, and Baxter’s Road is Barbados’ answer. It’s a street-long party with live music into the wee hours. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Bovino)
It is a well-established fact that Portland, Ore., is effortlessly cool and filled with fun stuff to do, even including standing in line for a Voodoo Donut. But what makes it an ideal spring break destination is its great walkability, bike riding opportunities, shopping, and, of course, fantastic eats. Discover the fun of molecular gastronomy at Castagna, chill with the locals at the intimate Ned Ludd, find mouthwatering tapas at Toro Bravo, and book a room at the cool Ace Hotel, which will serve Stumptown coffee in your room. Take an impromptu lesson in mixology from one of the city’s best bartenders at the dark and comfortable Driftwood. Find the best food souvenirs at Provvista, which sells fantastic gourmet products from near and far, like chocolates, olive oils, cheeses, and more. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/~dgies)
One of the U.S.'s prime destinations for hard-partiers and food lovers alike, New Orleans is not for the faint of heart. There are too many po’boys, beignets, Sazeracs, oysters, and muffulettas to be had. Try a fried catfish po’boy from Guy's Po-Boys, and then play tourist-for-a-day with coffee and beignets from the iconic Café du Monde, oysters from Acme, and Sazeracs from Galatoire’s, and okra gumbo from Dooky Chase. Then, dine among the locals at Lilette, Cochon Butcher, and Bon Ton Café. If there’s time, space in your belly, and money in the budget, head to August, chef John Besh’s flagship restaurant in town.
Many a college student has found their way to Montreal for spring break, if for no other reason than the plethora of, shall we say, gentlemen’s clubs. But gastronomes are even better rewarded in Montreal. There are many musts, three of which are Au Pied de Cochon, L’Express, and La Salle à Manger. Once those are covered, settle the age-old bagel debate between St-Viateur and Fairmount, discover the great wine list at Joe Beef, book ahead at Les 400 Coups, and settle into the intimate and romantic dining room at Barroco. Find fresh-caught fish at Kitchen Galerie Poisson, great coffees at Olive & Gourmando, and hit the town at Le Club Chasse et Peche.