In honor of the upcoming Labor Day weekend, we devote our top 10 list this week to food-centric day trips.
Our list contains a lot of good eating, mostly accessible by train or bus, all within range for a low-stress day trip from the city. We’re recommending jaunts into New Jersey and Philadelphia, up to New Haven, and out to the Hudson Valley — the trips revolve around food, but most of the destinations feature other attractions, too.
Did we miss your favorite day trip? Let us know in the comments.
10. Apple-Picking in Dutchess County, New York
It’s amazing how close the Hudson Valley is to New York City and how utterly apart it feels — beautiful craggy terrain, dense forests, and a slower pace are barely more than an hour away. Head up to Dutchess County in the mid-Hudson Valley for a bucolic day of apple-picking. Check out your options on this website.
9. Bent Spoon Ice Cream, Princeton, New Jersey
Go check out what might be the tristate area’s best ice cream in its native habitat, Princeton, New Jersey, where you can also wander the college town and check out the school’s art museum.
8. Kayaking and Butchery at Fleisher’s
Kingston, New York, where Fleisher’s Meats is located, offers plenty of opportunities to kayak on the Hudson, where, later in the season, you can see a serous foliage show. After paddling the river, stop by Fleisher’s Meats, the cultishly loved provider of great-quality pastured meat. Maybe you even want to sign on to their butcher training, like Julie Powell did.
7. Rutt’s Hut and the Gates of Hell, Clifton New Jersey
Make a hot dog pilgrimage to Rutt’s Hut (417 River Road) in Clifton, New Jersey. The deep-fried hot dogs — No. 1 on our 10 Best Hot Dogs list — are called “rippers” for the way they crack in the hot oil, or “cremators” for the ones fried longer, to a blackened crisp. Get some disco fries while you’re at it. Besides deep-fried hot dogs, Clifton’s claim to fame is a system of eerie drainage tunnels called the Gates of Hell, supposedly haunted and containing spooky things like a coffin from the 1800s. Try to find those gates if you dare, but eat first.
6. New Haven Pizza and Taco Trucks
Journey up 95 to New Haven to try the original Frank Pepe’s pizza (157 Wooster Street). We recommend the clam pie, a coal-oven-cooked wonder topped with fresh clams and their liquor and heaps of garlic and parsley. On the way home, as you pass through southern New Haven on the highway, just to the east you’ll see a cluster of taco trucks in a parking lot on the water. Why not stop off and grab an al pastor or tripe taco to complete the day’s eating?
Winners 5 through 10, coming right up …
5. Long Beach and Fried Clams, Rockville Centre and Long Beach, New York
Work up an appetite swimming at Long Beach — if Earl allows — and then gorge on the best fried clams in New York State at Bigelow’s New England Fried Clams (79 North Long Beach Road, Rockville Centre).
4. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York
Head up to Westchester County to check out chef Dan Barber’s working farm and education center, which is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays. Do a self-guided tour, or plan ahead to be there for one of their many programs and workshops, like this Saturday’s hands-on egg collecting. If you want to eat at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, arrive armed with a reservation.
3. Philadelphia Cheesesteak Smackdown
Which is better, Geno’s or Pat’s? You can decide for yourself by having one of each at these venerable cheesesteak rivals, which are across the street from one another. Then burn them off by following in Rocky’s footsteps, running up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
2. Wine Tasting, Farm Stands, and Seafood on the North Fork of Long Island
Though the South Fork is home to two of the best wineries on Long Island (Wölffer and Channing Daughters), it’s also a high-maintenance, traffic-ridden trip, passing through the Hamptons. For a much more rural, relaxing venture, head out to the North Fork, where there are many wineries, some better than others, most dotted along Main Road/Route 25. Make stops at Lenz, the Tasting Room, and Old Field, where you can also pick up some eggs from their chickens, still warm from the coop. Winding your way back, you can stop at any other wineries that interest you, shop at one of the scores of farm stands along the way, or even buy crabs from fishermen who sometimes park their pickups along the side of the road. Braun’s Seafood makes a solid lobster roll or fried clam plate.
1. Indian Eating and Shopping in Edison and Iselin, New Jersey
Oak Tree Road wends its way through Edison and Iselin, New Jersey, the main business district for Jersey’s large South Asian population. It’s impossible to be bored or hungry exploring this main drag — restaurants peddle many specialties, from Tamil vegetarian to Indian-Chinese and everything in between. Mithai and chaat shops are everywhere, as are sari shops and Indian groceries. You can take a breather and take in a Bollywood movie at Movie City. This website is helpful.