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Ramen with Corn Fritters at Serpico Philadelphia

The Official 2foodtrippers Top 10 List for 2014

In Travel by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch21 Comments

2014 was a year of targeted travel for the 2foodtrippers. We traveled to some of the best US food cities including New York and Chicago along with a marathon trip to Italy by way of Seattle. Mostly though, we had fun exploring our home base of Philadelphia. We can’t let the year end without sharing our culinary top 10 list. So, without further adieu…

Top 10 List 2014

1. Best Food to Start the Day: Smashed Garlic-Fried Potatoes at Lola in Seattle

Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, the smashed potatoes at Lola were so good that they warranted a return visit to Tom Douglas’ classic diner in downtown Seattle. We were offered the recipe to make these potatoes at home, but our arteries are thanking us for savoring the memory instead.

Lola's Smashed Potatoes - Crispy and Golden Lola Seattle

Lola’s Smashed Potatoes – Crispy and Golden

2. Best Appetizer: Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates at avec in Chicago

We loved the vibe at avec on Chicago’s Randolph Street, but it was the food that stole our hearts. When ordering, we couldn’t resist these bacon wrapped beauties – a Chicago twist on the Mediterranean classic with thick bacon wrapped around dates and ground chorizo.

Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates with Smoked Bacon and Piquilo Pepper-Tomato Sauce at Avec in Chicago

Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates with Smoked Bacon and Piquilo Pepper-Tomato Sauce

3. Best Bowl of Noodles: Ramen at Ivan Ramen in New York City

We missed Ivan Ramen when we were in Tokyo, so we raced up the New Jersey Turnpike when the ramen mecca opened in New York.

We’ve now been twice, and we’re sure about two things. First, we prefer the lower east side location.

Second, the ramen at Ivan Ramen rocks. Beyond the ramen, Chef Ivan Orkin’s eclectic menu of Japanese mash-ups like the 1000 year deviled egg and the pickled daikon XO transported us back to Tokyo.

Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen Ramen with tonkotsu Broth, Pork Chashu and Whole Wheat Noodles - Fully Loaded at Ivan Ramen in New York

Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen Ramen with tonkotsu Broth, Pork Chashu and Whole Wheat Noodles – Fully Loaded

4. Best Pizza: Pizzaria La Notizia in Naples

The pizza at Pizzaria La Notizia featured incredibly fresh ingredients (could the basil leaves be any more robust?) and perfect crust. Eating this pizza made by pizzaiola Enzo Coccia was a true culinary highlight of our trip to Italy, not to mention our entire year.

Our first pizza in Naples - Note the vibrant, fresh ingredients.

Our first pizza in Naples – Note the vibrant, fresh ingredients.

5. Best Burger: Au Cheval in Chicago

The single cheeseburger topped with bacon and an egg at Au Cheval was so large that we could barely fit it in our mouths. This loaded burger was worth the extra effort thanks to the juicy beef patties and the smokey, thick house-cured bacon. The fried egg added an unnecessary but delightful decadence. It added up to the best burger we ate all year.

Au Cheval Cheeseburger in Chicago

Au Cheval Cheeseburger

6. Best Bar Food: Pub Cheese at Alder in New York City

We expected interesting molecular gastronomic concoctions when we dined at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder in New York City. We didn’t expect melt-in-your-mouth bar food. It turns out that we got both with the pub cheese starter.

The spread is made with red wine instead of beer, and the chips are made from Martin’s potato rolls. If only we could find bar food like this in actual bars…

Pub Cheese with Pistachio-White Fig and Martin’s “Potato Chips” at Alder

Pub Cheese with Pistachio-White Fig and Martin’s “Potato Chips”

7. Best Date Night Spot: Serpico in Philadelphia

For us, a date night always involves great food. Serpico has that plus the added feature of “entertainment” provided by its open kitchen. When it’s just the two of us, we like to sit at the counter and watch ultra-serious Chef Peter Serpico conduct the culinary show.

When joined by a Las Vegas friend like Jim Begley, a booth is in order (not to mention an empty stomach). Either way, Serpico is our favorite date night spot.

Ramen with Corn Fritters at Serpico Philadelphia

Ramen with Corn Fritters at Serpico

8. Best Place to Drink Wine: Basilicata in Italy

We had many reasons to visit Basilicata, and wine was at the top of our list. We first tasted Aglianico del Vulture when we were in Florence a few years ago, and we just had to visit the region that makes this big yet affordable wine. With plump grapes growing on the side of the roads, it’s no surprise that the wine in Basilicata exceeded our expectations.

Future Wine in Basilicata

Future Wine in Basilicata

9. Best Dessert: Honey-Dipped Mini Doughnuts with Raspberry Jam at Federal Donuts in Philadelphia

We always love the donuts at Federal Donuts, so it was a no-brainer to order the special Chanukah donuts for our annual seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve. The mini donuts tasted better than we expected despite their uncanny resemblance to a certain female body part.

Honey-Dipped Chanukah Mini Donuts with Raspberry Jam Federal Donuts Philadelphia

Honey-Dipped Chanukah Mini Donuts with Raspberry Jam

10. Best Overall Meal: Joule in Seattle

It’s fair to say that we ate a lot of great food in 2014, but the overall meal that stands out in our memories is the one that we shared with friends at Joule in Seattle. Every dish was spot on, from the spicy rice cakes with chorizo to the simple grilled octopus. We loved every bite from the savory beginning to the sweet end.

Joule Other than Steak - Octopus, Bok Choy and Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

Joule Other than Steak – Octopus, Bok Choy and Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

Final Thoughts

We enjoyed loads of other foods experiences in 2014, but these are the top 10. Creating this list has made us excited to experience more great food and travel in 2015.

Stay tuned and stay hungry!

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.


  1. Everything on this list looks so delicious! I still have to get over to the original Ivan Ramen shop, I have only been to the Slurp Shop so far, and I was VERY impressed 😀

    1. Author

      Maybe we need to meet up with you in New York to make sure that you get to Ivan Ramen…

  2. I love this list, and how it is varied and classified based off the type of food/restaurant/etc. I will definitely have to put Basilicata at the top of my list, as I’m hoping to make it to Italy sometime this year for a wine tour or two. I don’t travel much throughout the U.S. as of late, but perhaps in the future I will!

    1. Author

      Basilicata is less touristed, at least by Americans. We loved it there.

  3. What a great round up! I will definitely have to check out the Ivan Ramen noodle eatery in NYC. I used to work and go to school in NYC, now living in the suburbs, and I am always looking for great places. Definitely let us know. My food blog focuses on food in the Hamptons. In NYC, I recommend Angelica’s Kitchen in Union Square and Cafeteria in Chelsea.

  4. What a great list! I definitely should NOT have read this while hungry because there’s nothing nearly as good as this to eat in my house right now! 🙂 I haven’t visited any of the areas mentioned above recently, but I’m hoping to include a trip to New York or Chicago in 2015–I’ll have to remember your suggestions! 🙂 Have you visited Charleston, SC, lately? We’ve got some wonderful restaurants to tempt the palate as well! 🙂

    1. Author

      It’s been years since we’ve been in Charleston, and we keep reading about the top-notch restaurants there. A re-visit is a definite must for us. It will be our first time there as 2foodtrippers.

  5. Grilled octopus! You have no idea how much that excites me to see octopus on the menu. I am really picky about how I eat it, but I do eat it and often wonder how others fair it. Pretty much everything on this menu is something I would try if I were to go to these places. I am not too sure about that burger. I have heard many war stories about it. But that pub cheese? Oh nom nom. I want it all in my belly. Looks and sounds amazing.

  6. Yum, yum, yum! All of these look delicious. I would definitely like to try the smashed-garlic fried potatoes! It looks like you had some awesome culinary travels this year. I can’t wait to see what where you go in 2015.

  7. I love food posts, and enjoyed reading about your favorites (and seeing the photos too). The pizza at Pizzaria La Notizia looks delicious. Yes, the basil looks scrumptious. Wow, I cannot imagine what Pub Cheese with Pistachio-White Fig tastes like…but I’d like to try it! Who knows, maybe next time I am in NYC, I can check it out.

  8. Wowza!! I love your list!! I would absolutely love to try the #1 on your list with the smashed garlic fried potatoes! Also would love to have the pizza too! I love how your list includes both domestic and international foods and your subcategories are great too! Now you just need to add a pastrami sandwich from NYC to your list 😉

  9. Those are very perfect choice for 2015! My Grandfather used to make us Chorizo-stuffed medjool. How’d I wish I could make them with my own lol. The grilled octopus is so tempting. I’m going to show this to my wife. Thank you for the link! This is very helpful for an option.

  10. All those foods look absolutely delicious! I have to say the smashed garlic fried potatoes in Seattle would be my favourite out of them all. I love potatoes when they’re done like that and so crispy on the outside. I’d have never have thought of them as a food to start the day though! 🙂

  11. I got a bit worried when I read Au Cheval and saw meat! Those garlic fried potatoes look amazing, I would love to try and recreate them. I’ve never tried dates before, I am just turned off by the look of them for some reason.

  12. I have never seen those donuts at Federal! Next time I am in Philly I have to try them!

    1. Author

      These donuts were special for Chanukah. Hopefully they’ll have them again next year.

  13. I love this post-it has my mouth watering!!!!!! Being Italian, I’m a fan (of course) of la pizza napolitana, but I have to say that the chorizo-stuffed dates sound TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!

  14. Great choices and lovely pictures. Sampling and discovering great food and is one of the best things about travel. Thanks for sharing your list.

  15. Can you say yummy! What a round up! I’ve lived in the Seattle area for 6 years now and have never heard of Lola’s. I definitely plan on trying this place out with the hubs.

  16. I really really need to stop reading your posts when I’m ALREADY hungry. Your tastebuds had an excellent 2014 by the looks of things – great list!

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