Roberta’s Pizza – Damn It’s Good

New York remains a hub of pizza consumption. The Big Apple and its residents talk a big pizza game. When it comes to the New York slice – it’s a thin crust light sauce affair meant to be folded in half while on the go or standing. As a transplant, I didn’t necessarily grow up eating the best slices. But growing up elsewhere gives a man an appreciation for new ideas and creations within the pizza realm, while other remain tasteless. New York does pizza well. Do they have the singular best pizza? Perhaps. Do they have one of the largest concentrations of high quality pizza found in the world? Most definitely.

Roberta's Pizza

So my brother’s most recent visit to the area he was most interested in finding some of the high quality ‘za. As per usual on his visits a crew was assembled with some nonsensical notion. This time we choose to walk from Manhattan to Bushwick and locate said solid pies. Despite the cold we made it.

Hi Tom.

Say Hi to Tom everyone.

It’s why I’m here to tell New Yorkers to take all their reservations about locally sourced organic ingredients, wood burning stoves, and hipsters in general – and throw them out the window. Find Brooklyn on a map. Now Bushwick. Now Roberta’s Pizza. Mark it and go. In my personal and professional opinion, it’s the best dough, sauce, and cheese combo since I enjoyed Naple’s finest.

Roberta's Wood Burning Stove

Roberta’s Wood Burning Stove

Famous Original at Roberta's.

Famous Original at Roberta’s.

 

Is it trendy? Yes. Is it hipster? Who the hell knows what that really means anymore? Is the price right? Mostly. Is it really any good? It’s damn good.

Rosso, Margherita, etc.

Rosso, Margherita, etc.

Speckenwolf.

Speckenwolf.

So before you get up in arms about the ingredients being grown on the rooftop and the radio show taking place out back just sit down and order one of these items off the menu.

Garden on roof, Garden out back.

Garden on roof, Garden out back.

I recommend the Rosso, Margherita, Famous Original, or Speckenwolf – I also thank my party for mixing and matching up slices so we could all try a bit of everything. Grab a beer or wine, sit down, and tuck in with a gusto.

Wine Guzzling Encouraged.

Wine Guzzling Encouraged.

Vagabonds with a View – Bryan the Wandering Gourmand

I found Bryan’s blog – The Wandering Gourmand – while researching breweries in Bamberg, Germany. Not only was Brian immensely helpful in planning out a full day of drinking, I also discovered we both hailed from Youngstown, Ohio. I guess Northeast Ohio folks like to travel for beer, but here’s more on Bryan:

Brian

Bryan

What is your job/career?

As of July, I officially left corporate America hopefully never to return. After many painful years of learning that I don’t deal well with authority, I saved enough money to pursue my dream of writing full-time. I can now claim that I am a professional writer as I am actually getting paid to write about travel, craft beer, and food. I’m also tweaking the last edits of a novel that I’ve be working on for over five years. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to sell it to a publisher.

This little guy says hello from Boulder Beach! #gourmandsinafrica #capetown #africa #penguin

A photo posted by Bryan Richards (@brichwrites) on

How do you manage to work and travel?
Now that I work for myself, I call my own shots. Of course, the equation always weighs in of the more I travel the less I work. The less I work, the less money I have to travel. Thus, I work long hours when I’m not on the road for freedom to later be on the road.
What’s your travel inspiration?

With the risk of sounding like a glutton as we approach the Lenten season, my travel inspiration is food and beer. I’ve been a foodie since I was a child. I remember sitting on my grandpa’s lap when I was five and sharing a can of sardines with him. I never had them before. They were different and shocking to a five year old palette, and I loved them. As for beer, I’ve been tracking craft breweries since they were called micro-breweries. I guess you can say that I like to taste my travels…

Bryan’s friend in Thailand

Why did you decide to start your travel blog?

Every teacher and professor has told me that I should pursue a career in writing, but the only thing I’d ever written were school assignments. As I was always active in extra-curricular activities, drinking beer, and chasing the opposite sex, I never took their words seriously. Once I finally caught a girl (my wife) and began to suffocate in the doldrums of the cubicle world, I needed a creative outlet. Blogging became that outlet.

Do you read other travel blogs or know other bloggers - what are some differences between normal travelers and bloggers?
It seems that a majority of the “cool kids” in travel blogging are digital nomads. Those sites are fun to live vicariously through, but I don’t find them helpful. Most people aren’t digital nomads but every day, working people. I hope my site is different. I hope my site inspires people to know they don’t have to leave everything behind to see the world.
Did you family travel a lot when you were younger?

I was fortunate to be an only brat, so my parents took me on some rather exotic vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico, and even Venezuela. The problem was (and I realize how bratty this sounds to complain), we just went to giant, corporate resorts where cultural experiences are limited to poolside dance lessons and nightly themed shows. Still, these trips served as a primer to inspire me later in life. One of the themes on my blog is to help others travel beyond keg stands and Macarena line dances.

What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

I really loved Cartagena, Colombia. It was exotic, romantic, and when we went, still forbidden. We spent a week at a bed and breakfast in the old city and acted like locals.

Schlenkerla’s Hefeweizen and Rauchbier in Bamberg, Germany.

What’s one place you definitely have to see?

India is tops on my bucket list. I’m making early plans for 2017 already.

What’s your number one road trip jam?

Every time I drove to or from Ohio University, I would have to listen to Loner by Ekoostik Hookah as the Athens’ city limit sign approached. Since then, it’s been the first song I listen to on any road trip.

What’s one type of food from any country you think everyone should try?

Guinea pig in Ecuador. Nothing opens up the food adventure like eating a household pet.

What’s your favorite social media for travel related sharing?

You can tell my age from my answer – Facebook.

Sunday morning in Raleigh! #nc #travel #weekendaway #history #politics

A photo posted by Bryan Richards (@brichwrites) on

Many people out there think travel is too expensive…How do you manage to pay or save for travel?  Any insider tips?

I teach Financial Peace University so this is a subject near and dear to my heart. First, you have to make travel a priority. That means with every purchase you make, especially the big ones, think about how that affects your ability to travel. You have to ask the question, “Do I want the BMW or a month traveling in Germany?” Second, eliminate all debt. Snowball it as we teach in FPU. Third, budget travel into your expenditures. Each pay period, we allocate a certain dollar amount into an account for travel.

You can read more by Bryan at The Traveling Gourmand. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - lots of solid beer pictures on there for everyone.

Vagabonds with a View – The Traveling Mortician

I found Larissa’s posts while perusing Instagram one day. Needless to say, @thetravelingmortician had me hooked.
Larissa the Traveling Mortician.

Larissa the Traveling Mortician.

What does a traveling mortician do?

I’m a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer, so my day can feature anything from working with families to plan funerals for their loved one, to embalming, to directing the actual funeral. I’m a perfectionist, so I spend lots of time working out the smallest details to make the day as smooth as possible.

How do you manage to work and travel?

Work hard, play harder! When I’m not traveling, chances are I’m working. But I have fantastic bosses who are happy to let me take two and three weeks off in a row to run around the world a few times a year, and that definitely helps.

What’s your travel inspiration?

I’m a history lover, so anywhere with a significant historical culture is a huge draw for me. And since I’ve begun my blog and have started actively interacting with people from all over the world, I definitely draw inspiration from them as well. Following fellow travelers on Instagram is bad for my bank account-but great for my bucket list!

Why did you decide to start your travel blog?

My blog was something that I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.  I get a lot of questions about where I’ve been, where I’m going next, and how I manage to do it, and so I finally took the leap and started my blog in March 2014, and I’m so glad that I did!

Do you read other travel blogs? What are some differences between normal travelers and travel writers?

I follow TravelRunLive.com, which is run by one of my oldest friends, as well as some larger blogs like The Planet D and Beers & Beans. There’s tons of travel blogs out there that feature constant traveling, such as round-the-world trips. I think the biggest difference between those and smaller blogs like mine are that they typically tend to focus on destinations only. I’m try and mix it up with a variety of topics. I have lots of featured international destinations – but I also like to focus on what’s right in front of me, such as the NJ Wine Trail Challenge, or the NJ Lighthouse Challenge, or crazy local events. I don’t consider myself a writer – but I write from the heart, honestly and passionately. You can even see my Jersey attitude show from time to time!

Did you family travel a lot when you were younger?

Not at all! In 2007, I booked a trip to Greece on a whim, and that was all it took to get addicted to travel.

What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

Scotland! The entire country is just unbelievably beautiful. Their history is incredible.The people are incredible. I’m actually in the middle of plotting a three week return as we speak. London is a very close second-I always find a way to stop in London for a day or two anytime I’m in Europe.

What’s one place you definitely have to see?

The Pyramids in Egypt are at the very top of my list.

What’s your number one road trip jam?

Anything that I can sing outloud to (though I’m a god-awful singer). I’m a huge Biggie and Tupac fan, and I love my 90′s music.

What’s one type of food from any country you think everyone should try?

The local specialty! I’ll openly admit that when it comes to trying new foods, I’m not the bravest. But on every trip, I make it my mission to try at least one new dish – whatever the “local specialty” is.

What’s your favorite social media for travel related sharing?

Instagram all the way – although Twitter is slowly growing on me :)

Many people out there think travel is too expensive…so they continuously put it off.  How do you manage to pay or save for travel?  Any insider tips?

I’m a very goal oriented person. If I want to go somewhere, I set a goal for myself, and get right to work. I budget money every week specifically for travel. A few years ago, I ordered myself a prepaid American Express Card. I set-up my card to automatically take a set amount of money out of my checking account every single Saturday and transfer it to the card. It adds up quickly-and then I use my card for everything from booking airfare to vacation expenses while traveling. You still have the full backing of American Express if your card is lost or stolen, and it’s accepted world wide. And since the money isn’t sitting in a savings account tempting me, I’m less likely to blow it on something else. I’m not rich by any means-for my larger trips, I typically spend about a year saving, booking and planning, to maximize not only my time there, but the amount of money that I’m spending. Look for deals. Search websites. Ask for advice.  But don’t put off travel for fear that it’s too expensive! As a mortician, I’m reminded on a daily basis that you never know when it’s your time to go-so live each day like it’s your last. You’ll be so glad that you went!

I’d like to thank Larissa for taking the time to interview and giving insight into her travels!

You can find Larissa’s blog at The Traveling Mortician.

Follow her the Traveling Mortician on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram.

Ben’s Chili Bowl – Hot Dog Tourism

At some point hot dog tourism set roots in our family. Maybe it was when my dad mailed a rollerdog - hot dogs from gas station rollers – to my cousin in Connecticut and he ATE it. Perhaps it was when we saw the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at the Ohio State Fair in 2006. Or was it a visit to the famed Tony Paco’s and my defeat by the M.O.A.D. (Mother Of All Dogs) in Autumn 2006. By the time 2007 came around, hot dog tourism was firmly established in my family’s travels.

My dad and I when we spotted the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile…pure excitement circa 2007.

My dad and I when we spotted the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile…pure joy in 2007.

Food, and hot dogs in particular, became an integral part of all my trips. In Germany, I found plenty of sausage and hot dog options – including a half meter sausage at the Potsdam Christmas markets. Another solid option included the Nuremburger. A recent foray into Cleveland introduced me to a new take on hot dogs. With the recent closure of of one my favorite New York hot dog spots, it’s reassuring to know how many more options exist. But more to the point…I recently revisited another great spot – Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC for a scrumptious dog.

Half Meter Sausage #germany #potsdam #sausage #christmas #christmasmarkets #NOMNOMNOM #lunch

A photo posted by James Patrick (@fitzmagic1406) on

Ben’s stands as one of the unique places both tourists and locals enjoy. On any given day a line of customers may stretch out the door. On August 28, 1958 Ben’s opened their doors on 1213 U Street and soon became a staple in the District’s food scene. Over 50 years later, the decor and recipe remain the same. It’s a true testament to the District’s foodie scene where famous actors like Bill Cosby and the nation’s leaders like Barack Obama mix and mingle with every day citizens to snag some delicious chili dogs.

Ben's Chili Bowl.

Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Ben's Chili Bowl Sign

Ben's Chili Bowl Counter

Oh my wonderful host Brit snuck in on this one.

First timers at Ben’s? Grab the Original Chili Half Smoke. Half beef and half pork, the 1/4 lb. hot dog comes with mustard, onions, and covered in their homemade spicy chili sauce. Of course the rest of the menu offers excellent alternatives, but the signature dog requires a taste. Your trip to the nation’s capital isn’t quite complete without a half smoke in the belly.

The Half Smoke.

The Half Smoke.

What do you think of Ben’s? What are some other hot dog spots to visit?

Ben's Chili Bowl Inside

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio

My family tells a story about why our relatives came to the United States. One night Great-Great Grandpa went out partying in Ireland…then woke up in handcuffs in Cleveland, Ohio – must’ve been a hell of a party. But in all seriousness with an overwhelming majority of our family hailing from around Lake Erie, my earliest memories in Ohio include a vast quantity of day trips to Cleveland. Along with these visits, we usually incorporated a stop in Ohio City to prowl the aisles of the West Side Market. The hustle and bustle of local Cleveland commerce reaches far back in my brain. It goes without saying it left a bit of an impression.

West Side Market and Ohio City

Outside. Notice the sweet clock tower. It used to be visible from the whole neighborhood.

Market operations began near the site as far back as 1840. The open marketplace formed at the corner of Loraine Avenue and West 25th Street and eventually grew into the Pearl Street Market. As demand rose, it became clear more space was needed. The current structure was not completed until 1912. With almost 100 indoor stalls and 85 produce stalls available to vendors, the West Side Market easily became Cleveland’s biggest marketplace. Christened by the 137 foot clock tower, the West Side Market anchors the Ohio City neighborhood. In 1973 the National Register of Historical Places sealed the market’s future adding them to their list. The market’s profile grew astronomically after being featured by the Food Network and the Travel Channel.

The produce stalls are out  in a side building.

The produce stalls are out in a side building.

Market on the ground floor.

Market side wing on the ground floor.

Inside from the balcony.

Inside from the balcony. The curved ceiling for the win.

Today the market functions much the same way as it did in 1912. Vendors brings goods to sell while residents and tourists stroll the aisles sampling items. Many of the stalls remain tied to families from as far back as 1912. Because of this the market displays Cleveland’s cultural diversity. You’ll easily spot Irish, German, Slovene, Italian, Polish, Greek, Russian, and Middle Eastern vendors.

The West Side Market anchors the Ohio City neighborhood.

The West Side Market anchors the Ohio City neighborhood.

For my own part, I’ve been visiting the West Side Market for over 20 years. I recall being impossibly small next to the stalls and the overwhelming amount of people hustling every way. Nowadays whether it’s a purposeful trip for a specific vendor or browsing the aisles, I try to make it every time I’m in Cleveland. For newbies, you’ll need to swing by Frank’s Bratwurst stand. I also recommend grabbing a caffeine boost from City Roast Coffee. You can snag whole or ground beans to take home with you – the Northwest Blend is stellar. Another place I stop by is Reilly’s – grab a Shepherd’s pie for the win. By far your biggest task will be deciding what to buy. Be smart, ask questions, and if you can find them snag samples – this will be easier not during peak hours. The West Side Market offers guided tours if you want a more historical aspect with your visit.

Fresh beans.

Fresh beans.

I’ve visited many open markets all over the world; Pike Place Market in Seattle, Borough Market in London, Great Market Hall in Budapest, Stokov Bazaar in Sofia, and many more. The West Side Market is my gold standard when I’m visiting all of these other places. If your travels bring you to Cleveland, 1979 W. 25th Street is a must stop for food, history, and fun.

The whole market from the front.

The whole market from the front.