A special meal to go on the return trip can add to the excitement of your trip for a few more hours. Skillfully prepared takeout dining gives you reason to look forward to the trip and shows you respect yourself more than settling into a takeout sandwich buried in cellophane.
To see the benefits, set out on my trip to New York City last fall. My wife and I went with friends on Airbnb, and made our rounds at restaurants, bars, parks, museums, and bookstores throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Before heading back to DC, we stopped one last time. Swinging across the Market Line—the underground food court on the Lower East Side—gave us a chance to build a good Amtrak ride-on bag (but first, cups of remarkably flexible ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery).
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I applied to go to the dim sum outpost of Nom Wah, confident that the scallion pancakes and a duo of dumplings would hold up well in transit. I’ve also swung into a Southeast Asian grocery store in NYC to stock up on MSG and grab a bag of Lays flavored nori.
The stop may have forced us to close – especially after we ghosted an Uber and ran madly across the subway with me carrying paper bags full of food along with our luggage – but any concern we felt was worth it when we settled into our seats and separated our disposable chopsticks .
As soon as I removed the plastic wrap, a cloud of dumpling steam surrounded my face. As I put the dumplings in my mouth and grind the salted potato chips with seaweed, I was happy for the time being. It felt like I’d ticked another item on my eating to-do list instead of a hot dog in the microwave from the coffee shop car.
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If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the type to plan a trip around food. When I look back on those New York weekends, a lot of the places we’ve come to would have made a great train meal: a classic pastrami half on rye from Deli Katz, pumpernickel bread all from Black Seed Bagels, a pressed bikini sandwich from Mercado Little Spain Or even a glass of delicious Ukrainian borsch and pyroges from Veselka.
On my recent trip to New England, I traveled to Boston and had enough time to visit the North End to buy Italian food. A few friends and I carried leftovers from huge Bricco Salumeria sandwiches (get the cold, sliced porchetta slices) onto the Downster train bound for Maine, ripping strings to seal a box of Mike’s famous cannoli while waiting at the North Station. Speaking of sandwiches, the allure of the flying muffuletta, preferably from Central Grocery in New Orleans, is well documented.
Another case for overseas commuters: The forced skew towards take-outs to many restaurants early in the pandemic means that the quality and variety of mobile restaurant food has improved dramatically. Airport security also allows you to carry personal food as long as it’s not liquid (sorry, soup heads).
You can totally extend this philosophy to the airplane. In the interest of urbanization, you may want to save any pungent foods for another time.