Nobody knows the road quite like comedians. Unlike your typical traveler, a comedian travels for work, not pleasure — which means they are less likely to hit up that crowded destination restaurant or bar, and more likely to hit the greasy spoon spots and dives that make our American cities truly unique. While the rest of us are using Yelp, comedians are the only people still operating on the Hobo Code and avoiding all the tourist traps as a result (unless for comedic purposes).
As Covid-19 restrictions continue to dominate our lives (!) it’s looking like whatever grand travel plans we made after getting vaccinated may have to be postponed again. But it’s never a bad time to hit the road solo (or with a small group of friends) and engage in some good old domestic travel (National Park, perhaps?). And who better to guide us than a working comedian who spends more time on the road than she does at home?
That’s why we hit up comedian Valerie Tosi for a nationwide guide to her favorite food spots. In addition to being an accomplished standup comedian, Tosi is a Second City trained actor, writer, and voice-over artist who has appeared on the Joel McHale Show, Conan, and IFC’s Stan Against Evil. She’s also the producer and host of The Mermaid Comedy Hour, the longest-running all-female comedy show at the Hollywood Improv.
Tosi’s debut comedy album, Beach Trash — in which she explores the pitfalls of being a comedian in your 30s and navigating the world of family, dating, travel, being “bad at bisexuality,” and making it through Covid — drops today and is available on Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming platforms. To mark the occasion, she gave us her ten favorite eateries nationwide, hitting us with great-looking food spots from Alaska to Atlanta.
Throw on Beach Trash and dive into Tosi’s ten favorite eateries nationwide below.
Verti Marte – New Orleans, Louisiana
The first time I ever went out on the road, our final stop was NoLa. It remains near and drunkenly dear to my heart (I cherish the absolute chaos of Bourbon Street). When you get to the point of realizing you’ve had one Vieux Carre too many, head on over to Verti Marte in the French Quarter.
Don’t be taken aback by the drunk women sitting on the curb stuffing a po’boy into their face while they rest their high-heeled feet… Mainly because, at one point, I was one of them. I mean it when I say it was the best shrimp po’boy I’ve ever had in my life. You know it’s true because I dropped half of it on the ground and still ate it. Probably why Covid hasn’t gotten to me yet.
The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge – Las Vegas, Nevada
Do you love eating diabetic portions while burning your corneas from neon lighting? Welcome to the Peppermill! As an east coast dirtbag, my go-to breakfast order here and everywhere is corned beef hash and eggs. And yes, I prefer to eat the canned stuff like I’m rationing food in a 1970’s bunker.
During brunch hours, there’s always a wait, but it’s a blessing in disguise. Put your name on the list and head into the lounge where you can enjoy the ridiculous electric firepit while they play music videos on every TV. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar, pop an Andrew Jackson in video poker and watch a stranger get absolutely wrecked on one of their 64-oz Scorpion Bowls.
Lena’s Seafood – Salisbury, Massachusettes
There is nothing I love in this life more than good fried seafood. Being from Massachusetts, I was spoiled rotten with the best of the best. Salisbury is my very kitschy, touristy beach town. The proof is that Lena’s sign is a giant anthropomorphic whale with thick lips and long eyelashes. It’s very unsettling, and yet I would riot if they ever took it down.
The clam chowder is denser than hot fudge. Their onion rings are cornmeal battered, resulting in the tastiest little bastards you’ll ever have. I personally go big and get the Captain Hook; fried haddock, flounder, shrimp, clams, scallops, and smelts. You won’t be able to button your pants which is why most people don’t wear any and opt to eat in their bathing suits and oversized discount house t-shirts.
Snow City Cafe – Anchorage, Alaska
Alaska is WILD. Like, literally and figuratively. One of the locals told me, “You know a real Alaskan because they put tinfoil on their windows to keep the sun out.” So I’m sorry, what’s it like living inside a baked potato? I digress. After a night of staying at a self-proclaimed haunted hotel, I stumbled into Snow City Cafe looking for breakfast. I ordered a plate appropriately named “Deadliest Catch,” aka a benedict with one smoked salmon cake and one Alaskan king crab cake. Lemme tell you, that meal was better than seeing the northern lights and a baby moose combined.
Hugo’s – Houston, Texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas. Including my appetite. After a night of debauchery, I was treated to an exquisite brunch (Translation: The pals I was crashing with paid because they have real people jobs). Hugo’s is authentic Mexican and pure perfection. We ordered a few different meals to share, but what is burned into my sense memory forever is the Huevos Poblanos. Seemingly simple, it’s poached eggs over sweet cornbread with asparagus and potatoes and some sort of magical sauce that has yet to be replicated. I yearn for it.
I ache for it. I refuse another human being’s sexual advances because all I can think about is that taste of transcendence.
Colorado Sake Co. – Denver, Colorado
I love sake. Currently, I have two big bottles of Kikusui in my fridge. So when I was asked to do shows at Denver Comedy Lounge in the back of Colorado Sake Co, I was sold. The comedy venue is incredible, but that’s not why we’re here. We are here because you can get locally brewed sake AND sake seltzers. You’ll need both to wash down the spice of the tuna and mango roll, which is TDF (that’s to die for, I’m creating my own acronyms now).
They also serve flights of their homebrewed sake, so both you and the tuna will be rolling out of there (I’m so sorry for that pun, it’s been a challenging year, okay?)
LottaFrutta – Atlanta, Georgia
Look, we all know you don’t need another BBQ recommendation, so hang in there. Atlanta feels like a second home. My best friend Muretta lives there, and so do some of the funniest comedians in the country. On my first visit, she took me to an adorable little spot that looked like a creatively painted house from a distance. LottaFrutta describes their menu as “Pan-Latin,” because it’s influenced by several Latin backgrounds. Their colorful smoothies and fresh-cut fruit cups are the only reason I have not dehydrated while there.
The Just Veggin’ sandwich makes me forget that it’s 400* outside, even though I’ve had swamp-ass from the moment my flight touched down.
The Owlery Restaurant – Bloomington, Indiana
I recorded my album at The Comedy Attic in Bloomington because they are one of the best clubs in the country… But also because I was desperately craving The Owlery’s coconut macadamia tofu. I’m not a vegetarian (see: corned beef hash), but I enjoy eating vegetarian meals. This little local gem served as one of our favorite spots to hit up during the Limestone Comedy Festival.
Any place that is chill with letting a horde of obnoxious comedians take over their establishment are literal angels. Great, now I’m also craving their peanut veggie bowl. Jared, can I have a club weekend again asap?
Charlie’s Homestyle Diner – Merrimack, New Hampshire
The best part of standup comedy is that you’ll find yourself telling jokes pretty much anywhere that’ll let you. In 2019, I booked a gig at Merrymac Games and Comics (a fantastic indie comic and collectible shop that you should 100% support). To my absolute delight, there is a tiny diner just down the street called Charlie’s. Even though it shares the same name as my ex-fiancé, I decided to give them a chance. Two words, my friends: Meatloaf Omelet. Yeah, I know, I’m a weirdo but listen to me, that thing was aggressively huge. I ate almost the entire thing, plus a homemade biscuit slathered in butter.
NH’s state motto is “Live Free Or Die,” and I came pretty dang close.
The Gold Standard Cafe – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cheesesteaks get all the credit which is why I’m going to sing the praises of the fluffiest, borderline erotic banana pancakes known to man. Gold Standard is within walking distance to fellow funny pal Michelle Biloon. The pancakes are as big as the plate they come on and as thick as Gritty’s luscious fur. Their quiche is as much of a masterpiece as egg pie can be. So I order both and eat whatever I don’t finish an hour later like I’m trying to fatten up before hibernation.
Honestly, I eat there almost every morning like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. You probably won’t get that reference because I am very uncool and watch old people’s movies. That said, please do a wellness check if I start carrying bacon in ziplock bags.