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Best of 2015-16 basketball meals

Carolina basketball takes us to some amazing places…and also to places like Tallahassee and Starkville. If you plan your trip just right, some of the best road trips also include a meal that can sometimes be more memorable than the games (note: this is unfortunately not the case in Houston).

Here’s one opinion on the best of the 2015-16 basketball trip-related meals:

1.Filomena’s in Washington, D.C.: I don’t know that it was absolutely the best food. But I can still perfectly picture the meal here, primarily because there were hundreds–no, thousands–of rabbits in the dining room. We ate here with three of our kids during the ACC Tournament, which means it was close to Easter. And Filomena’s gets really, really excited about Easter. So there were stuffed rabbits everywhere. Rabbit statues. Rabbits in airplanes. Rabbits driving cars and rabbits riding shotgun while rabbits drove cars. At one point, we tried to estimate how many rabbits were in the dark dining room–the low guess was 250.

Oh, but the food is delicious also. Lobster ravioli is the famous dish (“Bill Clinton loved it”) but anything with the red sauce was amazing. Go at the right time and there are old ladies hand-making the pasta in an upstairs window. Kind of like the red light district in Amsterdam, if the red light district was selling pasta and not, uh, other stuff. They also have gigantic cakes and pies for desserts…but Georgetown Cupcake is right across the street.

2. Montage in Cedar Falls, Iowa: I know, I know. Iowa? Here’s a great example of how a meal can overcome a terrible game. Jenn and I ventured here with Eric Montross and Clint Gwaltney in the middle of a November snowstorm. Not a November snow flurry. But a November snow storm that would’ve shut North Carolina schools for multiple days. Remember, Eric is from Indianapolis. He just laughed when I asked if he wanted to get dinner a different night because of the weather. I drove us there while he probably sat very frustrated (but polite, because he is Eric) at my lack of snow-driving abilities. He drove us back to the hotel in about half the time it had taken me to get there.

In-between, we had the most surprising meal of this past season. The waitress convinced me I should try piñon crusted chicken. To this day, I don’t know what piñon is, but I do know if you put it in the crust of a chicken, it’s delicious. The chocolate souffle–and I am a bit of a chocolate souffle expert–was also amazing. Friendly people, fun atmosphere, good food: it was a place I’d most definitely go back the next time I’m in Cedar Falls, Iowa, which hopefully will be at least decades from now.

3. Garozzo’s in Kansas City, Missouri: Now this is what an Italian restaurant is supposed to feel like. Garozzo’s came on the recommendation of Roy Williams, who indeed was seated with several friends from the Lawrence area when we walked in. Which, by the way, was only after parking in the middle of what feels like a residential neighborhood. You don’t in any way feel like you’re headed to a place that will ultimately land on the highly illustrious Best Of 2015-16 UNC Basketball Meals list. But there it is.

The owner, Michael Garozzo, was in the building the night we were there, and went around and greeted every table. Some people got hugs. Others got handshakes. But everyone got some kind of greeting. It’s that kind of place. It’s also a place where you should get the chicken spiedini. There are other foods on the menu, and maybe some other sucker at the table can get that stuff. But you should get the spiedini.

Honorable mention: Nico in Boston, River Cafe in New York, Founding Farmers in Washington D.C., and Shane in Philadelphia. Note the purposeful exclusion of anywhere in Houston because Houston is the devil’s town.