As you drive through the long stretches of a deep-red state, you’ll pass plenty of Safeways and about six too many McDonald’s. But do a little digging, and you’ll also uncover a number of little “blue dots” that serve as culinary oases. Here, a guide to three blue towns that make for great getaways.
Asheville, North Carolina Stay: Go all out and crash at the Inn on Biltmore Estate (Biltmore.com). It’s on the same property as the Biltmore House, the largest residence in the country. Eat: You’ll need a hearty breakfast before you embark on your tour of this beer capital. Start your day at Biscuit Head (BiscuitHeads.com), which piles ingredients like fried catfish and country ham onto its signature fluffy foodstuff. Drink: Take a quick drive and catch a concert at Pisgah Brewing Company (PisgahBrewing.com), which regularly offers free live performances in its taproom and larger, ticketed concerts on an outdoor stage in the summer.
Birmingham, Alabama Stay: If you want to go dive-bar hopping (and you should), opt for the center of town. At the Hotel Highland (TheHotelHighland.com) most of the rooms are less than $150 a night, and it’s located directly above the Upsidedown Plaza for an easy stumble home. Eat: Newly opened Post Office Pies (PostOfficePies.com) is determined to break Papa John’s hold on pizza lovers with its wood-fired oven. Get the Swine Pie with pork sausage, and you’ll quickly learn why it’s going to win this battle. Drink: Start with Negronis and a game of Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots at Feizal Valli’s rec room–style lounge, the Collins Bar (CollinsBirmingham.com), then head to one of the city’s delectably grungy watering holes. The Upsidedown Plaza (2012 Magnolia Ave. South) and Brown Derby (3630 Sixth Ave. South) won’t disappoint with their $2 beers.
Bisbee, Arizona Stay: Check out the Shady Dell (TheShadyDell.com), a collection of old-school trailers that doubles as a hotel. Eat: Housed in a charming brick building erected in 1907, Cafe Roka (CafeRoka.com) serves a four-course menu and hosts live jazz on Fridays. Drink: The Copper Queen Cafe and Saloon (CopperQueen.com) evokes the Old West, with a porch perfect for day-drinking. To recover and reevaluate, go for kombucha and live tunes from local musicians at Whyld Ass Coffee Shop (54 Brewery Ave.).