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Diners ’n dives

Amy Briesch chowed on chili dogs wrapped in American cheese in Burlington, N.C., indulged in bacon-wrapped pork fillets in Anita, Iowa and quaffed boysenberry soda in Los Angeles, Calif.

Over the last four years, she and her boyfriend, now her fiancé, have savored ice cream, Italian beef and grilled bratwurst at mom and pop restaurants in some 45 states around the country. The self-described foodies chronicle their gastronomical adventures on, a website and blog dedicated to featuring the tastiest eateries along the highways and back roads of North America.

“We started planning vacations around food,” says Briesch, an assistant professor of school psychology.

One summer, she visited 139 restaurants in 26 states and provinces in the northern United States and southern Canada. The salami curry in Toronto proved well worth the 10,000-mile journey in her Honda Civic Hybrid.

She would rather indulge in a Buffalo dog in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Jackson, Wyo., than eat anything at all in a chain joint like TGI Friday’s.

“It’s too easy to travel to any city in the country and sit down to dinner in a restaurant that looks exactly like the one you have at home,” says Briesch, who visited 24 out of 25 restaurants on the historic barbeque trail in North Carolina.

“When I travel to Kansas City to eat burnt ends (smoked brisket) or Nashville to eat hot chicken (spicy fried chicken), I’m looking to have a new culinary experience and better understand the local area.”

Sometimes the most enjoyable food is right under Briesch’s nose.

Over two weekends in the summer, she sampled more than 100 flavors of ice cream at 50 ice cream shops in New England. The maple ice cream with rolled oats — called the tree hugger at Tubby’s Ice Cream in Wayne, Maine — received the highest rating of five cones up on the blog.

She says the croissants at the Clear Flour Bakery, in Brookline, Mass., could win a bake-off against any flaky, golden competition.

For Briesch, writing about food is a welcome departure from writing about topics in school psychology.

“My academic writing is very cut and dry,” says Briesch, who majored in creative writing at Dartmouth College. “On the blog, I’m focused on the structure and sound of the sentences. That’s the fun part.”