When he’s not operating one of his many restaurants or hospitality consulting and recruiting businesses, Eric Goodwin loves to travel — especially to St. John in the US Virgin Islands, where he can snorkel, hike, and take in all that the island has to offer. The 54-year-old father of two grown children is co-owner of the Friendly Toast, which recently opened its sixth location in Bedford, N.H. (others are in Boston, Cambridge, Burlington, Mass., Portsmouth, N.H., and Burlington, Vt.), as well as Lure Bar & Kitchen in Portsmouth, and a startup cold brew coffee company, NOBL Coffee. Goodwin said he incorporates food and drink from his travel destinations into his menus — and is always on the lookout for new potential offerings. We caught up with Goodwin, who lives in Alton Bay, N.H. (on Lake Winnipesaukee), and has an apartment in Boston’s Seaport district, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? St. John in the US Virgin Islands is my favorite spot. I love to spend time in the water and the snorkeling there is by far the best: You can swim off any of the world-class beaches and quickly find amazingly colorful fish around the vibrant coral reef, and swim with families of sea turtles any time, any day. My most exhilarating water experience was while I was swimming in Maho Bay, when a Giant Spotted Eagle Ray — about 16 feet in width — swam directly at me and averted me at the last second. There are no cruise ships to the island, which keeps it private in many ways. It’s full of New Englanders and kind-spirited natives. The food is diverse — from casual to upscale, with beautiful water views. St. John is the best place to relax, hike, snorkel, and explore the surrounding islands and British Virgin Islands. I had the opportunity to catamaran through the BVIs and snorkel throughout Tortola, Necker Island, the caves around Virgin Gorda, and other very cool spots.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Wherever I am traveling, it’s fun to eat the food that that city or country is most famous for. Part of experiencing the culture is eating what the natives eat, or finding what the locals love. When I’m in the islands, I take full advantage of all the frozen concoctions I can. The drink of St. John is a Painkiller, which is also offered on all Friendly Toast cocktail menus — or if you’re at my house in the summer. I was able to stay in London for a month when my daughter was studying abroad, and while the food scene there isn’t as high-level as other destinations, they take their pubs seriously, so that was fun — and of course Hendrick’s Gin, which is cucumber-infused and served with cucumber rather than limes there, is now another favorite staple of mine.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? There are so many places I want to see. The south of France and Greece are on the top of my list, but, for a larger, more adventurous trip, I would love to visit Africa and go on a safari and see and experience being in the presence of the big animals in their natural habitats.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My headphones by Beats and my iPhone, of course.
Aisle or window? Window [because I] have to see all the action. I love seeing the skyline and the horizon while traveling at night, and the lights of the city you are traveling to as you are approaching.
Favorite childhood travel memory? When I was 12 my family visited my grandparents in Delta Junction, Alaska, for three weeks. The landscape of course is breathtaking and vast and still so vivid in my memory. Seeing Mount McKinley and visiting the surrounding glaciers was unforgettable. It was light out 24 hours, and it was surreal. My grandfather had a motorcycle that I drove all day, alongside the newish oil pipeline. . . . I never wanted to leave. The best part of that trip was spending time with my Gramps, listening to his stories, learning from him, and seeing the place he called home.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? Being in the food and hospitality industry, I want to eat at the best restaurants. I avoid formal and pretentious places, but seek out places that are deeply passionate about food, creative cocktails, wine, service, and design.
Best travel tip? Always keep spare toiletries and a change of clothes in a backpack or carry-on. I’ve had lost luggage several times. And, if you haven’t already, I recommend getting TSA pre-check: it saves a lot of time in any airport.