The old-fashioned road trip meant Ziploc-bagged car snacks and a whiny younger sibling asking (over and over again) if "we're there yet." Even if the trek was to Grandma's house where freshly baked cookies awaited a timely arrival, that plan now seems all too analog. As we've grown older, we've learned to one-up our parents' planning by strategically mapping out pit stops at eateries that can turn road trips from dull to delicious.
Journeying down the most famous highways in the U.S., you know you're bound to uncover some hidden national treasures. Whether it's monuments to superlative foodstuffs or roadside establishments with a committed following, these stops aren't always obvious to the less-than-prepared driver. So we've clocked the miles and handpicked roadside restaurants that are worth a detour along some of America's best-known (and well-traveled) roads.
Get your kicks -- and your fill -- on Historic Route 66, traveling from Chicago, Ill. all the way to sunny Los Angeles, stopping for root beer bread pudding, a 66-foot tall soda bottle, and green chile stew and posolé. If adventuring is more your style, the Alaskan Highway bears a bounty for those willing to traverse the tundra. Hold out for buffalo burgers and chocolate milkshakes at a roadside joint so top secret, we can't even give you their phone number!
From deep-fried hot dogs in Newark, New Jersey off U.S. Route 1 to Indian-inspired vegetarian eats served straight out of a giant purple bus in Hana, Hawaii, we've discovered food along America's famous highways so mouth-watering, it will have you crying out, "Are we there yet?" in anticipation.
- Alexis Shaw, The Daily Meal
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One of America’s original highways, Route 66 has guided drivers from Chicago to Los Angeles since 1926. If you ever plan to motor west, start off with a bite at Steak n' Shake in the town where it got its start before getting sticky at Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, where you can snag syrup and Route 66 memorabilia. Grab a concrete at Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard in St. Louis before marveling at POPS’s 66-foot tall soda bottle sculpture in Oklahoma City. Gorge on a gluten-free pie at 575 Pizzeria in Amarillo before tucking into authentic Mexican grub at Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque. Pass the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in Arizona before ending your ride in the city of Angels. Related: Most Original Road Trip Snacks
Stretching from the O.C. to beyond the Bay, the Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH to locals) promises panoramic views and delicious eats to boot. Snack on creative sushi rolls on surfboard tables at 242 Fusion Sushi in Laguna Beach and later grab a cold one at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company. Plan a pit stop at La Super-Rica Tacqueria — Julia Child’s favorite tacos — before detouring to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Sip wine and devour an Ambrosia burger roadside at Nepenthe in Big Sur. When you’re nearing the end of the road, Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos makes a great final destination to get your fill. Related: 9 Gourmet Train Trips
The first transcontinental highway in the U.S., the Lincoln Highway passes through some pretty tasty cities. First stop — Kanella, where a Cypriot breakfast plate is piled high with sunny-side eggs fried in olive oil and lounza. Make sure to have your camera out as you pass The Coffee Pot in Bedford, Pa. that once was a lunch stand. Hold out for true Czech treats at the Bohemian Café in Omaha, and later sample oxtail stew and Basque beans at the Sante Fe Hotel in Reno. Aunt Mary’s Café is the holy grail for southern inspired cooking in Oakland — try the grits waffle with fried chicken or the housemade spicy sausages. Related: 8 Great Countries for Traveling Vegetarians
Linking the east coast from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Fla., U.S. Route 1 boasts original fare from start to finish. Breakfast at Nick's on Broadway in Providence is a must for scrumptious vanilla-battered house-baked brioche French toast. Sample deep-fried hot dogs at Dickie Dee’s in Newark, a true original. Take a detour in Virginia to the visit an apartment flanked with giant milk bottles that once served as the former Richmond Dairy Building. Round out the trip with salmon potato cakes with poached eggs at the Hominy Grill in Charleston and Spanish-inspired tapas at 13 Gypsies in Jacksonville. Related: Long Weekend in Charleston
The Alaska Highway was built before WWII to connect the contiguous U.S. states to Alaska through Canada. Beginning in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ending in Delta Junction, Ala., this adventurous journey is a great way to get a taste of the great outdoors. Grab a coffee at Café Europa before driving out to relax in the Liard Hot Springs. Along Kluane Lake in Yukon Territory, The Chuckwagon is an off-the-grid roadside stop for buffalo burgers and chocolate milkshakes. Don’t miss Klondie Rib and Salmon Barbeque in Whitehorse for Northern food specialties like arctic char, musk ox, caribou, and bison. Related: 8 Great Eco-Adventures Around the World
This 75-mile scenic highway built through The Columbia River Gorge runs between Troutdale, Ore. and The Dalles, Ore. Making your way through the Beaver State, dine at the Riverview Restaurant to take in scenic views and succulent seafood. Stop at Multnomah Falls, the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S., and the Bridge of the Gods, a man-made Columbia River icon. Nurse a Black Cherry Stout at the Walking Man Brew Pub in Stevenson and dine al fresco at Sixth Street Bistro in Hood River. Caffeinate at 10 Speed Coffee in Mosier before traveling back in time at Baldwin Saloon, an iconic venue in The Dalles since 1876. Related: 8 Hotels for the Traveling Beer Geek
Heading down the Hana Highway for picturesque views of the island’s eastern coast, eat like the locals at Da Kitchen in Kakului before making the trip to Mama’s Fish House in Paia for the most incredible seafood on the island. Bit off more than you can chew? Don’t worry — the restaurant also houses an inn. Get saucy at Serpico’s Pizzeria in Pukalani and refuel at Grandma’s Maui Coffee in Kula, growing organic Arabica coffee since 1918. Don’t miss Café Romantica in Hana, where you can gobble down vegetarian cuisine and Indian specialties out of the side of a big purple bus. Related: 12 Favorite Edible Souvenirs
Named for the blue-green stone first mined by the Pueblos along the Rio Grande Valley, the Turquoise Trail spans central New Mexico, linking Albuquerque to Sante Fe. Start at Cecilia's Cafe for before driving out to the Greenside Café in Cedar Crest for some chocolate almond butter mousse pie. Pull over at the Cerrillos-based San Marcos Café for their scrumptious scrambled eggs wrapped in a tortilla with beans, chili, guacamole, and melted cheese. Harry’s Roadhouse’s cinnamon rolls and huevos divorciados are must-eats before saddling up at Santa Fe Western Adventures for a Desperado-themed trail ride. Related: 9 Wild West Dude Ranches
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