The Best Road Trip Food Stops
Half of the fun of a road trip is in the food. Here are the best places to pull over and feast from coast to coast.
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Storm's Drive-in (Lampasas, Texas)
You know if Elvis approved of a hamburger, it had to be good. Storm's in Lampasas hosted the iconic rock-n-roller several times in the '60s while he was stationed at Fort Hood. And the burger legend lives on. George Strait will still swing through from time to time, along with an all-star cast of other Texas country legends, drawn by the Storm's Special, a massive three-patty half-pound burger ground fresh in-house. Add an old-fashioned hand-mixed malt and you're ready to be on the road again.
Phoenicia Diner (Phoenicia, New York)
Phoenicia Diner's slogan is: Come for the Mountains, Stay for the Food. The mountains refer to the Catskill Mountains, including popular lookout destination Giant Ledge, a six-mile trip out and back. Set in a formica-friendly 60s setup, the Phoenicia was refreshed and reopened in 2012, served hungry hikers with updated takes on classic diner dishes, like a Reuben made with freshly baked bread, and house-cured corned beef. Everything is sourced locally when possible for dishes that keep the place perpetually packed.
Martin's Restaurant (Montgomery, Alabama)
Long gone are the days where you could score a meat and three for 25 cents, but Martin’s Restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama, remains a place where a quick road stop makes you feel transported in time. It’s been in business since 1928, with the "new owners" taking over in 1939. You’ll likely want to swing by the Hank Williams Museum and Civil Rights Memorial Center beforehand, but odds are you’ll find the food at Martin’s just as memorable — specifically their "pulley bone" fried chicken, homemade meringue pies and cornbread muffins.
Puckett's Grocery (Franklin, Tennessee)
When passing through Tennessee, there's plenty of places for a meat and three pit-stop, but none quite like Puckett's. Originated in the '50s as a tiny grocery store in Leiper's Fork, the shop soon expanded to accommodate visitors’ requests for good barbecue in Franklin, south of Nashville, just off Interstate 65. The owners began smoking up low-and-slow meats, namely 18-hour Memphis-style pork that's so tasty it's become the star of the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Early risers shouldn't miss the Southern Stack, two sweet potato pancakes layered with pulled pork, fried apples, a sunny-side up egg, and home fries served in a skillet. The Piggy Mac with white cheddar cheese and biscuit crumbs is a close second for fan favorite. Since all that barbecue might glue you to your chair for a while, they keep guests entertained with live music from up-and-coming performers around the state, six nights a week.
Indian Gardens Cafe & Market (Sedona, Arizona)
Oak Creek Canyon earned National Scenic Byway status for its majestic red-rock buttes. Take it through Sedona and you'll want to make a pit-stop at Indian Gardens, which has operated as a general store since 1947. A 2011 renovation added garden seating and an updated menu of healthy vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as more gluttonous fair like the Dan the Man sandwich (mesquite smoked turkey, bacon, green chiles, avocado, on ciabatta), and a breakfast burrito worth a detour. Looking for a nice snack to take on a hike at nearby Sterling Pass or Vultee Arch (if you're feeling ambitious)? Grab a loaf of their freshly baked sourdough, naturally leavened with Oak Creek Canyon yeasts and fermented for up to 48 hours.
Jim's Drive In (Lewisburg, West Virginia)
You can see Kathy Massie's 1969 pay stub on the wall of Jim's Drive-In. Back then she was a waitress, but since 2000, she's been the one running the place, plating up home-cooked food for regulars and travelers passing through Lewisburg on I-64 near George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The town itself makes for a wonderful day trip with natural wonders like the Lost World Caverns and Organ Cave, which are best enjoyed after devouring a pulled pork barbecue sandwich, big ranch burger, English-style hot dog or fried green tomato sandwich, with a milkshake, natch.
Montana Ale Works (Bozeman, Montana)
Montana's beloved for its wide open spaces, but a visit to the state wouldn't be complete without a visit to Bozeman, one of the most-booming small towns in the country. One of the standouts of its vibrant restaurant scene is Montana Ale Works, a craft-beer bar and farm-to-table restaurant that works with over 50 local suppliers to cook up some of the best food in the city. First hit the bar for a flight of Montana-brewed beers like the Siren Song Honey Rye from Neptune's Brewery or Hopzone IPA from Bozeman Brewing, then order up a plate of their back-wrapped Montana Meatloaf, which they'll never take off the menu for fear of inciting a riot.
Wall Drug (Wall, South Dakota)
Military buffs passing along Highway 90 will want to stop at the Armed Forces Display Museum, and once you've worked up an appetite, the next diversion is Wall Drug Donuts. Opened in 1931, it's a famous stop for old-time sweet treats like doughnuts, pie and ice cream, but also serves a mean hot beef sandwich. And road warriors who need a boost of caffeine should take note, the coffee's a steal, at only 5 cents.
Louie Mueller (Taylor, Texas)
Of all the temples to Texas barbecue, Louie Mueller may just be the most-revered. Located off Highway 79 about 45 minutes northeast of Austin, it's become a pilgrimage for barbecue fanatics and an excellent place to stop while heading through Central Texas. Since this is the Lone Star State, brisket is clearly the meat to order, but if you're traveling with a crew, go big with one of their monstrous beef ribs. Also, be sure to leave your mark – there's a map in the back room thumbtacked with the hometowns of visitors from all over the world.
The Market at Bellair (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Every road trip is fueled by one thing – fuel. You'll need to stop, and The Market at Bellair helps take care of gas and food in one delicious fell swoop. It's become a lunch staple for Charlottesville locals, and has grown to a chain of nine convenience stores across central Virginia. They offer deli sandwiches, breakfast tacos, fresh fried chicken (with chipotle mayo/sour cream Tiger sauce), and even full entrees like flank steak or salmon. The most-popular order is the Jefferson, which features Boar's Head maple turkey, cranberry relish, cheddar, lettuce and herb mayo on French bread. Bagged lunches offer a sandwich with your choice of a bag of chips, cookie water or soda.
Portland Lobster Company (Portland, Maine)
Road trip food tends to lean heavily on the convenience store snacks and greasy spoon diners, which are all well and good, but when traveling through New England it's important to take a moment to enjoy the bounty of the sea and indulge in one of the region's most-iconic dishes, the lobster roll. Portland's profile as a foodie destination is on the rise, but for some reason the city limits lacked an authentic lobster shack like you'd find out on the peninsula. That changed with Portland Lobster Co., which can sell 750 sandwiches on a busy day.
Chicken On The Bayou and Boudin Shop (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana)
It’s hard to travel through Louisiana and not be intrigued by the alligator swamps. Take a taste at one of the more scenic experiences. Take exit 115 off I-10 in Breaux Bridge and pull up to Chicken on the Bayou and the Boudin Shop for a hand-fed and farm-raised gator po-boy, or any number of other Cajun specialties like crawfish etouffee, chicken and sausage gumbo, or their signature boudin links. They’ve also got you covered for on-the-road snacks — just pick up a bag of their alligator boudin balls or fried pork belly cracklins.
Wawa (Multiple locations)
When Grahame Wood opened the first Wawa Food Market in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, back in 1964, he had no way of knowing that the concept would boom into an empire of more than 800 stores across six states and Washington, D.C. It's beloved by customers not just for its reliability as a rest stop, but for the custom prepared hoagies, hot breakfast sandwiches, and most importantly for long drives, the coffee – available in a buffet of self-serve roasts and flavors including Wawa Reserve single-origin beans from all around the world.
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Decatur, Alabama)
Alabama has plenty of great barbecue joints to stop at while passing attractions like the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, but if you can only stop at one, it's got to be Big Bob Gibson. They still smoke their chickens in hickory-fired pits just like the original Big Bob did back in 1925, then smother them in their signature white barbecue sauce. If you're not in a fowl mood, the second-most-popular order is their pulled pork shoulder, slow-smoked for 16 hours and served as a plate, sandwich or on top of a colossal loaded baked potato. And there's no debating the quality – their meat has earned them13 world barbecue championships.
Flora-bama (Pensacola, Florida)
Affectionately dubbed the Redneck Riviera, Orange Beach at the juncture between the Florida and Alabama has become renowned in recent years for hosting the World Food Championships. It’s also home to a marina that's great for watersports and offshore fishing trips. But when the sun sets, there’s only one place to be. Flora-bama is a massive beach bar that hosts everything from international songwriter festivals to interstate mullet tosses. The burgers are happily filling, and great with a cold beer. Located so close to the ocean, the seafood is impeccable, so don’t miss their oyster bar. They’re also known for icy drinks like the pina colada-like Bushwacker.
Mo's (Cannon Beach, Oregon)
A 60s-era favorite for A-listers like Senator Robert Kennedy and Henry Fonda, Mo's grew from a salty waterfront inn into a chain of 10 locations cooking up some of the finest chowder on the West Coast. Each location is special, but movie buffs should swing by the Cannon Beach restaurant which overlooks the haystack rock famously featured in the opening scene of the Goonies. It's the sleepiest area of any of their destinations, but features cottages for rent that have become wildly popular with young Portland couples. Odds are you'll like the food enough you'll want to bring some with you, and thankfully Mo's got you covered with to-go bags of their fresh chowder base.
The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint (Ocean Springs, Mississippi)
One of the most-classic road trip trajectories in the country is the cruise along the Gulf Coast, where thankfully you'll find one of the very best barbecue joints in the country. The Shed, a couple hours from both New Orleans and Panama City Beach, is a landmark in Ocean Springs, and a pilgrimage point for fans of smoked meats. The pitmasters are regularly crowned best in show on the competition circuit for their whole-hog cooking, but the restaurant's known for the type of hospitality you can only find in a family operation (also, the full racks of ribs). Odds are there'll be some live blues to keep you entertained, and don't forget to grab a bottle of their signature barbecue sauce on the way out.
Frank Pepe (New Haven, Connecticut)
New Haven is a nice stop for those traveling along 95 between New York and Boston, especially if the plan is to eat a few slices of pizza. The city's signature style of coal-fired pie originated at Frank Pepe back in 1925, and the thin crust has now become the stuff of legend. You can't go wrong with any of the pizzas, but their most-popular is topped with fresh clams, grated cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. Devour it with a local Foxon Park soda, bottled right nearby.
Original Big Island Shave Ice (Waimea, Hawaii)
It’s no misnomer: Hawaii’s big island is a big island. So if you plan to explore, visiting the Mauna Kea volcano, Lapakahi State Historical Park or the Kohala Forest Reserve, be sure to stop for one of Hawaii's favorite delicacies, a cup of shave ice. The story of Original Big Island Shave Ice begins in 1957 when the current owner's mother launched the business, ultimately spending 40 years as an "ice master" until her retirement in 1997. Her son picked up the frozen torch in 2014, using the same recipes and techniques to craft wildly popular desserts like The Finest HaloHalo, a Filipino-inspired shave ice that uses a blended milk syrup poured over super fine ice, fruit jellies, sweet potato, cantaloupe, tapioca pearls, whipped cream and sweet potato ice cream.
Arcangeli Grocery Co. (Pescadero, California)
Like so many historic restaurants, Arcangeli began with an immigrant just trying to make a better life for his family. The current owner’s great great grandfather, Sante Arcangeli, worked his way across the country on the railroad alongside other Italian immigrants before settling in San Francisco where he delivered bread to a tiny Bay Area town called Pescadero, off Highway 1 south of San Francisco. The resemblance to Italy inspired him to start a bakery, which has become a roadside landmark for travelers thanks to their artichoke garlic herb bread, baked all day long, so it’s always hot and fresh, regardless of what time you stop by.
Pronto Pup (Rockaway Beach, Oregon)
Rockaway Beach is one of the many scenic destinations along the Oregon coast, and although there's seafood aplenty, it's hiding a true food landmark that has nothing to do with the ocean. Rockaway claims to be the birthplace of what's now become perhaps the ultimate state fair staple, the corn dog. The legacy dates back to the 1930s and the tradition's kept alive today by The Original Pronto Pup, which launched in 2016 and offers not only some of the best in the country, but the world's only rideable mechanical corn dog.
The Clark Store (Clark, Colorado)
A scenic stop near Steamboat Springs, with snow-capped peaks behind it, The Clark Store has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. It’s less a general store than a brick-and-mortar legend, serving as a gathering place, post office and general store since 1880. Anyone who finds themselves winding down Routt County Road 129 should make a stop, if not for their breakfast burritos, then for a burger or blackened prime rib sandwich made with beef from cattle grazing right in their backyard.
Czech Stop (West, Texas)
It may surprise some to know that Texas has a deep history of Czech immigrants. It shows up in the state's barbecue sausages, but it's most prominent legacy is in West, Texas, where a cluster of old-school bakeries, including Czech Stop, have become landmarks along IH-35 for travelers headed from Austin to Dallas. For a savory snack, they've got a slew of delicious kolaches like sausage and kraut with swiss cheese, but those with a sweet tooth are also in luck thanks to a wide selection of cream cheese and berry options. It's best to take a dozen for the ride, but if you regret not stocking up, don't fear — they also ship them frozen.
Kenly95 (Kenly, North Carolina)
Traveling along the 95 through the middle of North Carolina, Kenly 95 makes quite a statement, thanks to a 65-foot Cape Hatteras lighthouse replica jutting out of its exterior. But a quick photo isn't the only reason to stop – the main draw is the Iron Skillet, a full-service restaurant that tastes as close to home cooking as you'll ever find in a truck stop, with . The all-you-can-eat buffet is a power move, but for something you won't find anywhere else, try their bacon mac melt, a frankenfood take on a grilled cheese sandwich.
Weidmann's (Meridian, Mississippi)
Back in 1870, the National Weather Service made their first official forecast (high winds in Chicago!). Also in 1870, Wiedmann's opened its doors, founded by a Swiss immigrant who was a chef on a transatlantic steamer and found his way to Meridian, Mississippi. The convergence of two railroads made it a great place to open a diner, and it's still an excellent place to visit today, thanks to tourist destinations like a museum for the father of country music, Meridian native Jimmie Rodgers. Once you sit down at Weidmann's, you'll be ordering fried green tomatoes in one form or another – with a side of comeback sauce (a historic Greek dressing) or spicy cream-based 1870 sauce. Other favorites are crab cakes made with Gulf crabmeat, and local catfish.
Whoa Nellie Deli (Lee Vining, California)
The majesty of Yosemite lures roughly four million visitors per year. Those looking for a great meal tend to dip into Whoa Nellie Deli. Located at the corner of Highway 395 and 120, it's a perfect place to stop on the way to the park to fetch packed sandwich lunches that come in insulated bags. The most-popular thing on the menu is the fish tacos, two fried hunks of mahi-mahi with mango salsa, ginger coleslaw and black beans.
Pappy and Harriet's (Pioneertown, California)
Be warned: You won't find any cellular service at Pappy and Harriet's, but it has just about everything else you could ever want. The tiny bar, restaurant, and concert venue has hosted some decidedly not-tiny acts — for one, legendary Beatles guitarist Paul McCartney stopped by for an intimate surprise set in 2016. But even if there's no band playing, it's still an amazing stop while driving through the California desert thanks to the food — all cooked over mesquite on their outdoor grill. We recommend the ribs or grilled salmon, but you really can't go wrong.
Provisions at the Barbershop (Ridgeway, Colorado)
Heading through Ridgeway, Colorado, on the 550, you’ll want to swing through Dennis Weaver Park and make a stop to soak up some art at the Mountain Girl Gallery, then pick up some provisions at ... Provisions. Built into an 1890’s barbershop, this simple European-style cafe offers hearty-but-cheffy dishes like the Flying Dutchman, a slow-roasted corned beef pastrami with duck fat potatoes and sautéed apple, with a sunny-side egg, fresh matchstick potatoes and a sourdough English muffin. If you’re not hungry for a full meal, they’ve still got you covered — the chef suggests every visitor leave with a cookie and a bag of granola for the road.
Steer-In (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Part of the fun of road tripping is in uncovering unexpected bits of history. Museums and monuments are crucial, but sometimes tasting a bite of a city's past is just as important. For an old-school meal built for the road, you can't beat a drive-in. Steer-In launched in 1960 and has had some ups and downs, closing temporarily in 2007 before being resurrected by a family with a mission to preserve the East Side traditions like the Twin Steer, a double patty drenched in their signature Steer-In sauce that's regularly been crowned one of the best bites in the city.
Traverse City Whiskey Co (Traverse City, Michigan)
Touring the Great Lakes State can make a traveler thirsty, and one of the best places to stop along the way for a quick drink is the Traverse City Whiskey Co. Founded in 2011, after the owners discovered a cache of their great grandfather’s whiskey patents, the company has grown to offer a portfolio of five whiskeys ranging from a traditional straight bourbon to a variety flavored with Montmorency cherries. Stop by their taproom at 4 p.m. for a tour and taste, or stay for while in their Stillhouse cocktail bar, sipping a signature cherry sour.
Cruz-In Drive Thru (Pine, Colorado)
If you're on a road trip through Colorado and hiking is on the agenda, it's highly recommended to make Cruz-In a stop on your itinerary, off US 285 headed southwest from Denver en route to nature. Granted it's nothing fancy, just an ol' fashioned drive-thru that's never advertised, has no website, and barely updates their Facebook page, but they pride themselves on cooking everything from scratch, cracking their own eggs and balling their own burgers the old fashioned way, which has earned them a devout following of locals and a flood of summertime tourists seeking out a hearty burrito.
Phickles (Athens, Georgia)
Cruise through Athens while school at the University of Georgia is in session and you'll want to make a pitstop at Phickles, a small-batch artisan pickle company that's grown so popular, they wholesale to stores and restaurants all across the South. The most-popular offerings are the pickled okra and hot mess cheese spread, made with aged white cheddar and pickled jalapenos, but you'll find pickled versions of everything from carrots to snap beans to Brussels sprouts. While you're in the neighborhood and feeling thirsty, odds are you'll also find their products in local bars – ask for one of their signature PhickleTinis.
Buc-ee's (Multiple locations across the South)
One of the most-important elements of a good road trip stop is a clean restroom, and Buc-ee's takes the sanctity of their bathrooms so seriously, it's won them national awards. But Buc-ee's is far more than just a clean set of stalls. The chain of mega-convenience stores holds a beloved place in the heart of all Texans thanks to the staggering array of food options, including a legit full barbecue counter (go with a chopped beef sandwich), a buffet of up to 20 types of jerky made in-house, freshly fried potato chips, and a variety of sugared and spiced nuts roasted right before your eyes.
Signor Vineyards (Fredericksburg, Texas)
Fredericksburg may be best known for the natural beauty of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and the primary source of Texas peaches (you'll want to hit a roadside stand), but these days it's gaining a reputation as one of the best upstart wine regions in the country. One of the finest vineyards to visit is Signor, which began planting in 2013 and opened up a tasting room in 2018. The 120-acre property stretches to the intersection of Grape Creek and the Pedernales River, with cattle grazing amidst live oak trees and rows of pinot gris, sangiovese, and touriga nacional grapes processed into wines that are gaining an international following.
Hamburg Inn No. 2 (Iowa City, Iowa)
Home of the Coffee Bean Caucus, this Iowa City diner — established in 1948 — has become a regular stop for politicians on the campaign trail. They've served Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama, but you don’t have to be a candidate to enjoy their classic Iowa Breakfast or half-pound burgers. Once you’ve filled up, be sure to grab their world famous pie shake for the road, which features a whole slice of pie blended into a milkshake. And speaking of presidents, while you’re in town don’t miss the chance to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Birthplace and Library.