You're travling on the insterstate. Do you risk a local dinner or stay with Chain Places?

It's vacation time. When you travel do you stop or go out of your way to seek out a local place for quick road meal? Or stay with something consistent like a Chain resturant?

  • Posted by: Sam1148
  • June 30, 2012


Pecan-Ann July 7, 2012
Definitely local places BUT have to be clean and presentable and a menu that has something other then fried freezer foods and frozen burgers.

Outside of Schaumburg, Il on Golf Road heading west, On the corner of a little bitty shopping plaza is a great little by the way restaurant called Old Bridge Cafe, 1935 West Golf Road.

ONLY open for breakfast and Lunch. Never had a bad meal here. A place where you would not normally stop because Schaumburg itself is full of medium to high end eateries with great reputations.

I think stopping and taking a chance is where we find our treasures
Sam1148 July 7, 2012
All good suggestions. But I submit, when traveling you want easy stuff, and not destination type stuff.

For that I find chain places just fine (with notable exceptions). We never plan 'oh stop at this exit for this food etc)...just spur of moment travel stuff.

I will say we rarely do a full meal at chain places. Places like Olive garden it's soup salad and bread. Which isn't that bad. A greasy spoon place at random can be hit or miss. But then again we don't eat big portions or lots of fried foods while traveling.

Around the south.."Cracker Barrel" is popular..but frankly, It's really bad. Just mind numbing throw up in the parking lot bad. We ate there and the SO thew up going to the car, then I was laughing and choking and then I thew up. So we're both throwing up in the parking lot. Stupid Cracker Barrel.

Bevi July 2, 2012
I travel a bit and have found that there are some localized chains that are worth trying. Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem and upstate New York has good American food, and I am a sucker for an In and Out Burger.
Chipotles vary across the country, but most of the time I have had good experiences. That said, if time permits it's fun to take a risk now and then. I agree that Yelp is untrustworthy.
ChefJune July 2, 2012
I would rather go hungry than eat anything at most chain restaurants found along an interstate -- so I would always opt for a local place.
HalfPint July 2, 2012
Definitely, risk it. Unless it's an emergency (like it's 2am and NOTHING is open).

I would check out They're on The Splendid Table (NPR) every week and they like to find those non-chain places that serve great food.
Melusine July 2, 2012
It depends on the state, what I"m hungry for and my traveling companion(s). One friend adores Cracker Barrel, so we go because her husband hates it, and it's her only chance. If I need comfort food (for me that means breakfast food, even at 10pm) I'm all for the truck stops. I don't want to offend anyone so I won't list the states, but there are some in which I head for the most palatable franchise I can find -- the good local places are too far off the highway or too hard to find -- I can mess up directions with GPS and a fist-full of Google maps...
Benny July 1, 2012
I always look for the local diners. I always seem to get what I expect. I am not a fan of chain restaurants.
petitbleu July 1, 2012
We just completed a cross-country road trip, and we managed to steer completely clear of chain restaurants. Between the food we packed (hummus, crudités, fruit, bread, lunch meats and cheeses, granola, etc.) and local restaurants (we used TripAdvisor, Yelp, and to some degree, but also common sense) we didn't need fast food. And we felt so much better for it.
SKK July 1, 2012
Take the adventure of local eating and pack a cooler with ready to toss salads and fruits and goodies. I took a road trip from Seattle to Boise to Denver to Wichita to Oklahoma City to San Antonio visiting family and friends all the way two years ago and had my cooler with the goodies. When I stopped to eat it was either a local meal or a rest area and my goodies. And I was able to stock up with local produce as I traveled. Never, never, never chain.
cookbookchick July 1, 2012
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained!"
pierino July 1, 2012
If you are traveling in Southern California some of the best local Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian food is typically found in non-descript strip malls. It's a freeway culture. And of course in LA County all the restaurants are required to post their health department ratings; A, B, C, or a number. If it's a number something seriously bad has been going on in the kitchen.
StarvingHyena July 1, 2012
I like the Mom and Pop places the best. The Interstate offers very little adventure so when traveling through a city - villiage, I look at a map. Usually the interstate will bi-sect a city on one edge of the city limits. I drive tto the opposite side and look for a small restaurant with personality. Usually the hardest decision is "what kind of ethnic" I want to eat. I have rarely had a bad meal this way ..... never as bad as chains along the interstate. If your lucky, the owner will have his family around to talk to also.

Traveling should be much more than eating flavorless, overpriced salty grease logging on the miles. Afterall its your life .... if even for only the day.

Bon voyage and bon appetite!
WileyP June 30, 2012
Oh, the local places, by all means! Yeah, there have been a few of them that were mistakes, but all in all, the local places reflect more of the region and the folks you get to chat with are normally locals and friendly. Besides, how can one resist stopping in at a place called "Charlie's Spic and Span" or "The Umbrella?"
susan G. June 30, 2012
We've had some wonderful experiences finding excellent restaurants on unfamiliar turf -- Indian in Burlington MA (turns out it's a center for Indian food shopping); upscale and local American in Rochester NY; Korean in Allston MA. It took a bit of searching and discrimination and a lot of luck, though. For long road trips we try to plan where to stop. Any of these choices could have been terrible in spite of trying to avoid a bad meal. Except the first. My son's phone gave us 2 options, and I chose the one that was not in a mega shopping mall. That should be another rule: avoid the mall!
Vid M. June 30, 2012
Always non fried shrimp I ever had was at a little riinky dink convenience store off I 10 in Louisiana....why travel if you're not going to take a chance or two? Go big or go home
pierino June 30, 2012
Sam, were I back in Italy (unfortunately not at the moment) I absolutely love the autogrills off of the A1. Real food. Here I find myself hitting places like Maccaroni Grill; safe and predictable with some stuff made to order. Even though I'm a shareholder I remain a bit wary of Whole Foods sushi.
Sam1148 June 30, 2012
The WF sushi at my local place is great. There's old Japanese guy that makes sure everything is fresh and good at the lunch counter and take out. and yeah, the take out at random places is hit/miss. So I stick to Eell and salmon..and sometimes tuna.

However, at my local WF they used to serve 'real' wassbi roots from NC for the wassibi at the lunch counter. Which was very unique. the old guy is great at my local WF and oh so clean..with a 100 health rating on the sushi bar...which is dang hard to there's 'always something' to make it 98. for inspections. I still can't get over the fact the only place in town that had real wassibi roots was the whole food lunch counter. (but not any more). (sad face).

And yeah, you're right, the other WF didn't even come close to my local one for freshness. I seen the old guy trash stuff that didn't meet his standards at the lunch counter. (somehow I don't think he'll last much longer in corporate).
HalfPint July 2, 2012
OMG, the Autogrills on the autostrada are great! I miss them soooo much. Seriously, what rest stop in the US serves fresh squeezed oj and top-notch espresso. I also had the BEST hot chocolate at the Autogrill on the A1.
bugbitten June 30, 2012
This came up for me last fall. I knew the route and approximately where I would be around mealtimes. On Google I searched the area for restaurants and read the reviews. Worked out very well. If I were winging it though, I would opt for a chain.
beyondcelery June 30, 2012
I'll always take the risk. My trick is to follow the truckers. When you're hungry, turn off where they turn off (if it's a town) and see where they go to eat. Or just look for the local place where all the trucks are parked. Truckers always know where the local food is best and a decent price!
Sam1148 June 30, 2012
One of our best discoveries was getting a room for the night near a whole foods. It was kinda late...almost 10..But the WF was open and we'd had been on the road for 12 hours. So a quick walk to that and get some sushi to go, and the salad bar. To go. Kinda slim pickings at that hour..but still much better for bringing back to the room than a waffle house, pizza delivery, or bag o' burgers or a sit down chain place.

Voted the Best Reply!

Cookie16 June 30, 2012
Consult Yelp and if all else fails, go for the local spot with a full parking lot and a line out the door.

The risk is worth eating at Applebee's! Bleh!
Sam1148 June 30, 2012
Yelp? Oh heck no. Yelp makes youtube comments look well thought out and valid.
sexyLAMBCHOPx June 30, 2012
HalfPint July 2, 2012
I distrust Yelp's business practices, so it's not the first place I'll go to for food recommendations. But when traveling I look for the lines too and sometimes, it's for the chain restaurants.
Sam1148 June 30, 2012
The thing is that when traveling I don't 18:00 hours we stop for food at XXX place recommended on the web at exit 253...and spend 30 mins trying to find the place hidden in a strip mall 5 miles from the exit.
jmburns June 30, 2012
I agree with Sam. Had some bad experiences but a little research on the web and some road food books I think you could have some success.
Greenstuff June 30, 2012
Absolutely agree, rick it.
boulangere June 30, 2012
Sam1148 June 30, 2012
where's my edit button..Interstate. dang it.

That said...I've had very bad luck at random stops for mom/pop places for quick road trip meals.
And some chain places are even worse..IE: Cracker Barrel, and Applebees.
mrslarkin July 6, 2012
For quick road food, we stick to diners and chains. But if we have a lot of time on our hands, we'll explore local joints.

Every Cracker Barrel we've stopped at (and we've stopped at a lot of Cracker Barrels) has been consistently very good. The Friday night fish fry is outstanding. Order the cod.

Applebees, on the other hand, has been off our radar for years. It's gross and dirty.

One of the posters suggested I agree, that's a great resource. Just plug in city and state, and you've got lots of suggestions.

Where ya going, Sam?
kbckitchen June 30, 2012
I always look for the local places. And check for local tags and a full parking lot! I've had many great meals
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