Top 93 road food spots
Start the car, and bring your appetite. Here are the absolutely best places to eat along Western highways
Hudson’s Hamburgers, Coeur d’Alene, ID. Every morning, customers swarm Hudson’s the minute it opens at 9:30. The draw? Simple burgers (no sides, not even fries!), perfectly grilled—a formula that’s been working since 1907. $; 207 E. Sherman Ave.; 208/664-5444.
The Peg House, Leggett, CA (Sunset reader favorite). The Summer of Love returns to the California redwoods: back-to-the-Earth groove, live music, and a barbecue that grills lustfully juicy bacon cheeseburgers. $; 69501 U.S. 101; 707/925-6444.
Owl Bar & Cafe, San Antonio, NM. This is San Antonio’s other green-chile burger landmark—proof that the dinky town south of Socorro is burger capital of the known universe. What’s better, Owl or Buckhorn? Your choice—so, yeah, you have to try ’em both. $; 77 U.S. 380; 575/835-9946.
Hodad’s, Ocean Beach, CA (pictured). In the quintessential surf neighborhood, this is the quintessential surf-town burger joint, where the walls are encrusted with out-of-state license plates and the seating options include a long surfboard that serves as a communal table. Must-try: The Blue Jay Burger, a bacon burger served with blue cheese and grilled onions. $; 5010 Newport Ave., 3.5 mi. off I-5; 619/224-4623.
Burgerville, Kelso, WA. This Northwest chain specializes in great fast food—nothing fancy, but honest ingredients done right. Burgers are properly seasoned, and many ingredients are regionally sourced (e.g., the salad’s blue cheese is from Oregon’s award-winning Rogue Creamery). Must-try: Seasonal berry shakes; the cheeseburger. $; 600 W. Main St.; 360/501-4354; burgerville.com for other locations.
Rod’s Steak House, Williams, AZ. The original Rod was a cattleman and Route 66 entrepreneur in the ’40s. Nods to his legacy are still here in the dinnerware, signage (that’s Domino, the fiberglass steer, glowing atop the roof ), and cow-shaped menu, which serves up steakhouse classics. One deserved favorite is the sugar-charred sirloin, dripping with sweet beefy juices. But don’t neglect the prime rib, equally tasty and substantial. Must-try: The Rocky Mountain trout, if you’re not in the mood for meat. $$$; 301 E. Route 66; 928/635-2671.
Michael's Seafood & Steakhouse, Port Angeles, WA. The clubby interior of Michael’s is festooned with old album covers, vintage bar games, and Euro-bistro posters. Owner Michael Lynch tends bar, mans the phone, and often cooks too—everything from duck confit to Philly cheesesteak flatbread. 117B E. First St.; michaelsdining.com.
Jocko's Steak House, Nipomo, CA (pictured). Ralph “Jocko” Knotts’s sons opened this restaurant (left) in 1962, and it’s still in the family. Go for the outstanding steak, excellent cocktails, and old-fashioned relish tray. There’s usually a wait, so get there early and enjoy some conversation at the bar. 125 N. Thompson Ave.; (805) 929-3565.
The Timberhouse Restaurant, Quilcene, WA. This imposing-outside, cozy-inside eatery was built in the 1970s as a place for timber crews to eat. Now it’s a destination restaurant, where repeat customers often ask for “their” server and “their” table. 295534 U.S. 101; olympictimberhouse.com.
Simon’s Gourmet Hot Dogs, Sedona, AZ. Ambience? No. Simon’s is a booth inside a brewery. You eat your dog against a backdrop of stainless steel tanks. But chef-owner Felipe Roldan serves hot dogs inspired by his native Colombia: That includes one topped with pineapple, crushed potato chips, and mozzarella, just like back in Bogotá. Must-try: The Wunderhound, a nod to Peru, with Peruvian chiles, onions, dill pickles, and bacon. $; 2050 Yavapai Dr.; 928/496-0266.
The Linkery, San Diego (pictured). One of the nodes of San Diego’s crucial beer culture, the Linkery is also sausage central, sourcing its meat more carefully than even Alice Waters. Must-try: Käsekrainer sausage, in a sandwich, in a taco, on a picnic plate. $$; 3794 30th St., 3.5 mi. off I-5; 619/255-8778.
Sides Hardware and Shoes, Los Olivos, CA. Brothers Matt and Jeff Nichols named this restaurant in honor of the store that occupied this building more than 100 years ago. Everyone just calls it Sides, and lines stretch down the sidewalk for the albacore, pork belly tacos, and Hammered Pig sandwich or salad (“hammered,” because of the hardware connection, naturally). 2375 Alamo Pintado Ave.; sidesrestaurant.com.
Go Fish, Vancouver, B.C. To find this little sea blue shack near the fishing boats, look for the long line of customers hungering for peerlessly fresh fish spiced up with big-city flavors like chipotle crema and wasabi mayo. If the limited seating area is packed, grab a nearby bench for a grand city view. Must-try: The Salmon Tacone, an elegant cone-shaped fish taco. $ U.S.; 1505 W. First Ave.; 604/730-5040.
The Marshall Store, Marshall, CA (pictured). As you tuck into the unrivaled fish tacos and shellfish perfumed by the smokehouse next door, ducks will be diving mere feet away from your perch on the deck. If it’s cold, head inside to the stand-up-only bar, where you can watch the shuckers grill your oysters. 19225 State 1; themarshallstore.com.
Rising Star Cafe, Wheeler, OR. This mom-’n’-pop cafe makes all the miles worthwhile. Ron Allen and Pepi Gabor offer outstanding local seafood (and a full bar!) in a small bungalow. 92 Rorvik St.; risingstarcafe.com.
Lupita’s Cantina, Oak Creek, CO. Here’s our exception, inexplicable and amazing: fab fish tacos (mahimahi, shrimp) in a tiny town high in the Colorado Rockies. $; 102 E. Main St.; search for Lupita’s Cantina on Facebook.
South Beach Bar & Grille, San Diego (Sunset reader favorite; pictured). As unofficial fish taco capital of the nation, San Diego had better serve good ones. This place, in Ocean Beach, serves great ones, grilled or fried. $; 5059 Newport Ave.; 619/226-4577.
Monico’s Taqueria, Wailua, Kauai, HI. It’s only fitting that Kauai’s tropical coast should boast superior fish tacos: Monico’s succulent fresh ahi version is almost impossible to beat. $; 4-356 Kuhio Hwy.; 808/822-4300.
MartAnne’s, Flagstaff, AZ (pictured). This tiny storefront kitchen and eatery draws long lines, especially on weekends, for Mexican breakfast-into-lunch dishes like green chile chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. Snag a seat at a dinette table inside the brightly painted restaurant, or get takeout and enjoy it on the benches around the corner at Heritage Square. Must-try: The Jerry, a green chile–pork enchilada topped with two eggs over easy. $; 10 N. San Francisco St.; 928/773-4701.
Criollo Latin Kitchen, Flagstaff, AZ. Criollo’s windows give you an up-close look at Flagstaff’s surprisingly vibrant street scene. Cuisine here starts in Mexico, then ventures into Central and South America, with standouts like braised pork shoulder with mole sauce, and pork belly tacos with housemade pickles. Must-try: The coconut-and-masa fried calamari appetizer, served with mango slaw and a creamy cilantro aioli. $$; 16 N. San Francisco St.; 928/774-0541.
La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara, CA (pictured). Milpas Street’s Mexican dive is famous for serving freshly made antojitos to people who don’t necessarily know what the word means (little portions, aka appetizers). Must-try: La Super-Rica Especial (marinated pork and cheese-stuffed pasilla chile). $; 622 N. Milpas St.; 805/963-4940.
La Tarasca, Centralia, WA. At this family-run authentically Mexican restaurant, it can be tough to decide between carnitas from the cook’s home state of Michoacán and other must-haves like rellenos or posole accompanied by fresh-made corn tortillas. Must-try: Chile verde. $$; 1001 W. Main St.; 360/736-7756.
Quan Hy Restaurant, Westminster, CA (pictured). Quan Hy, in Westminster’s Little Saigon, specializes in the dishes of central Vietnam, and it’s spiffier than most of the pho parlors that surround it. Must-try: Great versions of the spicy soup bun bo hue, and clam salad with peanuts and rice crackers. $; 9727 Bolsa Ave., 8.3 mi. off State 1; 714/775-7179.
Pacific Fish Center, Redondo Beach, CA. It’s a few blocks off Pacific Coast Highway (State 1) but closer than Seoul. This Korean seafood restaurant, right on Redondo Pier, is known for its steamed Dungeness crabs, gigantic sashimi platters, and (if you want to go there) live prawns and octopus. Pretty expensive, and very Korean, but not at all intimidating. Must-try: Korean fish soup. $$$; 131 Fisherman’s Wharf; 310/374-8420.
Pok Pok, Portland, OR (pictured). It wows the fooderati, but Pok Pok began as a shack, and it’s still road-food heaven to sit on the patio (or visit the to-go window) for chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar. Must-try: Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings; papaya pok pok. $$; 3226 S.E. Division St.; 503/232-1387.
Pizzicletta, Flagstaff, AZ. It may seem too sleek (and its hours too limited) for a road-food stop, but dinner-only Pizzicletta occupies a historic laundry building along that greatest of American roads, Route 66, and it’s your last chance for cutting-edge carbs before you tackle the Grand Canyon in the morning. You’ll share a long table or small bar area with others; the Neapolitan-style pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven. Must-try: The Amore Oi Mari, with mascarpone, prosciutto, arugula, Meyer lemon, and pecorino. $$; 203 W. Phoenix Ave.; 928/774-3242.
Grinders Hot Sands, Shoreline, WA (pictured). Homemade Italian meatballs, mozzarella, grilled onions … owner Mitch Gilbert has all the ingredients for flavorful, jaw-stretching subs. His secret weapon is his 78-year-old mom, who helps out with soups and dances “like she has a motor on her butt” during Grinders’ live blues jams in this dimly lit hideaway. Must-try: The Sauball Sandwich, meatballs and sausage in one tasty package. $; 19811 Aurora Ave. N./State 99; 206/542-0627.
Osteria Stellina, Point Reyes Station, CA (pictured). When Christian Caiazzo moved to Point Reyes Station in 2001, he exulted in the food of this rich agricultural region—and was floored by how seldom it showed up on menus in town. So he’s dedicated his light-filled place to local cooking. His next-door shop sells bounty to go. 11285 State 1; osteriastellina.com.
Casino Bar & Grill, Bodega, CA. You may experience a small crisis of confidence when you pass through the door to what looks like a dive bar. Persevere. In a smaller bar at the back, Evelyn Casini, the owner since 1949, works with different chefs to serve food made with the greatest ingredients West Marin has to offer. 17000 Bodega Hwy.; (707) 876-3185.
Hallava Falafel, Seattle, WA (pictured). In the slightly gritty Georgetown neighborhood, artists and hipsters favor the bright yellow food truck with just three items on the menu: “Russo-Turkic” falafel, shawarma, and fries. The sandwiches require two hands to devour, and boast added sass from beet relish and dill-packed tzatziki. Must-try: The shawarma, a Middle Eastern wrap whose shaved meat is sliced straight from the spit. $; 5825 Airport Way S.; 206/307-4769.
Pel’meni, Bellingham, WA. There’s no menu in this narrow storefront, and none needed; just a lineup of steaming stockpots filled with the shop’s namesake Russian dumplings. Take a seat at the simple wooden tables, then dig into silver dollar–size purses of tender dough, sprinkled with curry powder and crowned with sour cream and a slice of rye. Must-try: Pel’meni stuffed with ground beef. $; 1211 N. State St.; 360/715-8324.
The Ranch House, Ojai, CA. This quintessentially California restaurant has remained virtually the same for decades yet doesn’t feel dated, with lush gardens, koi-filled ponds, and an award-winning wine cellar. Alan Hooker, a member of Ojai’s Theosophical Society, opened it in 1953 (with some menu advice from Krishnamurti). 102 Besant Rd.; theranchhouse.com.
Bell Street Farm, Los Alamos, CA (pictured). Jamie Gluck, a creative director, and John Wentworth, a TV studio exec, moved to this then-sleepy town several years ago and opened Bell Street, which Gluck calls a “French restaurant masquerading as an American cafe.” Be sure to order the roast chicken salad. 406 Bell St.; bellstreetfarm.com.
Blackbird, Manzanita, OR (pictured). Lee Vance started cooking from her mother’s garden as a child, setting her on a lifelong farm-to-table path. At Blackbird, the restaurant that she crowdfunded to open, she makes the best seasonal, local food around. 503 Laneda Ave.; blackbirdmanzanita.com.
Alder Wood Bistro, Sequim, WA. For years, Sequim (say skwim) believed it wasn’t big enough to support a fine eatery. Then Gabriel and Jessica Schuenemann opened Alder Wood, which celebrates the Olympic Peninsula’s culinary bounty. Gabriel sources Tamworth hogs and crafts beer with a local brewery, and farmers come in to taste their own produce, beautifully cooked. 139 W. Alder St.; alderwoodbistro.com.
Skillet Diner, Seattle, WA (pictured). Dressed-up diner food, with big mugs of coffee (from a local independent roaster, yes) and plates of pork belly (house-cured, of course) with cornmeal waffles. The mod-comfy diner anchors a thriving neighborhood that draws shoppers and fun-seekers from breakfast to late-night drinks. Must-try: Fried chicken sandwich; corned beef hash; pork belly and waffle. $$; 1400 E. Union St.; 206/512-2000.
Southern Kitchen, Tacoma, WA. Everything is as it should be, Southern-style, in this small but hopping restaurant. Mason jars arrive brim-full of sweet tea, and the cook takes special pride in fried chicken and bread pudding. Allow time for a post-lunch nap. Must-try: Fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, fried catfish. $$; 1716 Sixth Ave.; 253/627-4282.
Carol’s Corner Cafe, Vancouver, WA. Giant portions of old-fashioned comfort food, in a timeworn spot packed with regulars. Don’t be fooled by the many “half-orders” the menu offers; our leftovers from a “half” breakfast weighed in at 2 pounds. Must-try: C.C. Hash; homemade biscuit and gravy. $; 7800 N.E. St. Johns Rd.; 360/573-6357.
Cora’s Coffee Shoppe, Santa Monica, CA. Former surfers’ hang revamped by Bruce Marder, who owns the expensive (and good) Capo next door. Sweet patio, great tacos, and an American Kobe burger that’s one of the best in town. But there’s an Italian accent too: burrata omelet, bucatini with lamb ragù. Must-try: The rotisserie tacos de carnitas. $$; 1802 Ocean Ave.; 310/451-9562.
Castaways Restaurant & Tiki Bar, Cannon Beach, OR. The tiny cedar-shingled building started out as a bar. But food crept in, and Castaways is now snug in the firmament of worth-a-detour dining. The eclectic cuisine—billed as “Cajun & Creole”—is as serious as the cocktails. 316 N. Fir St.; (503) 436-8777.
Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut, Oxnard, CA. Sea-breezy setting for hearty, locally beloved breakfasts, which explains the long weekend lines. A good place to order a breakfast burrito for the beach, which is only a block away. Must-try: The banana walnut pancakes. $; 117 Los Altos St., 4.7 mi. off State 1; 805/985-9151.
Orange Inn, Laguna Beach, CA. In a high-priced town, a low-cost surfers’ and beachgoers’ delight: strong coffee, homemade blueberry muffins, breakfast burritos, smoothies. $; 703 South Coast Hwy.; 949/494-6085.
Bisbee Breakfast Club, Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee gets a breakfast joint as quirky as it is. Here, in a former Rexall Drugs, catch up on gossip—the place is a locals’ favorite—while you devour huevos rancheros and blueberry-granola pancakes. $; 75A Erie St.; 520/432-5885.
Rexville Grocery, Mt. Vernon, WA. Up in the Skagit Valley, the perfect gentrified country store with just-right indulgent breakfasts: Swedish pancakes, Hangtown fry with local oysters, smoked salmon frittata. $; 19271 Best Rd.; 360/466-5522.
Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro, Astoria, OR. Jim Defeo and his partner, Anthony Danton, moved to Astoria to retire—and wound up opening a restaurant, with food prepared by fish-loving chef Sean Whittaker. The breakfast hash is one of the best ways to enjoy smoked salmon, a local specialty. 243 11th St.; astoriacoffeehouse.com.
Sweet Laurette Café & Bistro, Port Townsend, WA (pictured). A slice of homestyle goodness, this cafe is lovably quirky. The Carhartt’s Breakfast Special, for example, offers a $1 discount to anyone wearing the overalls. Be sure to order the blueberry dutch baby. 1029 Lawrence St.; sweetlaurette.com.
Big Dipper, Missoula, MT. Classic shake shack atmosphere, down to the star-studded Big Dipper neon sign. But the milkshake flavors veer into the intriguingly outré, like Mexican chocolate, cardamom, and chai. $; 631 S. Higgins Ave.; 406/543-5722. Also in Helena: 58 N. Last Chance Gulch; 406/513-1051.
Sakuma Bros. Farms, Burlington, WA. In the Skagit Valley, Sakuma grows strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and invites visitors to pick them and take ’em home. Great fun, but even better is rewarding yourself with a Sakuma’s fresh berry milkshake at the end of the day. $; 17790 Cook Rd.; 360/757-8004.
Shields Date Garden, Indio, CA. This beloved desert tourist attraction offers mango and mango-date shakes, but we stand by the classic Shields Date Shake, insanely sweet yet not cloying. And, yes, they’re still playing their inimitable movie, The Romance and Sex Life of the Date. $; 80-225 State 111; 760/347-7768.
Sunglow Family Restaurant, Bicknell, UT. The menu reads like a joke. Pinto bean pie? Sweet pickle? Sunglow has earned its rep for odd flavors—and, really, they’re good. But if you’re not in the mood for exotic, dive into its tasty classics—the banana and coconut creams are especially noteworthy. 91 E. Main St.; 435/425-3701.
Rock Springs Café, Rock Springs, AZ. “The Rock” has been in business here in Black Canyon since 1918, so it knows how to do classic road food right. The mesquite-smoked pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone succulent; the chicken and biscuits wholesome yet indulgent, like what you’d get at a really good church supper. Still, many travelers make the 45-mile drive from Phoenix for one thing: pie. Dozens of varieties are arrayed in glass cases like diamonds at Tiffany’s, but tastier. Must-try: The Jack Daniel’s pecan and the rhubarb crumb. $; exit 242, 35769 S. Old Black Canyon Hwy.; 623/374-5794.
Linn’s, Cambria, CA (Sunset reader favorite). Barely known outside California, the juicy, tart olallieberry stars in Linn’s pies, available at its farm store and the in-town Easy as Pie Cafe. Store: 6275 Santa Rosa Creek Rd.; 805/927-8134. Cafe: 4251 Bridge St.; 805/924-3050.
Mom’s Apple Pie, Sebastopol, CA (pictured). Maybe your mom occasionally disappointed you. This mom never will. She shines with the local Sonoma County Gravenstein apples, but don’t ignore summer favorites like rhubarb and peach. 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N.; 707/823-8330.
Pine Country Restaurant, Williams, AZ. One of those breakfast-all-day kinds of places, where despite the knotty pine and lace curtain decor, the omelets are crêpe-slender and elegant. More exuberant is the coconut cream pie: The towering slices come with a redundant side of whipped cream, which you’ll eat anyway. Must-try: Not crazy about coconut? The Dutch apple is not to be sneered at. $$; 107 N. Grand Canyon Blvd.; 928/635-9718.
Black Cow Cafe, Sedona, AZ (pictured). It’s easy to overlook this ice cream spot because it’s jammed into uptown Sedona’s beehive of T-shirt shops, tour operators, and time-share hustlers. But this folksy parlor makes its own rich, dense ice cream and crispy waffle cones. Must-try: The prickly pear or malted vanilla. $; 229 N. State 89A; 928/203-9868.
Bright Angel Fountain, Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon N.P.'s South Rim, AZ. Okay, the Dreyer’s ice cream is good but the same as you’d get at the supermarket back home. But back home, you can’t take your cone out the door and lick it while gazing at the Grand Canyon. And that, for us, is one of the best vacation experiences to be had anywhere. $; 928/638-2631.
Franny's Cup & Saucer, Point Arena, CA. Franny Burkey and her mom, Barbara, run this Point Arena bakery, with treats from doughnut muffins to chocolates. Don’t miss the Raspberry Violet Rhapsody truffles. 213 Main St.; frannyscupandsaucer.com.
It doesn’t get more Hawaiian—try laulau (taro-wrapped pork), lomi lomi salmon, and kulolo (sweet taro pudding) at the Holo Holo Stop ($; 47-528 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/230-0062) in Kane‘ohe.
Then head up the road to open-air Surfin’ Tacos ($; 54-296 Kamehameha Hwy., Hau‘ula; 808/293-4440) for tacos island-style—laden with fresh fish, cilantro, and the joint’s Secret Surf Sauce.
The Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck ($; 56-580 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku; 808/389-1173) may look like an abandoned vehicle, but it’s the best of the North Shore shrimp trucks, with butter-garlic shrimp shelled, butterflied, and coated with caramelized garlic bits.
Or head to Hale‘iwa and Opal Thai (pictured; $; 66-460 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/381-8091), whose Bangkok-born owner serves the island’s finest Thai.
For dessert, double back to Sunset Beach and Ted’s Bakery (59-024 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/638-8207). The chocolate haupia (coconut milk) pie has been fortifying big-wave surfers for years.
Start just outside Santa Fe, where the breakfast-anytime San Marcos Café ($; 3877 State 14 N.; 505/471-9298) shines with superior cinnamon buns and startles with noisy resident peacocks. In Madrid, find tasty cones and shakes at Jezebel Soda Fountain (2860 State 14 N.; 866/539-3235), and good lattes at Java Junction (2855 State 14 N.; 505/438-2772). For buffalo burgers and a Harley-Davidson crowd, it’s the Mine Shaft Tavern ($; 2846 State 14 N.; 505/473-0743). Dinnertime? In Sandia Park, Pete’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina ($; 12540 State 14 N.; 505/281-0315) serves green-chile pasta with shrimp, and sopaipillas. For superior comfort food, try meat loaf or trout at Cedar Crest’s Greenside Cafe ($; 12165 State 14 N.; 505/286-2684).
Start the day with a cinnamon roll the size of a birthday cake at Heaven on Earth ($$; 703 Quines Creek Rd.; 541/837-3700) in Azalea. Next stops: Grants Pass, for local-beef burgers at Eddy’s ($; 956 Rogue River Hwy.; 541/479-8667). Then grab some jerky at Gary West Smoked Meats (690 N. Fifth St.; 541/899-1829) in Jacksonville. And double back for a blue cheese at Rogue Creamery (311 N. Front St.; 866/396-4704) in Central Point. Time for dessert. Take the road to Crater Lake National Park. On the way, you’ll hit Beckie’s Cafe (56484 State 62; 541/560-3563) in Prospect, famed for its berry pies.