Top 93 Road Food Spots

Start the car, and bring your appetite. Here are the absolutely best places to eat along Western highways

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Buckhorn Tavern, San Antonio, NM (pictured). The best roadside burgers are big and brawny and take-no-prisoners. Exhibit A: the green-chile burger at Buckhorn—a patty as big as a big rig’s hubcap, sizzled on the griddle, then appliquéd with onions, cheese, pickles, and more. But it’s the finishing touch of chopped New Mexico green chiles that lifts Buckhorn into the burger pantheon. $; 68 U.S. 380; 575/835-4423.

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.

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More great spots for burgers

Diablo Burger, Flagstaff, AZ (pictured). Like Flagstaff itself, this stylish burger joint with a pretty patio combines sustainable and cowboy in one package. Local, open range–raised and antibiotic-free ground beef is charbroiled medium rare, then joined by homemade pesto and fried egg, or bacon, beet, and blue cheese. $; 120 N. Leroux St.; 928/774-3274.

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.

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Even more amazing burger joints

Oak Creek Brewery and Grill, Sedona, AZ. Enlightened Sedona is rich in organic, good-for-you dining spots. If that’s exactly what you don’t want on the road, pull over here. The half-pound Angus burgers are two-fisted big and can come with spicy Painted Desert slaw. Must-try: The smokehouse burger, with smoked gouda cheese, barbecue sauce, and fried onions. $$; 336 State 179; 928/282-3300.

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.

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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.

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More steakhouses

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.

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Hot dogs, sausages, & sandwiches

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.

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The New Moon Café, Olympia, WA. Vegetarians, this road food is for you. At New Moon, you’ll be in touch with Olympia’s hippie heritage, with emphasis on tofu and tempeh in the Benedicts and omelets. (Carnivores can chow down on the sturdy Howda Burger.) Must-try: The russet home fries. $; 113 Fourth Ave. W.; 360/357-3452.

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Neptune’s Net, Malibu, CA (pictured). Seafood-wise, it’s not Manhattan’s Le Bernardin or San Francisco’s Swan Oyster Depot. But they don’t have Malibu. And it can be very fine to pull up to the Net on a hot afternoon, jostle for a parking space near the dozens of motorcycles, then sit back on the patio and down a pitcher of beer with some fish and chips while you scan the Pacific for whales. Must-try: Shrimp tacos with pineapple slaw. $; 42505 Pacific Coast Hwy./State 1; 310/457-3095.

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.

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More seafood restaurants

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.

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Fish tacos

Reel Inn, Malibu, CA (pictured). Fish tacos are the Steve McQueen of road food: casual and cool. Surfers were the first to discover them, at snack shacks like Reel Inn. Today, they’re still a fixture on its chalkboard menu: fresh-caught salmon or ahi tuna wrapped in warm corn tortillas with melted cheddar, crisp lettuce, tomato, and salsa. The setting helps, of course. The best fish tacos (with one notable exception, below) are eaten within sight of the ocean. $$; 18661 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-8221.

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.

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More great spots for tacos

Ruddell’s Smokehouse, Cayucos, CA. Heaven. On the Central Coast, smoked albacore tacos, smoked salmon tacos—perfect for eating on the patio or for carrying down to the beach. $; 101 D St.; 805/995-5028.

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.

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Mexican food

Casa Antigua, Camp Verde, AZ. This family-run restaurant, in a plain-Jane strip mall, is the definition of unpretentious. But the food is the real thing: Sonoran-style Mexican, simply but perfectly done. Must-try: The generously stuffed spicy pork tacos or the potato tacos, made with french fries—not exactly authentic Sonoran but strangely delicious. $; 452 Finnie Flat Rd.; 928/567-6300.

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.

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More great spots for South-of-the-Border eats

Romesco Baja Med Bistro, Bonita, CA. The suburban San Diego location is improbable. Still, this is the sole north-of-the-border outpost from Javier Plascencia, the mad genius of Baja Med cuisine and the most influential chef in Mexico at the moment. Must-try: Ahi tuna tostada. $$$; 4346 Bonita Rd., 4.3 mi. off I-5; 619/475-8627.

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.

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Lynda Sandwich, Westminster, CA. Owned by pop singer Lynda Trang Dài, this Vietnamese sandwich shop has a glamorous interior and a menu that includes both beignets and bánh mì. Must-try: Lynda’s special, which comes with cold cuts, liver pâté, pickled vegetables, and housemade mayonnaise. $; 15380 Beach Blvd., 6 mi. off State 1; 714/898-5400.

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.

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More spots for Asian cuisine

Renu Nakorn, Norwalk, CA. Right off I-5, almost halfway between Los Angeles and Disneyland, is the best Isaan-style Thai restaurant in the country. You can sear your eyebrows off with the catfish larb or the jackfruit stir-fry salad, but you don’t have to: The sour sausage, crying tiger beef, and fried catfish are calmer but tasty. Must-try: The crispy rice salad called nam kao tod. $; 13019 E. Rose­crans Ave.; 562/921-2124.

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.

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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.

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More Italian joints

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.

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International flavors

Macy’s European Coffeehouse, Flagstaff, AZ. This rambling hangout is the typical college-town coffeehouse, drawing dreadlocked Northern Arizona University students, chino-clad professors, straitlaced business types, and a few savvy tourists. Caffeine’s the star: Macy’s was Arizona’s first small coffee roaster, and the espresso drinks are potent and fierce. Must-try: The baked-on-the-premises, lumberjack-size blackberry-almond scones, perfect for splitting. $; 14 S. Beaver St.; 928/774-2243.

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.

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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.

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More gourmet eats

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.

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Comfort food

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.

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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.

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More great spots for your starter meal

Road Island Diner, Oakley, UT. The Sopranos meets Big Love with this New Jersey diner transplanted to the Utah mountains and brilliantly restored. But the chromey setting isn’t the only lure: Green-chile scrambled eggs and homemade cinnamon rolls will thrill families criminal, polygamous, or ordinary. $; 981 W. Weber Canyon Rd.; 435/783-3467.

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.

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Even more breakfast spots

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.

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Gott’s Roadside, St. Helena, CA (pictured). Not South Beach. Not the Zone. No diet plan encourages the consumption of thick, rich, two-full-glasses’-worth-in-the-metal-canister milkshakes. But you’re on vacation, remember? You don’t care. Which is why, when you hit a truly great milkshake stop like Gott’s, you proudly order an Espresso Bean shake with added Oreos. And, no, you don’t share. $; 933 Main St.; 707/963-3486.

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.

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More great spots for shakes

K&R Drive Inn, Rice Hill, OR (Sunset reader favorite; pictured). Oregonians venerate K&R shakes the way they do Mt. Hood, as a symbol of the state’s superiority. And while the drive-in off Interstate 5 may not look like much, the shakes (70-plus flavors, made from local Umpqua ice cream)are deliciously overwhelming. $; 201 John Long Rd.; 541/849-2570.

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.

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Park Cafe, St. Mary, MT (pictured). “Pie for strength” is the motto here, and we couldn’t put it any better. Because, let’s face it, even the most idyllic of summer roadtrips have their stresses. The wrong turn, the misread map, the must-see natural wonder inexplicably closed for the season. In those perilous why-did-we-go-on-this-vacation-and-by-the-way-why-am-I-married-to-you moments, what can make things magically all right? Pie—warm, sweet fruit spilling out of tender crust. Pie—chocolate cream with a cumulus cloud of whipped cream floating above. Pie, pie, pie. 3147 U.S. 89 W.; 406/732-4482.

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.

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More great spots for a slice

Anjou Bakery, Cashmere, WA. Pie perfection. Cherries or marionberries are encased in the world’s most buttery shortbread crust—imagine a whole pie wrapped in a sweet, tender cookie, and you’re halfway there. 3898 Old Monitor Rd.; 509/782-4360.

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.

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Other sweet treats

ChocolaTree, Sedona, AZ. Raw, organic, and vegan cuisine is the emphasis here. But earnestness is easy to forget while eating buckwheat waffles dotted with coconut cream and dark chocolate. What’s really worth the detour into West Sedona are the artisanal chocolates: raw; sweetened with agave syrup, coconut sugar, or honey; and made on the premises with fair trade Ecuadoran cacao. Must-try: Mayan spice chocolates (dark chocolate blended with chile peppers that were grown onsite). $; 1595 W. State 89A; 928/282-2997.

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.

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More sweets

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.

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Our favorite unsung road food route: Oahu

You always had good reasons to drive State 83 along Windward and North Shore Oahu: the beaches at Kailua (President Obama’s vacation spot), the world-class surf. But here’s the best reason of all: Hawaii’s tastiest, least expensive food.

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.

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More great road food routes

New Mexico

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.