Traveling from NYC to Chicago via Memphis - Suggestions? Warnings?
February 20, 2011 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Traveling from New York to Chicago for a wedding and taking a major detour...

My wife and I are taking about a week to travel from NYC to Chicago for a wedding. We've never really been to the Midwest, so we decided to drive and maybe stop in Pittsburgh or somewhere in Ohio. This quickly metastasized into a somewhat ridiculous trip. We've planned the following:

Day 1 - Drive to Louisville, Ky. (12+ hours, the worst leg)
Day 2 - Drive to Memphis (6 hours)
Day 3 - Drive to St. Louis (5 hours)
Day 4 - Drive to Chicago (5 hours)
Days 5-6 - Stay in Chicago.
Day 7 - Drive to Pittsburgh (8 hours)
Day 8 - Drive back to NYC (7 hours)

We've already booked hotels in each of these cities (groupon and priceline are pretty amazing) on these days - so that's not really changeable. But what we'd love are suggestions on places to eat along the way (we're both "roadfood" type people). What one or two things must we do in each city - what to avoid (people have said, "just sleep in Memphis, spend all your time in Nashville" - is that right?). Is Cleveland worth a detour en route to Pittsburgh? Any general suggestions (we've taken road trips before, but this is a bit of a different animal)? Are there any detours - since we're in the neighborhood - that are worth making?

Thank you in advance! I'm a long time lurker, first time poster, so please be gentle!
posted by lieberschnitzel to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On your Louisville-to-Memphis leg, you should absolutely, positively stop at Moonlite B-B-Q. If you must eat anywhere in Kentucky, this place is it.
posted by evoque at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2011

Between Memphis and St. Louis, stop at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, MO. You will not eat again for the rest of the day, though, because they will stuff you with all kinds of Southern-MO food. They will also throw rolls at you from the kitchen. Kind of cheesy, but definitely "roadfood."
posted by Mid at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2011

Best answer: In St. Louis, if you are doing the sampling-regional-cuisine thing, you have to get toasted ravioli. I don't really know the best restaurant for them; we always got them from the supermarket. Then, I suppose, when you are on 55 between St. Louis and Chicago, you should stop at Culver's, which is sort of an upper-midwest In-And-Out Burger. (I have spent way too much time on 55.)
posted by Mid at 6:24 PM on February 20, 2011

Have you ever done a trip like this where you drive many hours every day to stay in a different city? I did it for a 4-day weekend staying in 3 different cities, and it was really disappointing at the end to be able to say that we went to city X but didn't really get to see anything. And it was pretty exhausting to pack and move every night (think of all the stories of tour bands that you hear).

If I were doing this trip, I would limit the cities to have at least 2 nights in each. Still a lot of different stuff to see, but not nearly as bad as one-night stands.
posted by CathyG at 7:29 PM on February 20, 2011

If you are interested in Southern cooking, go to Patrick's in Memphis for lunch, and order from the daily specials or vegetable menu. If you're ever going to try turnip greens or smothered pork chops, now is your chance. There will be chicken and dumplings on Monday, fried okra on Wednesday and fried catfish and hushpuppies on Friday. Of course, Memphis is also the best place for barbecue although I believe each Southern region will make the same claim and I don't have a favorite for barbecue as long as it's Memphis barbecue.
posted by Anitanola at 10:05 PM on February 20, 2011

Best answer: In St. Louis, do not miss the reconstituted modern version of Cyrano's, and especially the famous Cleopatra dessert, or the World's Fair Eclair, both of which are just as good as they were at the original Cyrano's, 40+ years ago. On your Chicago-Pittsburgh leg, if you went the southern route of I-65 to Indianapolis, and I-70 east to Pittsburgh, you'd come within a hundred miles or so of Cincinnati, and would get there if you doglegged south a bit more on I-74 out of Indy; if ever I get that close to the Queen City, I go ahead and scoot in for a plate of 4 or 5 way Cincinnati chili and a couple coneys at Gold Star or Skyline chili. It's an especially good trip for me if I can still find an 8 pack of the last "local" Cincinnati beer, Schoenling's Little Kings Original Cream Ale (originally called Little Kings for their 7 oz package size), the better to wash down all that excellent, unique chili...

You'll have a lot of chances for a Bob Evan's breakfast in Ohio, which road food snobs often deplore, but I love the sausage, gravy and biscuits there, with their hot, hot coffee.
posted by paulsc at 3:47 AM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: I'm so pleased that I get to recommend Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh! You've got to try their eponymous sandwich. It is delish!

In Memphis, go to The Peabody Hotel to see the ducks, who march twice a day. The hotel is lovely, and it's only a block or two from Beale Street. Memphis itself struck me as an odd little town. During the day, we didn't see many people - a few tourists, no locals. At night, though, Beale Street was packed.

Mr. Wet Hen and I drive from NYC to Cincinnati each year. It's best to get the 12-hour leg out of the way first when you're still excited about the drive. If you leave early, it's really not too bad, especially if you get to stop for a few meals. Have a great time and a safe drive!
posted by Wet Hen at 4:39 AM on February 21, 2011

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