I'm traveling cross-country from SF to NH via AZ. Any food/photography related stops other than the obvious?
May 16, 2007 2:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving! I'll be driving from San Francisco (just north from there really) to New Hampshire in a month or so. I plan to document the trip w/a Nikon D40 camera and and cheaper, soon to be bought camcorder. It'll probably be a Samsung Sports Cam, although it's not central to the question. I want a great route which I have half checked out, I guess. I want a great culinary as well as a scenic sample of the US. I'm looking for the rural food/scenic stops just outside of major (or not so major) interstates. If the stops are on the interstate, awesome! If not, please tell me why the stops deserve an off interstate jaunt (50-100 miles or so off of the interstate.) Please feel free to message me if you'd rather. Most likely, I'll visit most of them, anyway.

OK. I've bought a digital camera (Nikon D40) and I'm soon purchasing a (~Samsung Sports Camcorder)

Any tips on this long journey are appreciated as I'll be traveling in a sound but small '98 Honda Civic w/35k miles.
Also, any essential stuff to take along. I'm fairly clueless and haven't driven significantly in a couple of years; safety, comfort, etc. would be helpful.

I hope to make this a culinary tour of everything there is to offer, taking the southern route through the high desert instead of the Salt Lake City route. Obviously, I'll have to start heading northwest eventually via maybe Kansas (BBQ!) or later Missouri and then Illinois.

I'd love to hit your respective favorite dives/restaurants. I'm working out in preparation, lol.

This is a really happy trip for me as I've only been able to see my Mom and brother every few years since I was 19. I'm 34. What makes it happier is that my Mom survived a major operation and is doing very well.

So far - Barstow - flagstaff - albuquerque then amarillo or wichita? From here I've a bit of leeway as I love the south, but I need to keep to a general w/nw direction. Same as the other routes along the way. What an adventure! :D

I'll post again when I'm feeling more succinct - sorry for the verbosity and thanks for reading and REPLYING! :)))

All I can say is Thanks and I'll try to respond often...
posted by prodevel to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

posted by wile e at 3:12 AM on May 16, 2007

Your question is a bit all over the place, so I'll give you some general advice. If you want to see stuff on the road stay off the interstates. There are plenty of fine old US highways that go straight to where you're going without the soul crushing blandness of interstate life.

I like the drive east on US 50 ("the loneliest road"). The western part is quite barren and not particularly possessed of conventional beauty, but I like that kind of thing. Ely, Nevada is a good place to stop for a night. I had a great lunch in Green River, Utah once. The land in that part of Utah is beautiful.

PS: it'd help to know how much time you have for your trip. If you did nothing but drive you could get to your destination in 4 or 5 days. If you want to have lots of fun on the way and you're driving alone, I suggest more like two weeks.
posted by Nelson at 6:20 AM on May 16, 2007

How about some of the stops that Alton Brown made on Feasting on Asphalt?
posted by phirleh at 6:47 AM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: Sounds like you'll be hitting some old route 66 towns. When you hit Flagstaff, take an hour to head south and hit Sedona. If you do nothing else I recommend, do this. Get out of the Honda and hike down the Huckaby Trail to Oak Creek Canyon. Or at least park the car at Midgley Bridge and look down.

Between Gallup and Albuquerque take some time to visit the lava fields of El Malpais. In Albuquerque I suggest the Route 66 Diner on Central for the kitsch factor. In Tucumcari (on the eastern border of NM) take a moment to seek out some of the old motels (Pony Soldier, Blue Swallow, etc).

In Texas you should be inspired or creeped out by the largest free standing cross.

That's all I have time for right now. If I think of other stuff I'll come back. Have a great time!
posted by FlamingBore at 6:55 AM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: I also second swinging through Southern Utah. Most beautiful driving of anywhere I've been in this country.
If you hit Santa Fe, there is a ton of great restaurants; it's been a few years but I recall reaaally enjoying the Ore House, overlooking the plaza. Also the Atomic Grill. They have a sweet frito pie (called an Atomic Pie i believe). I was always a superfan of Baja Tacos (can't find a good link) on Cerillos near the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey for drive-through burritos and stuffed sopapillas (mm mm mm). Also the Cowgirl, which has a nice outdoor seating area. The Cowgirl and Tomasitas are both on Guadalupe; i guess locals may think tomasita's is too touristy but again with the stuffed sopapillas yowza. Also, for non-new mexican cuisine in town, I heartily put forth the Cleopatra Cafe in the Design Center on Cerillos. Yummy yummy yummy gyros.
One last thing on Northern New Mexico -- if you are interested in authentic new mexican spices, there is a great ffarm stand north of Santa Fe, in Espanola. If you're heading south towards Santa Fe, you want to end up on 285/84, and the farm stand is on the left. I always pick up my powdered and flaked green and red chile and chipotle there. You can also get all manner of produce. It's not swanky like the Santa Fe Farmer's Market but it's there every day and the spices are cheap and good.
I also second Tucumcari. I stayed there my last night on the road after a 2 week trip from NH to Santa Fe, so it was my first night in my new home of New Mexico (well, I'm back in NH now, this was a few years ago). There is a motel called the Motel Safari there and the owner is an author who self publishes books and he was a hoot, and the appearance of two cars with NH license plates aroused much curiosity. I'd say definitely good photo ops there.
the drive towards Amarillo is smelly, by the way, for at least the last hour as you approach the city. Be prepared to roll up them windows. Don't stay at the Motel 6 in Amarillo -- I've stayed there twice (second time was against my better judgment) and each time horrible things happened (nothing like having a toilet explode with raw sewage all over your clothing in the middle of the night to make your trip extra special.).
We also got really pleasing barbeque in Eureka, outside of St Louis -- plus the Days Inn there is something from an alternate universe I think.
posted by Soulbee at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: You must, must go to the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, NM. It is about 70 miles south of Albuquerque on I-25 but definitely worth it. They have the best green chile cheeseburgers anywhere. This place makes a lot of top 10 and best of lists. Don't try them on a Sunday though.

Should you scorn this recommendation, at least get a decent green chile cheeseburger somewhere in Albuquerque. (The "Owl Cafe" has licenced the name from the Owl Bar, but that's all they got - not as good) Personally, I don't care for the food at the Route 66 Diner recommended by another poster, but if you are into the Rt 66 or 50's nostalgia thing, check it out.

New Mexico has a distinctive cusine, different from "Mexican" food. The best place I've found in Albuquerque is just south of Girard and Indian School, next to a laundromat. Don't recall the name of it at the moment. Food is terrific, atmosphere less so. For decent New Mexican food and a lovely atmosphere, El Pinto is the place to go. Be sure to try some sopapillas.

Fresh, hot navajo tacos are fabulous, but I usually only buy them at fairs and that sort of thing. I am pretty sure they have them at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, and I'm sure there must be a place in Gallup with excellent ones, but I'm not the one to ask.

Bring plenty of drinking water, sunscreen, and a spray bottle is nice to have to mist yourself down. San Fran? You probably haven't used your AC much there - make sure it works. Post back if you don't have AC, I'll give you some more tips.
posted by yohko at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2007

yohko - you and I couldn't disagree more about the Owl in San Antonio. So not worth the trip to me.

The food isn't great at 66 Diner, but it's kitschy good fun. If you want good food on Central I heartily recommend: Standard Diner, Martini Grille, Artichoke Cafe.

El Pinto is a-okay with me too.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: This web site is your bible now.

They have almost never steered me wrong. They have a couple of books out, as well.

As you pass through Gallup, NM, be sure to go to the Eagle Cafe and get the lamb stew, maybe some frybread, and definitely some chile. I prefer green, but that's just a personal preference.

If you're in Memphis, where there is so much amazing barbeque, skip the big touristy places on Beale Street and its environs, and go to Payne's.

In South Carolina, get off the interstate and GO GO GO to Shealy's. Great Southern all-you-can-eat buffet with some of the best vinegar-pepper pork BBQ I've ever had, and fantastic fried chicken as well.

As you head north up the east coast, stop either in New Haven, CT for pizza at Sally's or Pepe's, or in Waterbury, CT for the best barbeque north of the Mason-Dixon line at Uncle Willie's.

That should hold you for now, anyway.
posted by dersins at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: You'll be on I-40 which will take you through Oklahoma City. One of the finest memorials of any kind is the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Beautiful. Also, Oklahoma City has a thriving night life downtown if you'll be there overnight. Nice city.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 9:32 AM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: I've got almost as much time as I want, Nelson. I'd like to keep it under 3 weeks, though. Hiking sounds great, Flamingbore! The cross would kinda creep me out but what a good photo op, lol. I love spicy food, so NM looks like a great time, Soulbee, yohko :) Thanks much for the lodging expertise. I grew up in Southern CA, so different Mexican/TexMex food experiences should be awesome. I've been diving into roadfood for a coupla weeks now, so thanks for the digs into that site, dersins. I'd love to be able to go to Charleston, SC again as I saw the greatest sunset ever on the battery there, but it's too far out of the way. Will do CT for sure, though! OK City should be lots of fun, thanks, Gerard.
posted by prodevel at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: can i just say, i'm jonesing out of control for a green chile cheeseburger right now. or a stuffed sopapilla. ouch.
posted by Soulbee at 12:34 PM on May 16, 2007

Should you end up on I-44 going through Missouri, A Slice Of Pie in Rolla, MO is absolutely required eating.
posted by jferg at 6:10 PM on May 16, 2007

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