June 23, 2010

ps. Food Next Exit

A month of eating at restaurants...yeah. Think what you like, it's not all that great even if you like the food. Processed foods, high sodium and the kids always ordering soda is enough to make anyones blood pressure rise. Since it was not feasible to prepare food along the way, we decided to eat breakfast at the free fare offered at our hotels, a quickie lunch (fast food, Subway) and a sit-down dinner in the evening. We budgeted about $100/day for food and that was about right most of the time.

I'm not much of a foodie and don't particularly like taking pics of food...it always kinda makes me sick at my stomach, to be honest. Not that I don't like the food, it's just how it looks in pics that doesn't set too well. Well, for my foodie friends, I tried to take a few... *shrug*...although, I forgot a good portion of the time.

Along the way, we tried to rate the restaurants we visited, giving them a rating from 0 (the worst, don't ever go there) to 5 (the absolute best, would travel just to eat there). We didn't give ratings to chain-type establishments because most of them are pretty consistent. Here's a few:

SUBWAY
What did we do without this sandwich place? I cannot even remember not having them around! This is the emergency "there's no where else to eat that looks safe!" place and the truck-stop standby in the middle of nowhere. After a week or so, I ditched the sandwich thing (too much bread) and opted for the salads...try them, they are pretty good.

IN-N-OUT
Love it, love it, love it! Only to be found in California (and a few others sprinkled around) this old fashioned-type diner has a small menu, lots of servers/cooks and excellent food. If you want to know secret ways to order, you have to visit their website (fun!). I don't eat beef, and even I had to try this famous burger. Highly recommended and loved by many, we also give the In-n-Out a big thumbs up.

WAFFLE HOUSE
We loved these!! Only found down South, they are inexpensive, friendly (most of the time) and good. Absolutely love the hashbrowns with jalapeno peppers added...yummy! Yeah, we all wish we had Waffle House in our area.

SHONEY'S
We only ate at one Shoney's this trip, and that was enough. Yuck.

CHILI'S
We really like Chili's even though it's what I call a 'formula' restaurant. Nothing is actually cooked there, only re-heated from pre-prepared food, but it's good. The kids like it for the burgers and fries and they do have fun drinks for everyone.

McD'S, BURGER KING, SONIC
OK, so these are a necessity sometimes, I suppose. McD's is always the same, Burger King I will never spend money at again (blech) and Sonic is, well...Sonic. We do like Sonic and we have one very close to us at home, so didn't eat there but a few times. Great, fun drinks and I like eating in the car...sometimes.

That leaves the restaurants that deserved ratings, the non-franchised type. We used the AAA Tour book, our GPS and local recommendations to find good restaurants, but it is always a challenge to eat while on the road. Asking at the hotel desk is always a gamble; sometimes they are friends with the struggling restaurant owner down the road and you end up at a real dive. I say trust your instincts on judging a restaurant. Rule: if there are lots of cars in the parking lot, you are probably in luck.

I'll start with the best restaurant of the whole trip...

MADDOX RANCH HOUSE - Ogden, Utah
Rating: 5
Hands down the best of the best for mouth-watering food, friendly service, upbeat atmosphere, and moderate price. They raise their own beef, grind their own flour for homemade rolls and biscuits, use fresh fruit and veggies, make their own soups and specialize in skinless fried chicken. Really, if you are Ogden you really need to find this ranch-style restaurant.

BONES ROADHOUSE - Gualala, California
Rating: 5
Hey, this place is awesome! BBQ, baby! Smoked meat sandwiches, burgers, onion rings and hand-cut potato chips - pretty damn good! Especially when you are starved, which we were when we finally hit upon this place. Highly recommended for the food, excellent service and not-too-expensive prices.

MORRISON'S CAFETERIA - Mobile, Alabama
Rating: 5
If you haven't eaten at a good old-fashioned cafeteria, then you are really missing out. Morrison's has a long history and I know why - the home-cooked Southern food is really good. Period. Large portions and moderate prices. Watch out for the ladies behind the counter, though...they are all business. You'd better know what you want, honey!

GEORGIE'S - Newport, Oregon
Rating: 5
I just love this restaurant and the view is unbeatable with large windows looking over the Pacific Ocean. Excellent food with a regional flavor. Lisa and I enjoyed a really good BBQ Salmon Salad that was out of this world. Impeccable service, but it is a bit pricey.

ALTITUDES - Laramie, Wyoming
Rating: 4
A recommendation from the sweet young lady at Tourist Information, and a good one at that! Excellent gourmet 'cowboy' fare, wonderful service and moderately priced. A nice find in Wyoming, which can be a little dry when it comes to good eats.

MARTINELLI'S - Salina, Kansas
Rating: 4
The perfect place to meet up with friends and enjoy yummy Italian food - great pic, Mary Jane! I had the Chicken Parmesan and Alex loved the Ravioli. Pizza was a good pick, as well. Can I recommend the Chianti?

CAPURRO'S - San Francisco, California
Rating: 4
Yummy fish tacos! Excellent atmosphere, great service, moderately priced. It was a nice get-away from the crowds just outside the doors of this regional-style restaurant. All gourmet with the chefs in white but still food for the kiddos. Just right.

CAFE PHOENICIA - Zachary, Louisiana
Rating: 4
Good Mediterranean food; shawarma, falafel, gyros and mousaka. I had the falafel and we tried some fried cheese - pretty good outside of Israel! The kids liked the salty olives and the hummus was just what we needed. Oh, try the iced green tea with pine nuts - interesting and very refreshing!

RITA'S - San Antonio, Texas
Rating: 3.5
We were in a red-hot hurry to eat before boarding the tour boat to explore the San Antonio River along the famous Riverwalk. The service was incredibly fast and the food was good with rather large portions. Mexican is always a hit with me, although I think the refried beans were prepared with lard (blech.).


That brings us to the restaurants that deserved a 3; pretty good food but nothing spectacular. Gotta have 'em, I suppose, to make those higher-rated restaurants really shine, eh?

CARINO'S - El Paso, Texas (beware, the pizza sauce has onions!) The best, best, best bellinis ever!

MAMA NINFA'S - Houston, Texas (service was definitely iffy...)

ROCKIN' ROCKY'S DINER - Lucedale, Mississippi; good diner food, great atmosphere!

MO'S - all along the Oregon Coast - tradition sez you have to do it!

HARD ROCK CAFE - expensive! We ate at the one in Biloxi, Mississippi

ROUND TABLE PIZZA - the best one is in Pacifica, California

PIG 'N PANCAKE - the best one is in Cannon Beach, Oregon; only open 'til 3pm

BUFFALO WILD WINGS - a guy's restaurant! We tried the one in Memphis, Tennessee

GRIDLEY'S BBQ - Memphis, Tennessee

Lastly, here's the restaurants that I highly recommend you AVOID. Not worth your time, money or stomach ache. Traveler beware...

LOS CARBOS - Rock Springs, Wyoming...just don't do it. It had good reviews but I can make better margaritas on a bad day and all the sauces were from a can. Stale chips, tasteless salsa and poor service made us all mock by the end of the meal.

CICI'S - anywhere. This is a terrible restaurant due to the cheap, cheap food. We did one in Denver and we were sorry.


That's it...the lowdown on the food from our trip for all you foodies.

Yes, now I need to drop a few, no doubt!

4 comments:

Snail Mail said...

I still can't believe you guys drove as many miles as you did. The kids MUST be great travelers!Next trip you'll have to come a few more miles East and come to Tallahassee ;) LOTS of Kirbert boxes.

Stacy Christian said...

I'm not sure I could survive eating out for a month, but you seem to have fared pretty well.
I'm with you on service--the food can be stellar, but if the service is poor, they'll never see my face again.

Ari C'rona said...

Excellent summation, my friend! Now, to work on that trip planned around the best food in the country... :o)

Mama Cache said...

You know, PBS hires people to to just this sort of thing for their travel documentaries. ;-) Yes, you are that good at it!