Road Trips and Restaurants: Eating your way across America


road trip
The Buckhorn Exchange in Denver.

The following post originally appeared on our RoadLoans blog, The Open Road.

Road trips are about more than just getting from one place to another. Road trips are about the experiences along the way.  They are about the people, the culture and the food you encounter while traveling to your destination.

If you haven’t stopped at a roadside diner or two, you’ve missed out on one of the best parts of driving the open road – tasting the colorful cuisine that defines different parts of the country.

I know what you’re thinking. Most roadside restaurants are a little short on quality and low on etiquette. But not all diners and drive-ins are dives.  As a former reporter, I have eaten at my share of eclectic eateries while out on assignment, and many were very forgettable.

But I will never forget having to work on Thanksgiving Day just outside of Jonesboro, Ark., many years ago. I was on a lonely stretch of highway, starving, and the only thing for miles was a truck stop/restaurant. I was a little skeptical going in, but to this day, it was the best turkey and dressing I’ve ever had. I wish I could remember the name, because I certainly would go back for an encore.

Now, AAA inspectors have done the work for you. Their Travel Views blog lists many great restaurants along the road that provide flavor and history.

If you’re traveling through the Rockies, one restaurant you may want to try is the Buckhorn Exchange. AAA inspectors call it a “meat lover’s dream” with a menu featuring beef, elk, lamb, quail and bison.

In the Southwest, you’ll want to try the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar in New Braunfels, Texas.  It’s a favorite among those floating the Guadalupe River.  The old cotton gin sits in a historic area and weary travelers can enjoy “thick-cut steaks and oversized strawberry shortcakes” until the river runs dry.

East Coast travelers with an urge for the salt air and fresh seafood may want to stop at the Union Oyster House in Boston, Mass. It’s the city’s oldest restaurant and serves traditional New England favorites like oysters, steamers, chowders and lobster. They even have a few dishes for the landlubber as well.

AAA inspectors recently provided a list of 40 historic restaurants and over 600 total restaurants from coast to coast that are worth stopping by if you’re driving through. Don’t hesitate to give something new a try.  You may stumble upon some of the best food that the Open Road has to offer.