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The 9 Best Rest Stops for Food in America

The 9 Best Rest Stops for Food in America

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You might even think of these places as destinations, rather than stops you make along the way

The 9 Best Rest Stops for Food in America

The thing with rest stops is that you usually want to stay there for as little time as possible. That’s why most of culinary offerings along the turnpike are fast food. However, there are a few rest stops that stand out for a combination of their dining options, quirky sights (such as a reptile lagoon), and promise of a really good time. Here are the nine best rest stops for food in America.

9. The Iowa 80 Truck Stop (Walcott, Iowa)

The largest truck stop in the world, Iowa 80 has a museum (about trucking), game room, movie theater, laundromat, barber shop, and, most importantly, more than just your usual fast food offerings (though they have those too). The 300-seat Iowa 80 Restaurant is open 24 hours a day and has a 50-foot-long salad bar and buffet, but you can also order items like club sandwiches, fried chicken, and ribs — and get them in heartland-size portions. It’s not Chez Panisse, but it might just be the closest you’ll get to it on this section of the highway.

8. Cookin’ From Scratch (Doolittle, Mo.)

Travel blogger Salena Lettera has been to 49 states and logged over a million miles in her car. She says Cookin’ From Scratch has some of the best food she has ever laid on her taste buds on: pan-fried chicken that is cooked piece-by-piece in cast-iron skillets, a massive pork tenderloin, and wild blueberry cobbler, for instance. It is also home to the “Rt. 66 King of the Road” contest, whose winners must eat a 66-ounce burger with nine pieces of American cheese and 1.5 pounds of French fries.

7. Space Aliens Bar and Grill (Fargo, N.D.)

Just off the I-94, Space Aliens Bar and Grill has a 30-foot-high domed ceiling that displays views of outer space, and a force field of life-size alien sculptures in the dining room. If your eyes are tired of the tedium of the road, this is the perfect respite. Their award-winning apple and hickory ribs are slowly smoked. Other menu highlights include stuffed baked potatoes, fire-roasted pizza, and whiskey bourbon chicken.

6. Mars Cheese Castle (Kenosha, Wis.)

Mars Cheese Castle is Highway 41’s local cheese monger. Founded in 1947, this iconic castle almost looks as if it's made of cheese. With hundreds of varieties of cheese, wine, and cured meats, it’s a great place to stock your car with snacks that are more sophisticated than potato chips. It also has an amazing bakery where everything is made fresh daily, and the restaurant serves items like fried Wisconsin cheese curds, apple pie with cheese, and smoked string cheese. Since you’re in Kenosha anyway, you might as well stop by Frank’s Diner and eat one of the famous, heaping garbage plates — Liberace, the Three Stooges, and Mark Ruffalo all have.

5. R-Place Restaurant (Morris, Ill.)

The Premium Ethyl Burger at R-Place Restaurant is the size of an entire Momofuku Milk Bar cake. Eat in in one hour and you get… well, the management doesn’t specify a reward, but it’s definitely all about the challenge. You could probably just settle for the Shrimp Bonanza appetizer, which includes 21 golden-fried shrimp with cocktail sauce. On a lighter note, the restaurant has a huge salad bar and made-from-scratch bakery. The antique toys and puppet show entertainment at R-Place Restaurant might make it sound a bit creepy, but throw in a multi-page menu and good humor and you have a piece of Americana that you cannot miss on your cross-country journey.

4. Pea Soup Andersen’s (Santa Nella, Calif.)

Located inside an old Dutch church with a huge windmill you can see from the I-5 freeway, Split Pea Andersen’s serves their world-famous split pea soup (get it in a bread bowl) to two million eaters annually. Their home-style American fare, loosely inspired by the founders' Danish background, has been around since 1924, when the original restaurant was founded in Buellton, near Santa Barbara; it was one of the first restaurants in the country to use an electric stove, a fact they showed off in their original name, “Andersen’s Electrical Café.” The Buellton restaurant is still going strong, but the Santa Nella location is part of a complex including a gift shop, hotel, and gas stations — a real rest stop. A walk through the idyllic town of Santa Nella after a meal here is just the kind of pit stop you need after sitting in a car all day.

3. The Little America Hotel (Flagstaff, Ariz.)

This is what most people would call a luxury rest stop. Set among 500 acres of Ponderosa pines, it’s where travelers should stop if they’re sick of being cramped in the car and want to take a walk on some leisurely hiking trails. The helpful travel center is a great resource, whether you are dropping by for lunch or staying overnight. Treat yourself to dinner at fine-dining Western Gold Restaurant; the signature hot turkey dinner and lobster mac and cheese are worth every penny.

2. Big Texan Steak Ranch (Amarillo, Texas)

If you’ve ever wanted to eat a 72-ounce steak dinner for free, here’s where to do it — but only if you can do so in one hour. The Big Texan Steak Ranch is also home to a craft brewery, which is all the more cool because your beer is served in plastic cowboy boots. The menu is host to a lot of deep-fried goodness, except for maybe the "mountain oysters"; as the menu says, “If you think it’s seafood, go with the shrimp.” This delicacy, elsewhere called Rocky Mountain oysters, is one of the 18 American foods you have to travel for. And here is where you can travel to eat them.

1. South of the Border (Hamer, S.C.)

A self-proclaimed highway oasis, South of the Border offers dining options including a family-style Mexican restaurant, a tamale stand, a hot dog stand, a steak house, a diner, and an ice cream parlor. The fun doesn’t stop off the plate. There is an amusement park (Pedroland), a sombrero-shaped glass elevator, and a reptile lagoon that happens to be the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the United States.

Watch the video: Autostrada Rest Stop Is the Full-Meal Deal (July 2022).


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