My husband and I both enjoy road trips, watching the scenery go by and being in control of our route and schedule. We also prefer eating in diners and local joints as a way to further experience the areas we visit. When I saw Jane and Michael Stern’s book, Roadfood, on Blogging for Books, I knew it was one that I would enjoy reviewing. At the time I requested it, we were talking about taking a summer trip, but hadn’t decided where. We wanted to take our two kids on an adventure before our daughter started back at college.
Our kids are 18 and 22, so we’re reaching a time when they may not want to travel with us or are unable to, as was the case with Hayden, who had to work and wasn’t able to join us. Margaret was still interested in doing something with us, so we wanted to take her somewhere while we could. We ended up deciding to visit Colorado since none of us had ever been there. Scott planned an elliptical route that would take us through five different states: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. What a great opportunity to take Roadfood along and try to visit some of the restaurants they recommended!
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Roadfood, written by Jane and Michael Stern, is in its 10th edition, printed in 2017. It’s organized by region of the continental United States and each section has a map with dots designating the location of recommended restaurants. Most seem to be along major highways, perfect for when you’re traveling a long distance and taking the quickest route. Each restaurant listed has the address, phone number, and codes for which meals they serve and price range. The Sterns then give a brief description of the restaurant, what they offer, and highlight some of their favorite dishes.
The first restaurant we had the opportunity to try was The Breadbasket in Newton, Kansas. It was right on our way, we only had to detour a few blocks and it was easy to find. The Sterns’ description of their homemade breads, salad bar, and German buffet was appealing. It had been a long time since we’d eaten German food, so this little adventure helped start off our vacation. It was just as described, and everything was very good. The buffet also included a dessert, with a tempting variety to choose from.
The advantage of a buffet, is the quickness of it. We were able to eat a delicious meal and be back on the road in no time.
There were four different listings for Denver, so I read them aloud to my husband and daughter, and we decided to try Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. They had a huge variety of hot dogs made with exotic meats such as reindeer, elk, and rattlesnake, plus an array of unusual toppings. It sounded like a one-of-a-kind place.
Deciding what to order was difficult, but I chose the Southwest Buffalo Dog with the El Diablo topping. It was almost too spicy for me, but it was very good. Scott got the Jack-A-Lope, and Margaret also ordered the Southwest Buffalo Dog.
The family favorite was their Fried Mac-N-Cheese. None of us had tried that before. The exterior was crunchy, and the inside was warm and cheesy. It was a hit! We’re still talking about it.
Biker Jim’s was only a few blocks from the Rockies’ baseball stadium and fans were filing in for a game. Traffic and parking were challenging, but we managed to find a parking place a short walk away.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
We were able to visit three different restaurants in Santa Fe:
We arrived in Santa Fe in time for a late lunch, so we made a bee-line to Santa Fe Bite. It had the distinction of being included on Roadfood’s Honor Roll, which is the Sterns’ top 100 recommended restaurants. Scott ordered the Green Chile Cheeseburger. Margaret ordered the Fish Tacos, and I ordered the Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. We eat Mexican food often, but their dishes definitely had the New Mexico flavors that we were looking forward to.
For dinner that evening we tried the Plaza Cafe. I tried the Stuffed Sopaipilla. Margaret got the Cashew Mole Enchiladas and highly recommended them. Scott ordered the Quesadillas. They were all good, and we enjoyed the atmosphere and excellent service there.
For breakfast the following morning, we sought out Tecolate. After reading their description in Roadfood, I was looking forward to trying their pancakes made with blue cornmeal. When we were seated, they immediately served fresh, delicious coffee. A few moments later they brought a basket of assorted breads. Scott ordered the Sheepherder’s Breakfast. He likes spice, but he said it was almost too spicy. Margaret ordered Huevos Yucatecos, and hers had the best presentation. I finally got the Atole Piñon Pancakes and they were huge, as big as my plate. Even with Scott and Margaret’s help, we only ate half of a full stack. If you like breakfast, Tecolote is a must-try!
As we turned back towards home, our next stop was in Amarillo, Texas, the home of the famous Big Texan. My husband researched online and found conflicting reviews. We decided to go ahead and try it, and see what we thought. Located on the old Route 66, The Big Texan is famous for their “72 oz Steak Challenge” – if you can eat a 72oz steak, three shrimp, a salad, a baked potato, and a roll, in one hour, then you get your meal free. None of us took the challenge.
It’s a large restaurant with a lot of atmosphere. We all ordered Chicken-Fried Steak, and then couldn’t resist trying their huge slab of chocolate cake. With all three of us, we only ate about half of it, but it was moist and delicious. They serve their drinks in souvenir plastic cups so you can take them with you. Of all the places we visited, this was the most “touristy,” but I still enjoyed it.
Headed back home on I-40, we neared Clinton, Oklahoma, just in time for lunch, so we stopped at Jigg’s Smokehouse. I must divulge a conflict of interest, and that is that our family owns a BBQ restaurant, so it’s hard to be unbiased. Jigg’s was right on the interstate. It’s a small, rustic joint, as most BBQ places are. The menu was very simple, consisting of sandwiches and a few sides. Our sandwiches were all large and good, served on paper.
We were entertained by funny signs, and marveling at the business cards that looked like they had been there for decades. The food was good and we were quickly back on the road.
Although our family restaurant isn’t on a major thoroughfare, I invite Jane and Michael Stern, and you, to visit BBQ Station in Cassville, Missouri. I’ve already admitted to my personal bias, but they have a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. They’re located in southwest Missouri, near Roaring River State Park, Branson, Missouri, and Bentonville, Arkansas. They have loyal patrons who drive an hour or more, so they’re definitely worth the drive.
End of the Road
Our trip turned out to be perfect for trying out Roadfood. In all, we were able to visit seven restaurants in five different states from its listings. We double-checked them on TripAdvisor, to make sure they were still in business and in the same spot, but all of them were just as listed.
If we hadn’t had Roadfood, I don’t think we would have starved, but left to our own devices, I think we would have had some lackluster meals, and possible bombs. As it was, every meal was delicious and an adventure in itself. With the Sterns’ tips, we got to experience different cultures, which definitely added another dimension to our trip.
Each of us chose our favorite meal from our trip: Scott chose the Green Chile Cheeseburger from Santa Fe Bite, saying it was the best burger he’d ever had, and he’s a hamburger connoisseur. Margaret’s favorite was the Cashew Mole Enchiladas at Plaza Cafe in Santa Fe. I ate much too well this trip, and it’s hard to choose just one, but I think I’d choose the pancakes I had at Tecolote. They were huge, delicious, and something I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Now that Scott and I have an empty nest, roadtripping is something we want to do more of. If, like us, you enjoy the drive, then I recommend that you take along Roadfood. It’ll give you the confidence to leave the comfort zone of chain restaurants and experience something new.
Which of these reastaurants would you most like to try? Do you already have Roadfood? Tell me in the comments!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.