16 of the Best Road Food Stops

Half of the fun of a road trip is in the food.

On the road, you can always find food at a gas station. But if you want to make food the destination and not an afterthought, you’ll need to plan ahead. Most of the best restaurants are off the beaten path.

Now let us first say that I am NOT a restaurant critic or reviewer. I’m a customer who enjoys the unique taste of regional food. And I share the places which you’ll find below because I liked what we found there.

Are there better places? Sure. Other places we should have visited in the area? Absolutely!

A word about these road food stops

One thing that these restaurants all share is that they are NOT on major thoroughfares.

We found them in several ways, such as from fellow travellers we talked with in visitor centres and while shopping. But most of the road food eateries here were discovered by serendipity.

Serendipity travel is the BEST way to find the best road food!

At least that’s how it often feels. Sometimes, we saw a highway sign on a two-lane somewhere. Maybe it was a bunch of cars parked in the lot outside that signalled “Great Road Food Here!” Or the place had lots of neon and atmosphere.

Have we made the wrong decision and found ourselves in not-so-good places eating very forgettable food?


But this one is about the Best Road Food we’ve had, so come on along. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

1. Rise’n Roll Bakery, Middlebury, Indiana

Rise’n Roll Bakery & Deli is an Amish-style bakery in Middlebury, Indiana. They’re known for their preservative-free wholesome treats such as doughnuts, cookies, pies, cinnamon rolls, breads and cheeses. But they’re probably best known for their famous Cinnamon Caramel Donut, an addicting little creation like no other doughnut I have ever tasted.

They use real ingredients and bake everything fresh daily, the old-fashioned way.
Rise’n Roll’s history began in 2001. A young Amish couple began baking recipes handed down in the woman’s family for generations. They sold baked goods from their front porch.

Over the years, they worked on perfecting the recipes until, in 2004, they opened the first Rise’n Roll Bakery in Middlebury. The original bakery did not use any electricity, refrigeration or modern technology. All of the mixing, sheeting and prepping was done entirely by hand.

In 2009, the Amish owner sold the company to a non-Amish family. The new owners moved the bakery into a much-larger facility.

2. Stingaree Restaurant & Marina, Crystal Beach, Texas

Known for its incredible views almost as much as for its fabulous food, Stingaree Restaurant & Marina is not just a unique place to eat, it’s a travel destination.

The main dining room of Stingaree Restaurant & Marina is upstairs overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway. Enjoy their unique atmosphere, down-home service and full restaurant menu. Choose a seat at the bar or grab a table and watch as barges, boats and birds pass by while you sip an ice-cold drink and enjoy their famously fresh, delicious food.

You won’t taste fresher seafood unless you catch it yourself. Enjoy a variety of seafood platters, shrimp, snapper, seafood gumbo, fresh oysters cooked five ways, their famous Boscos barbequed crabs and much, much more.

And, of course, they also have classic American favourites such as chicken-fried steak, ribeye steaks and grilled chicken, as well as desserts and a full-service bar.

3. Lambert’s Cafe, Foley, Alabama

Lambert’s is famous for southern cooking. The waiters throw you your roll.

The ‘Home of Throwed Rolls’ has been in existence since 1942. They call this the home of throwed rolls because all during your time at the table, wait staff roam up and down the aisles throwing soft, buttery, warm dinner rolls at the guests.

So popular has the idea of throwed rolls become, that there are now three Lambert restaurants – two in Missouri (Sikeston and Ozark) and one in Alabama. We visited the Lambert’s in Foley, Alabama a while back.

And we bought a dozen hot, fluffy, grapefruit-sized rolls to go.

You don’t leave here hungry. We’re talking comfort food – chicken-fried steak, meatloaf and gravy, hog jowl, barbecued ribs.

The sides are endless. Wait staff wander from table to table ladling out seconds and thirds – fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas. Southern style all the way!

If you’re concerned about parking, the lots at Lambert’s are sized as generously as its meals, with dedicated bus and RV parking.

Just watch out. When you hear a wait person yell “Hot Fresh Rolls,” you’d better be ready to duck. Cuz they’re a-throwin’ them.

4. Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas

Leonard Botello IV is the owner and pitmaster behind critically acclaimed Truth BBQ in Brenham, Texas. Botello opened Truth BBQ in a small shack off of a rural highway that runs between Austin and Houston in the summer of 2015. Armed with a used Klose pit – as a complete unknown in the BBQ world – Leonard surprised the industry in 2017 when Truth BBQ was awarded #10 on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints list in 2017; and it was ranked in the top three on the 2021 Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ List. An expert in the art of live-fire cooking, Leonard is known for his authentic Central Texas-style BBQ.

In January of 2019, Botello opened his second location, Truth BBQ Houston, in the historic neighbourhood of Houston Heights. Here, you can find Leonard pushing the boundaries of traditional BBQ with dishes such as Carolina-Style Whole Hog, Boudin Smoked Sausage and Pastrami Brisket. A defining factor that has always set Truth BBQ apart from the crowd is their commitment to making everything from scratch, daily, in house.

Through the universal love of Texas BBQ, Leonard has had the honour of hosting dinners for esteemed organizations such as No Kid Hungry and The James Beard House; he’s been featured at the New York City Wine & Food Fest multiple times, as well as appearing on Food Network’s Chopped (winning his episode). He has become a mainstay on a variety of Best BBQ lists from Thrillist to Buzzfeed to Texas Monthly.

5. Weikel’s Bakery, La Grange, Texas

One of the best spots to grab a kolache is at Weikel’s Bakery in La Grange (a second bakery is located in Brenham, where you’ll want to visit Blue Bell Creamery). Here you’ll find cinnamon rolls, strudel, cream cheese pound cake, pecan sandies and cookies of all kinds, plus a repertoire of more than a dozen kolaches.

For those who don’t know, a kolache or kolace is a square pastry with fruit or cream cheese filling that’s popular in Czech culture. The dough of a kolache is dense and sweet. This differs from a Danish, which is lighter and flakier.

The kolache is Weikel’s specialty; the shop’s motto (on the highway billboard): We got’cha Kolache.

The bakery has become a traditional stopping point for many travellers on Highway 71 between Austin and Houston. Some say that this Czech bakery’s kolaches are the best in the state.

This spot features at least 20 flavours of kolache and five kinds of what they call klobasniky – their term for pig-in-a-blanket.

6. Kloesel’s Steakhouse, Moulton, Texas

South of Flatonia and Moulton on Highway 95 lies a magical land where beer is made – Shiner. To that place, two thirsty companions and a designated driver travelled.

But the first grumblings of hunger appeared as we approached the little village of Moulton. It was hard to believe the locals when we were told that one of the best restaurants around was Kloesel’s Steakhouse. After some hesitation, we stopped for lunch en route to the little brewery in Shiner and gave it a shot, and what a pleasant surprise. The food was truly amazing and good value. Great atmosphere and friendly service! We have eaten here numerous times over the years and have always been impressed with their food and staff. Particularly love their chicken-fried steak – and the pistachio dessert.

7. La Posta De Mesilla, New Mexico

Located in a 200-year-old adobe building that was a stage stop on the Butterfield Trail, La Posta is now run by Jerean Hutchinson, whose grandmother founded it in 1939. It is a southwestern culinary landmark.

The most famous dish on the menu is tostadas compuestas – crisp-fried corn tortilla cups into which are ladled red chili con carne, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. A combo plate includes one tostada compuesta plus a chili relleno (a large cheese-stuffed, breaded and deep-fried chili pepper), a taco, and guacamole salad.

Other expertly made native dishes include flautas, green chili enchiladas, sunset-hued carne adovada and steak smothered in green chili and melted cheese. No matter what you order, you will get a basket full of warm sopaipillas for mopping up every last good bit of food off of the plate.

There is a magical sense of history about La Posta. The several dining rooms are loud and festive and, in the vestibule which has more plants than a tropical rain forest, you will be serenaded by squawking parrots.

8. La Plazuela at La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Nestled in the heart of La Fonda on the Plaza, La Plazuela offers an innovative approach to Santa Fe dining and New Mexican cuisine, cooking up traditional recipes with enticing new twists.

La Fonda (Spanish for the inn) doesn’t just occupy the oldest hotel site in Santa Fe – it occupies the oldest hotel site in the country. Records date way, way back to 1607, right around when the city was founded.

The digs inside are a bit more modern, however – and their much venerated La Plazuela restaurant serves tasty, tasty, tasty modern southwestern cuisine surrounded by skylights and the hammered tin of a 1920s-era patio. For some amazing margaritas, try the adjacent La Fiesta Lounge (it happens to be a favoured stop on the Margarita Trail).

9. Benji’s French Basque Restaurant, Bakersfield, California

Benji’s French Basque Restaurant is conveniently located two blocks from River Run RV Park. Bakersfield is home to the largest assemblage of Basque restaurants in the U. S. The numerous Basque restaurants offer customary Basque experiences, carrying on the traditions of their ancestors. A Basque meal is served family style with hearty courses and meat (often lamb) or seafood entrees.

We ordered the Set Up and an excellent choice it was for our initiation to the Basque food experience. First, the soup, pinto beans and salsa were brought out to our table to be mixed in accordance with our wants. The cabbage-filled soup and French bread were delicious. We were served the salad next. The fresh garden lettuce and sliced tomatoes were heartily dressed and delicious, as was the pickled tongue.

Everything was delicious. We rolled out full of amazing food. Would visit this diamond again!

10. Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant, Berea, Kentucky

A visit to Berea is simply not complete without visiting the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant. It all began in the summer of 1908 when Nellie Frost, the wife of Berea College President William G. Frost, provided lodging and meals at her home for some 300 visitors to the college. As the final visitor departed, her husband was told in no uncertain terms that it was time to build a guest house.

The award-winning restaurant serves up both traditional favourites and exciting reinterpretations of southern cuisine. Fresh, flavourful homemade dishes (that are as locally sourced as possible) and classically decorated rooms make for a romantic weekend or much-deserved getaway. The graceful white columns and airy verandas nestle among the vibrant galleries, cafés, shops and studios.

11. Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Ambrosia Bakery is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana institution with an incredible selection of cookies and cheesecakes. They also offer sugar-free chocolate chip cookies and classic chocolate chip cookies for those who want something a little less sweet. The bakery is brightly decorated with café seating, perfect for breakfast or lunch bites.

The Fresh Strawberry Cake, a beloved delicacy from Louisiana, stands out as a local favourite that tantalizes taste buds with its unique blend of flavours and textures. This delightful dessert centres around a foundation of moist yellow butter cake, carefully crafted to achieve the perfect balance between richness and tenderness. But what truly sets this confection apart is its signature filling and icing – a closely guarded secret that has become synonymous with indulgence.

12. Julian Pie Company, Julian, California

A locally owned family business specializing in apple pies and cider donuts, Julian Pie Company has been producing its stellar pies since 1989 and bakes traditional apple pies, plus variations of apple with cherry, boysenberry, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry or rhubarb. You can also order pecan pies and pumpkin pies, or a pie with an all-fruit filling that doesn’t include apple.

Along with the most widely distributed apple pie throughout Southern California, they carry apple cider donuts, apple nut bread and apple memories, bits of extra pie crust cut into hearts that are perfect to snack on during the ride home.

The Julian Pie Company is housed in a small building that looks like a house off of the main street in Julian. There are both outdoor picnic tables and a row of tables indoors on which to enjoy your slice of pie. If eating at the store, try a scoop of Julian Pie Company’s cinnamon ice cream to go with your pie. You can also try ordering your apple pie with melted cheddar cheese on top.

Their pies are popular for a reason: a short crumbly pie crust; juicy, oozy filling; soft, rich apple and a crisp, delicate pastry bottom! Perfect.

13-16. Black’s Barbecue, Smitty’s Market, Kreuz Market and Lockhart Chisholm Trail BBQ, Lockhart, Texas

If you want to sink your teeth into excellent brisket, then head to Lockhart, the official ‘Barbecue Capital of Texas’. The small town is home to four major barbecue restaurants: Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932; Lockhart Chisholm Trail BBQ; Smitty’s Market; and Kreuz Market (pronounced Krites).

Heavy on the pepper, the snappy beef-and-pork sausage at Kreuz Market is truly one of the best in Barbecueland. The pork spareribs taste fresh, with plenty of juicy, delicious meat on them, and the beef ribs are scrumptious.

Only the uninitiated use the front door at Smitty’s Market. You’ll enter the boxy brick building from the parking lot, passing the waist-high brick pits, and peruse the list of post oak-smoked meats – brisket, pork ribs and chops, shoulder clod, sausage and prime rib. Salivating, you place your order for a pound or so of meat. May this bulwark of tradition never change.

Instead of a mesmerizing encounter with a picturesque fire blazing at the end of an ancient brick pit such as you’ll find at Smitty’s, at Black’s, you’re funnelled through a narrow corridor past a salad bar. When you finally reach the meat counter, you’ll find great brisket, enormous beef short ribs, pork ribs, pork chops, smoked turkey breast and Black’s signature sausage (90 per cent beef, 10 per cent pork) with phenomenal flavour.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.

—Erma Bombeck

By Rex Vogel