The Best Road Food - From Alabama to Colorado

Alabama Road Food
Alabama prides itself in barbecue, and in the South, that means slow-cooked meats slathered in a sauce either before or after cooking that melt in your mouth. By the way, never say "barbecue" in the South when you mean you’re going to grill some steaks and burgers in your backyard – that is not barbeque and they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind.

Road Food

The best place to get it: Take a break along your road trip route to eat at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Alabama – home of heavenly pork ribs that are so moist and tender, you’ll think you really are dreaming.

Arizona Road Food
The Tex-Mex food of this area is better described as Mex, as its flavors are closer to Mexican than those in Texas – the influences come particularly from the Sonora area of Mexico near the U.S. border. Don’t plan on having anything on a corn tortilla – the most authentic version of any kind of dish will be served on wheat tortillas. Also, Arizona’s Mexican state road food will be less spicy than anywhere else – yet more influence from Sonora.

The best place to get it: It’s hard to take a step in AZ without bumping into another great Mexican restaurant, but the hands-down #1 favorite is Carolina’s in Phoenix. Two other winners are Los Dos Molinos in Phoenix and Guadalajara Grill in Tuscon.

Arkansas Road Food
Arkansas has so many influences on its food that there really isn’t a "state" road food as it varies so much throughout the state due to influences from all sides – Mexican on one, Southern plantation cooking on another and hill-country cooking from the Ozarks. The best foods of the state are many: from barbeque to fried catfish to fried green tomatoes, the best plan is to have a sampling on your road trip.

The best place to get it: Go out of your way if necessary to go to the town of Scott and experience Cotham’s Mercantile. Not only is the food sublime (get an unbelievably good fried pie here as well as a platter of whatever they’ve got that day) but the décor is country all-the-way with lots of vintage farm bric-a-brac decorating every surface. This old building set on stilts above a slow-moving river has had many incarnations as a general store, a jail, and a military commission.

California Road Food
California also has a range of influences, but if there is something that can be called a true Californian food, it would be "Fusion" cooking which lightened French sauces while keeping other French influences, added the spices and chile’s of Mexico, and threw in Asian flavors where warranted. This melding of many different kinds of cuisines has become the world-renowned California Cuisine.

The best place to get it: Go straight to the source at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, the creation of one of the originators of this style of cooking: Alice Waters. No, it’s not cheap, so if you’re on a tight budget, there are two low-cost restaurants you can visit on your road trip that Californians also call their own: In and Out Burger for California's favorite fast-food burger and California Pizza Kitchen for their strange combinations of pizza toppings (worth trying even if they sound weird – they’re surprisingly good).

Colorado Road Food
In such a naturally beautiful area, you’ll want the freshest and most natural food you can eat after a long day of breathing in all that clean mountain air. Why not have the state food, trout, along with some nice Colorado potatoes and whatever vegetable is in season? Eat these two state foods in a wonderful restaurant with an amazing view of the mountains and you’ve got a recipe for a great meal.

The best place to get it: A true Colorado gem, Hearthstone Restaurant sounds as cozy as it is, located in the historic Kaiser House in Breckenridge, CO, with views of the spectacular mountains from your dining table and a menu that highlights the very best of the Rocky Mountain Region’s locally farmed in-season foods, including meats, fresh-caught fish, delicious artisan cheeses and fresh organic produce. If you road trip here in the summer, be sure to sit out on their patio and take in the wildflowers and fresh air along with your dinner. On a budget? Camp in the Arkansas Valley near the Arkansas River where you can catch your own trout and cook it up over a campfire for dinner. Nothing better!


Return to Road Food Across the Nation

Return to Road Trip Planning Home