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Roadtripping thru Caifornia to Seattle!

Ok -- I'm hustling up from Los Angeles on November 5th and planning to make Seattle in about five days. It's me and a girl in the small (Honda Accord) car and we will be sticking to the I-5 route pretty much the whole way. SO I'm new to this forum and dying for suggestions of places to get some good, fun food along the freeway. Since time is of the essence on this trip, I need to stick pretty close to the freeway. So those are my parameters -- any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Howdy,
    Gotta say, first of all, that the driving time from LA to Seattle is 19 hours X minutes if you stay on the freeway. That is a one day drive. I have ridden many more miles than that in a day on my motorcycle.

    5 Days is luxurious no matter what kind of car you have, so long as the damned thing runs!

    So, I suggest you get off the 5, head over to Solvang/Buellton and hit Split Pea Andersen's for lunch. Have the pea soup and a half sandwich. You can order a glass of buttermilk with your meal! They serve little ramikens of toppings that really liven up a bowl of soup. Then head North. Stop in Pismo Beach for clam chowder at the Splash Cafe. Further North is Paso Robles. You should have enough daylight left for a bit of winery hopping. I don't remember any restaurants there, but the Paso Robles Inn had a great selection of local wines that doubtless account for my lapse of memory. Ask at wineries for restaurant recommends. If they know wine, they will know food.

    From there, I would scoot back to the 5 and shoot for Napa. I am sure there are plenty of recommendations for restaurants there, but they will likely hurt your checkbook a bit. Pick up a bottle of William Harrison Cabernet if you can find it for under $50, get some fruit and cheese and have a picnic under a tree. There are plenty of parks up around there.

    Chico is about as far north as I have spent any time in California, other than hectic drives. But if you can make Chico in the morning, then Morning Thunder turns out an excellent breakfast and the Sierra Nevada Brewery has a great menu for both lunch and dinner. Plus good beer.

    From there, I am going to have to pass you off to others from the North who will be more familiar with the territory. Best of luck, drive safe, and have a wonderful trip.

    1. Folks, please keep your suggestions focused on the California segment of this roadrip aside from the L.A. and S.F. areas. We have boards that focus on those metro areas specifically.

      The OP is invited to ask about Oregon and Washington segment of the trip on our Pacific NW board, located here:


      1. Hey everyone!

        Gee, thanks for the great suggestions, axesbowledaslove! We will be trying many, if not most, of your offers!

        I should have been more precise with my words in my original post...as many of you noticed, five days to reach Seattle isn't exactly HUSTLING... hahaha. It is more of a ramble, I suppose, but there is a two or three day stop in Bend, Oregon scheduled in. I should have mentioned.

        And to the forum administrators, I apologize for putting out a thread that covered too much territory for the actual board. My bad. That's what I get for not reading closely enough!

        If anybody else out there knows any gems along the I-5 in California, lemme know! You all are great!

        1. Here's my report from summer 05 on Mt. Shasta City and Dunsmuir:


          A search of this board for Shasta or Dunsmuir will bring up quite a few others. Please be sure and report back.

          1. There a few good places in Woodland, CA:

            Maritime Seafood & Grill (they also have one in Redding)
            Tazzina Bistro

            In Williams:

            Louis Cairo's

            1. Not sure where you're from, but if it's outside of California you'll need to stop at In N Out Burger at least once. And if you try it once, your stomach will need it again. Of course, you probably already know this if you're from CA.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BOS_steve

                I may be in the minority, but I find In-N-Out burgers juat another cooked-to-death wafer-thin patty (or two). I've tried several times but always come away with "just another bad fast-food burger".

              2. If you like meat, there is a gem in Willows, Pat & Larry's Steakhouse on old Hwy 99 (parallel to I5) on the south end of town. They specialize in beef and lamb with very reasonable prices and we eat there often. We recently had dinner at Gironda's Chicago Style Italian Restaurant at 1100 Center St. in Redding (under the Hwy. 299 overpass downtown). They had a tasty appetizer plate, good food and a decent wine list. Also, Nello's Place in Redding looked like an interesting Italian restaurant, but it appeared to be very busy with a longer wait. Watch out for the garlic if you try Louis Cairo's in Williams. If you want a real adventure for dinner in a classic riverfront dive, I suggest River Glenn on the Sacramento River east of Willows. This place is a dump, but there was a big limo out front the last time I ate there. I had prime rib and my wife had the halibut, both of which were huge portions. Exit in Willows on Hwy 162, go east about 12 miles to Hwy 45, then north along the river to River Glenn.

                1. Al the Wop's in Locke (between Stockton and Sacramento) is fun and funky, but you gotta like steak. To get there, take Walnut Grove Road off I-5 (about 10 miles north of Stockton), and turn left (east). Drive about 6 miles on Walnut Grove Road (it will go up onto a levee and become River Road). When you see a big, wooden boathouse on the left side of the road you know you're in Locke. Turn right (down off the levee), then make an immediate left onto Main Street. Al's is on the right.

                  To get back to I-5, continue north on River Road until you get to Twin Cities Road, turn right, and Twin Cities Road will get you back to I-5. Alternately, you can stay on River Road all the way to Sacramento. Much more scenic, but much slower, too. If you're not paying attention, also more dangerous...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ricepad

                    Watch out for the hours at Al the Wop's. On my way home from a pilgrimage to Beltramo’s Wine Shop in Menlo Park (such great wine, such great prices), I cut over to I-5 to eat a late lunch at Giusti’s Place in Walnut Grove. This is a wonderful restaurant at Snodgrass Slough on West Walnut Grove Rd (the next exit north of the Hwy. 12 exit), which is the same road you take to Locke and Al the Wop's. Giusti’s is really good food and Al the Wop's is a joint with local color and history. Unfortunately, it was Monday, the one day Giusti’s is closed, so I headed to my backup, Al the Wop's. Arriving just after 2:00 p.m., they informed me they had just closed. I guess that was for lunch and they are open for dinner, but they didn’t say. From the website , I see Giusti’s closes at 1:30 p.m. for lunch and opens at 5:00 p.m. for dinner, so watch the hours for both of them. I went away hungry. Incidentally, you can get a good lunch and fresh pies at the David Bruce Winery (Earthquake Zin) on Hwy. 12 near I-5 heading east towards Lodi. Just a few mile further east, Lodi has great zinfandel wineries (Jessie’s Grove, etc.) and a wine center for other tastings. The new Safeway on Hwy. 12 had a big local wine section where I got Klinker Brick at a good price.

                  2. Highway 99 is a heck of a lot more interesting than 5 when going up California from LA and doubt it takes you that much more time - far more interesting for road side stops and local, non-chain restaurants.

                    Plot it out and think about this - you can branch off somewhere around Bakersfield I believe. Then stop at the DalaHorse in Kingsburg on 99 for Swedish pancakes, and the Big Orange for fresh squeezed juice or shakes in Fairmead. That will get your day started.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      Actually glbtrtr, shortly after coming down off the Grapevine northbound on I-5 if you keep heading north you'll be on 99, I-5 branches off @20-25 mi. south of Bakersfield running between the Kettleman Hills and the CA Aqueduct. If the OP does choose I-5, there are a couple of places in Buttonwillow (can search this board) but pretty much a wasteland from there to the Stockton area. I agree with you that 99 offers much more for a hungry hound.

                      1. re: glbtrtr

                        Highway 99 is more interesting, without question, and it does offer more opportunities to stop, but I wouldn't bother with the Mammoth Orange, unless you like eating an overpriced and mediocre hamburger at the side of the freeway. There's NO inside seating, and the patio can't be more than a couple hundred feet from cars and trucks moving at 70+MPH.

                        If you decide to take 99 instead, Bakersfield has a couple of Basque places worth checking out.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          There's the Wool Growers Basque Restaurant in Los Banos just off I-5 that everyone likes. Going to college in LA before I-5 was built, it took me 10+ hrs. driving as fast as I could on Hwy. 99 to make the trip from Northern CA. Now I'm a geezer and I make that trip several times a year on I-5 driving slower than most with pit stops which takes 7.5 hrs.

                      2. Along I-5 going north:
                        In N Out Burger in Kettleman City
                        Harris Ranch Restaurant in Coalinga
                        Andersen's Pea Soup Restaurant in Santa Nella
                        Granzella's in Williams

                        And for you coffee lovers:
                        Starbucks at the second west exit below the Grapevine
                        Starbucks in Buttonwillow

                        1. sorry, but I'd not rec that you make a special stop to eat at either Anderson's location (yawn....)just not chowish. ok in an emergency, but....

                          ....Just a few miles north of junction of 33 and 5 (Santa Nella, where Anderson's is), take the Gustine exit and head east about 5 miles to the town. Turn left just past the school to Wolfsen's Meat and Sausage Co. at 358 South Ave. (209-854-6456) M-F 8:-6:30; Sat 8-5, Sun 8-3.

                          If you're in the neighborhood on Oct 21, there's having a grand opening and sausage tasting. 49 varieties of smoked sausage and 16 fresh (non-smoked). Plus, on (any)Saturday: cooked tri-tip, ribs, home-corned beef, bbq chicken, beans etc.

                          We stopped there today on Polar Bear's rec and had sandwiches. Wonderful! Grado's 'daily special' (turkey, cheese, veggies, came grilled pannini-style on french bread. My hot corned beef came in a Portuguese sweetbread-style folding bun with grilled bell peppers and onions. Both were excellent and worth the 5 minute side trip.

                          Friendly owners and counter help. A truely dazzling array of sausage! Mostly set up for to-go orders but there are two small tables inside and a nice park just as you approach town where you could picnic in the shade.

                          bags of ice available for coolers if travelling with meats.

                          here is an earlier discussion:

                          and I second the rec for Al's Place in Locke. Also Giusti's in Walnut Grove. Take the Twin Cities Rd. off-ramp and head west to the river. Turn right for Locke, left for Walnut Grove; both are jsut a few minutes along the river road. (Look for the three gigantic TV towers on the left as you approach Twin Cities Rd. travleing up 5.) Both are excellent places for chowish adventures!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: toodie jane

                            From Twin Cities Road, both Locke and Walnut Grove are to the left (south). If you turn right, the next burg you'll come to is Freeport, IIRC, and that's a few miles up the road.

                          2. sorry for the wrong turn! coulda sworn it was right! I must admit I navigate by landmarks....usually gets me where I need to go, but to give wrong directions on chowhound....I'd better watch mayself! :-0