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Any Must Eats Along I-5?

  • k

I'm driving the length of I-5 and back soon and an wondering if anything worthwhile is along the way or do I resign myself to chains and fast food?

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  1. I would post this on the SF and LA boards, also, if you haven't already. You'll have better luck with finding good eats in their surrounding bergs if you do.

    1. It would probably help to describe which section of I-5 you are referring to. The section between the Tracy Triangle and the Grapevine is notorious for being a wasteland - unless you venture several miles away from the off-ramp. I-5 between Woodland & Red Bluff in the north also suffers the same problem. Best bet is to schedule those sections between meals, or just pack a gourmet picnic lunch and stop at a rest stop.

      Otherwise, there is an In-N-Out at the Kettleman City exit and Harris Ranch at the Coalinga exit that I would recommend.

      1. A search of the CA board on Buttonwillow provides:

        This is about it between the Grapevine and Stockton. Think I'd opt for In-N-Out over Harris Ranch.

        If you're willing to detour 7 mi east on 152 in Los Banos there are some small Mexican places, Olinda's (Peruvian on the east end) and Wool Growers (Basque) about in the middle. Do a search on the town's name for more details. Likewise, Stockton has a number of decent places.

        North of Sacto do a search on Williams, Chico, Dunsmuir, and Mt. Shasta, quite a number of threads on these areas. I-5 doesnt' intersect the SF Board's area, but you'll need to post on the LA Board for S of the Grapevine through Orange County.

        Be sure and report back on your experiences.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PolarBear

          Note that you no longer have to go into Buttonwillow proper, can get the pupusas right on the highway:

          My post on spotting this was in the search you link:


          and I've seen a confirmation post recently, but don't see that more recent one.

        2. Thanks all for your recs. My trip got delayed so I won't be doing it 'til April. I made a tentative list, tho, from chowhound and eg posts:

          I-5 EATS

          Wong’s King (E. Portland ¼ mi. off 205) 8533 S.E. Division 503-788-8883
          The only decent dim sum in Oregon. Get there at 10am or plan on wait in line.

          Banh Cuon Tan Dinh (E. Portland ¾ mi. off 205) 2850 S.E. 82nd St. 503-445-6807
          Good Vietnamese that goes way beyond the usual pho/bun/com dishes.

          In –n- Out Burgers
          1275 Dana Drive Redding, California 96003
          2727 W. March Ln. Stockton, California 95219
          Highway 41 at Bernard Dr. Kettleman City, California 93239

          Bartels Giant Burger 22355 Corning Rd, Corning CA, 96021-9669 Sun: 11:30am-9pm Mon-Sat: 10am-9pm North Corning exit off I 5, west side, serves great juicy giant burgers.

          Granzellas in Williams. 451 6th St. 95987 (530) 473-5583
          Granzella's Restaurant serves breakfast lunch and dinner seven days a week. Granzella's breakfast specialties include items off the griddle, Belgian Waffles, omelet's, country fried steaks, and much more! Granzella's also serves an extensive lunch and dinner menu, with items that will satisfy any hungry beast at an affordable, family-friendly price. Items include a long list of appetizers, specialty soups and salads, sandwiches, pastas, charbroiled specialties, and our house specials. Our wonderful line of home made pizzas include tons of toppings and varieties, don't forget to try some of our favorites like the "Granzella's Pizza" and the "Garlic & Herb Chicken Pizza". Granzella's didn't forget its senior citizens and included a special senior favorites menu. Join us every Saturday night for Prime Rib Night.

          Cutija A stand on Hwy 152 at Los Banos, has a classic taqueria menu, with all the weird meats (lengua and cabeza and such) and a whole passel of tortas. They have jalapenos en escabeche on the side

          Tita's Pupuserias (Buttonwillow)
          Four miles west of Hwy 5 on Hwy 58. 7 AM to 10 PM. 661/764-9351
          Branch (Not a taco truck) at the I-5 offramp. Tita's would be a major find in SF, LA or San Diego. The pupusas are thick handmade discs filled with cheese. In addition there are pupusas with loroca, a salvadorian flower, fried pork or refried beans. It is accompanied by an tasty corrido, that vinegary slaw of onions, carrots and cabbage. Spread it on top of your pupusa and dig in.

          Johnnie's Pastrami (just off 405) 4017 Sepulveda Blvd Culver City, CA 90230 (310) 397-6654
          Fifty year old joint that does the L.A. pastrami dip right. Not cheap but you get a huge, great pastrami. Small eaters can split one. Cash only.

          Empanada's Place (just off 405) 3811 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90066 (310) 391-0888
          A great little hole in the wall Argentinian place known for its empanadas.

          9 Replies
          1. re: kirkj

            Would strongly recommend checking the CH posts for the Mt. Shasta City and Dunsmuir areas for the best along the northern I-5 corridor.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Sengthong's sounds outstanding, thanks.

            2. re: kirkj

              Don't waste your time at Granzella's. Very ordinary food in a tourist trap. I don't know if its still there, but a couple years ago I stopped at a taco stand around the corner, and it was quite good.

                    1. re: jwbarth

                      The exception worth getting at Granzella's are the sandwiches at the deli counter. Get one to go. The veggie on sourdough and the Big Tom Combo on sourdough are both great. And that little taco stand around the corner you mentioned is great. It's painted bright yellow, on the right. BIG burritos.

                      451 Sixth St, Williams, CA 95987

                    2. re: kirkj

                      Hillside Grill in tiny Coberg...7 miles before you get to Eugene, Oregon, or 7 miles after Eugene. We loved it and stop there when we go to Portland.

                      Fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared, great service..surprising menu for such an out of the way spot. Fabulous BBQ.

                      1. re: kirkj

                        Tita's is now located across from McDonalds just off I-5 at exit 257, Buttonwillow.


                        Tita's Restaurante y Pupuseria
                        20643 Tracy Ave, Buttonwillow, CA 93206

                      2. there is nothing. my best advice is to stick to in n out. its pretty much around the halfway point between LA and SF.

                        1. I say waste some time at Granzella's. They have a huge menu with tasty pizzas as well. They also have a deli where you can order sandwitches to go. Even if you don't eat there, atleast pick up a jar of olives and check out their huge beer selection.

                          1. Chick fil a off Jamboree in Irvine. hahaha my <3

                            1. Would it be feasible to drive the length of the San Joaquin Valley (between the Grapevine and Stockton/Sacramento) on hwy 99 instead of I-5? The drive on 99 is slower than on 5 (crowded lanes at 65mph vs. uncrowded lanes at 75mph), but 99 would take you thru all the towns and cities that would considerably open up your eating opportunities.

                              1. There are certainly no "must" eats (assuming between SF and LA). Our usual is try to get to either SF and LA as quickly as possible. Why waste time in between when there are so much good food at either end?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: PeterL

                                  I would say the Taco truck in Kettleman City is now a must stop for me.

                                  See review below.

                                2. Great authintic Mexican food. We always stop here traveling up and down I-5, to and from Tucson, AZ. Chips are warm and fresh, food has a great taste and some dishes even have a nice "pica". Service is fast but you are not rushed, and the servers are very polite. Both full meals and a-la-carte.

                                  Don Perico
                                  9021 Grapevine Rd W, Lebec, CA 93243

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                      sorry the resturants name was at the bottom. Don Perico at 9021 Grapevine rd W, Levec, ca. It is the first exit at the bottom of the mts heading north out of LA (over tejon pass) or the last exit on i-5 south before you start the climb (after the scales). Hope this helps, there is also a ramada Inn at this exit.

                                      Don Perico Restaurant
                                      9021 Grapevine Rd W, Lebec, CA 93243

                                    2. re: tucsonmac

                                      Welcome to Chowhound!

                                      Please follow the map link and read my previous review of this place. This resto (a local chain) serves Very mediocre, boring and overpriced Mexican style food which is the I-5 standard. I especially dislike having a heavy combo plate forced on me when I'm driving through.

                                      BTW there are other, more recent topics on LA-SF I-5 food to wake up :-).

                                    3. It is getting to be apricot time. Any more reports on the apricot shake at the Apricot Tree, Firebaugh exit on Highway 5?

                                      1. You may want to detour about 15 miles off of I-5 to the east to make it to Bakersfield. We've got the largest population of Basque restaurants plus many new, locally-owned ethnic restaurants. The downtown area has seen a resurgence of eateries, including Enzo's (sushi), the Padre Hotel (five eateries under one roof) and of course the downtown staples (T.L. Maxwells, Sandrini's, etc).

                                        Check out http://visitbakersfield.com/visitors/... for more choices.

                                        Sandrini's Restaurant
                                        1918 Eye St, Bakersfield, CA 93301

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: VisitBakersfield

                                          We had a very wonderful little french bistro restaurant open in Santa Barbara that got its start in Bakersfield. Who would have guessed being in flat farm land country, but there is money in Bakersfield between argirculture, oil and minerasl which does support a critical mass of diners with discriminating palates.

                                          Bakersfield's loss was our gain, (Petit Valentin in Santa Barbara now) so it is interesting to learn Bakersfield indeed is emerging as a culinary *farm* club, if you pardon the pun.

                                          Same thing seems to be happening in Salinas as well - some very worthy dining alternatives if you go a few blocks off the main highways.

                                          1. re: glbtrtr

                                            Bakersfield is really a foodie place. A lot of non-chain, locally-owned and authentic places to try out. Is that restaurant you speak of have any relation to Valentine Restaurant‎ in Bakersfield?

                                            I've been here a little over two years and have not come close to going to all the places I would like to try.

                                            Want to know something even better? The Tehachapi area in the mountains just east of Bakersfield is sprouting new vineyards. The two online now are Souza Family Vineyards (http://www.souzafamilyvineyard.com/) and Triassic Legacy Vineyards (http://www.triassiclegacy.com/).

                                        2. in Kettleman City right off I5. Forget the fast foods joints and try El Grullense taco truck

                                          The name of the truck is "Tacos El Grullense" straight down the main road toward town, less than a mile past the corporate fast food joints and rip off gas stations.

                                          They serve Tacos,Burritos,Tortas and Quesadillas.

                                          Meats available are Asado,Pastor Lengua,Cabeza,Pollo Barbacoa,Tripas and Carnitas

                                          Tacos are $1.25 each and they are fantastic!

                                          The truck is next door to local MiniMart with cold beers and way cheaper gas.