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Can't take it anymore: Need recs off the NJ tpke and 95

Not sure which board to post this on so will do it on several.

We travel from NY (Westchester) to Southern Maryland (Calvert County) a few times a year and it never fails that we need to stop toward Northern Maryland and end up at Chesapeake House or, heaven forbid, one of the rest stops on the NJ tpke closer to Delaware than New York.

The food is awful, expensive for what it is and it's always a miserable experience. We'd love to find some great, casual places to stop for good eats that won't take us more than few miles off the road.

Grateful for the help.

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  1. Woody's Crab House in North East, MD is a good option. It's less than three miles off 95 (take exit 100A, MD 272 south to where it splits right in North East).

    There is also Durham's Best BBQ, which may cause you to pull off the road for a few hours to take a nap, in Elkton, MD. Also just about a mile off 95, heading north on MD 279 from exit 109B. This place is VERY casual but the barbecue is shockingly good. Mostly carryout, but there are a few rickety picnic tables.

    If you need dessert, head a few miles north on 95, get off at DE 141 (just before the 295 split) and head south, and go to Dairy Palace.

    3 Replies
    1. re: travelmad478

      How does Durham's BBQ in Elkton compare to Firhouse BBQ http://www.fhbbq.com/ which now is open in Kennett Square I see?

      1. re: bluehensfan

        I haven't tried Firehouse, sorry, can't compare the food. Looking at the Firehouse website I can say this: the fact that Firehouse HAS a website, rudimentary as it may be, means that it's about 25 years ahead of Durham's Best as far as customer outreach and technology. (Durham's takes credit cards, which is about as high-tech as it gets!) The Firehouse menu is also far more extensive. Durham's is seriously bare-bones when it comes to sides, but based on my experiences and the clientele that are there when I have been, I am definitely convinced on the meat quality!

        1. re: travelmad478

          Ok...thanks a lot! Will have to try both then!

    2. May be too far north for you, but Mastoris diner in NJ is pretty good- a big Jersey diner with good bread and big portions, etc. It's in Bordentown at the 206/130 split, just a bit south of 195 (NJT exit 7). Also on 130 in the Americana diner but it's a bit north.

      Also, when heading south you could hop over from the turnpike to 95 south through Pennsylvania, and hit Tony Luke's in South Philadelphia for cheesesteaks or roast pork (Oregon Ave- don't remember the precise exit number), or if you're coming down on a weekday early enough, John's Roast Pork, on Columbus Blvd in South Phila near the Ikea...

      11 Replies
      1. re: pronek

        Agree about Mastoris; it's a great diner. If you want to travel a little further south. get off at exit 4 (Mt. Laurel). Get onto 73 South, and the Sage diner is abou 1/4 mile on the right side. Not as good as Mastoris, but still good. You didn't ask, but next to Sage is an On the Border and a Macaroni Grill, if you like chain type food. (I don't)
        When you exit the Sage, go out the back, onto the side road (Church). Make a left out of the parking lot and left at the light onto 73 North. Turnpike entrance is 1/4 mile on your right side..

        1. re: mschow

          No chains for me either mschow.

          1. re: laylag

            Never eaten there, but I have heard that Basil's Legends Bar & Grille in the Days Inn right off of Exit 8 of the NJ Tpke. is quite good. Here's a review: http://tinyurl.com/2kbw5x

          2. re: mschow

            Another vote for Mastorio's - as for the food, it's a diner, not a french bistro, for heaven's sake! Ask to eat in the back, the older part of the diner, where the regulars tend to hang out. Waitresses have been there forever and the ownership is still in the family - third generation. We try to hit it going south on the turnpike or on 295.

          3. re: pronek

            Here's another vote for Mastoris. It's about the only place we detour to off the NJ TPK on the trip from PA to NYC.

            1. re: CindyJ

              Between this board and the D.C./Baltimore board Mastoris wins by a landslide. I'm definitely going to try it next trip on the way down, the way back up or, if its as yummy as everyone says, possibly both!

              Thanks all!

              1. re: laylag

                Mastori's is always crowded, but you usually don't have to wait too long. Be sure to try their cheese bread. Also, they have a huge number of sides that come with the entrees. Love their creamed spinach and they also have this kind of corn pudding with pineapple that I love. Just drove by there yesterday...should have stopped in for takeout! Great bakery items, too.

                1. re: mschow

                  I've been to Mastoris a number of times and never really got what the big deal was. Basic diner food as far as I could tell (and not that great from the food I did try). I was also disapppointed to note that the cheese bread was in fact a cheese danish (I was looking forward to savory not sweet in the beginning of meal). Just my 2 cents.

                  1. re: bgut1

                    We tried Mastoris several years ago and were not impressed. Long lines, high prices, crowded seating. Huge portions indeed, but the food was nothing special.

                    Perhaps they have improved in recent years...

                    1. re: val ann c

                      >Perhaps they have improved in recent years...

                      They haven't.

                  2. re: mschow

                    Ate at Mastori's for the first time in about 10 years recently. Had many fond memories, but this meal was very disappointing. I remember the food quality being much better than what we experienced.

            2. Just before the Delaware Memorial Bridge, take Rt. 49 south about a mile or two to Main Street (yellow blinking light) turn right to the river and the Riverview Inn. They have a nice deck in the summer...great food. Better hurry though, I hear they might be closing in the fall.

              Or, if you get off the turnpike at exit 2, take Rt. 322 west into PA and 95 South into DE, you'll go right through Wilmington. Rt 202 North will take you to the Charcoal Pit in less than a mile for great burgers and shakes. Or Rt. 52 will lead to a number of places...hmmmm...any Delawareans care to suggest the best place within a mile from I-95?

              2 Replies
                1. re: BigSteve

                  re: one mile off 95, may I suggest Harry's in north Wilmington (Naamans Rd)... might be a good stop for lunch, but pricey for an on-the-road dinner.

                2. Went to Mastoris last night and had one of their salad apecials. Other family members had sandwiches, appetizers, and a full sized entree. My salad was fresh, way too big. Salad dressing was flavorless. Soup was very salty. All the sandwiches were very large and looked good. Fries and onion ring that my niece has were tasty. My sister had a wrap sandwich she said she liked. Again, very large portions for everything.
                  Overall, I do think the food may have slipped a bit, but it's still decent diner food. I think the Americana is better, but for people looking for easy access to the turnpike, Mastoris is a bit easier to find. I had also suggested The Sage Diner in Mt. Laurel. Sage provides the easiest on and off of the turnpike by far. The menu is smaller than Mastoris, but I would say the food is about equal. At either place you will get a decent meal, not an excellent one at either. But, then again, we are talking diner food.