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Aug 10, 2007 09:23 AM

I-5 stops worth making?

Here's a topic that may be of interest to almost anyone in California who owns a car and uses it. We will be driving from Sacramento to the LA area on interstate 5 and are looking for worthy places to stop for meals. We will be with our 2 year old daughter. Any ideas that will allow us to avoid eating at the usual stops of Taco Bell in Lemoore and the AM/PM in Kettleman City without taking us more than a mile or two off the road would be useful. All cuisines considered. Thanks.

Doug & Nancy in Sac

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  1. At the main Buttonwillow exit, there is an Indian restaurant that I have not tried and an independent Salvadoran/Mexican place (near the north end of the exit area) that has pupusas and servicable burritos.


    7 Replies
    1. re: Ed Dibble

      I'd advise caution with both of these places. I was unimpressed with that Tita's location:
      It might be worth driving a few miles off of I-5 to the original Tita's location (where I haven't been). I'd also stay away from the Indian place - bland and pricey.
      OTOH the Willow Ranch BBQ place was definitely serviceable :-).
      I liked the Mexican place in Westley (except for the cubano) which is:
      Antojitos Mexicanos, 7154 S Mccracken Rd # D, just north of the off-ramp.
      Downtown Gustine has the famous Wolfsens Meats but that might be a little far off the track.
      I'm trying to think of something decent at the Santa Nella offramp but can't. After 30 years of driving I-5 I have an aversion to Anderson's salt and pea soup.
      Perhaps someone can recommend something in Los Banos...

      Willow Ranch
      27770 Lagoon Dr, Buttonwillow, CA 93206

      Tita's Pupuseria - moved
      380 Front St, Buttonwillow, CA 93206

      1. re: DiveFan

        I just did the drive thru at Tita's. It wasn't great (and I spilled burrito all over my shirt), but it was so much better than the usual fast-food garbage like Taco Hell. I must confess that I am usually on a 9-10 hour drive, so I am looking for quick eats, not gourmet dining. But I would stop back at Tita's.

        1. re: Ed Dibble

          Nine hour drives - I'm impressed, oh Taco God of Yuma. I guess my Mexican food standards have been raised by CH posters including yourself. A long road trip is one time my digestive tract can't chance dodgy Mexican. One of the only situations where I'm tempted by Subway or Quiznos.
          On second thought Sacto_Damkier is right, if you have a little more time Hwy 99 has many more options.
          I can't remember if the upscale Nob Hill supermarket, 1945 N Street, Newman has a decent deli counter. Before the thread dies, maybe someone can think of a decent sandwich place.

          1. re: DiveFan

            I usually take my time driving up to Monterey, but when returning to Yuma, I have a car full of fresh produce (like farmers' mkt heirlooms) and sometimes seafood, so I need to get home while things are fresh.

            Oops, now my reputation (such as it is) is on the line, I guess I need to be more specific about the burrito at Tita's.

            By may standards it was overstuffed. I don't hate rice/beans in a burrito, but Tita's had too much rice. There was also lettuce in it (lettuce?), though not enough to ruin it.

            I said the burrito was serviceable because the green chili it contained was tender and well flavored with a bit of background heat. The price was also reasonable, and in no way did the burrito resemble the salt bombs you get at most fast food options.


            1. re: Ed Dibble

              Where do you pick up the fresh produce? That's what I'm looking for on my upcoming road trip to Monterey

              1. re: jamiemica


                there are roadside stands near Monterey in the town of Castroville. None that I know of on 101 south of Salinas, but most Salinas Valley towns have a Farmer's Market once a week.

                The best FM's in Monterey are the one downtown (more of a street fair) and the one at the Community College (Monterey Penninsula College) near Highway 1. Excellent choices from small farms along with fish- and cheesemongers, oils, nuts, etc.

        2. re: DiveFan

          I tried that Anderson's. I'm pretty sure they misunderstood my order and gave me the pee soup.

      2. I also heard on the same exit the the Willow Ranch serves the best filet in So Cal, and right from Harris Ranch. OK, maybe not the best in So Cal, but my dad swears by it and he is a filet guy.

        My parents stop there when driving from SF to SoCal, and they also stock up on the BBQ sauce. I few have ended up in my pantry as a result and it really is great stuff.

        Not too sure of anything else. I usually try not to extend the drive any longer than need be.


        1. Well there's always Harris Ranch and In N'Out. We usually just try to drive as fast as possible to get to the other end.

          2 Replies
          1. re: PeterL

            I vote for Harris Ranch; it's a nice restaurant, & you can purchase steaks & other gifts (they give you freezer packs).

            1. re: LANative

              a great angus burger at harris is a very nice restaurant and very kid friendly.great service and fair prices,

          2. I-5 is all about getting to and from Southern California as fast as possible. The best suggestion whenever this thread comes up is to take CA 99 and stop at the many opportunities along that route. Yes, there are In-N-Out and Harris Ranch, but there are plenty of In-N-Out at both ends and Harris Ranch is not exactly a quick meal stop. If you are willing to venture far enough off I-5 to explore some of the local options, you have already canceled out any time gains from I-5 (aka the most boring freeway in CA).

            5 Replies
            1. re: Sacto_Damkier

              I second taking Highway 99 instead - far more interesting, old California and real towns along the way with still some character. Highway 5 is lifeless and foodless. And not that much faster.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Anything off the 101 that's fast but decent? I somehow managed to get myself subjected to my first (and last) Carl's Junior experience on the trip this weekend. I thought the 101 would have better options but we didn't time our hunger well enough to end up in Santa Barbara.

                1. re: danikm

                  101 in what vicinity? searching *Central Coast* gets lots of SLO-SB county recs.

                  1. re: danikm

                    you might start here, or start a new thread so you can be ready for your next trip:


                    1. re: danikm

                      Taking the off ramp into Old Town Ventura, just off Highway 101 on Main Street has lots of cafes and a very nice historic old town feel - lots of independent cafes, prices cheaper than SB, rent is cheaper so newer and younger chefs are cutting their teeth here.

                2. I will add another vote for Harris Ranch in Coalinga. It is a restaurant, not fast food like Taco Bell, but you have a long drive and deserve a break. You will have no problems taking a child with you, and it's not dressy. They have very good burgers, and I always pick up a couple of steaks to take home (they package it for long drives if you ask).