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Jan 21, 2008 07:07 PM

Roadside eats off I-5 between Seattle and San Francisco?

I'm driving down south this weekend, and am looking for yummy, quick eats off the I-5. Sadly I don't have too much time to stop, but I'm traveling with 2 fellow foodies who love to try local bites, and who want to avoid fast food chains. We're up for anything (taco trucks, ethnic haunts, diners, etc) as long as it's close to the freeway. Thanks!

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  1. I've done this trip a few times myself (well, I start in Vancouver) and I have a few favourites, all discovered by happy accident. The Spar in Olympia (8020 Kenton Ln Se) is downtown and not technically right off the highway, but it won't take you long to get there. Anyway, it's a big, crazy old saloon. It's been lovingly maintained and people still seem to flock there. The food is fine, definitely above average, and it's a cool place. Farther south, in Ashland OR, I recommend Creekside Pizza (92 N Main St). Particularly if you are a beer fan, since they have a great array of taps. The pizzas are big, hot, garlicky, saucy pizzas. Nice cozy vibe. Downtown again, but Ashland's not a big place. Finally, in Mount Shasta (along the most beautiful stretch of the trip, imo) I'd hit up Lily's for some soup/sandwich/salad kind of stuff (1013 Mt Shasta blvd, right in town.)

    Have a fun trip!

    1 Reply
    1. re: johnny pohoyhoy

      I don't know about the rest of the info in this post, but the Spar Cafe in downtown Olympia is NOT located anywhere close to 8020 Kenton Ln SE (that's out in the burbs), and it is no longer a "crazy old saloon". It changed hands in 2006, and is now just another McMenamin's Pub. They bought the rights to the name of Spar Cafe, and while there is nothing inherently bad about McMenamin's, it is a chain and there's a slug of 'em out there. You would have never seen a "hummus plate" or "tofu scramble" on the old Spar menu.

      If the Farmer's Market were open this time of year, I'd encourage you to eat there, but it is closed between January and March. Skip Olympia, keep driving south, and go to La Tarasca in Centralia as suggested.

    2. Ooh! You gotta stop off for some great taco truck grub in Chico, CA - its about 3 hours north of SF on I-5. There's a great truck at 8th & Pine. Super tasty is the Crazy Taco "taco window" at the Duke's Cork & Bottle liquor store. When I lived in Chico, I regularly got the super burritos there: 2360 Esplanade Chico, CA. There are so many good trucks and taquerias in this little college town.

      3 Replies
      1. re: burritobelle

        I also hear good things about the taco truck off the Old Nisqually exit near Lacey and Olympia.

        1. re: burritobelle

          Chico is at least 20 miles off of I-5.

          1. re: burritobelle

            I agree there is a great taco truck in Chico. Unfortunately, Chico is not on I-5.

          2. Burgerville is right off the exit by the outlet mall in Centralia (to the left of the freeway if you're traveling south) and La Tarasca is a little further off the freeway at the next exit but it is widely acclaimed here as some of the best tacos in the area. Of course, you're only two hours in to your drive by that point, but both are worth a stop. La Tarasca was closed for a while after the flooding - anyone have an update?

            6 Replies
            1. re: kkbriggs

              After you get south of Centralia, Burgervilles become very commonplace. Especially in Portland.

              The Texaco gas station at the Castle Rock exit (about 5-10 miles north of Longview?) had the biggest, greasiest burgers I've ever seen (other than those monstrosities at XXX in Issaquah). Disgusting to look at, but it tasted pretty good. But was years ago...

              1. re: HungWeiLo

                I was going to note Burgerville and In-and-Out once you get a litttle ways into CA, but I hope to take a chance on some roadside dinner or mom-and-pop place along the way.

                ( is a pretty good place to check stuff like that out)

                1. re: GreenYoshi

                  thanks for the recommendation! i've always wondered if a site like that exists...
                  I adore In-And-Out, especially the one at LAX where you can watch the planes land!

              2. re: kkbriggs

                La Tarasca is alive and very well. On my first visit today, the carnitas and handmade tortillas were fantstic. Even better perhaps was the complimentary adobada taco, which simply leave even the better taco truck equivalent in the dust. I note that the waitress (and owner?) was complaining to a co-worker about the lack of appreciation for her magnificent Michocan food amongst the local denizens of Centralia-"they think taco bell is mexican food"-and she mused that if she won the lottery she'd open a spot in Seattle. I quickly interjected with support for the idea, suggesting all they need is an angel investor.

                1. re: equinoise

                  I eat at La Tarasca often when travelling between Seattle and Portland. Fresh homemade tortillas and authentic family mexican cooking. God I love that place. Instead of chips and salsa they have complimentery pickled jalapenos and carrots.

                2. re: kkbriggs

                  La Tarasca is off exit 82, same exit as the outlets. It's open again. Good, authentic mexican food. There's a great taco wagon called Tacos El Rey on S Tower in downtown Centralia - same exit, just keep driving into the "town". Thai Dish is closer to the freeway and quite good.

                  Just read a post further down about Tarasca not being appreciated - so true! Let's hope out of towners will keep it alive! It's a great taste of true Mexican food and a wonderful family that owns it.

                3. If you're going through Portland on Saturday, you'd do better to take the I-205 Loop around rather than I-5. If you get off I-205 on Division & go west for 1/4 mi. then south on 82nd for 1/4 mi., you'll come to the Fubonn Shopping Center (2850 SE 82nd St.). In this complex is Malay Satay Hut which doesn't open 'til 11:30 and will probably take you longer than you want to spend. Also in this center is Bahn Cuon Tan Dinh, a great Viet spot open from 9 to 9 daily. They are fast and everything I've had has been wonderful. After the meal, you may want to go in the Fubonn Market and order some Bahn Mi for the road. Their chicken and grilled pork are very good. When I'm not eating the Bahn Mi right away, I don't have it heated and get the vegies separate. There's usually good gas prices around there.

                  Have a good trip.

                  1. This review just came out on for Damburger in Redding CA. The food looks yummy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rogerj1

                      That does look good - and a great alternative to In-n-out's religeon-on-the-wrapper.