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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.

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

                1. re: GreenYoshi

                  thanks for the roadfood.com 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 roadfood.com 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.

                    2. I've enjoyed (for about 12 years....anytime I'm within a 500 mile vicinity) stopping in at La Cabana in Redding. Family owned operation, and has been for longer than I've been going there.
                      1335 Market street, about 3 minutes off I5, west of the freeway. Look for the exit to 299. Carnitas are a specialty.

                      1. Giseppis in Ashland, right off the main st. going through Ashland.
                        Burgerville = chain but cool because they actually source all their beef from local farms which ='s cool. They are not obvious off the freeway. I'd determine where one is before you head down. In N' Out of course. Try some of those funky cool bars in between Weed, CA and Redding. Classic. And when your in San Francisco, "secret sushi" ie Tekka...9th and Balboa. Get their early. Small place. no sign. best sushi in the land.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jamesbra

                          Guiseppi's has $ 2.25 slices of Pizza w/drink til 4.
                          Alleycat, are you trying to make this in 1 day or 2? If you stop around Ashland(Which a lot of folks do) at night there are a ton of options in Talent and Ashland.

                        2. Novak's in Albany. Hungarian food and pastries open early to late.
                          Jasper's Hamburgers-between Central Point and Medford at 2739 N. Pacific Highway
                          Fresh ground Burgers and fries+ other good stuff
                          La Tapiata Carnicera on S. Pacific Highway in Phoenix, just south of 1st Street on the east side of the street: The BEST tacos, meats, and stuff in the RV.
                          Sengthong's Asian in Dunsmuir-open 5-9 the best between Seattle and SF.
                          Bartel's Giant Burger in Redding- a few blocks west of I 5 on 299;
                          & North Corning exit, west side of I 5. Great big fresh burgers.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: bbqboy

                            Good list. I'd also add a Thai place near the Springfield shopping center right off I-5. Can't remember the name of it but Extramsg writes of it often. We are almost regulars there since we have such poor Asian down here.

                            1. re: runninrob

                              Gosh, I can't remember the name of that place either, but also in Springfield and worth the visit is Kuraya. Good Thai, affordable.

                          2. This weekend is long gone now, but I just remembered our trippy stop at "The Big Artichoke" in Castroville, just off I-5. We had the artichoke sampler platter, which offered, of course, a really big artichoke, some gooey artichoke quickbread (meh) and deep-fried artichoke hearts (omg). A fun stop and you can pose with a 20 foot artichoke.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mrnelso

                              Castroville is at least 60 miles from I-5.

                              1. re: Husky

                                Sorry, you are quite right. We stopped in at Castroville on the way back up 156 from Monterey. We had a great time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Big Artichoke.

                            2. I'm probably too late to the thread but jic: In Oregon, somewhere between Cottage Grove and Roseburg, when you rise out of the Willamette Valley to meet the Siskiyous and the fertile floodplain becomes hilly and dotted with oaks and madrone, is an exit for Rice Hill (don't be confused by another exit for Rice Valley, you want to be on the hill). Right off the exit going south is a huge neon sign that says nothing more than necessary: Drive-In. You have arrived! This is what a pitstop is meant to be (if it's even open this time of year!). Order the double cheeseburger with special sauce. Get the fries and onion rings and whatever else your greasy heart desires. Then top it off with a waffle cone of Umpqua Valley ice cream. There are something like 100 flavors, including Butter Brickle.

                              Butter Brickle. Need I say more?

                              Have a great roadtrip!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Finspot

                                I have a hard time recommending the Rice Hill Drive-In. The same ice cream is available across I-5 at Peggy's and you get it without the attitude. I don't like a place that doesn't have bathrooms (in this day and age, I don't understand how they get away with it) and charges you $0.25 for water. Can't they just get a drinking fountain out front. Their service is surly and slow.

                                Peggy's is great for ice cream. Both are open year around.

                                1. re: runninrob

                                  Never been to Peggy's but I'll give it a try. Still, despite the lack of facilities and the attitude (which comes and goes, I've noticed) the food is everything you want in a drive-in. Or everything *I* want, at least. Thanks for the tip on Peggy's, though.

                                  1. re: runninrob

                                    Peggys is great for ice cream but the food, in my humble opinion, has gone down. Based on recommendations of this board, we stopped there for burgers and stuff back in 2002 enroute between LA and Seattle. On that trip, we had a very tasty meal. Did the drive again last summer and we were all disappointed by our meal at Peggys. I was wondering if there had been a change in ownership. Too bad too because its right in the middle and makes for a fine rest stop. We are driving down next week and I'm scouring the board for a replacement.

                                    1. re: jenn

                                      It was for sale a couple of years ago so you're probably right. Too bad. I did stop at Creswell, just south of Eugene. A hounder had recommended the Hawaiian BBQ and I did find it quite tasty. From the south, take the Creswell exit, turn right and look on your right. A converted gas station with a coffee stand out front. I had the pulled pork sandwich which was v. good.
                                      Down the main street a few blocks was a ice cream shop with Umpqua Ice Cream. Small cone was $1.50, cheaper than Rice Hill but not nearly as big.
                                      Also, there is an Arco Gas station at the Creswell exit. Cheapest gas around by a fair amount.
                                      Good bagel place in Sutherlin, right next door to the 24 hours Dutch Brothers coffee.

                                2. As others before, I strongly suggest La Tarasca. I can't get enough of their potato enchiladas and their tamales are divine. They aren't open one specific day of the week (Tuesday? I forget.) so make sure you double check.

                                  1. I gotta throw in a plug for the Kona Cafe. It's a little Hawaiian BBQ joint right on I-5 at Creswell (exit 182-Oregon). That's between Roseburg and Eugene. Try the luau pork or the volcano chicken. It's fast, easy and tasty.

                                    1. I just found this site. Awesome. I just wanted to add a little something. The Country Cousin in Centalia, WA had THE BEST chicken fried steak in the Northwest. My dad was a trucker and i've spent considerable time in truckstops and roadside diners all over the country. This one was comparable to something I had in amarillo, tx. I think that's saying something. Oh, there will probably be a line out the door. When I went, the lounge/bar area was vacant and we were immediately seated while everyone else waited. So, if you can stand potential cigarette funk (and a painting of a nude Burt Reynolds). Sit at the lounge.

                                      1. I live in San Francisco and sometimes find myself driving up I-5 to Northern California or Southern Oregon. I always make a point of stopping at the Olive Pit in Corning, CA. I don't really recommend it for a meal (the burger stand portion of it is serviceable, but nothing special). But it's a great place to stretch your legs during a boring part of I-5, nosh on the tons of free samples of stuffed olives, and grab a jar or two to snack on in the car.

                                        1. It's been a long while since the OPs original post. I wonder where allycat42 and her 2 fellow foodies ended up going.

                                          (The lesson as always: if you make a request, proper etiquette is to report back.)

                                          My suggestion: there's a great taqueria in Williams, CA just off of I-5 that I've mentioned in other roadtrip threads-- Roberta's Taqueria.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: SauceSupreme

                                            I don't know where allycat went - but I just came across this post and am about to make this trip. (Yeah, I know this was posted long ago...). But all this helps a lot!

                                            If anyone has anymore suggestions...I'd love it! (I am traveling with some vegetarians as well... I am one, haha, and we can normally find something to eat almost anywhere, burger joints are usually the most difficult though)

                                            I'm afraid to post a new thread since this one already exists...

                                            1. re: anwhatifido

                                              in the RV, you have dragonfly, and the Coop in Ashland, and the farmer's markets, on
                                              almost every day of the week right now. Can't forget summerjo's in GP.
                                              If cheese isn't out of bounds, a stop at the Rogue Creamery in CP is always worthwhile.

                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                I know this is so late.... but... THANKS FOR YOUR REPLY!! I take this route almost every year, so I am surely going to try to try every one of those!!

                                          2. Exit 125, Roseburg. Go West on Garden Valley Blvd about 1 block. Just West of the Chevron, and adjacent to the Shell station is Tino's Taco's, a big white van filled with piles of limes, avocado, tomatoes. The best fish tacos ever!

                                            1. Try the Wolf Creek Inn in Wolf Creek, Oregon. It's an old stage stop and a National Historic Site. The food is very good and reasonably priced. But it is not burger place. (I don't do well driving after burger so the menu may include them but I've never ordered one. It's quiet so the road noise in your ears goes away pretty quickly. Just take the Wolf Creek exit west. The 'town' is right there and you won't need directions to find the inn, the town is that tiny.

                                              Wolf Creek Inn
                                              100 N Frontage Rd, Wolf Creek, OR 97497

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Scoffer

                                                Kona Cafe in
                                                springfield is okay, but I prefer Hawaiian Time right off I-105 in Eugene. The food is fresher and a better variety. If you want to take the scenic route and don't mind driving a little try the Wagon Yard BBQ for Texas style, dry rubbed BBQ. The side dishes, rolls, desserts (well everything) are fresh and delicious. Check it out wagonyardbbq.com. The drive is east of Eugene/Springfield out hwy. 126.

                                                Kona Cafe
                                                4605 Main St, Springfield, OR 97478