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Aug 4, 2008 09:00 AM

DC to San Francisco Road Trip (Midwest)

So I am leaving Washington, DC to move back to California and will be taking a long drive from one coast to the other. Two friends are joining me on this trip and the three of us would definitely like to avoid the fast food chains as much as we can.

The trip plan so far is this:

Sunday August 31
Depart in the afternoon and stop for the night somewhere in West Virginia, maybe Charleston
(I-270 to 70 to 68 to 79 to 64)

Monday Sept 1
Stop in Louisville for a late lunch with family
Stop for the night in St. Louis with family

Tuesday Sept 2
St. Louis to Denver

Wednesday Sept 3
Stay in Denver with Family

Thursday Sept 4
Denver to Salt Lake City (maybe to West Wendover, NV)
(I-25 to I-80)

Friday Sept 5
Salt Lake City to S. Lake Tahoe

Saturday Sept 6
Lake Tahoe to San Francisco

I am looking for recommendations that are cheap (less than $10-15 for lunch and less than $15-20 for dinner) and quick (not more than ten miles off the freeway and we don't want to sit down for an hour). Anything with local color would be appreciated and if it is really worth it, we might waive either the cheap or quick guideline. We are open to any and all types of cuisine.

I am looking for help with the road food and not really for the cities that we're stopping in. We'll be with family and friends for every stop except for West Virginia and Salt Lake City.

I am posting this in several boards so for this one I guess the focus could be on the third leg of the trip. Is there anything great between Louisville and St. Louis and between St. Louis and Denver? and if you have any recommendations for the rest of the trip, I'd love to hear those too.


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  1. As you know, St. Louis to Denver is a pull, so start early. How about lunch in KC at Arthur Bryant's? Just a couple of minutes off I-70. And they open at 10am. You could even get it to go and eat out in stinking Kansas.

    1 Reply
    1. re: steveb

      Thanks for the good call. I don't think I've had Arthur Bryant's for more than eight years. A stop for KC bbq sounds great.

    2. "Is there anything great between St. Louis and Denver."

      Well . . . everything in Kansas City is between St. Louis and Denver. Also, good choices in Columbia and Lawrence. Assuming you leave St. Louis when you should, you should be rolling through Columbia breakfasty and KC/Lawrence lunchy. I don't know much about Columbia, so I'll leave someone else to answer that.

      Steveb's suggestion is good, depending on when you think you might be getting to KC. Arthur Bryant's is the classic KC BBQ -- the one with all the pictures of visiting dignitaries on the wall. Portions are large, and I've never had a bad meal there. Some reports have been mixed, but I'm not sure if that's a certain amount of deflated expectation. As far as distance off I-70, it's probably your best bet.

      Also quite a few good cheap lunch options in KC at the City Market, which is right off I-70 in downtown KC. Habashi House is a very good middle eastern restaurant (best falafel in town) and Carollo's is an Italian deli with excellent, enormous sandwiches. The Market also has some good choices for food for the road. About a block away is Cascone's, an old-school diner, and Antonio's, with very good pizza by the slice.

      There are a couple of killer Vietnamese restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood of varying levels of chicken-footed-tripey-ness. I'm particularly fond of the Vietnam cafe, in an old corner grocery store in neighboring Columbus Park, the old Italian neighborhood.

      As you cross over into Kansas City, Kansas, you should be looking for good Mexican food. Thinking about getting on and off I-70, I think Kansas Avenue is your best bet. Exit on 7th Street and go south Kansas Avenue. Ninfa's on Kansas Avenue isn't much to look at, but the tortillas are homemade. Taco Nazo is just east of 7th Street. I haven't gotten there yet, but I've heard great things.

      For downtown Lawrence, exit at the first (east) exit. Downtown is only about 3 miles south of the highway. Lots of good stuff on Massachusetts Street, which is the main drag. The Free State Brewery is the main hangout in town -- in-house beers are very good (the Copperhead Pale Ale is my fav-o-rite) and better-than-average to excellent bar food.

      Can't figure out how to keep adding places -- so no more links.

      A walk up and down Mass Street would be a great way to stretch your legs. Other places that are good choices are Wheatfields Bakery, La Parilla, Ingredient, Zen Zero. Not much is outside your price range.

      Further into Kansas, you might want to check out Gella's Diner and Lb Brewing Company in Hays. It's nothing miraculous, but the beer and food were more than serviceable, and Hays is a good breakpoint on the way to Denver.

      Arthur Bryant's Barbeque
      1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127

      City Market
      20 E 5th St, Kansas City, MO 64106

      Vietnam Cafe
      522 Campbell St, Kansas City, MO 64106

      Ninfa's Tortillas & Taqueria
      964 Kansas Ave, Kansas City, KS 66105

      2 Replies
      1. re: heatherkay

        Thanks for the great list. It looks like we'll have to make some tough choices in Kansas City.

        Much appreciated.

        1. re: heatherkay

          I always recommend Lawrence, it's about 25 minute west of KC. I love KC and there are some great places to eat, but Lawrence is a wonderful place to stop, and as Heather said, stretch your legs. Great, locally owned fare. Quaint little downtown area.

          This is from a previous post I made this summer:
          It depends on what you're in the mood for, but if you like hot wings and hamburgers, I like Jefferson's at 743 Mass. St (in the downtown).
          If you're looking for sandwiches, try Quinton's.
          People always seem to love Freestate Brewery.
          And last, but certainly not least, Wheatfields. I enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner there and they have some OUT OF THIS WORLD dessert treats you can take on the road. During the summer their fresh fruit tart is delicious. My dad says they have the best coffee he's ever had.
          Also, if you need a sweet little treat, Sylas and Maddie's Home Made ice cream is yummy good! 1014 Massachusetts St

          Enjoy your time in the Midwest!

        2. (broken record here)

          not food, but important trip advice:

          anytime one takes I-70 West, the very minute you cross the Missouri River just after Columbia - go no more than 5MPH over the speed limit until you're out of Cooper County. tenacious, vigilant and polite traffic enforcement.

          it's funny, the bail I had to post equalled the fine exactly...and I had to make a return trip 6 weeks later. but they were nice about it. OK I was going about 34 MPH over the limit, but still