Texan foodie spots? Help needed from the UK!
I am researching to plan a fly and drive to the USA.
I would like to tie in discovering more about some of the national foods of the USA and would greatly appreciate any ideas and suggestions of a route, and the corresponding foods.
There will be myself and my partner, we will hire perhaps a rv and will spent 10-14 days travelling around March 2009. We are interested in Texas, New Mexico, Nevada and want to get off the beaten track.
Any help would be a wonderful help to us, thank you.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo would be a great happening for you to visit. There will be information on the perfromers closer to rodeo time, but for sure there is a barbecue cook-off (in late February, so that may not fit your schedule) and tons of typical Texas outrageous junk food for sale on the midway. Do check out the website. Even though the rodeo food isn't a very good example of Houston food at its best, it is a very fun and different--and very Texas--event for you to consider.
Go to the Austin board and read the posts on BBQ and the ones on Tex-Mex. There are some really interesting, as well as historic, options to consider.
Oh I'm so excited for you!! I love the southwest and have taken many road trips through the areas. Here are some of my "foodie" highlights:
In New Mexico, don't miss the Gila Wilderness area in the southwest corner of the state (it's a mountainous pine forest with excellent hiking and sightseeing, and it's not a desert!). There's a place called "The Buckhorn Saloon" waaaaay off the beaten path, on Route 15 in Pinos Altos that serves this incredible green chile burger. Sounds ordinary, I know, but my friends and I have driven from Tucson for the burger and the experience. Silver City is a funky artisty mountain town with good dining opportunities too.
New Mexico also offers up some of the best random road-side dining. Some of my best meals have come from stopping in the small diners and tamale stands along 60 (outside Magdalena) and 82 (by Cloudcroft). NM is one of the most unusual of the states, if you get off those main highways. You should check out those back roads and see what surprises you stumble upon (like the Very Large Array...google it).
In Texas, I recommend the Hill Country west of Austin. Take 290 to Fredricksburg, which is a pretty drive (with some peach stands along the way). Fredricksburg has a strange old German feel, and is really something unique in Texas. Although it's a bit touristy, it's not really crowded, and really has an odd-ball feel. And there are some great restaurants that offer down-home cooking and standard German fare. Here's 2 articles about it from the NYTimes:
I'll warn you about West Texas, though. The stretch of I-10 between El Paso and where 290 splits off is desolate and never ending. Wait til you hit Van Horn before eating anything - there's a funky "Mexican" place right on the main drag that you should hit more for the atmosphere than the food, although it is pretty good. The rest of the towns around there rely heavily on Pizza Huts and Dairy Queens...but when you see a small diner, do stop.
I can't think of anything that stands out in Nevada (unless you'll be up north on 50), but in Arizona, the iconic Route 66 is a much better east-west choice than I-40, and it has a lot of old fashioned diners and burger joints, serving real milkshakes and hand-formed hamburger patties. It's surprisingly dead (we passed only a handful of other cars), despite its historic past, and there's lots of cool photo ops alongside old 1950s cars and long-abandoned motels and drive-in theaters.
I guess my overarching advice would be to stay off the major interstates (except I-10 west of Austin, which is about the only way across). I drove from New Orleans to Los Angeles over 12 days, taking all scenic roads through small towns, and it was one of the highlights of my travels through the US.
I will not mention places in larger cities (there are plenty of suggestions elsewhere on CH), but can give you some ideas off the beaten path between Houston and Santa Fe -- which gets you quite a ways toward Nevada.
If you start in Houston, head to San Antonio on I-10 and get off in Luling for barbeque at City Market. You can also head uo 183 to Lockhart for more great barbeque at Smitty's or Kreuz's, but City Market is wonderful. After San Antonio, take Rt 16 up to Bandera. You can stop at the OST in Bandera, but I'd suggest going out to Tarpley and eating at Mac and Ernie's Roadside Eatery, which has cabrito burgers at lunch and great grilled meat, quail, and fish for dinner. Then get back on 16 and go to Love Creek Orchards in Medina for apple pie. In Kerrville, there's Rail's at the Depot and River's Edge. (By the way, the drive from Bandera to Kerrville on 16 is beautiful.) Continuing north, the Hilltop Cafe, just outside of Fredericksburg, is worth a visit. Then, definitely hit Cooper's barbeque in Llano. Then head over to Lampasas to Brad's Burgers. Head up 281 to 67 to Glen Rose for a nice meal at Rough Creek Lodge. Then mosey over to Grandview, to the Burgundy Pasture Beef store, where they serve lunch. From there, you can hit Fort Worth or Dallas, and I have no suggestions for anything between there and Amarillo. In Amarillo, however, there are a number of little Lao places on Old Rt. 66. Try one; they're great. From there, you have a long ride to Albuqueque. Not far north of Albuquerque, in Bernalillo, is The Range. Get stacked enchiladas with green or red chiles. Then, outside of Santa Fe, try Bobcat Bite and Harry's Roadhouse. From there, you're on your own. The biggest problem with this itinerary is that it bypasses Austin, but this route is certainly off the beaten track. Happy trails.