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Oct 21, 2008 12:55 AM

Driving I-5 South to LA all the way through CA with 3 kids! Help!

My wife and I are driving from Tacoma to San Diego over the course of a couple weeks in October with our 3 young children. Driving I-5 all the way. Anyone have any good ideas on fun places to eat on the way for the California leg of the journey? My one idea isn't until Santa Nella in South of Sacramento at the Anderson's Split Pea Restaurant! That's 15 hours away! Don't think the little ones will last that long...ha! Any other ideas?!

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  1. Yes.
    Just at the Oregon/California border on the I-5 is a little town named Yreka. Now, no gastronimcal oasis, but there is a little history in that area that could be fun to immerse yourself in. They have an "old town" area reflective of the gold rush days.

    Two good places to eat in Yreka are:

    (1) Grandma's House
    123 E Center St., Yreka
    (530) 842-5300

    (2) Silver Spoon
    322 W Miner St., Yreka
    (530) 842-5000

    Then, there is a nice place further along your trek (about 40-50 miles from Yreka) in the City of Mt. Shasta called Highland House. It's part of the Mount Shasta Resort.
    1000 Siskiyou Lake Blvd., Mount Shasta

    And, when you are there, be sure and take time to stare at Mt. Shasta and see if it doesn't look exactly like the picture on a can of Shasta soda !!! Redwood trees in that area are awesome, too.

    Then, further down the road is Redding. I have to call my cousin for recs, there. Maybe other Chowhounders already know?

    I have made that road trip a few times. Only took two days.

    If you are planning to take a couple week, I would head over to the coast and travel Hwy 101 until you get to San Franciso area where you are again close to the I-5 (if you even want to THEN!). Pick up Hwy 199 off the I-5 around Grant's Pass in Oregon. About 90 miles to the coast. Most of that route 199 is two-lane highway, some passing close to a cliffs edge. Hwy-101 is such a beautiful trip and lots of good places to eat and experience. (including another location of Anderson's Split Pea if you continue Hwy 101 below S.F./Sacramento) If that is an option, please repost for more recommendations.

    Back to the I-5, the drive from San Francisco, Sacramento is quite boring with not a lot of good places to eat (mostly fast-food chains). But, there was a thread here on Chowhound not long ago that mentioned some good places along that stretch of the route. Avenal, Newman, Gustine, IIRC. Also, your Santa Nella plan is located right there.

    Next stop then is Los Angeles County! Please visit Chinatown. It's an experience. Many places to eat around there. A great hole-in-the-wall is The New Dragon, but the looks of the place might scare you. It is a real "hole" but very clean and excellent authentic Cantonese food. Good and helpful service. You could probably sight see in Los Angeles for a full week and enjoy tons of great food.

    10 Replies
    1. re: kc girl

      I live in Mt Shasta, and work in Yreka, and I have to respectfully disagree. Highland House, while it has lovely views has overpriced very mediocre food and is not particularly child friendly. Silver Spoon is excellent, Grandma's house is meh, with very small portions.I'd recommend Black Bear Diner Rest., they are a small chain with locations up and down I5. there is one in Yreka, one in Mt. Shasta, Redding, Willows, etc, etc. I do agree if you have the time to head down the coast, it is beautiful.

      1. re: kc girl


        You could not be more WRONG about Sacramento dining options! There are many wonderful places to eat that are not chains.

        I'd check out the Northwest Board for Portland I-5 options if you don't eat breakfast first! I'd go to Kenny and Zuke' would be worth the trip off the freeway.

        There is a wonderful place to eat in Coberg on I-5...a town 7 miles before you hit Eugene. It is the Hillside Grill...wonderful food. I stop there when I go to Portland. You can see it as you exit on the right.

        Also, further south in Willows you'll find Nancy's Airport Cafe right across from Wal-Mart. Great home cookin'.

        Also, for just a couple of spots off I-5 that are easy to get to in Sacramento, Vientiane is right of W. Jefferson on the left in a little mall-type place. Don't be fooled by the outside...we are talking killer Vietnamese fare. Fabulous! Get the stuffed chicken wings. Delicious. Also, off I-5 in Natomas are quite a few dining options. Take the Truxel exit and you'll spot many. I don't know what kind of food your kids like...but there is an in and out burger to the right off the Del Paso Exit. Yes, it's fast food, but's In and Out!

        I could name tons of excellent places in Sacramento..but when traveling with 3 kids, I don't think you want to get too far off the freeway.

        1. re: melly

          Vientiane Restaurant

          Vientiane Restaurant
          1001 Jefferson Blvd 600, West Sacramento, CA 95691

          1. re: toodie jane

            also found this while looking up details for Vientiane 'place' post:

            Whitey's Jolly Kone
            1300 Jefferson Blvd
            West Sac

            old school burger/shakes/fries/burritos

            gets lots of thumbs up on yelp; anyone tried it? looks to be just minutes off 50, west of I-5. Down the street from Vientiane.

          2. re: melly

            "You could not be more WRONG about Sacramento dining options!" I think what kc girl was trying to say is that options are limited once you get past Sacramento, hence the comment about Avenal, Newman, and Gustine. At least I assume that's what she was trying to say; there's no shortage of good chow in Sacto, but south of here your options are pretty limited until you get near LA.

            Sacramento has so many options that it's impossible to begin to narrow them down unless the OP gives us more info. But Vientiane is a great call. (Not to be too picky, but it's Lao food rather than Vietnamese. Regardless, anything from SE Asia can't be all bad. And the stuffed chicken wings are outstanding.)

            For the OP - to get to the Truxel exit you actually have to take the eastbound I-80 exit; it's the first exit. The In-n-Out is just north of the exit, but my favorite restaurant in the area is Tuk Tuk Thai (a good choice only if the pups dig Thai food, of course). Let us know more about what you're looking for (type of food, atmosphere, price range) and we'll try to steer you right.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              <<< but south of here your options are pretty limited until you get near LA.>>>

              To use your own phrase Alan, you could not be more wrong. But I'm guessing you meant if one is traveling on I-5 (as the OP stated) and not considering Hwy 99 as an option which provides a wealth of opportunities.

              Even on I-5 there are numerous choices around Stockton, and even Los Banos just east on 152. Granted after that on I-5 you're limited to Harris Ranch and a couple of places in Buttonwillow.

              1. re: PolarBear

                Actually, that was melly - I was just quoting her. And you're correct that I was talking about the I-5 corridor, since that's what the OP was asking about.

                I plead ignorance as to Stockton. My dining experiences there have been such that I tend to just wait to eat until I'm on more familiar turf. What's chow-worthy within a reasonable distance of the freeway?

                As for Los Banos, the only place I know of that's worth eating at is the Basque place. I'm down there at least a couple of times a year and would love to be able to find a good meal. What are your (non-Espanas) recommendations?

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  In Los Banos we've been trying to revisit a Peruvian place that we've enjoyed in the past but timing has been off the last few time through town.

                  Olinda's - Peruvian
                  400 W. Pacheco Blvd

                  Other than Woolgrower's suggestions from the hounds over the last couple of years include (hopefully others will chime in with any changes that may have occurred):

                  Junior's Tacos truck -
                  740 G St (one block east of the Wool Growers)

                  Iris - Mexican, 7 seas soup and seafood dishes
                  107 W Pacheco Blvd

                  Eddies - chicken fried steak
                  401 W. Pacheco Blvd

                  Taqueria El Rodeo - House-made tortillas, good chilie verde
                  1313 E Pacheco Blvd # D

                  Hot City BBQ"
                  1313 south 6th st

                  Las Palmas on 9th
                  639 9th (N of H St. across RR tracks


                  Cecilia's -
                  925 6th (Main) St.

                  There is a taco truck about 17 mi south of 152 and 4 mi east of I-5 on the road to Firebaugh.

                  In Stockton we've had some really good food at Le Bistro (NW corner of the Ben Hold exit. Garlic Brothers on the river by the Yacht Club. Food's nothing to rave about but it's decent and the atmosphere is relaxing.

                  Have not yet tried but there a good reports on:

                  El Grullense
                  1347 S EL DORADO ST
                  (209) 463-9242

                  Dynasty Seafood Restaurant - dim sum
                  in Lincoln Center South (Benjamin Holt Drive at Pacific Avenue).

                  San Felipe Grill - oyster and fish tacos
                  601 Pacific Avenue between March Lane and Rosemarie Lane

                  Ernie's On The Brickwalk is California/Continental

                  Manny's California Fresh on Pacific Av, towards downtown. supposed to have great fried oysters, burgers, and very good roasted chicken.

                  Herman's and Helen's marina.
                  15135 W. Eight Mile Road west off of I-5
                  Stockton, CA 95219(209) 951-4634

                  Again, hoping for any updates on these places.



                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Pho, at Lucky Pho on El Dorado and Hammer Lane. Excellent. and see glbtrtr's post below for Toot Sweets' on Stockton.

                    Lucky Pho Restaurant
                    8034 N El Dorado St, Stockton, CA 95210

                    Toot Sweets
                    4755 Quail Lakes Dr D, Stockton, CA 95207

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  I knew it was Lao..don't know why I said Vietnamese. The owner said it is Laos and Thai.

                  Toodie...I've also heard great things about Whitey's but haven't been there yet.


            2. I don't know what exists North of Sacramento, but our kids have loved stopping at Harris Ranch along I-5 (about half way between Sacramento and LA). They have a nice cafe with decent food, a good kids' menu, crayons and such, and a lot of areas for the kids to run around in with numerous fountains, a gift shop with fresh baked cookies, kid sized facilities in nice big and clean bathrooms, etc. It is the best place we have found to stop.

              We have not had equal luck with Anderson's. The wait was unusually long (even when virtually empty) and the kids did not like it.

              If you want someplace in Sacramento, the K Street mall just off I-5 has a Johnny Rocket's hamburger shop at the end of the mall closest to the freeway, convenient parking in the adjacent hotel complex, and it is a place our kids love. It is a 1940s soda fountain chain, but it is really a good one with great shakes, malts, jukeboxes the kids can put money into, etc.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tnilsson

                Hwy 5 passes right by Old Sacramento. You can eat on the Delta King Riverboat (Pilothouse restaurant) that's permanently docked there and visit the California Railroad Museum half a block away. There are also other restaurants, ice cream parlors, candy shops, etc. Check out their website:


              2. It’s just my opinion, but I think Pea Soup Anderson’s is terrible. I’m also not a fan of the café at Harris Ranch, although the fancier steakhouse gets better reviews. Heading south, I lose my appetite while passing the incredibly foul smelling Harris Ranch slaughter yards just north of the restaurant. They do have clean restrooms and lots of expensive trinkets.

                For good food, I stop between Sacramento and Stockton at the Farm Café at the Michael~David Winery, which is about a mile east off I-5 on Hwy 4 towards Lodi. Besides good food, they have a pie bakery and other snacks to take with you. This is a simple place with a clean, family atmosphere. Last year, I think they had a pumpkin patch for the kids.

                4 Replies
                1. re: BN1

                  That's actually Highway 12 for Michael/David Winery, not Highway 4, but otherwise a good recommendation.

                  1. re: ricepad

                    I must have had a brain spasm, of course it’s Hwy 12. Ricepad, thank you for the correction. I don’t know why the Michael~David link isn’t working for me today, as it was fine yesterday.

                    Additionally in Sacramento, if you take the Garden Hwy. exit off I-5 and turn west, you will come to Crawdads in about 1/2 mile. It’s a floating restaurant, which is casual and enjoyable for watching the river traffic. If the weather is nice, you can dine outside right on the water. By going further south on I-5 to the J St. exit (one way going east), then once past the Capitol, go 3 blocks south to Capitol Ave. which becomes Folsom Blvd. and continue east, you will find more casual dining at 33rd Street Bistro with good food and a really good hamburger (appx. 2 mi. east of I-5 near Bus. 80).

                    1. re: BN1

                      I figured as much...but a mile east of I-5 on Highway 4 would put them in VERY different territory, chow-wise and other-wise, so I thought a correction for out-of-towners might be helpful!

                      1. re: ricepad

                        "but a mile east of I-5 on Highway 4 would put them in VERY different territory, chow-wise and other-wise"

                        Ah but then we could have a discussion of chow worthy places in downtown Stockton. :))))

                2. I would check out the Black Bear Diners.
                  The web site is great at:
                  Outstanding Corned Beef Hash at breakfast.
                  Ribs are good too for dinner.
                  Lots of locations along I-5

                  1. Not a food rec, but stop in Redding for a quick walk over the sundial bridge.

                    There's a corn maze and pumpkin patch in Patterson, just off 5.

                    Lots of good options in Ashland/Medford vicinity including the takeout deli at the Coop..