Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Dec 7, 2008 05:47 PM

Driving from OC to Reno, Nv - Any suggestions or "MUST STOP HERE?

I love everything. I haven't mapped out my route yet (but imagine there isn't a lot in the way of options).
I am traveling with my Newfoundland Storm; and will actually want to stay overnight somewhere in route.
If there are places that are dog friendly; that would be great but not a requirement.
I love everything from Abalone to Zucchini. My favorite is Mexican (but can't do the killer spicy kind). Fish; Thai; Traditional Chinese; and of course a really "good" meal with a Martini wherever I stop overnight.
Storm eats RAW.

Help me eat my way there?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm going to assume that you are going to be going up the east side of the Sierras on highway 395 so that is what I will work from (none of these places really has a web site so I just picked the first page that had decent info as a source).

    In the town of Independance there is the Still Life Cafe. It is a pretty good french cafe but when they are open can be pretty finiky. I think it's pretty much when they feel like being there.

    20 or so miles farther up in Bishop there is of course Eric Schat's Bakery. Famous for their Sheepherder bread and many other fine baked treats (the pecan pull-aparts rule). They also have decent sandwiches and soups for cheap.

    In Mammoth, there are a plethora of OK eats including mexican (check out Roberto's for this - especially the bar menu upstairs for Lobster or Duck burritos) and for a little more high end check out Petras Wine Bar. Great food and a pretty good small wine list too.

    It's a shame you are not going in the summer because then you could stop at the Lee Vining Tioga Gas Mart/Whow Neli Deli. This is the true gem of the whole area but I am pretty sure is only open in the summer.

    In the Minden/Gardenerville area it's all about Basque food. Best there is JT Basque Bar.

    1. You may well find that I-5 to I-80, or US99 to I-80, makes more sense than old, rough, and sparsely serviced US395. (These days 99 and I-5 are both fast routes.) Too many eateries to count on 99; many fewer on I-5 (Harris Ranch at Coalinga is about the only above-average place); not much on I-80 after it leaves Sacramento. I'd go via 99, overnight somewhere between Fresno and Stockton depending on your driving style, and query the California board for chow in cities along 99. Good luck.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Lee by the Sea

        Restaurant wise, I'd agree your better choices are along Highway 99. Also, the trip will be faster than U.S. 395, where you risk getting stuck behind 18-wheelers and motor homes.
        A few weeks ago I tried a fruit stand that I think is one of the better that I've tried in California. It's Murray Family Farm not long after the road splits between Highway 88 and Interstate 5. It's just south of Bakersfield on a road that connects the two. It was my first time there and I wish afterwards I had bought a carton of pluets instead of just a few.
        Bakersfield has Woolgrowers, an old style Basque restaurant that I've tried and like and the Noriega Hotel, another Basque restaurant I haven't tried yet but others seem to enjoy more. Shepherder food cook well.
        I'd search the board for suggestions in Visalia, Fresno and Modesto. I've had nice meals in all three places but nothing that seems as kind of a destination place.
        Once you arrive in Reno, the good news is there's plenty of good Thai places. My favorite is Bangkok Cuisine on Mount Rose Street.
        Also lots of good Mexican places. Beto's is a legendary inexpensive (cash only) place. Fresh Mex on Keystone is great for tacos. It looks like a chain but it isn't. I also like La Fuente on Baring in Sparks.
        For really good food, try Sezmu or Fourth Street Bistro, which is slightly more expensive.

        1. re: SteveTimko

          Meant to say Murray Family Farms is where the road splits between I 5 and Highway 99.

        2. re: Lee by the Sea

          Actually, East Sac to the Auburn area is just about filled in now with new developement, lots of new choices in the Rocklin area, and search Auburn/ Colfax for a very recent thread with some promising casual dining.

          There is also something to be said for a more leisurely drive in "lonely" areas. The pace is different than freeway driving (not so much "autopilot") but the rewards are there if you like scenery and local flavor. Why travel, yet see and do and eat the same way you do at home? I love our infrequent trips on 395. Chow is more far-flung, but pack some snacks and drinks and you will have more flexibility in stopping for local chow.

          If you do go 395, travel with cold weather in mind, and check your gages and fluids before leaving home.

          1. re: toodie jane

            Thank you Jane!
            I LOVE the idea of the scenic 395 that others have posted here. My concerns now with all of the wet weather here; is certain areas being snowed in or closed. Also; the possible need for chains?
            First trip; so somewhat uncertain.
            LOL. While I do not do chain Drive- thrus as a general rule; I do love a great hole in the wall "greasy spoon" upon occasion. I also remember a friend talking about a romantic place she and her husband stopped ( on the scenic route) that had a great fireplace and wonderful soup. She felt it was upscale; but not certain of her definition of same.
            Will heed your advice on keeping something on hand "Just In Case".
            Thanks again.

            1. re: michelle in laguna

              If you DO go up 395 (not sure I would recommend it this time of the year....) and want to stop half-way, you might consider dinner at the Restaurant at Convict Lake. The food is quite good and that might be the romantic place your friend was talking about....its the closest to "romantic that I can think of on that route. There are cabins you can stay at there too, but they are very rustic...if you want more upscale eat at Convict Lake then drive a few miles to Mammoth and stay there.....

              1. re: janetofreno

                Thanks Janet.
                Convict Lake . . . romantic. Got it!
                Convict Lake romantic (?). No; you all always know where of you speak. If you say romantic (despite the name); it must be romantic.
                Thanks Janet.

        3. If you choose the Hwy. 99 route, Fresno is just about halfway to Reno. Here is a link to pet friendly La Quinta in the downtown area, just a short jog from 99. They accept large dogs.

          Here is another link to a recent thread on eating in downtown Fresno. It also discusses some Hound favorites in north Fresno, near Freeway 41, the north/south corridor. You can always get back to 99 by taking one of the main street and heading west.

          If there are no storms brewing, it would be a majestic drive this time of year up 395. There is a pet friendly motel in Ridgecrest - "Heritage Inn, 1050 N. Norma St.,760-446-6543, no extra charge, 100.00 deposit. Totally dog friendly place, food nearby, cantina in the parking lot." There are several places listed online in Bishop, if you make that your stop.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fresnohotspot

            Since I'm not really looking forward to "my end destination"; maybe I should just get a little lost and perhaps
            zig zag around to take everything in. It all sounds wonderful; and a nice bunch of eclectic choices. Duck Burritos . . . yum. And perhaps some snow for my big baby to romp in? Thank you especially for the head's up on the hotels; you really can't sneak a 115 lb Newfie in anywhere! You guys are just the best to take your time to share your fav's with me. The pluets sound like a great idea and you know . . .? I have never had BASQUE.
            Adventure ahead? Plus there is the trip back home! Thanks again . . .

          2. If you will going through Bakersfield, add Los Tacos de Huicho to your list. Best al pastor tacos that I've ever had, including in Mexico. Their salsa bar is first rate. Also try the sopes. Tacos are only 99 cents and there's also a full bar. One door east of the intersection of 18th Street and Union Ave., north of the 58 freeway (take 58 east from the 99 to Union).

            7 Replies
            1. re: heckonwheels

              99 cent best ever tacos AND a Margarita? In Bakersfield?

              That will have to become a permanent note.

              1. re: michelle in laguna

                Seriously, I route all my trips up north through there JUST because I can stop on the way. It's an addiction...

                Also, tacos are top notch, but the margaritas aren't...just mix and tequila. Decent selection of beers, however.

                1. re: heckonwheels

                  Thanks for the heads up on the Margaritas. Don't do Beer. No particular reason; I just never cared for it.
                  The food alone sounds like a "Must Try". If I had to make the trip often; I would have addictive stops too. No doubt.
                  I think I already have the TACO addiction; and haven't yet tried them. The Duck Burrito thing has me imagining only good things!

                  ou can have your "all you can eat" buffet on the corner; I would rather drive the distance for one perfect "Anything".

                  On the flip side . . . I will also frequent places that go crazy when they see "Storm"; and will patronize them simply because the waiters there bring her water and raw beef; while I search desperately for anything that might be edible.
                  Cannot believe it myself at times.

                  Currently; I am trying to figure out a France/Italy trip (probably from Spain). The hard part is factoring in the oversized "Newf".
                  Not as do-able.

              2. re: heckonwheels

                Thanks for the great tip, how. I'm assuming the al pastor is done on a spit?

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Yes, you'll see the spit behind the counter with lots of juice running down the meat.. Also on the menu, fish tacos, asada, tripas, buche, lingua, chicken, carnitas and more. Burritos, gringas, plus breakfast.

                  1. re: heckonwheels

                    Thanks a 1.0 * 10^6, we've been craving a good Mexican stop on our travels.

                    1. re: heckonwheels

                      See . . . you have created a following. By the time I get there . . . there will be one of those 2 hour waits! Lol! Good for them!

                2. Wow, Michelle - sorry to hear you're not looking forward to your visit to Reno! We're kind of partial to our town. Personally, I really like Laguna Beach and hope we can help you feel the same about our neck-of-the-woods! I've done the drive North to South quite a bit - there are quite a few routes you can take. 395 is beautiful, and my "main route" when making the drive, but the weather can be questionable this time of year - I second Shatz in Bishop if you choose that route) and if you ever make the journey again outside of snow season, do try Whoa Nellie Deli - it's amazing). Highway 5 is long and boring, and I haven't found any reason to stop for food except for a gas station bag o'chips, but there are lots of posts that give various recommendations. It'll add time to your trip, but you can also opt for 101 which will take you thru Sta Barbara (La Super Rica for Mexican), Pismo (amazing bugers, fries, shakes at Longboards), Avila (great coffee at Joe Mammas), San Luis Obispo (check out Thai Palace) and Gilroy before cutting over to 680 or 5 for the rest of the journey. The South Bay or East Bay will probably be your half-way stopping point and I don't know too much about those areas. Along the Hwy 80 corridor into Reno there are lots of options in Auburn (Ikedas and Katrinas) and Truckee (Squeeze In and Dragonfly) as you approach Reno. And, once you're in Reno, if you need some suggstions let us know!

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: nancyhudson

                    Hey nh, what're we here in the central valley, chopped liver? ; >P

                    Seriously tho, agree about 395, but would definitely watch the weather systems closely this time of year. The best alternative route, and the one with the most dining options, would be Hwy 99. I-5, besides taking you out of the way, doesn't have much like you said, at least until you're up to Los Banos or Stockton. 101 adds an awful lot of extra driving and traffic.

                    Along 99 you can find hound worthy food at pretty much no more that half hour intervals. Google this board for Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, Lodi, Sacto of course, and along I-80 E for Auburn, and Truckee.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      IF she's making a two-day trip, 101 makes sense though. Screw all these suggestions. Go to Passionfish in Carmel.

                      1. re: SteveTimko

                        That would be in Pacific Grove, let's not get her lost, Steve. But not a bad idea, in which case I'd hit a few of the taco trucks in Salinas the next day on the second leg.

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          Oh. Pacific Grove? Really?

                          Can one of you give me a definitive; and elaborate on "Passionfish"? Fish. Yes? That is my preference always. Well; Fish or Mexican; or BOTH; or a really great "anything".
                          My Escalade has a Navigation device to program my trip; and put me back on track if I stray.
                          I stray.
                          Then I must listen to the Navigation voice sound so very increasingly irritated as it reminds me that I have strayed; and to return to my route.
                          I have however; figured out how to let it know when I want to "RESUME".

                          1. re: michelle in laguna

                            MiL, do a search on this board for Passionfish, tons of discussion.

                            Fresnohotspot makes a good point below, given the current weather situation this week I would advise taking 101 since I-15 and Tejon have been shut down and the Grapevine hit pretty good with snow and likely to close with more incoming. Here's were you can get updates on CA road conditions.


                        2. re: SteveTimko

                          only problem with Passionfish is that it doesn't have martinis. though the wine list certainly makes up for that...

                          but speaking of Carmel, though of course it and Pacific Grove are both a detour even if one does choose 101, many of its hotels are very dog-friendly (if pricey).

                          I am also partial to the Central Valley as a new resident (add Merced to your list of places to search, check out my recent report on D'Angelos as perhaps fitting your evening meal request. Very good martinis). However, one weather issue to be aware of: the fog can be daunting on 99 this time of year for those not used to it. Best advice when the tule fog hits is to drive during the day . use low beams, and to SLOW DOWN!

                          De Angelo's Restaurant
                          350 W Main St, Merced, CA 95340

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Though actually, on second thought, while martinis are fine, and all of that, if it were me and I were taking 99, and my favorite was Mexican (which is often is), I'd definitely time my evening to have dinner at Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in Lodi. About the right distance and the reports on it have been mouthwatering. Check out the link below....The next morning you can cut over via Sacramento to 80 East to head over the hill to Reno...

                            another place off the 99 that I love, would be a good lunch or snack spot, and near the cheapest gas I've found in the Central Valley (might be better for your return trip perhaps since it is on the wrong side of the freeway if heading north) is Doc's Pit Stop bbq in Modesto. Check out my report via the link to that one also.

                            Doc's Q'In Pit Shop
                            421 Maze Blvd, Modesto, CA 95351

                            Alebrijes Mexican Bistro
                            1301 W Lockeford St Ste D, Lodi, CA 95242

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              I live on "Sleepy Hollow Lane in Laguna Beach"; we get the really scary fog here as well .So bad at times; especially on the toll road coming in that although you cannot see in front of you; you do not dare stop, in fear of being struck from behind.
                              Not at all familiar with Merced.
                              Will look for "Storm friendly" hotel.
                              Wait. Favorite of the 3 ???

                              1. re: michelle in laguna

                                I haven't been to Alebrijes, but I want to go very soon, based on raves I read from hounds including RWCFoodie, who knows her Mexican food. I had the best pulled pork sandwich ever at Docs. DeAngelos is a throwback and makes a very good martini but isn't a must stop. The other two might be.

                                Re which route to travel: 101 will avoid the snow on the grapevine as PolarBear says, but if the weather is bad there is no way to get to Reno without having to put on chains; you have to go over a little 7000 foot plus hill called Donner Pass (unless you take 395, but then you are talking a longer drive with chains on, as Steve points out below). Do not think about making the trip to Reno at this time of year without properly fitting chains; the CHP may not even let you over the pass.

                                Also, take a look at a map, Carmel and Pacific Grove are a (very nice) detour off of 101; about 30 to 40 minutes each way.

                                Fog isn't an issue right now in the Central Valley, because of the storms. Snow and rain will be probably through this weekend, regardless of which route you choose.

                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  Thank you Susan. One of the family was just in an accident on that pass. They are fine; but vehicle not so much I guess. Sadly; they are "seasoned" in that particular drive, while others are not.

                                  If I get stuck at home alone (sorry, I mean with Storm); the only thing local open is not so great Chinese place. Well; and maybe the Montage or Ritz & RC; but no doubt full (yes yes; be careful what you wish for). Not to mention Storm unfriendly. The recommendations are so very appreciated. I will keep them with all of the others. I am doing a balancing act with the predicted weather as well as current road conditions.

                        3. re: nancyhudson

                          Wow Nancy. So many cool sounding suggestions.
                          Apologies if I mislead; It's not the city itself I am dreading. Moreover; it is the over abundance of opinionated family members all crammed under one roof for 5 days over Christmas :)
                          It was the newest newlywed's turn; and my nephew was transferred to Reno.

                          I flew in to visit them shortly after their move. They took me out every meal, and I have to say; I have never had such great "one after the other" experiences. The food in that town is amazing. Even this nothing looking "Chicken Wing" place - that had a name like Charlie's or Old Henry's or the like (they have Risque T-shirts with their name on them too).
                          Everything from that end to the opposite was really wonderful (to THAT I am looking forward)!

                          Thanks for the suggestions; I have written them on the appropriate list.

                          1. re: nancyhudson

                            Sorry last reply to you did not post.
                            I am sorry that I wasn't clear. I LOVE the food in Reno; even this great chicken wing Hole-in-the-wall with risque Tshirts from there. Something like Charlie's or Old Someone's; shoot I will look it up. BEST WINGS I HAVE EVER HAD. Have not ordered in the year and a half I have been back from my visit. There is a Bar under same roof; but other side. It was great; and had that great yellow chicken gravy we all want to deny we love!
                            No; it is the entire Family under same roof for a week I was dreading. Really dreading. Like Ray Barone and the in-laws all staying together. Lol!