Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Southwest >
Apr 11, 2009 11:00 PM

5 Best Stops on a Southwest Roadtrip?

In a few days, my girlfriend I will be embarking on an epic roadtrip across the southwest, South, and mid-Atlantic. Check out the attached pic for the route, or here:

For me, this is a Food Trip -- I've never been to this part of the country, and since eating unique food is one of my main motivations for travelling, I want to make sure to sample the best regional cuisine the area has to offer.

So: What are the five unmissable places to eat on this route? I don't mean a good place to get pancakes in Memphis -- I'm looking for the kind of food that makes you want to travel in the first place, the places worth driving hours out of our way for. So far, I've been recommended the pozole at Richardson's in Phoenix, Smitty's BBQ in Lockhart, and Willie Mae Scotch House in New Orleans -- what are your top five?

Thanks so much for your advice!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Other than restaurants, markets (permanent or occasional) can be a great way to experience a region. Your map doesn't quite indicate where you might stop in New Mexico, but there are some great experiences. A mini mecca would be the chile regions, but being April, it might be too soon in the growing season to best enjoy.

    In Phoenix, check out the Ranch Market (permanent) for a trip to Mexico, without going to Mexico. If you like Asian, we have a few permanent markets that rival anything between the coasts. There are also several (weekly) farmer's markets, depending on what day you are driving through. In either case you can pile out of the car and enjoy without getting a room, unpacking or dressing up (important on road trips).

    Grand Central in L.A. and Santa Monica's markets are another must-stop, but are probably best explored on the L.A. message board.

    I do road trips and it's always good to have a mix of choices, since you might roll into a city at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., intent on staying and exploring or grabbing something, then moving on.

    In any case, have a great trip!

    1. Plato Poca Cosa at the Cafe Poca Cosa in Tucson. The menu changes constantly, and the Plato Poca Cosa is three of that shift's items, chef's choice. I get it every time I go there, and every time it is nothing short of magic. There are two separate locations- the big one is sleeker and more cosmopolitan, the smaller one more of a raucous mom-n-pop type place. I think I would give the nod to getting lunch at the little one.

      I think while in Tucson I would also get a carne seca chimichanga at the original location of El Charro in downtown. Carne seca is a Tucson specialty, and El Charro is the flagship place to get it. Likewise, the chimichanga was invented years ago at El Charro, so you can kill two birds with one stone pretty easily.

      The posole at Richardson's is indeed worth the stop.

      If I may suggest, swing by Carolina's for some tortillas (maybe some tamales too) to munch in between Phoenix and LA, as the area in between the two cities is a culinary wasteland. Their tortillas are glorious. The bag of a dozen usually turns into a bag of 10 or 11 by the time I get home.

      As for driving hours out of the way, the one place to do that in Arizona is Eat At Joe's Barbecue in beautiful downtown Wikieup, halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas. You'll add two and a half hours to that leg of the trip (take the 40 into California instead of backtracking to the 10), but I would say it's well worth it. It's easily the best barbecue in the state. I say that with a bit of trepidation since you're going through prime barbecue territory long before you hit AZ (stop and have some fried green tomatoes at the King's Palace Cafe on Beale St in Memphis for me!), but the BBQ at Eat At Joe's really is astoundingly delicious. Mojoe sausages are wonderful, and the Mojave Green (jalapeƱos stuffed with crab and cream cheese, bacon wrapped and smoked) are dangerously addictive. I think I'd go with the Brethren Plate (ribs, wings, pulled pork, beef brisket, Mojoe, and Mojave Green) mostly because I'd never be able to pick just one thing on the menu.

      Another one that I've heard is worth a stop is the H&H Cafe and Car Wash not too far off the 10 in El Paso. Killer huevos rancheros and chile rellenos, and you can get your car washed while you eat.

      Oh! Indian frybread! The go-to place in Phoenix for it is the Fry Bread House. It's Tohono O'odham Native American owned and operated, and utterly delicious. It ain't diet food by any stretch of the mind, but oh so good. I usually get their special, a frybread with a bowl of one of their four chilis or stews. Exactly which one, I can't say, my taste depends on the day. Sometimes red chili, other times green chili, still others the beef hominy stew. I think my nod would narrowly go to the red chili. The Indian Taco is monstrous and delicious. Frybread topped with chocolate and butter for dessert is not to be missed.

      Carolina's Mexican Food Restaurant
      1202 E Mohave St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

      Eat at Joe's
      Wikieup, AZ, USA, Wikieup, AZ

      Fry Bread House
      4140 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      Little Poca Cosa
      Stone and Alameda, Tucson, AZ

      Cafe Poca Cosa
      110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

      2 Replies
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        I wrote a long post praising El Paso's H & H Car Wash and cannot find it to link here. Suffice it to say that when I took Julia Child there in the 90s, she was bowled over. It is a hole-in-the-wall diner that really is an adjunct to the car wash with terrific Mexican food. My favorite breakfast is exactly what JK Grence referenced - huevos rancheros & a chile relleno. If that doesn't make your tummy smile, it's time to call the undertaker.

        Note - I'm pretty certain that H&H does not serve dinner. H & H is on a one-way street (Yandell) very close to I-10 in central El Paso. Google H & H Car Wash, El Paso, TX for better directions than my poor memory can provide.

        1. re: Sherri

          Add me to the list of fans of H&H Car Wash. My husband, who is from El Paso, had no idea that H&H was so well-known across the country (including Saveur, Gourmet mag, Roadfood, etc). As a nice bonus, it's owned by a good childhood friend/golf buddy of his. In addition to the chili relleno burritos (my favorite) and huevos rancheros, I'll recommend the chorizo and eggs and the menudo.

          H & H Car Wash
          701 E Yandell Dr, El Paso, TX 79902

      2. In Phoenix, I would stop off at Pizzeria Bianco, and while you wait you can get an oil change for your car.

        1. These answers are all so wonderful! We're going to be making a ton of these stops, I'm sure. Thanks so much, everyone!