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Road trip from New Orleans to Michigan - recommendations?

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  • puma Jul 16, 2009 08:57 AM
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Hi all

I posted this on the "southern" board as well. I live in New Orleans and I am driving from here to Michigan (Ludington, near the lake, if you need to know where in MI). I am leaving next week, I have only one or two overnights to spare for the drive up. However I love road trips and I love going all over, on little roads, to little towns, the world is my oyster. So I have not decided on a route yet. The most direct way is straight up through KY and Indiana, but I was even thinking of going through St. Louis cuz I love that town. So what I'm trying to say is that I am open about my route, so long as it doesn't take me too far out of my way, but 2-3 hours out of my way is OK for something real fun.

So here is the question: Do you have recommendations for neat places to stop overnight on my way? I love little roads, little towns, big cities, off the beaten path, on the beaten path, ALL sorts of food (low brow to high brow). I also love old hotels. So if any of you have a fun suggestion, really anywhere from Arkansas/Missouri or up through Kentucky/Indiana, I'm interested. Give me your ideas! I'm interested in fun places to eat (road stop, family restaurant, old school southern food, fancy cuisine, anything), interesting towns, and hotels with history. Other than that, the sky is the limit.

Obviously I also have to drive back home, so I can even go one way up there, and another route on the way back.

Some criteria:
- I am a woman traveling alone, and I am not traditional looking (I have tattoos) so I need to stay places where I will feel safe, whether safe in terms of my own safety or safe in terms of not being given a hard time because I have short hair and tattoos.
- I have spent a lot of time in Memphis, Nashville, Louisville KY, and Paducah KY so I'm not interested in any of those places.
- Money isn't a huge issue but I'd rather spend less than $75 on dinner for myself and less than $200 for a hotel room. $225-ish would be OK if it's a really special hotel (ex: I once stayed in the Hotel Phillips in Kansas City on a road trip and it was $225 a night at that point and I had such a great night and the best steak I ever ate from their room service, so it was worth the splurge). Low brow is OK too as long as I'm safe being alone.

Looking forward to your suggestions!

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  1. Well I would look at the Chicago boards....that is a great food city. I am from the Detroit area so I will keep my dirty rotten mitts off of Chi-town. As for the west side of Michigan..I am not sure if you like beer or not, but one of the best breweries in the nation is in Kalamazoo.

    -----
    Bell's Brewery Inc: Pub
    355 E Kalamazoo Ave, Kalamazoo, MI

    1. I asked a similar question on the board recently- we're going from NO to Chicago. One thing I had considered doing in KY (different trip that didn't happen) was going to one of the boubon distillaries. Maker's Mark looked interesting. Also southern Illinois has some interesting natural areas. We usually stop in Memphis for ribs, so that's out.

      I would consider posting this on Fodors travel board, too. They could help with hotels and such.

      3 Replies
      1. re: roxanne207

        Maker's Mark and Williams offer the two best tours. Buffalo Trace is pretty good, as well. Wild Turkey was the most rustic of all of them. Nothing really wrong with that, though.

        1. re: roxanne207

          Yes I did not mention that I have actually done a lot of the bourbon distilleries. My favorite was Four Roses which is not well known outside of Kentucky. But doing more bourbon places is an idea.

          1. re: puma

            Ah, we didn't make Four Roses. We'll have to check that out the next time. Thanks for the tip.

        2. I live in the St Louis Area and there are lots of good recs on this board. It is interesting to me that some will disparage our regional food, but when I am traveling that is what I am looking for. Try the St Louis pizza, toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake.
          Specific recs
          http://www.nichestlouis.com/ I think you will need reservations here
          http://www.pappyssmokehouse.com/ for ribs
          If you are traveling 57 hiway >>>do not miss<<< the Firefly grill in Effingham. They are planning a farm to table dinner soon that I'm sure will be great. I get tired of recommending it but it is really a great place with a lot of care given to the food that they prepare. They have their own garden out back.
          http://www.ffgrill.com/index.php

          Also coming from the south on 55 just south of Cape Girardeau
          http://www.raysofkelso.com/
          These are just the stand outs that I would go out of my way for.
          There are many more grat places.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wekick

            If you went the St. Louis way, I can't say about Memphis, and it has been awhile, but there's a place named Dixie Pig in Blytheville, AR on hwy 55 that was tremendous a few years ago. No ketchup based sauce in the house. Smoked and spiced with great smoke, then vinegar sauce with peppers at the table.

            Small town, but it seemed to be at the far edge from the hwy. I'd love to hear if it's still in good shape. Last report is now a couple of years old.

            1. re: wekick

              I wanted to let you know that I did in fact go out of my way to go to Firefly Grill in Effingham on that road trip, per your suggestion, and LOVED IT. Thank you so much for your recommendation! It was a really great experience!

              -----
              Firefly Grill
              1810 Avenue of Mid America, Effingham, IL 62401

              1. re: puma

                Glad you liked it!

            2. If you will be traveling up I94 entering Michigan from Indiana there is a little town, New Buffalo, MI.. If you should you be passing by around lunch time, get off the New Buffalo exit and stop at Pierre Anne Crepes. You will love it. They are closed on Mon. and Tue. I think it's a little known treasure; their savory crepes are to die for and I'm a meat and 'tatters guy!
              www.pierreanne.com
              Bob

              3 Replies
              1. re: SonyBob

                Take a winding trail north through SW Michigan from New Buffalo and find some wonderful wineries and enjoy Michigan at its finest. Tabor Hill, in Buchanan, has a beautiful dining room overlooking its vineyards (www.taborhill.com). Continue north through Saugatuck and Holland - Michigan's version of "seaside." Enjoy a host of eateries and artist crafts. You won't be disappointed!

                1. re: Oakland Gal

                  Thanks! I may indeed do this. Good idea, the wineries.

                  1. re: puma

                    Let me second Oakland Gal. If you get into Saugatuck, you might just not make it to Ludington. You will feel most welcome; you may not want to leave!
                    Bob

              2. If Chelsea MI ends up being in your path, try the Common Grill. Whenever I'm in Ann Arbor, I make sure to go there. Cute small town, very safe, the home of Jiffy mixes (you know...the blue and white boxes of mix). I'm not sure about hotels there because we stay in AA with relatives.

                1. Puma has also posted on the South board for that leg of the trip. If you think your reply veers into South territory, please post here:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6370...
                  Thanks for helping us to keep good chow tips on the boards where others can find them.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                    I'd also recommend taking the west coast up through Michigan rather than driving up the middle to get to Ludington. FAR more scenic, more fun food options, more old-skool hotels, etc., and a pretty open population in terms of not giving you the stink-eye for being different. When you're in the Saugatuck area, don't be shy about taking M-89 a few miles east to get to the little farm town of Fennville. There's an amazing Mexican place there called Su Casa. Not sure when you're coming through, but an interesting local-foods-based restaurant called "Salt of the Earth" will be opening in mid-August in fennville as well. Knowing the ventures some of the people involved had previously, there promises to be some amazing food. In Saugatuck/Douglas, Everyday People Cafe, The Whatnot Inn, and Marrow's are all really good in their own diverse ways.

                  2. There have been many posts re: Saugatuck, Fenville, etc.. There used to be a place in Fenville, the Journyman, that made and sold "salty seedy bread". It has closed but in another thread, it was mentioned that you could still buy the bread at "a place that used to sell it in Saugatuck".. That would be the spice shop down from Phil's. If you get to Saugatuck, make sure you pick up a couple of loaves. It's incredible; a great gift for your hosts in Ludington.
                    Bob