HOME > Chowhound > California >


LA to SF on the 5

Looking for any recommendations for a good palce to chow down off the the 5 between LA and SF.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This topic comes up frequently. Do a search and you'll find your answer. My recommendation has always been, eat at LA, drive 6 hours, eat at SF. There nothing in between on I-5

    1. Harris Ranch in Coalinga. Problem is it's usually a pretty filling meal to be driving on afterward. Otherwise as the poster above said you're better off waiting till you get to your destination.

      3 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Have been suckered in by Harris Ranch too many times because it looks so special have always walked away so disappointed with too big a hole in my pocket as well for what we got. Do it once and pick carefully something you think they can't screw up and have the experience. Because it is a pretty visual oasis on this bleak stretch of highway. When in doubt on roads like this - the fish sandwich, fries and coke at McDonalds. Or choose instead Highway 99 to go from south to north and vice versa - far more scenic and historic with moms and pops along the way.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          Had a good meal at Harris Ranch the one time I stopped, but you're right a moderately priced tourist trap. Better off with MCD's to tie you over until you get to your destination.

          1. re: monku

            Harris Ranch prepared and packaged short ribs are very tasty to put in your freezer. Expensive, but a good comfort and company meal to have handy.

      2. I drive to San Francisco every year for the Christmas-New Year holidays with a full gas tank.

        I leave around 6-7 a.m., before rush hour. We have a pit stop along the way, maybe two, then, being a Costco member, fill up the tank at the Costco in Livermore - it's right off the freeway, and cheaper than gas in SF. If we're desperately hungry at that point, a $1.50 hot dog fits the bill.

        Usually, we're at the hotel about 12:30 p.m., and then off for a quick Dim Sum lunch.

        As other posters have said, there's nothing worth stopping for but fast-food, and Harris Ranch, but when we pass it, we're more anxious to get to SF, than to eat.

        1 Reply
        1. re: toitoi

          Santa Nella exit has the cheapest gas on the 5. Stop at Anderson Pea Soup for clean and conveniently located restrooms and free cheddar cheese sprad samples that might satify your appetite till you get to San Francisco.

        2. Try this place in Modesto:
          Hanna's Kuchenhouse Bakery
          901 N. Carpenter Rd.
          From Hwy 99-exit Carpenter R side in Crossroads Shopping Center (@Kansas)
          209-544-8133 NO SUNDAYS. (Not far from I-5)


          4 Replies
          1. re: Kitchen Queen

            Why bother stopping? Get to where the real food is: San Francisco!

            1. re: toitoi

              There is plenty of real food on the 99, and in Modesto. Which actually is fairly far from the 5, unfortunately, about 30 minutes at that point in Modesto. Wolfsen's in Gustine is a great choice closer to the 5 (about 5 to 10 miles from the Gustine exit off of 5).

              You have to be blessed with very little traffic, a lead foot, and no CHP officers to make it from LA proper to SF proper in six hours. I can go 90 with the best of them, and my personal best time from West LA to my old house in Bernal Heights was 6 hours, 20 minutes. Most of the time it takes me seven, or more. If you don't want McDonalds, (or IN N Out, which is also a 5 option) I say slow down, get off the freeway, or better yet, take the 99 or the 101, and really find out that real food does exist outside the big city. You just have to be willing to look for it a bit harder, which makes the hunt that much more fun.

              And if you do take the 99, Hanna's is an excellent recommendation. You can cut over to the 5 on 132 very easily from there as well (in about 30 minutes, but saves you from a boring stretch on the 205 further up).

              1. re: susancinsf

                Thanks for the Highway 99 recommendations. We always try to take this route when going up and down the state because it is far more interesting and there are lots of good food destinations along the way - we like the Dala Horse restaurant in Kingsburgs for their Swedish items and that crazy fruit stand place south of Fresno to pick up bulk raisins. There needs to be a separate thread for dining surprises on Highway 99. Anyone taking Highway 5 deserves the food they get when just a few minutes more, they can enjoy the dazzling and rich sweep of the Central California farmlands on 99.

                Dala Horse
                1531 Draper St, Kingsburg, CA 93631

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  will be heading down the 99 in just a few weeks, will keep an eye out for places and maybe start a thread!

          2. I read on this board about the Apricot shakes at the Apricot Tree, I think it is called, if you search you will find it. Nice when it is hot out. I haven't eaten there but I think it is nothing special otherwise. Now there is a Starbucks on the route so you can get better coffee than before. I have seen discussion of a few interesting places, but you have to go off the main highway and I usually just want to get the drive over with.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coconutz

              Apricot Tree is IN the northwest quadrant of I-5 interchange with W. Penoche Rd (south of Firebaugh). (Google search at one time had shown it further to the west of 5). Apricot shake to go was great, didn't try anything else.

              If I recall correctly from a couple months ago, other nearby stuff in that interchange are a McDonald's, Taco Bell, & gas stations (Chevron & a truck stop).

              ETA: Please ignore the link to Taco Bell in Auburn. I don't know why it showed up.

            2. I couldn't give you one and we've done the drive probably 100+ times.
              We eat at home or I pack stuff for the journey.
              Up the 99 I could help.
              Up the 101, I could help.
              Up the 5, nope

              5 Replies
              1. re: iL Divo

                We pack food in an ice chest too.

                1. re: BN1

                  No one will starve for 3-4 hours. Peanut M&M's are as good as it gets on Highway 5. Stock plenty of them in your car and go for it.

                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    Yep! Peanut M&Ms, salami & crackers, and cold water.

                    1. re: BN1

                      Gotta watch that water intake because that might make you have to take a pit stop and delay your final time getting off I-5. Courage, buddy, courage. Keep your eye on the prize and that is bye bye 5.

                    2. re: glbtrtr

                      yea, peanut butter M&M's are good.
                      don't buy the Almond Joy M&M's though, awful
                      and my favorite candy bar is Almond Joy, so disappointing

                2. since the ps didn't mention a time limit, I'd rec taking the 8 minutes it takes to get to Wolfsen's in Gustine, a cute little valley town seemingly right out of the 50's. Great meat market; 60-plus fresh and smoked sausage types(most available frozen for traveling) , plus steaks, chops, roasts, etc. Tri-tip and bbq chicken is served on the weekends, and great Portuguese-style sausage sub sandwiches at the deli, too.

                  Wolfsen's annual sausage tasting is set for first week of October @$5/head. 'Festa' in Gustine is coming up soon, too isn't it? The local Rotary or Lion's club does an annual Hops n Sausage event too, not sure what time of year.

                  Their traditional style linguica made with wine is worth the 'side trip' alone!

                  Wolfsen's Meat & Sausage
                  358 South Ave, Gustine, CA 95322

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Festa is apparently September 3 - 13th. Of course, since I will be in SoCal and can't go. Hoping to make it to the sausage tasting though!


                  2. per rworange: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697744
                    Tita's Loncheria, at Buttonwillow, get some high marks.

                    Tita's Restaurante y Pupuseria
                    20643 Tracy Ave, Buttonwillow, CA 93206