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Feb 21, 2001 05:01 AM

SFO to LAX road trip--guidance/suggestions?

  • s

A co-worker and I will be driving from San Francicso to LA on Sat.

Although we would prefer the coastal route, the fact that our spouses will be staying home will probably push us to the interstate.

Any suggestions on where to eat about midway?

Also, I would dearly love to see some of the fabled coastal scenery. Does it make sense in the context of a one day trip -- without chewing up too much time, to drive for a portion along the coast (and eat well), and go the rest of the way on interstate?

Any all eating/navigating guidance greatly appreciated!

Our LA destination is a hotel in Westwood. I shudder at all the bad meals I've had in LA (this will be my first trip there with possible Chowhound assistance, however), and I'm afraid with this toney location I'm in for more of the same. Any suggestions?

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  1. a
    Alan Gardner, Toronto

    The problem is the relatively few roads running East/West. The most spectaculer scenery is around Big Sur i.e. take the coastal route from Monterey. BUT there's no 'practical' route back to the throughway until just after Cambria (Hwy 46). Which is potentially good fortune as the best coast restaurant (in my opinion) is Ian's in Cambria - but I'm not sure it's open for lunch! There is one mountain road before then - but it runs through a firing range - did it once, and won't repeat it.
    Maybe a better suggestion is to plan a second trip, taking the coastal route the whole way. And stay overnight in Cambria (one of my favourite places in California).

    1. We made the drive last August from LA up to Monterey. Due to the mountain Looked like some good spots as you get closer to Big, twists and turns, it took us most of the day (8 hrs.) without stopping for meals. The valley drive is a straight shot, literally--4/12 hours without a turn or a curve. I was doing 96mph and getting passed; families members have made it from Redwood City to LA in 4 hrs--we weren't that brave. We we're able to see a spot where you could blast off the highway onto the coastal drive. You really need to choose one or the other. Didn't see a sign of a chowsite the whole way--big breakfastbefore or sandwiches brought I think are your best option for the Valley drive. Awesome open space --never have seen such huge fields of agricultural variety, now we know why it's called the country's "Salad Bowl."

      2 Replies
      1. re: berkleybabe

        Sorry for the many substantive typos in the original post. Main point. we were NOT able to find a short cut from the valley drive to PCH 1. And, like the latter poster noted, there are not a lot of choices in the valley route, but it's way faster. Sandwiches to bring, or a big breakfast to stoke the first four hours, is/are the best bet.

        1. re: berkleybabe

          If you are taking the 5, it is possible to detour to either Bakersfield or Los Banos for pretty great Basque food around lunchtime, which will add about an hour of driving time to the trip but is probably worth it.

          If you are taking the 101 (my favorite route to SF), which cuts through the vegetable-growing coastal valleys and takes exactly seven hours of driving time, you can stop for antojitos at La Super Rica, off the Milpas exit in Santa Barbara, which is the best imaginable fast food, or about 100 miles further on, at one of the great Santa Maria barbecue places in Buellton, Nipomo or Gonzales. At lunchtime, Santa Maria barbecue is almost always cooked over gas instead of wood -- the live oak coals come into play at dinner and on Sundays -- but it's still delicious stuff. And it's almost exactly halfway between L.A. and SF.

      2. The SFO-LA trip through the central valley takes half the time that the coastal route takes.

        I like to stop at a roadside farmstand on the 152. Mine is on the right (no offramp, the highway is a normal road at this point), sort of in the neighborhood of the well-advertised Casa Fruitaria-or-something complex. I know that's vague directions--but how wrong can you go with a roadside farmstand? I get some good lettuce and some fruit to snack on. i spray my bottled water on it in the parking lot.

        When we make an early start, we've stopped at the Harris Ranch in Coalinga for steak and eggs for breakfast. we're not big meat eaters, too often don't enjoy meat, but the steak and eggs was tasty and fun and different for us. The steak is from the ranch there, which is fun. Supposedly the ranch produces produce too, but you have to question your server to find out what might be from the ranch currently.

        of course you could have lunch or dinner at harris ranch. i've never done it--no particular reason. You do need reservations for their restaurant which you can make over the internet. the restaurant closes at 10. Breakfast is served in a more informal eating area and my children are all under the age of seven.

        Often i pack lunch, probably not sensible in your situation, in the company of someone who might find that quirky. Just in case, I'll warn you not to choose the Buttonwillow rest area for picnicking, there always seems to be a bad smell from the lavoratories or flies or some other such unpleasant problem.

        For a classic packaged snacks from the gas station we would stop at either of the gas stations just before your ascend the Grapevine.

        Have a pleasant safe trip

        1. There was just a thread UCLA/Westwood on the LA Board. I stand by my responses: Don Antonio's for cheap Italian, Delphi for solid Greek, Sheherezad (sp?) for great Persian.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Jeff Shore
            Steve Drucker

            After a rainy drive down from SFO, we tried Sheherezad last night. (Its funny about the spelling, it seems to shift with who's posting, publication, and indeed at the restaurant.)

            This was far and away the finest persian food I've ever had--although my frame of reference is limited to the persian restaurants in Atlanta.

            The Tadig--crusty rice with lentil-veal saffron tomato stew (gheimah) was awesome, the combo appetizers-meaty grape leaves, ground chicken cutlet, baked eggplant and oliveh salad and kabab good. The sour cherry rice again awesome. The bread very good. On a weak wine list, we managed to find a reliable bottle of Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet at $21.

            Thanks for the suggestions. We will probably try for Delphi tonight, then monday with clients so who knows up which Cal-fusion path they may lead us.

          2. b
            Brandon Nelson


            If you love to drive take the coast. Man created convertables because God created Highway 1. I will leave chow 411 to those who can offer more than I.


            2 Replies
            1. re: Brandon Nelson
              Steve Drucker

              We made the drive last Saturday in a spanking new Hertz Uncle Murray Grand Marquis. It rained about end to end--in the Central Valley, along the coast, in SFO, and LA.

              Having been warned about mud-slide potential along the coast, snow through the I-5 pass, we drove I-5, fortified ourselves with breakfast at Doidges in SFO (pricey, but mmm...cornbeef hash), ate sunflower seeds and pistachio nuts for lunch, and the only time we slowed down was around Mulholland Drive, Brentwood area on the 405.

              Total SFO-LA trip time was 5:30 / 388 mi with a gas stop. I bet in dry weather we could have shaved 45 minutes from that time, as everyone was flying along pretty good.

              I'll drive the coast route when the weather is dry and my traveling companion is my wife...not my business partner.

              But dinner at Shahrezad Flame on Westwood Ave a couple blocks south of Wilshire was ample reward, as was the calculation that our drive took about the same trip time as if we had flown SFO-LAX because of all the rain.

              1. re: Steve Drucker

                Glad you took the landlocked route-especially with the weather. For a flatlander like me, even in perfect weather(which we had) Highway 1 is lovely but fear, not to say at times terror-inducing. Can't imagine it with poor visibility. Plus it was a blast to almost hit three digits on the m.p.h. -in a Dodge Intrepid. Closest I'll get to NASCAR racing! Glad you enjoyed the nuts....good choice for your agricultural surroundings.