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i-5

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Not sure if this question has been thoroughly covered (I tried the search engine but didn't find anything). I'll be driving from the Bay Area to LA on Tuesday via i-5 with my 4-month old, so we will NEED to make at least three stops, and I'm wondering if there are any places better than others. I don't eat fast food, so should I just pack our meals? Or is there some secret delicious chow somewhere on the way? (We're willing to get off the freeway, but drive no more than a mile or so.) Thanks in advance for the help (please).

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  1. Its been a while, so I can't be specific, but unless you want McDamnBads and KFC, you might consider taking CA-99 instead of I-5. I have had some great chicken fried steaks and sirloin with grilled onions on that route over the years. Strictly truck stop fare, I would guess theres some good mexican by now.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Bung

      99 has a lot more traffic, much more truck traffic, it will probably take you longer to drive. Pack food and stick to the 5.

      1. re: LisaN

        This is probably too late to help the original poster, but I think the Basque place that Tom Hilton was referring to is the Wool Growers in Los Banos. This is probably the best food place on the whole drive south. There are also a couple of family style places like the Almond Tree (?)Peach Pit (?) Arm Pit (?) etc about halfway along.

        I recently made the drive from Pleasanton to LA in 5 hours with my stomach grumbling the whole way.

      2. re: Bung

        It's gotta be i-5. The fourth month old won't be happy spending that much time in the car, so the less the better.

        Is there really nothing anywhere near i-5? Not a single Central-Valley Mexican place worth sampling? or truck stop? or burger joint? Like I said, we will travel a mile from any given exit.

        1. re: rachel hope

          Since the highway was cut straight and true through unpopulated farmland within recent memory, there are no established communities to speak of along the way. Frankly, the 101 only takes about 90 minutes longer, there is no danger of complications at the Grapevine, and you have access to Jocko's, La Super Rica, and any number of swell Mexican places in Salinas, Los Robles and King City along the way.

          1. re: silver queen

            I thought of 101 too, but it depends on where she's leaving from in the Bay Area and where she's going down south. We live in SF and go to near Thousand Oaks, so 101 is better for us; someone who lives in, say, Pleasanton, however, is much better off with I-5. 101 also has the guaranteed traffic jam between San Jose and Morgan Hill.

            1. re: Tom Hilton

              We live in the East Bay, so i-5 makes more sense. Also, with a four month old who dislikes being in the car, even "just 90 minutes" realllllly counts. Sigh. Packed food and fasting it will be.

          2. re: rachel hope

            No. I live in Fresno and know 99 and I5. There's nothing worthwhile. The kids will like Harris Ranch.
            No. there is very little good Mex. food in the Central Valley. Oaxaca drive-in on 43 So. toward Hanford just off 99 is great - the real thing.

        2. If you're up for a 10 mile (round trip) detour, Los Banos has some good options. Cutija's is a really good cheap taqueria-in-a-shack kind of place; it's on 152 just a block or two east of Taqueria Iris (on the right-hand side, heading east). If you want a more substantial, sit-down type place, there's also a basque restaurant that is reputed to be very good. I know that's farther than you want to detour, but it's probably your best bet for real food.

          Harris Ranch, at the intersection of I-5 and 198, has a coffee shop (and a more expensive restaurant). It's a little overpriced, but if you're in the mood for meat it's worth a stop. Their meats are excellent; their baked goods are pretty good; everything else is fairly standard.

          1. I've made this drive a few times over the past two years, have found no places other than chains along the I-5. In the Hanford area (about 1 1/2 hours south of the Bay Area), there's a Red Robin coffee shop. Otherwise, it's chains and fast food. Around Bakersfield (the I-5 skirts the area) there's an In'n'Out burger. I found a mom'n'pop coffee shop called (I think) the Oasis (there are two tall palm trees in front) which had decent coffee shop food if you prefer that over fast food, but it's not worth making a special stop. It's just convenient, and there's a little market attached to it. Hope your drive is fast and pleasant!

            1. I've posted a couple of notes on Patterson here--but that may be too soon into the trip. Blues Cafe for coffee/espresso & sandwiches, Mil's for diner food. Santa Nella has every kind of chain, but if you're going to stop there I suggest the truck stop attached to the 76 station--can't think of the name but I've had a decent breakfast there. Kettleman City also has every kind of chain, and I've never eaten at that stop. I did have a meal once at Harris Ranch. Everything was WAY too salty, and it is expensive. Lots of meat, though. In that area, I go on over to Coalinga & eat at Taqueria 2000 or Cazuelas--but that far exceeds your one-mile limit. Buttonwillow also has chains at the interchange, if you stop there, stick to the huge truckstop diner. There are several places to eat at Grapevine; I know nothing from personal experience. Once you get up over the pass, you're in Southern Cal & maybe someone on the LA board can help you.

              To be honest, when I have to go to LA, I get on the hwy with a full tank, put the hammer down & try not to stop until I get there--not feasible in your sitch.

              Link: http://webpages.ainet.com/gosner/syri...

              1. On the way down my husband persuaded me to stop at McDonald's -- my first - and last - time in ten years. Tasted the same as I remember and made me sick. For the ride back we stopped at the La Brea bakery in LA and picked up some treats to go (not as good as I'd been promised :( But still stopped at Harris Ranch to stretch our legs. The crowd at the steakhouse was huge, seemed like at least an hour wait. It was a perfect place to stretch our legs because there was plenty room to walk around. We skipped the food, except picking up two perfectly reasonable, not spectacular, cookies for the road. I think I'll plan on stopping at HR in the future. Room for children to run around. Decent treats if you've run out. Don't want to buy a $100.00 meal there, but its way better a destination than McD's.