Roadfood -- Western Pennsylvania Turnpike
I'm driving to Ohio, and when dinnertime comes, I will be somewhere around the Cranberry or Beaver Valley Exists. I know there's a big commercial strip at the cranberry exit, but most of what I see are chain places. Either exit is fine with me, as one can leave and return to the highway without messing with extra tolls. Any suggestions for a good non-chain place. I'm on an expense account (even if it's not the most generous), so I an go a bit upscale, but, of course, if there's some real good diner food, like at the Summit Diner in Somerset, I wouldn't turn that up either.
For the return trip, I'll be hitting lunch hour at about Hagerstoan or Frederick, MD, but I guess I should be posting on the Mid-Atlantic Board or maybe the Baltimore-Washington Board.
Looks like some good suggestions so far. I would go with one of those instead of looking for diner food, which is sadly somewhat lacking in the Cranberry area. (There is a diner that I go to occasionally, but it's only so-so, especially at dinner, and it has none of that classic diner feel anyway as it's in a newer strip mall.)
I am familiar with BRGR and Mad Mex, both of which I recommend depending upon your preferences. Echo and Tamari should also be good if you wish to go that route, but I haven't been to either. Echo has two spaces with different menus so it doesn't have to be crazy upscale necessarily.
I believe Frederick is your better bet for food on the way back. I'm not familiar with too many restaurants there but I have eaten at one called The Orchard which I remember being good especially as a couple with one vegetarian, one not. ;-) My understanding though is that there are a number of good restaurants in Frederick these days.
South off the Cranberry Exit is Tamari, http://www.tamaripgh.com/menu/, where I recently had a bento box for lunch with a Chicken Pho, seaweed salad, steak robata (skewer) and pickled radish maki roll. It was delicious. The time before I split a few specialty maki. Also the tapas can be delicious - grilled romaine, tempura calamari.
I agree with quite a few chains. Mad Mex is at least a local chain of California Mex, Quaker Steak & Lube a local chain with wings, Echo is not a chain but more upscale and traditional and pricey, BRGR has fancy burgers that are fine and tasty milkshakes.
You are correct that most restaurants near the Cranberry exit are chains, but there are a few other choices. Echo is very close, and is a bit more upscale with pretty good food. If you like BBQ, about 5 minutes from the exit is Pork 'n Nat. Not fancy, just basic BBQ but pretty good! If you like big sandwiches and a cold beer in an informal atmosphere Primanti's is also pretty close....Just don't get the cheesteak!