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.
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!
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.
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.