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I-5 LA to Bay Area. Where to get good coffee and eats?

I'm driving from LA to the Bay Area at the end of the week. The 5 is bleak. Has anyone found good coffee, breakfast, and/or lunch anywhere between here and there? I mean good. Starbucks in Grapevine doesn't count.

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  1. For lunch, I'm thankful for In-N-Out.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JAB

      Likewise, though it's a bit surreal driving by that massive feedlot before or after filling my belly with beef.

    2. Unless you are in a tearing hurry, take 99 instead - only about 20 minutes longer on the average, and a far prettier drive. Stop in Kingsburg for Swedish bakery treats, or at Bravo Farms in Traver for good dine food and local produce. Both are touristy but fun and way better than anything on the 5.

      1. I feel for you - I do this drive often to visit my in-laws. I've been wanting to try Noriega's in Bakersfield ever since I heard about it (and even more so, after it won a James Beard Award). Might not be the quickest stop ever, but I suspect it would be memorable:

        2 Replies
        1. re: jbeaux

          Can't vouch for Noriega's, but I visited Woolgrowers last month and had a great time.

          1. re: jbeaux

            I grew up in Bakersfield, and my last high school reunion was held at Noriega's. Wool Grower's has a more hopping bar scene, but I prefer the food and family style, single seating (at 7 p.m., so get there around six and have a drink to make the cut) approach of Noriega's. Just pace yourself. There are multiple courses, and some are more worth indulging in than others. I love their oxtail stew!

          2. McDonalds has surprisingly good coffee. I don't think there is any good food right along I-5 once you get past Frazier Park.

            I remember having a good meal in Los Banos, which is seven or eight miles off the freeway, but it was a long time ago, and I don't remember the name of the restaurant. Los Pinos in Frazier Park (across from Jack in the Box) serves acceptable Mexican food.

            1. I do the drive about once a month. The time difference between the 5 and 101 is maybe 30-45 minutes. However, the food choices on the 101 as well as the fact that the 101 has some beautiful stretches with rolling hills, versus flat boring hot farmland on the 5 makes me go with the 101 every time. I leave in time to stop in Santa Barbara for lunch. I would reconsider my route if I were you.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jgilbert1000

                I have to agree with you. Also there is a lot of road construction delays on the 5 recently so sometime it can actually take longer. Take the 154 shortcut (from the 101 to the 101) from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos and you shave off anther 15min. The Los Olivos grocery is right off the 154 and a great place to pickup snacks of all sorts. In Santa Barbara we always stop at Santa Barbara Shellfish at the end of the pier for great casual seafood or La Super-Rica for tacos.
                Or we stop in San Luis Obispo for great creole food at Bon Temps. http://www.bontempscreolecafe.com/

                1. re: MissBubbles

                  We locals avoid Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass) day and night even though it is a bit shorter. Waaaaay too many head-on collisions that way.

                  You have commuters, crazies, casino gamblers and wine tasters all out there together, which make a deadly combo on this very lovely highway. Drive it very defensively. And let the tail-gating idiot pass and give them wide berth. It does have some great food stop though: Cold Springs Tavern, Grapalo in Santa Ynez, Los Olivos Market deli.

              2. Thanks for the recommends everyone. I'm definitely getting off the 5. Just need to decide between the 101 and 99.

                1. I see the naysayers have scared you off onto either 99 or 101, but for any future hounds that travel I-5 I encourage you to read through these threads from just the past year.




                  or just do a search on Buttonwillow, Los Banos, Gustine, and Stockton

                  1. Why bother stopping? It's 6.5 to 7 hrs top. I usually stop at Harris Ranch for the clean restrooms. If I am really desperate, In N'Out. But why stop for bad food when the treasures of LA or SF awaits?

                    1. Whenever we've driven to and from the bay area on the 5, we've always stopped at Harris Ranch. This is particularly noteworthy given that we are a bunch of vegetarians. I think that you are better off sticking w in'n'out

                      1. I took the 101 and lunched in Paso Robles at Red Scooter Deli. It was good. There are, of course, better sandwiches in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but I liked it enough to stop there on the way back. Added perk: it's across the street from a park, so I sat on a bench and enjoyed the breeze.

                        1. Highway 101 needs to be designated a national shrine for both scenery and dining. Don't overlook the quirky Madonna Inn south of San Luis Obispo - easy on and off and a good midpoint stop.

                          Just a slice of their toffee crunch cake is worth the trip alone, but also their fresh pies with your coffee or excellent takes on the Copper Cafe classics like a BLT and homemade chunky blue cheese dressing that is practically a meal in itself.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: glbtrtr

                            Oh that sounds so good. I'm getting back in the car right now...

                            1. re: jarednielsen

                              Just so you don't get sticker shock - the stuff is good but not cheap: http://www.madonnainn.com/downloads/M...

                          2. Coming back from Culver city to Santa Cruz. I would stop at In-N-Out. Not that good . After waiting.I would grab and go,eating on the road.

                            1. I have developed a new strategy for driving from LA (Valencia, actually) to the Bay Area. My son lives in Valencia, and last year we went out for Mother's Day brunch before I hit the road to go home. I'm really not an all-you-can-eat type of person, but it was our first Mother's Day together in several years so we went out.

                              ANYWAY, we went to a place in Valencia for brunch and then I drove home. I wasn't hungry for the entire trip so I only made rest stops as needed. When I came back down in December, we did the same thing... a nice brunch, then I drove home. I did the same thing last weekend (Memorial Day, Sunday) and again, only needed rest stops in between Valencia and home.

                              Going south, however, is an entirely different strategy, or if I'm driving home on a weekday when my son has to work. Then, I'll either have a good breakfast before I leave and/or or hit In n Out or someplace else on the drive depending on my schedule. Once or twice I packed lunch in a cooler bag and that worked out OK as well but that takes more planning.

                              1. Apricot Tree, West Panoche Rd. exit off I-5. (Firebaugh-Mendota). The ONLY thing I have ever gotten is the apricot shake to go. Order and use restroom (clean) while it's being prepared which can take awhile. The coffee shop and gift shop are always devoid of customers when I'm there so parking is easy. Easy on, easy off I-5 as this place is virtually in the clover leaf along with the usual truck stop fast food chains.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                  They have okay breakfasts. I vaguely recall having oatmeal with apricots in it, too. But what I really enjoy about Apricot Tree is their lunchbox collection decor! (My sisters and I actually used to have a few of the ones on display. Thanks, now I feel antique, Apricot Tree.)

                                  In Kettleman City, we sometimes stop at Mike's Roadhouse Cafe. Their decor features vintage kiddie pedal cars (I detect a theme here), and they also have brain teaser puzzles at every table. That tells you it's not going to be a quick stop. Their food is mediocre, but they do have some grass areas outside that are good for a doggie pit stop, which is useful when the rest stops are closed, as they so often are.

                                  1. re: aelliottsherman

                                    Oooooh, thanks for the reminder about the lunch box collection. I had browsed it while waiting for my apricot shake -- surprised at how long it took to blend up.