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May 12, 2014 06:57 PM

Road trip from San Diego to Austin

Traveling on vacation from san diego to austin. looking for a half way point to crash for the night, and all places to stop and gorge... all ideas welcomed.

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  1. That's a really long drive, and it seems even longer than it actually is coming east, because you lose two hours. And believe me, I know, because I've driven it many times, most recently, just a few months ago.

    There's a lot of good food and stuff to see and do on the San Diego to El Paso portion, but then there's basically nothing from El Paso until you get closer to Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country. In fact, after many attempts to find a decent meal on that portion of the drive, I've basically given up, and just pack a cooler.

    If you're trying to do it all in two days, you're not going to have much time to "stop and gorge." I'd seriously suggest you break it into three. At least try to leave San Diego and get to Yuma day 1. Obviously I don't know your time constraints or schedule but, assuming you have a day job of some sort, I'd advise you to leave work and just get a few hours under your belt, at least three or four. If all you do is make it to Yuma, there is good Mexican food there. You could hit one of those spots for dinner and then get a fine Mexican breakfast the next morning.

    You also go through Phoenix and Tucson, both of which have a lot of good stop-and-gorge-worthy options. And then you'll make it to the Las Cruces/Mesilla/Hatch/El Paso area, where there is also a lot of really great food to choose from. Stop for the night there.

    And then, do as I do, and load up a cooler for that long, smooth cruise across West Texas.

    The best thing about it is that you'll make great time.

    1. Agree with Jaymes on nothing between EP and the hill country....if you're staying on IH-10.
      If you're willing to detour for a overnight in Marfa (home of the "lights" and a fabulous minimalist art museum), don't miss Cochineal, a culinary oasis if there ever was one.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Spade

        And I totally agree with Mr. Spade about Marfa.

        Just one more reason why my first bit of advice to you, Mr. Catering, would be not to try to make that drive in two days, if you want to enjoy the journey.

      2. Hey, I am looking at doing a similar trip. Travelling from San Diego to New Orleans. Currently staying in El Paso and San Antonio along the way. Looking for good diners to snack at along the way. Any thoughts?

        We have 3 drivers so can rotate easily enough.

        Love to hear your thoughts.

        8 Replies
        1. re: adfjohnson

          I'd ask why you chose El Paso. I've made that trip many times, and have lived in several of the cities you're passing through.

          I never miss an opportunity to stop at Old Mesilla. The accommodations there range from historic B&B's on the plaza to the typical modern motels.

          And many good dining choices.

          Also, depending upon the day and time you're planning on coming through San Antonio, the "do not miss" meal there is actually about 40 miles or so (depending upon where in San Antonio you are) east, in Luling, at City Market.

          You can check to see if their hours match your schedule, but you should do what you can to include a stop there.

          1. re: Jaymes

            For no real reason except to break the trip up and stay close to the border of Mexico :) We are from New Zealand and thought the closer we got during our trip the better. Going to Mexico for a little while was a thought, but we decided against it.

            Would you suggest Old Mesilla over El Paso as a place to stay then?

            Oh great, we can hopefully check Luling out as well!


            1. re: adfjohnson

              Ah well, 'furners,' eh? In that case...

              When I travel in foreign countries, especially when I'm there for the first time, I do indeed want to see the cities. El Paso is an interesting, large city, definitely with a Mexican feel. There is a lot to see and do there, so you might want to stick with that.

              On the other hand, Old Mesilla is a remnant of the days when it was a small Mexican farming village. I love going there because it's unique and historic. I do think that, especially since you considered going into Mexico proper, you'd like it. I would suggest you do a wee bit of research into it before you go. One restaurant I'm positive you'd get a kick out of is the Double Eagle Steakhouse. It's in an historic old ranch house and, even if you don't eat there, it's something to see. Don't feel uncomfortable about just showing up at the front door and asking to see it - they're very accustomed to folks wanting to walk through and, usually, one of the staff will even give you a tour, explaining the history, which includes ghosts, of course.

              The other restaurant I like there is La Posta. I always get the stacked green enchiladas (wasn't on the menu for a time - you had to ask - but I've been told they are now), and find that typical of New Mexico-type Mexican food. A caveat is that I've read recent reviews that are less than glowing about the food. But the building itself is an old stagecoach stop and, like the Double Eagle, it's worth a walk-through, even if you don't eat there.

              The more I think about it, believe I would recommend that you stop there. El Paso is interesting, but it is a large city, and has much in common with every large city - if you know what I mean.


              And now, knowing that you're kiwis visiting our state, I need to impress upon you even more that you have absolutely got to add City Market in Luling to your itinerary. I'm sure you've heard of Texas barbecue, and City Market is one of our legendary smoked meat stops. The history of City Market, and other places like it, goes back to the turn of the last century when a great many Germans immigrated to central Texas. They are famous, of course, for their smoked meats - sausages, etc. - so pretty soon after their arrival, they began smoking the meats they found here. These places are not so much "restaurants" in the usual sense of the word. They did start as small markets, grocery stores, etc., with a meat counter. So when you go to that City Market in Luling, think "butcher shop." You walk into the building, look back toward the far right-hand corner, and you'll see a door. That's the door to the smoke pits. You go into there and order whatever meats you want. I'd suggest you get some brisket (either lean or moist or a mixture, but you'll sure find a lot of fans of the moist, so I'd definitely suggest you try at least some of that), and a few sausage links. This will be given to you on butcher paper.

              This is really a quintessential Texas experience and I'd suggest you do whatever you can to make it happen. You do need to get there fairly early in the day, however, because the best cuts of meat are often all gone by 1 or 2pm. And, they're not open on Sunday. So, check your schedule, double-check their hours, and do not miss this. It might well be the highlight of your entire trip and it's something you won't forget.


              Here's a warning, however - this City Market in Luling is one of the most famous barbecue joints in the state and, perhaps, in the entire country. So some folks in Texas, wanting to capitalize on the name, and ensuing confusion, stole the name "Luling City Market" for their third-rate joint in Houston. If you try to google Luling City Market to get more definite information regarding hours, location, etc., of the original market in Luling, Texas, you might very easily get lured to the wrong place. So be wary.

              And, welcome to Texas.

              1. re: Jaymes

                Always enjoyed going to La Posta. Haven't been there for a while but always enjoyed the food and the setting is exceptional! Great local history. I know it doesn't relate to food, but Old Mesilla also a great place to pick up wonderful souvenirs and artwork reflecting the area. The bookstore on the square (can't remember the name) has a great inventory with all types of info about the area.

                1. re: Jaymes

                  This is very informative!!! Thank you for the info and the specific info! Really looking forward to coming over there!

                  1. re: adfjohnson

                    And, in the same vein, although you didn't ask, when coming through Arizona, I'd suggest you focus more on Tucson, and resist the urge to jog up to Phoenix. Much more to see in Tucson, in my opinion anyway, and several good steakhouses. Also excellent Mexican food. Order "Caldo de Queso," the soup of Sonora, available in most Mexican restaurants there (but not elsewhere, so don't even bother looking for it outside of that region).


                    BTW - assuming you're on I-8 from San Diego, another 'do not miss' is the Arizona Territorial Prison in Yuma. You can imagine how tasty the meals were there. Dining on a passing cockroach, scorpion or lizard. And being glad to get it.


                    1. re: adfjohnson

                      Think I'll add that, if it turns out you really liked your taste of Texas-style barbecue (as do most of us) and want to try a little more of it (as always do most of us) Lockhart, which many folks refer to as "The Barbecue Capital of Texas and Therefore the World," is only a short 15 miles up Hwy 183 from Luling. It's a straight shot on good road.


              2. Any good roadhouse joints for decent steak on I-10 - across the length - driving from San Diego to New Orleans?