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Sorry, another I-5 and Hwy 99 question!

I'm leaving L.A. Monday morning for a week-long trip to San Francisco/Napa, and researching the boards, you guys have convinced me to try Hwy 99. I'll travel on I-5 one way and Hwy 99 the other way. I figure I'll need a rest somewhere between Bakersfield and Fresno off 99 and its equivalent off the I-5.

From the I-5, I usually stop at Harris Ranch, but would like to try something different. I've read the boards and am intrigued by Buttonwillow's pupusas at Tita's Restaurant and Willow Ranch BBQ.

Here's what I'm looking for:
Mexican, burgers/diner food, or BBQ.
No food trucks please. I'd like a place with tables inside and with clean bathrooms.
Casual, I don't care if I order at a counter or waitstaff takes my order from a table.
I'd like to spend no more than an hour, and price is not an issue.
Close to the highway--within a mile or two from the offramp.

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  1. Last fall I stopped in Kingsburg on Hwy 99 for the first time to take a look around and snack. Kady's Country Kitchen is a diner. It also serves delectable Swedish pancakes.

    1. Four miles north of Kingsburg is Selma, home of the original Sal's Mexican Food. They are best known for their Fancy Burrito, and my favorite, the Karl's Special Burrito, made from the meat of their excellent slow braised ribs. Just a few short blocks off the 2nd Ave exit on 99.

      1. Skip Willow Ranch. I tried their brisket and it seemed like it was oven-baked, with no perceptible smoke flavor and a cloyingly sweet sauce. They claimed to use a "wood fired smoker", and referred to "deep-pit" elsewhere on the menu, but it didn't even taste like real BBQ to me.

        1. Kingsburg on 99 is a delight - the town with the Swedish Coffee pot water tower you can see from the freeway - Dala Horse Restaurant serves swedish pancakes before 11am and Swedish plate lunches after that, plus has some Swedish food supplies - lignonberry jam and the large rounds of hard tack.

          Tout Sweet in Stockton is another nice deli/bakery with tables stop - a few blocks off 99. http://www.tootsweetsbakerycafe.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: glbtrtr

            Toot Suite is closer to I5 than 99 (March Lane exit off 5), and out of the way if going to SF. From Stockton to SF, you have to go south on 5 first and then cut across on 205 to the 580 to go back north to SF via 880 or 580 and the Bay Bridge.

            Otherwise, agree that Toot Suite is a good place to stop.

          2. I can't remember the last time I drove I-5. We've always taken either 99 or 101 when going North. Should you consider 101 coming back, there are quite a few options between Paso Robles and Buellton.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mike0989

              Jack Ranch Cafe in Cholame on 146 - tuna melt and peanutbutter pie. Ummm, umm, ummm

            2. Thank you for your replies. I just may have to take Hwy 99 round trip. Looks like Kingsburg is a must-I love Swedish pancakes! Karl's special burrito at Sal's sounds amazing. I have to try that one on my way up. I will skip Willow Ranch; thanks for the heads up on that one--I'm not a fan of sweet BBQ sauce. I'll report back when I return.

              1 Reply
              1. re: brandygirl

                Just so you're aware, the Karl's special is enough for two, unless you are really hungry. It does reheat nicely though. Have a great trip and be sure and report back.

              2. In short, I-5 runs through the 21st century while Hwy 99 runs through the 20th century.

                1. I've returned from my trip and wanted to report back.

                  I drove up Hwy. 99 last Monday. Since I did not have a proper breakfast, I was so looking forward to Swedish pancakes in Kingsburg. Unfortunately, everything was closed on Monday, but I will definitely try again on a future trip.

                  Instead, I continued on to Sal's Mexican restaurant in Selma. The chips were okay (they would have been better if they were warm), but the salsa was great. Instead of the Karl's Special Burrito, I ordered their regular short ribs burrito. I usually love short ribs, but it tasted a little too strong--almost gamey to me. I think it's just that I'm not used to the flavors found in their short ribs being mixed with Mexican flavors. However, as I kept eating the burrito, it was tasting better. Overall, I liked the restaurant and would return again.

                  Driving back home, I took I-5 and stopped at Harris Ranch for a burger. Awful. You would think they would know how to cook beef. Once I ordered, it took a while to get my food. As soon as I got it, I realized the waiter never asked how I wanted it cooked. The burger was well-done and dry. I normally would have returned it, but I was in too much of a hurry. Honestly, I could have gotten something close to what they served at a Carl's Jr. for a fraction of the cost and of the time. I was surprised, because in the past, I've always had good experiences at Harris Ranch. Lesson learned.

                  Thank you for your posts.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: brandygirl

                    When I go down I-5 (about once a year) I always skip Harris Ranch and stop for pupusas at Tita's just off 101 at the Buttonwillow exit. I've also tried their food truck but prefer the restaurant (across the road from McDonalds).

                    1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                      You might want to edit that. Tita's is not off 101.

                      1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                        Too late to edit. Obviously Tita's is just off I-5, not 101.