October 26, 2021

7 Foodie Road Trips for Every Area and Appetite

GRT taco flowers 1296x728 header

GRT taco flowers 1296x728 header 1
Maybe you’ve tried a food tour of your city. But what about a food tour of all the surrounding cities? It just might be time for a food-inspired road trip.

Road trips are one of the best ways to travel. They don’t have to be expensive, they’re totally customizable, and you get to see the world as you drive. Plus, there’s nothing better than jumping in your car, throwing on your favorite playlist, and hitting the wide open road.

1. The road trip that has it all
The route: Aspen, CO → Estes Park, CO → Denver, CO
Distance: 278 miles
Food budget: $$

Take in breathtaking mountain views with a side of incredible food on this road trip from snowcapped Aspen to mile-high Denver. Nosh on Thai coconut soup and grilled napa cabbage at Meat & Cheese in Aspen before making the 4-hour drive to Estes Park (a hub for American bistros serving up locally sourced organic fare). Since you’re probably ready to eat again, order the bison enchiladas at Ed’s Cantina & Grill.

After a pit stop in Boulder (you can stretch your legs on the famed climb to the top of Bear Peak), move on to Denver. Consistently ranked one of America’s healthiest cities, it’s known for its hiking trails, bike-sharing programs, and good eats. Try Santiago’s for cheap breakfast burritos, Mercantile Dining & Provision for seasonal sandwiches, or Comal for a rotating menu of international dishes.

End your trip with a frosty beer from one of Denver’s myriad of breweries (Star Bar is a great dive with an impressive tap list, karaoke, and games).

2. A drive for the dumpling devotee
The route: Los Angeles, CA → San Francisco, CA
Distance: 381 miles
Food budget: $

San Francisco might be known for Ghirardelli chocolate, and Los Angeles might make you think of green juice. But one of the biggest reasons to visit these West Coast hot spots is the dim sum. First stop: Lunasia in Alhambra, just outside of LA proper. The dumplings here are huge (and cheap), so grab a friend and balance out a plate of shrimp and pork siu-mai with a round of spinach shrimp.

If you have an extra day (or three), take the Pacific Coast Highway up the coast and drive through the Muir Woods before swinging down to SF. Or put on a podcast and cruise up Interstate 5. Either way, make your next stop Dumpling Time in SoMa. Try the pickled lotus and the boiled vegetarian Xi’an dumplings, which are packed with local greens. Then hit up Dragon Beaux in Outer Richmond for the pea shoot dumpling, an excellent option for meatless munchers.

3. Tacos every day of the week
The route: Albuquerque, NM → Tucson, AZ → Phoenix, AZ
Distance: 562 miles
Food budget: $

Nachos are amazing, but they’re not exactly a “your body is a temple” kind of food. If you need a little heat in your life without inflaming your body, check out New Mexico and Arizona. Often overshadowed by the booming Tex-Mex scene, New Mexico’s spicy dishes get their heat from the state’s signature ingredient, green chiles. Tucson and Phoenix are home to some of the best Mexican restaurants in the country.

This trip is a long one, so fuel up on breakfast burritos in Albuquerque (locals swear by Frontier Restaurant) before you head out. If you aren’t in a rush for your next taco, detour to the White Sands National Monument for Dunes Drive, an 8-mile stretch through white sand dunes.

Then, it’s taco time again! In Tucson, visit Guadalajara for a tableside salsa that’ll make you weep. Just outside of town is Saguaro National Park, where you can see the largest cacti in the United States. End your trip at Tacos Chiwas in Phoenix for made-to-order Chihuahua-style tacos (they’re only $2.50 each!).

4. Pit stop-worthy barbecue loop
The route: Austin, TX → Taylor, TX → Lockhart, TX → Luling, TX → Austin, TX
Distance: 156 miles
Food budget: $$

Almost out of vacation days? This one’s for you. Each stop is less than an hour from Austin, so if you’re feeling ambitious (and really, really hungry), you can do it all in one day.

Austin has enough good joints to be its own barbecue road trip. Franklin Barbecue is prob the most well-known, but Micklethwait Craft Meats, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, and Kerlin BBQ are good options as well. Get in your car and drive 40 minutes northeast to Taylor, where Louie Mueller Barbecue is your best bet. But be sure to save room for your next stop: the barbecue capital of Texas (aka Lockhart).

Cue up “On the Road Again” and fly down Highway 130 (speed limit: 85 mph). Once in Lockhart, you’ll have to decide between Kreuz Market (where the meat’s so good they don’t serve sauce) and Black’s Barbecue (run by third-generation pitmasters). Not full yet? Keep heading south to Luling, where you’ll eat mustard-sauce ribs with your hands (no forks allowed) at City Market.

5. Sea-riously good seafood
The route: Portsmouth, NH → Salem, MA → Boston, MA
Distance: 70 miles
Food budget: $$

Start this New England day trip at one of Portsmouth’s delicious buck-a-shuck oyster bars (that’s dollar oysters, people!) before driving south to historic Salem for crabcakes. Try skipping the highway and driving the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway for at least part of the trek. After all, the beauty of a road trip is being able to take the long, scenic route.

End the day at the Yankee Lobster Company in the Seaport District. Their lobster roll isn’t cheap cheap, but it’s relatively inexpensive ($29) — and it isn’t drowning in mayo. Or you can grab a small cup of clam chowder (you know, balance) and scallops for about the same price.

6. A healthy dose of Southern comfort
Destination: Jacksonville, FL → Savannah, GA → Charleston, SC
Distance: 246 miles
Food budget: $$

It’s hard to say no to a big bowl of mac and cheese, but the South does have its share of lighter (but no less flavorful) options. Make your stomach and your Insta happy with an acai bowl, rainbow toast, or salmon eggs Benedict from First Watch in Jacksonville. Then cruise up to Savannah for surf lessons and a vegetarian feast at Kayak Kafé.

Highway 17 will take you near the eerily beautiful ruins of Old Sheldon Church, by Carolina Cider Company, and through Low Country landscapes. In Charleston, skip the hot spots in the center of town and check out the Westside’s Gnome Café, where you can order classic Southern favorites turned vegan. The fried “chicken” sandwich (made with seitan) and the BLT sandwich made with portobello “bacon” will satisfy all your comfort-food cravings.

7. I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan must-visits
The route: Eugene, OR → Hood River, OR → Portland, OR
Distance: 235 miles
Food budget: $$

Oregon might be known for its cheese artisans and wine bars, but the vegan scene is one even meat eaters will be happy to explore. The Cornbread Cafe in Eugene turns tofu and veggies into creative burgers and barbecue. After you’ve eaten your fill, explore the city’s many natural wonders. From hot springs and waterfalls to scenic byways, the drive is a destination in itself.

Next, make your way to Farm Stand in the Gorge, a local roadside stop with organic, vegan takeout. And while you can’t really go wrong with any vegan restaurant in Portland, Jam on Hawthorne is a classic for brunch. Sweet tooth? Grab a scoop of roasted strawberry coconut sorbet at Salt & Straw.