Road trip Stops Western United States - Part I - Western California (101, I-5, I-80, I-205 and more)

Amazing places to stop for food, bathroom, or other necessary things.

If you find yourself driving around the Western United States, take a look at these places to take a break, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or just stop to go to the bathroom and stretch your legs. We've been to all of these, and some are now a tradition if we drive by or are somewhat close.

Just Been There Art

Look at or buy art inspired by this trip. If you like this trip, but can't go, or you too have just been there, this unique art may rekindle fond memories of your own trip. Click the image for a link to the online store and browse the site for more. Note: you will be leaving this site and connect to the artists site.

Carpe Diem

All art copyright by: Christine Ong-Dijcks

Part I: Western California (101, I-5, I-80, I-205 and more)

La Plaza Bakery

Driving south or north on 101, just south of Salinas is the town of Gonzales. Here you'll find La Plaza Bakery (one of a few locations in the Salinas area). I'm personally a fan of the Torta, but the place - low key, don't judge the location on looks - has a full Mexican menu and sweets! This place beats all of the typical dreary burger places you'll drive by and is worth the short detour of 101.


Lafayette Bakery & Cafe

Of course you can stop at a Starbucks just a bit up the road, but this charming bakery has amazing pastries and bread. Stop for a sandwich or buy bread, but importantly, just stop here and enjoy a coffee with some of the amazing fresh breads. Lafayette is in the cute Barnyard Shopping Village and just a quick detour off Highway 1. Stretch your legs, and wander around before you drive on north to Monterrey or south to Big Sur.

Café Rustica

Maybe a bit of detour... but the entire detour to Carmel Valley Village is worth every mile of it. Just off W. Carmel Valley Road, this rustic restaurant offers some sophisticated fair. It is great dinner place, perfect for a date / stop over after sipping some wines in some of the excellent tasting rooms (do not miss Parsonage - our favorite winery!). Lunch is served Friday - Sunday, so maybe lunch first and then wine tasting? Try the escargots... we loved them...

Harris Ranch

Ok, there is no secret about this one... it is likely known to anyone ever driving down or up I-5. But it should be on the list, here it is. Harris Ranch, stop for any meal, for a cookie, to go to the bath room or to charge that Tesla. If you get there early, you'll see the meat outside on the big grill...

Rumor has it that they serve something other than beef... but why try...? Unless you go for their chocolate chip cookies.

Ramen Kotori

Solvang... yeah, really. Am I a big fan of Solvang? Not really, but you got to do what you got to do... and so we did find a very cool place to hide a little bit and eat some good food. Ramen Kotori is a hole in a Danish building's wall. It is a bit strange to eat Ramen in a Danish village, but... hey. It is quite good.

Note: Solvang has super nice public bathrooms, so even if you want to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom, this is a worthwhile stop over.

Santa Barbara Public Market

As 101 winds its way through Santa Barbara, take a quick detour to the Santa Barbera Public Market. It has its own parking, and avoids the real downtown area. There are a number of choices in the public market, and while it relatively small the accessibility and short detour make it just about perfect as a stop.

Wabi Sabi - Sushi was a particular hit with the family, but the Mexican food it quite good as well. And you can top it off with coffee or ice cream... so that detour of 101 is quite worthwhile.

Porto's Bakery and Cafe

When in greater LA, yes, you must stop at any of the Porto's locations. You simply must. At last count, there are 6 of them, and they all are just a quick detour away from one of the clogged freeways. So you may as well go and enjoy those famous Cheese Rolls. Personally, I am a savory person... but even I cannot resist the Cheese Rolls. Love them after eating a nice sandwich - it is a Cuban place so you know what to order - to finish off the stop. Oh, and they do have coffee!

If you are driving through LA, this one might be the closest detour...

Nation's Giant Hamburgers

And, they do have pies... but we stop for the burgers. Are these the best burgers, nope, but they are different. The whole place is just slightly different, and is a nice break from your In & Out stop overs.

This Nation's is on 205 in Tracy, and we have tried a bunch of stuff on their menu. The best bet is the burgers! The pies are a little sweet for our taste and we find some of the breakfasts on the small side.

2 Buds BBQ

Looks like they have moved to a different location in Red Bluff (I-5) since we were there last. They used to be on the way to Lassen, which is how we found them. Either way, the old place was distinctly run down, but you would walk past the BBQs and you will know it is good... we enjoyed sitting outside even in the summer and do a nice BBQ lunch. You can still see photos of the old location on 2 Buds's website.

Here is the new location (from the south, turn off I-5 and go left on Antelope):

Old Town Grill

As you are driving up I-80, maybe on your way to Tahoe, Auburn is worth stopping. Auburn and also Folsom are very quaint towns. Just ignore all the new development and meander through the few original gold town streets left standing. Old Town Grill is just one of many places to stop and take a breather in Auburn. I personally loved the sandwiches. They are - of course - huge.

Godfather's Burger Lounge

Right off 101 in Silicon Valley is a super burger place! Completely different league to Nation's... this is more like a steakhouse serving world class burgers and sliders in a cozy little location. My favorite here is the Untouchables Burger... but really, their Cheese Burger is just amazingly good. Godfather's is open for lunch and dinner and if you are road tripping out of or into SF, consider stopping here.

That is it for this post. More to come on some really fun places going east... and I'll do a 3rd post soon on places all around the world that might be a good place to stop over, just in case you end up in Europe, ANZ or the Philippines...

Stay tuned for more.


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