Top Five On-The-Go Regional Road Restaurants

regional road restaurants
Nothing makes one feel more like a local (or confers more bragging rights) than discovering a locally-beloved hole-in-the-wall while traveling — but what if you’re just passing through? Fear not; even those who barely have time to pull off the freeway can still eat like an insider.

Although none of the following restaurants carry quite the same street cred as a hip underground dive, they’re all regional stalwarts, well-liked by locals and, more importantly, easy to access from any major freeway in the area. From west to east, here are five reasons why you should never have to resort to McDonald’s on the road:

1. Burgerville (OR/WA)

For fast food in the Pacific Northwest, there’s no better bet than Burgerville, with its locally sourced ingredients and seasonal menu items, which currently include Yukon Gold fries and a chocolate-hazelnut milkshake. Their standard menu isn’t too shabby either, with offerings like sweet potato fries and a half-pound “colossal cheeseburger” with Oregon’s own Tillamook cheddar.

2. In-N-Out Burger (CA/AZ/NV/UT)

Californians can be obsessive about In-N-Out, and with good reason. Unlike Burgerville’s plethora of options, In-N-Out keeps its menu simple, but those in the know rely on the “secret menu” when ordering up double-doubles (double-meat, double-cheese), Neapolitan milkshakes, or “animal style” (extra sauce and grilled onions). Be sure to snag a free bumper sticker to really show off your Cali bona fides.

3. Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q (NM/TX/OK/CO)

Part gas station, part convenience store, and completely delicious, Rudy’s is a one-stop, full-service oasis for any road-weary traveler. Pull off for some gas and stay for the pulled pork or the brisket — just give yourself a few minutes to eat inside, because wet, Texas-style barbecue this finger-lickin’ good deserves your full attention.

4. Skyline Chili (OH/KY/IN/FL)

Skyline is a Cincinnati-born regional favorite, born of a simple concept: spaghetti noodles, chili, and copious amounts of cheese. It’s also delicious, and a prime example of good, old-fashioned stick-to-your-ribs Midwestern fare.

5. Legal Sea Foods (FL/GA/VA/DC/MD/PA/NJ/NY/RI/MA)

Legal Sea Foods isn’t just another seafood chain — their restaurants, throughout the mid-Atlantic and New England, vary their menus according to the catch of the day. It’s the fanciest restaurant on this list, but if you’ve got time to sit down, it’s worth it; from clam chowder to blue crab and Maine lobster, you can savor the flavors of the East Coast, without straying too far from the asphalt.

Backpacking the Axis of Evil

backpacking axis of evil

Some people look at the US State Department travel warnings as a guideline of countries to stay away from. If you consider Thailand, etc overrated by the “nomadic” set, why not look the other direction and see what countries aren’t considered tourist hotspots?

After doing the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian railway two years ago, I figured why not take another epic train trip? And epic train trips demand epic destinations that no one goes to on their vacation. Why not Iran? Sure, Iran and the US aren’t too friendly right now, but that’s part of the appeal. Anyone can backpack through Europe or do a “round the world” trip, but why not go into somewhere different?

As an American citizen, there are a whole host of issues: getting an independent visa is practically impossible, and once you’re there, your credit cards and ATM cards won’t work either due to treasury restrictions. And on the way back, US Immigration might not take too kindly to me going there. Either way, it should be quite exciting.

The train seems like the most interesting way to get into Iran. After consulting with Seat 61, the immensely helpful train website, there’s a train that leaves from Istanbul to Tehran once a week, taking about 70 hours to cross 1800 miles of the Turkish countryside. Flying into Khomeini airport doesn’t hold any appeal because it robs an epic trip like this of a sense of adventure. The train trip itself in first class is a hair under 40 Euros, which seems suspiciously inexpensive.

Getting a visa as a US citizen is a bit more difficult. You’re required to have a tour guide, and an official tourism invite letter, which puts the cost at around $150. Having an official tour guide can either be helpful or quite a hassle. Outside of day trips, I’ve only had one tour guide and it was a mixed experience.

[Photo: Flickr/jiahungli]

British companies roll out royal wedding packages for the big day

royal wedding

The much-anticipated royal wedding is now less than three months away. We didn’t receive a coveted save-the-date fax, so it’s safe to say we won’t be sitting between Elton John and Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

That’s OK, though – there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the Wedding of the Century without all the excessive bowing and curtsying. In the same predicament? Well, you could celebrate stateside with the Trump International Hotel’s royal wedding package; or, you could skip the pond for the big day and take in all of the royal excitement. Need suggestions? Here are a few of the best packages thrown together in honor of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Oh, and don’t wait – packages are already selling out.

British Airways’ Royal Wedding Weekend

British Airways is leading the royal wedding pack with several flight and hotel options for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the pomp and circumstance. Prices start at $820 for trips between April 27 and May 1, and hotel options range from the 2-star Pembury in London’s Finsbury Park to the 5-Star Grange Holborn on the West End.
Hilton London Tower Bridge

Starting at $1600 plus tax, the Hilton London Tower Bridge’s royal wedding package includes a three-night stay for two, a bottle of Champagne, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a post-nuptial dinner with wine. The catch? You have to call the hotel directly at 011-44-20-002-300 to get in on the deal.

Superbreak Royal Wedding 2011 Breaks

This one works best if you’ll already be in the U.K. before the festivities start. The packages start around $475 and include two or three nights in a London-area hotel, return-rail travel from any East Coast rail station, a flight on the London Eye, 2 for 1 meals with the Hi-Life dining card and Smartsave vouchers.

London Hilton Park Lane

Already have your room booked and looking for somewhere to dine before the wedding hoopla starts? Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows is offering a $72 three-course lunch from April 26 to 29 complete with beautiful views of Buckingham Palace.

Podium restaurant at the London Hilton Park Lane is offering a blue-themed tea in honor of the blue sapphire engagement ring that Prince William gave Middleton. For $53, you’ll get your fill of blueberry muffins, blue macaroons and blue jam. Available April 26 to May 1.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Advertising in airport restrooms: awesome or too far?

airport advertising restroomsJust when it seems like they can’t find any more ways to inundate our lives, marketers get creative. First they took over our pre-movie experience, and now they have come up with the most outlandish location to sell us on products. Ads while washing your hands? Really?

NBC Chicago is reporting that O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is allowing Clear Channel Airports to install 40-inch mirrors which will display ads to the nearly 200,000 people who pass through the airport daily. The high-definition mirrors have motion sensors, as they display ads until restroom users saddle up to the sink, minimizing them into a corner to make preening in the mirror possible. The mirrors, created by a company called Mirrus, will be able to track viewing statistics for advertisers.

A video on the company’s website (http://mirrus.com/mirrus-network.php) shows a demonstration of how the mirrors work. The best part of the video is the man in it, who behaves just as I imagine I would when encountering these odd ads. I am torn between being vaguely outraged the idea of ads (and cameras?) encroaching into one place I thought they would never reach and looking forward to hamming it up just as the man does in the video. Tested at the airport in December, NBC reports that the mirrors will be in ORD within the next 3 months, and possibly in sports venues like Wrigley Field and Soldier field later this year.

Has the search for advertising revenue gone too far, or would you be interested in seeing something like this in an airport near you?

[Image via Mirrus.com]

When in Philly, do as everyone does: eat your way through the Terminal Market

terminal market

The sights and sounds of Pennsylvania’s largest city are also some of this country’s oldest and most revered: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Franklin Institute, and America’s very first zoo. It is also a city of 1.5 million people, with an old and overburdened roadway system and legendary rush hour traffic.

In order to escape the cacophony that is the streets of midtown Philadelphia, you can step into the cacophony that is the Reading Terminal Market.

The Reading Terminal Market is everything under one roof, but it’s not like anything you’ve ever experienced. There are great markets across the country: Seattle’s Pike Place, Cleveland’s West Side Market, D.C.’s Eastern Market and Union Square in New York City. But Reading is a food hall/shopping experience with the feel of a small village. It has straight-line aisles that accommodate more than one person at a time, places to sit and enjoy your food, and as for the choices of food: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Greek, mezze, cheesesteaks, salumeria, baked goods, fresh produce, ice cream, beer, wine, deli and vegetarian, Plus prime meats, poultry, seafood, flowers, chocolates, books, crafts and groceries to take home. It is possible to shop only here for all your food needs, and never go inside a supermarket. A dedicated food lover may want to consider living here.

It is amazing to realize that the Market almost died several years ago. Down on its luck throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, thanks to suburban growth and the decline of the railroads that supplied its goods, the market nearly went out of business. Now every space is rented out, and the market is not merely a tourist attraction, it is a place where office workers order pizza next to construction crews feasting on roast pork sandwiches, and an Amish farmer deals in dairy alongside a stall known for its specialty of Peking duck. It’s a United Nations of food and diners, except that everyone gets along and no one leaves dissatisfied.

[Photo: Flickr/Uberzombie]