41 amazing road food spots

Start the car, and bring your appetite. Here are the absolute best places to eat during your next road trip.

Buckhorn Tavern, San Antonio, NM

The best roadside burgers are big and brawny and take-no-prisoners. Exhibit A: the green-chile burger at Buckhorn-a patty as big as a big rig's hubcap, sizzled on the griddle, then appliquéd with onions, cheese, pickles, and more. But it's the finishing touch of chopped New Mexico green chiles that lifts Buckhorn into the burger pantheon. $; 68 U.S. 380; 575/835-4423
> Related: Fast & fresh grilled dinners

Diablo Burger, Flagstaff, AZ
Like Flagstaff itself, this stylish burger joint with a pretty patio combines sustainable and cowboy in one package. Local, open range-raised and antibiotic-free ground beef is charbroiled medium rare, then joined by homemade pesto and fried egg, or bacon, beet, and blue cheese. $; 120 N. Leroux St.; 928/774-3274.

Gott's Roadside, St. Helena, CA
Not South Beach. Not the Zone. No diet plan encourages the consumption of thick, rich, two-full-glasses'-worth-in-the-metal-canister milkshakes. But you're on vacation, remember? You don't care. Which is why, when you hit a truly great milkshake stop like Gott's, you proudly order an Espresso Bean shake with added Oreos. And, no, you don't share. $; 933 Main St.; 707/963-3486.

K&R Drive Inn, Rice Hill, OR
Oregonians venerate K&R shakes the way they do Mt. Hood, as a symbol of the state's superiority. And while the drive-in off Interstate 5 may not look like much, the shakes (70-plus flavors, made from local Umpqua ice cream) are deliciously overwhelming. $; 201 John Long Rd.; 541/849-2570.
> Related: 16 light summer fruit desserts

Reel Inn, Malibu, CA
Fish tacos are the Steve McQueen of road food: casual and cool. Surfers were the first to discover them, at snack shacks like Reel Inn. Today, they're still a fixture on its chalkboard menu: fresh-caught salmon or ahi tuna wrapped in warm corn tortillas with melted cheddar, crisp lettuce, tomato, and salsa. The setting helps, of course. The best fish tacos (with one notable exception, below) are eaten within sight of the ocean. $$; 18661 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-8221.

South Beach Bar & Grille, San Diego, CA
As unofficial fish taco capital of the nation, San Diego had better serve good ones. This place, in Ocean Beach, serves great ones, grilled or fried. $; 5059 Newport Ave.; 619/226-4577.

Fremont Diner, Sonoma, CA
Undoubtedly the most important meal of the roadtrip day. You have ground to cover, scenery to see, souvenirs to acquire. You need those American start-the-day classics-biscuits and gravy, smoked brisket hash-you never quite make at home. Fremont Diner does all the above. And the patio view into the surrounding Sonoma vineyards? More proof that, on this morning, the world adores you. $; 2698 Fremont Dr.; 707/938-7370.

Park Cafe, St. Mary, MT
"Pie for strength" is the motto here, and we couldn't put it any better. Because, let's face it, even the most idyllic of summer roadtrips have their stresses. The wrong turn, the misread map, the must-see natural wonder inexplicably closed for the season. In those perilous why-did-we-go-on-this-vacation-and-by-the-way-why-am-I-married-to-you moments, what can make things magically all right? Pie-warm, sweet fruit spilling out of tender crust. Pie-chocolate cream with a cumulus cloud of whipped cream floating above. Pie, pie, pie. 3147 U.S. 89 W.; 406/732-4482.
> Related: 5 amazing ice cream pies

Mom's Apple Pie, Sebastopol, CA
Maybe your mom occasionally disappointed you. This mom never will. She shines with the local Sonoma County Gravenstein apples, but don't ignore summer favorites like rhubarb and peach. 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N.; 707/823-8330.


Perfect summer trips
Great grilling wines
Cool summer drinks