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User Content => Road Trips => Topic started by: ethanhopkin14 on April 06, 2022, 11:50:29 AM

Title: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: ethanhopkin14 on April 06, 2022, 11:50:29 AM
I don't know how often this has been talked about on this forum, but I have wondered what people's opinions are about What you tend to gravitate to when it comes to eating on a road trip.  I love me a hole in the wall or a cool diner, but I tend to stick to well known chains when I am traveling.  It's mainly because I know what to expect and I am not what you would call a foodie.  I love to eat, but I also will eat anything.  I bring that up because the eating part of a roadtrip is just more of a means to an end.  I am hungry so I fill the hole.  The trip isn't revolving around what I eat.  It's more like something I have to do.  So in the interest of eating, getting full and moving on with the rest of the trip, it's not that big of a deal.  Now if I know a local place that's good because I have been to that place before I will stop there, or if I get a recommendation for a place from someone who's opinion I value, then I will also stop there.  Also, keep in mind that just because I will eat anything, doesn't mean I like it.  I am actually very picky, but will continue to eat whatever because I want to get full.  This being said, there are lots of times I took a chance on a local dive and it was very unimpressive and walked out wishing I had just gone to IHOP.  A lot of times, when it's time to stop and eat, we are in a town with severe tumble weeds!  Nothing has go on in this town in 50 years.  They have one restaurant that looks like the health department hasn't visited in 50 years too, but they have a Burger King, so I will go there.

This is also true with other stores.  I will tend to go to Walmart when I am on a road trip because I know the layout and the products they carry vs what they don't carry.   I do this over going to a local store or hardware store that I may stay in forever just finding what I need.  I chose Walmart because I can get in and out quickly because on most of my road trips, time is of the essence.

Maybe I am part of the problem of corporate America taking over. :-|  I just want to see how others handle their choices in towns they are less familiar with.   
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: hbelkins on April 06, 2022, 12:08:50 PM
There are discussions with variations of this theme taking place in other threads, most of them in restaurant-oriented postings on the "Off Topic" board.

As for me, I tend to use drive-throughs for lunch while traveling, so I'm sticking to known quantities. A couple of plain McDoubles is a good option -- easy to eat while driving without making a mess.

For an evening meal, a recommendation from the hotel desk clerk can often be good. But I'm not a fan of either Mexican or Chinese food, and there seem to be zillions of locally-owned establishments of that type.

On my trip out west with my brother last year, we ate at a number of local or regional places for both lunch and dinner (or dinner and supper, as we say in these parts). We found local restaurants in Alder, Mont. and Arco, Id.; and a regional place in Dillon Mont., for the evening meal. I'm not sure if our evening meal in Williston, N.D., was at a local or regional place.

As for Walmart, I've yet to find two that have the same layout. I do tend to shop there if I'm on a trip because they usually have what I need, but you never know where to look. It's frustrating.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kphoger on April 06, 2022, 12:11:00 PM
Most of our long-distance drives are in the neighborhood of 600 to 700 miles in a day, and so we almost always go for fast food.  We often eat inside rather than drive-through, to give ourselves a bit of a refreshing break, but it's still fast food.

However, with shorter drives or multi-day road trip vacations, we're much more likely to find a local establishment and give it a try.  In those cases, the meal stop sort of becomes part of the vacation experience.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: ethanhopkin14 on April 06, 2022, 12:24:57 PM
As for Walmart, I've yet to find two that have the same layout. I do tend to shop there if I'm on a trip because they usually have what I need, but you never know where to look. It's frustrating.

I do agree with this that I have maybe seen two laid out the same (the one in south Austin and the one in Irving come to mind).  Even though they are not identical, there are some patterns that are.  The grocery portion is usual crammed to one side, meaning the produce is in the front part of the store on that side.  The clothes are usually in the middle and the office supplies/furniture is not far from there. Electronics are most commonly on the back wall, sometimes near the restroom.  Dog food is close to the grocery section, but not a part of it.  Toys, camping gear/fishing gear and automotive are usually found next to each other so if you walk in and see the bikes hanging from the celling and you need a headlight for your car, walk that way. 
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: webny99 on April 06, 2022, 01:30:05 PM
Chains if you need something quick while on the road, but absolutely go for somewhere local as part of the trip once you're at/near your destination.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: rlb2024 on April 06, 2022, 01:36:26 PM
We definitely tend to go local for dinner.  We especially like to look for local pizza and craft beer places, especially around the South (we try to take in a couple of SEC football games a year around the conference -- there are usually really good ones not far off the campus).  We usually do hotel breakfast and just skip lunch -- we keep snacks in the car for during the day.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: abefroman329 on April 06, 2022, 01:55:51 PM
As for Walmart, I've yet to find two that have the same layout.
Really, because I thought the Supercenters only had two possible layouts.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Max Rockatansky on April 06, 2022, 03:21:32 PM
I would prefer something local but most of the time Iím either too much in a rush or too tired at the end of the day to deal with an unknown quantity.  I tend to pack food and go to grocery store delis if they are available at the end of a travel day.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: NWI_Irish96 on April 06, 2022, 03:44:06 PM
My preference is a chain for lunch when we need predictability in terms of what we're eating and how long it will take before we get back on the road, but a local establishment for dinner when we don't have anywhere to go afterwards.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: ZLoth on April 06, 2022, 04:45:57 PM
When I take a road trip, my goal is to avoid the restaurants that aren't in my local area. There are some very regionalized chain restaurants that aren't in my local area such as Back Yard Burgers, Krystal, and Bojangles. Having said that, I prefer a family-owned restaurant over a chain restaurant.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: SectorZ on April 06, 2022, 04:55:25 PM
My wife and I have a rule about chains while on vacation, if we go to chains only go to chains that don't exist around home.

Some people have a chain=bad mentality, yet I love some of the chains I've hit away from home (Mellow Mushroom being the peak of them).
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: ozarkman417 on April 06, 2022, 05:02:48 PM
On road trips, I've been increasingly leaning towards local cuisine. Main reason being is that in this day and age, I look up pictures of restaurant menus and its food in advance. I still appreciate the reliability of chains nonetheless, as I have a go-to meal or two for each.

Which one I go to depends on:
Time. Do I have time to stop a local restaurant (if said local restaurant is fast food, is it any good?)?
Availability. Are there any worthwhile local options in the town I'm stopping in? For the most part, this issue only applies to smaller towns.
Otherwise, it's gonna come down to what kind of food I'm in the mood for.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: abefroman329 on April 06, 2022, 05:11:43 PM
My wife and I have a rule about chains while on vacation, if we go to chains only go to chains that don't exist around home.

Some people have a chain=bad mentality, yet I love some of the chains I've hit away from home (Mellow Mushroom being the peak of them).
I've been to two Mellow Mushrooms that aren't in Georgia, and they were both supremely awful.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kphoger on April 06, 2022, 05:42:13 PM
I look up pictures of restaurant menus and its food in advance.

I do this too.  It's especially important when planning for a family of five:  gotta know if there will be something for everyone.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Bruce on April 07, 2022, 03:17:54 AM
I'm also in the "chains for lunch and local for dinner" camp. Can't risk any food-related side effects when still driving.

I do like to go out of my way to try different chains that aren't commonly seen in the Pacific Northwest, and I suspect that'll make up the bulk of the cross-country road trip I've had on my mind. I really need to experience all of them before I can really start trash talking them.

Also, if I know an area has a specialty or overrepresented ethnic diaspora, I'm seeking it out. Indian and authentic Chinese food in Metro Vancouver, Basque food in Boise, Mexican food in Yakima...all worked out for me.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Rothman on April 07, 2022, 06:52:33 AM
I think there's a factor of what kind of driving I'm doing.  More likely to stick to chains if I'm on the Interstate, but more likely to eat local of out in the boonies.

I also rely on reviews.  When my family traveled when I was a kid, I know we kept to chains because my parents didn't want to get ripped off at a lousy local greasy spoon.  What a difference the Internet has made.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: 1995hoo on April 07, 2022, 09:25:30 AM
I know we have discussed this issue in other threads. My practice is generally that when we are on the highway and will be continuing further that day, we normally stop at a fast-food chain. We want something quick and reliable that will permit us to get back on the road quickly to continue to where we're going. So, for example, on our most recent drive from home to Jacksonville, we stopped for breakfast at a Wendy's just off I-295 at its last southbound exit before rejoining I-95, and we stopped for lunch at the Arby's at the US-52 exit near Florence, SC.

When we get where we're going, we usually prefer to go somewhere that's either a local place or, failing that, that is a chain we don't have at home. So, for example, in June 2019 when we stopped in Schenectady for the night, we went to a local Italian restaurant based on a recommendation from forum member Jim (and it proved to be both excellent and a bargain). Later on that trip, one night in Toronto we went to the Keg. It's a Canadian chain of steakhouses that we don't have in the DC area (maybe not at all in the US, I don't know).

Of course, if we're visiting relatives and they want to go to a national chain like Outback, as our relatives in Fort Myers did once, then we go to Outback. They're the hosts, they get to decide.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kphoger on April 07, 2022, 09:28:24 AM
One thing I try to do is to not do burgers for both lunch and supper.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Rothman on April 07, 2022, 11:18:57 AM
One thing I try to do is to not do burgers for both lunch and supper.
Ditto
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: skluth on April 07, 2022, 12:07:42 PM
For me, it depends on the type of road trip. I eat almost exclusively at fast food places when travelling long distance Point-A-to-Point-B trips over a couple days or if I'm just in a hurry. However, I prefer the local cuisine if I'm on a day trip to a place I visit regularly like Big Bear or the LA Metro. When I lived in Tidewater and had to frequently travel to DC for work, I'd often check out local restaurants between the two especially on the trips home when traffic was bad.

Once I get somewhere, I prefer to check out local cuisine. I'll ask hotel clerks for recommendations when in a new town. I also like checking out different cuisines I don't see in my area.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: MikieTimT on April 07, 2022, 12:24:22 PM
As for Walmart, I've yet to find two that have the same layout.
Really, because I thought the Supercenters only had two possible layouts.

The departments of Supercenters tend to be in one of just a handful or formats as they do tend to want to reduce variability for architectural build purposes to save on costs where possible, but each store does get somewhat of a say in what they carry on certain things, which affects the "modular" layout of the store shelves each time they change things around, and that does come down from the H.O.  I've done my time both in a Supercenter and in ISD back a couple of decades ago at this point, but they've likely not wholesale changed how they operate since then.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: MikieTimT on April 07, 2022, 12:26:28 PM
While in the driving portion of a road trip, we tend to stick to chains for expeditious reasons, but if we end up in a hotel for the evening, we tend to find something local that's highly rated online and try it out for supper.  Breakfast winds up being whatever the hotel is offering before we checkout.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: SkyPesos on April 07, 2022, 12:30:52 PM
On the road: Chains (regional or national)
At destination: Local restaurants or regional chains

For breakfast, we generally eat at the hotelís (normally Hyatt Place or House) breakfast buffet.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: JayhawkCO on April 07, 2022, 12:48:10 PM
Long distance road trip to get from A to B - Fast food likely (ideally a chain that we don't have in Colorado)
Road trip that is more of a leisurely drive/vacation - Local place
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: rlb2024 on April 07, 2022, 02:44:55 PM
Just don't do what a former boss of mine would do.  He was from New Orleans, and wherever we traveled across the country he would always search out a Louisiana-style restaurant (Cajun, Creole, etc.).  And he would always get mad when it didn't taste like home.  We tried to clue him in but he never caught on . . .
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: JayhawkCO on April 07, 2022, 02:51:01 PM
Just don't do what a former boss of mine would do.  He was from New Orleans, and wherever we traveled across the country he would always search out a Louisiana-style restaurant (Cajun, Creole, etc.).  And he would always get mad when it didn't taste like home.  We tried to clue him in but he never caught on . . .

Sounds very British. Wherever I went in Asia that had a high concentration of English travelers, so many restaurants would have English Breakfast, Fish & Chips, Shepherd's Pie, etc. on the menu because those tourists would rather eat the same stuff than actually trying the amazing cuisines of the countries they were in.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kevinb1994 on April 07, 2022, 04:42:31 PM
I know we have discussed this issue in other threads. My practice is generally that when we are on the highway and will be continuing further that day, we normally stop at a fast-food chain. We want something quick and reliable that will permit us to get back on the road quickly to continue to where we're going. So, for example, on our most recent drive from home to Jacksonville, we stopped for breakfast at a Wendy's just off I-295 at its last southbound exit before rejoining I-95, and we stopped for lunch at the Arby's at the US-52 exit near Florence, SC.

When we get where we're going, we usually prefer to go somewhere that's either a local place or, failing that, that is a chain we don't have at home. So, for example, in June 2019 when we stopped in Schenectady for the night, we went to a local Italian restaurant based on a recommendation from forum member Jim (and it proved to be both excellent and a bargain). Later on that trip, one night in Toronto we went to the Keg. It's a Canadian chain of steakhouses that we don't have in the DC area (maybe not at all in the US, I don't know).

Of course, if we're visiting relatives and they want to go to a national chain like Outback, as our relatives in Fort Myers did once, then we go to Outback. They're the hosts, they get to decide.
Sounds like you were in my neck of the woods or in nearby Mandarin.

As far as road trips go, it depends on whether I can get around to checking to see if thereís anything local or not nearby. I donít have much of a preference for either.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: 1995hoo on April 07, 2022, 05:27:28 PM
I meant I-295 in Virginia. Sorry, didn't think I needed to clarify, but I guess I could see how that might have been ambiguous. When we drive to Florida, we try to leave home around 7:00 AM, stop for breakfast either in the Richmond/Petersburg area or the Emporia area, stop for lunch and gas in Florence, and then reach the Jacksonville Airport exit around 6:00 PM. That's right about 690 miles and ten hours of driving time, so it works out well. We pretty much never have reason to stop on the south side of Jacksonville except to visit a friend who, until recently, lived at Lake Asbury (she moved to Fleming Island and we have not visited there yet).
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: CtrlAltDel on April 07, 2022, 05:42:08 PM
Chains if you need something quick while on the road, but absolutely go for somewhere local as part of the trip once you're at/near your destination.

This was my general go-to strategy as well, at least up to the pandemic. Now, I'm more likely to pack my food and eat at a rest area than any restaurant at all while I'm on the point-A-to-point-B part of the trip.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: interstatefan990 on April 07, 2022, 05:46:30 PM
Chains if youíre stopping nowhere particularly interesting, but local if youíre stopping anywhere else. And when you get to your destination, local at least once a day.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kphoger on April 07, 2022, 05:56:02 PM
Now, I'm more likely to pack my food and eat at a rest area than any restaurant at all while I'm on the point-A-to-point-B part of the trip.

We had started doing that several years ago, but our excitement waned when we once found ourselves trying to eat at an Iowa rest station with unseasonably cool temps and blowing rain, and nothing but a single uncomfortable bench inside the building to eat on.  And, in the winter, eating at rest areas just isn't really an option to begin with.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: BlueOutback7 on April 07, 2022, 05:57:38 PM
I eat at chain restaurants when on a road trip. Unless you are passing a must stop location, such as someplace with Texas barbecue for instance, I think it is more worth stopping at chains.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: CtrlAltDel on April 07, 2022, 06:43:20 PM
Now, I'm more likely to pack my food and eat at a rest area than any restaurant at all while I'm on the point-A-to-point-B part of the trip.

We had started doing that several years ago, but our excitement waned when we once found ourselves trying to eat at an Iowa rest station with unseasonably cool temps and blowing rain, and nothing but a single uncomfortable bench inside the building to eat on.  And, in the winter, eating at rest areas just isn't really an option to begin with.

I definitely have to play it by ear sometimes, but when the weather's nice and I can find a spot a bit of a distance away form the main building, I've found a lot of these rest-area meals to be very pleasant.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: clong on April 08, 2022, 09:09:21 AM
My wife and I have a rule about chains while on vacation, if we go to chains only go to chains that don't exist around home.

Some people have a chain=bad mentality, yet I love some of the chains I've hit away from home (Mellow Mushroom being the peak of them).

Also a rule in my family, no chains we can eat at in our metro area.

I've found that restaurants that have multiple locations in a small region, but don't exist elsewhere tend to be good - see Audrey's in east Tennessee and Demos' in the Nashville area.

Also, restaurants that exist in very limited locations in any metro area, but have several metro areas where they have locations - see The Goat (Columbus, OH, Nashville, TN, Louisville, KY, Durham, NC).
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Scott5114 on April 08, 2022, 11:24:46 PM
Most people who avoid local places do so because they're afraid of the food being bad, but I'm more afraid of it being good. I ate at a Mexican place in Port Aransas, TX that was so good that it's sort of ruined Mexican restaurants back home for me, because now I'm just like "Well this queso is good, but it's not as good as that queso I had in Port Aransas." And it's put me off trying to make my own queso at all.

That doesn't stop me from actually checking out local places sometimes, mind you, but it is a very real risk.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Skye on May 18, 2022, 02:42:51 PM
While on the road, I prefer chains. I tend to not go to a new restaurant without looking up the menu and prices first. When at a destination, I do like the local restaurants.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: Nacho on May 18, 2022, 04:06:53 PM
At a destination I'm going to seek out a local place since I want to experience some local flavor, will have the time/inclination to research my options, etc.

On the road I'm going to want something reasonably fast and reliable that's on or near the highway and research will probably be limited to billboards, LOGO signs, and maybe whichever of my wife or I who isn't driving checking out what's nearby on Google Maps. Which is to say we'll almost certainly be eating at a chain.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: kphoger on May 18, 2022, 04:26:54 PM
I generally plan our pit stops ahead of time when taking a road trip.  Therefore, if the trip is short enough that a longer lunch stop is OK, I might search out a local restaurant ahead of time.

For example, when my wife and I went to Eureka Springs (AR) for our 11th anniversary, we stopped for lunch at Stonehill Grill (now closed) in Miami, OK.  I had looked for restaurants ahead of time on the internet, and we were very pleased with our meal there.

Likewise, when our whole family drove up to Iowa a few years ago, we stopped at Longboards (7 locations in the KC area) in St Joseph, which I had planned ahead of time.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: KCRoadFan on May 18, 2022, 09:04:17 PM
Unless I'm really pressed for time, I try to find local places to eat at whenever I'm on a road trip. Here in Missouri (and doubtless in other states throughout the Midwest), a lot of towns on or near the major highways will at least have a diner-type place or a drive-in, and often a barbecue, Mexican, and/or Italian restaurant as well. Usually these restaurants will be found either along the highway or a little ways off it, in the downtown area (often on the courthouse square, if the town is a county seat). From my experience, these small-town restaurants tend to get me in and out in a reasonable amount of time (usually within 30-45 minutes); whenever I'm on a long road trip, I make sure to build that into my time calculations, as far as figuring out when I should leave. (If the meal takes less time than what I built in, then I arrive at my destination earlier that expected - bonus!)
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: MikeTheActuary on May 22, 2022, 09:55:24 PM
On travel days, I tend to stick to chain restaurants that I'm familiar with.

When visiting someplace, on non-travel days, I prefer to eat at local places, but will try chains that I'm not familiar with.
Title: Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
Post by: webny99 on May 23, 2022, 07:40:48 AM
I prefer to eat at local places, but will try chains that I'm not familiar with.

This brings up an interesting point. To me, "local places" and "chains [a visitor] is not familiar with" are often pretty much synonymous. Most pizza places that we would take visitors to fit under both definitions, for example, as would a place like Dinosaur BBQ.