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Author Topic: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip  (Read 2094 times)

ethanhopkin14

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Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« 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.   
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hbelkins

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #1 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #2 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.
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #3 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. 
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #4 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #5 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.
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abefroman329

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #6 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.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2022, 03:21:32 PM »

I would prefer something local but most of the time I’m 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #8 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #9 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.
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SectorZ

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #10 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).
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #11 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.
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abefroman329

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #12 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #13 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #14 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.
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Rothman

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #15 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.
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1995hoo

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #16 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2022, 09:28:24 AM »

One thing I try to do is to not do burgers for both lunch and supper.
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Rothman

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #18 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
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skluth

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #19 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #20 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #21 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.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #22 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 hotel’s (normally Hyatt Place or House) breakfast buffet.
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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #23 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

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Re: Chains vs. Local Cuisine on a Roadtrip
« Reply #24 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 . . .
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