Gallery: Snapshots from My Cross-Country Road Trip

Saturday Lunch: Hot Dog Johnny's, Buttzville, NJ
Saturday Lunch: Hot Dog Johnny's, Buttzville, NJ

The stretch of route 80 that runs from New York to Western Pennsylvania is a bit of a food dessert, so we relied on a tip from Pete Wells for our first lunch spot. Hot Dog Johnny's is a roadside stand in Buttzville, New Jersey (yeah, funny name, right?), that looks like its photos should be included in a coffee table book of Americana.

The hot dogs themselves come deep fried, Jersey style, with pickle relish, mustard, onions, and a big fat pickle slice in a steamed bun. Their use of skinless franks takes them out of the running for Great Weiners Of The Nation, but it was a cheap and tasty pit stop nonetheless. Try the red birch beer if you get a chance.

Hot Dog Johnny's: 333 Route 46, Belvidere, NJ 07823 (map); 908-453-2882; hotdogjohnny.com

Saturday Late Afternoon Snack: Chicken Wings from Arooga's, Harrisburg, PA
Saturday Late Afternoon Snack: Chicken Wings from Arooga's, Harrisburg, PA

We stopped by Serious Eats Web Developer Paul Cline's home town of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for what was promised to be some excellent chicken wings from Arooga's Grille House.

The massive wings came with our choice of dozens of sauces (we went with the habanero and honey-based Kangarooga sauce) and were perfectly crisp and moist. Textbook chicken wings.

Arooga's Grille House: 7025 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg, PA 17101 (map); 717-901-3994; aroogas.com

Sunday Breakfast: Easy Sweet Potato Hash and Sticky Buns
Sunday Breakfast: Easy Sweet Potato Hash and Sticky Buns

Our good friend Stella Parks (aka BraveTart) kindly put us up in her Lexington, Kentucky, home for the night, so obviously we repaid her with breakfast. She was baking up some extra-sticky sticky buns for her upcoming book, so I decided to give them a savory counterpart with this Sweet Potato and Pepper Hash with Eggs. Just what you want to eat before a full day of driving, right?

Sunday Lunch: Tacos from Taco Sunrise in Nashville, TN
Sunday Lunch: Tacos from Taco Sunrise in Nashville, TN

It's not easy finding food on a Sunday in the bible belt, but tacos are often my salvation and today was no exception. Taco Sunrise is a mobile truck that generally stays parked somewhere on Dickerson Pike in Nashville, selling tacos for a couple bucks apiece.

Taco Sunrise: 3110 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (map)

Five Tacos
Five Tacos

The tender, meaty lengua was our favorite of the bunch, though all were pretty standout

Taco Sunrise: 3110 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (map)

Sunday Dinner: Central Barbecue in Memphis
Sunday Dinner: Central Barbecue in Memphis

I was so looking forward to some good Memphis barbecue, but as it turns out, nearly every barbecue restaurant in town is closed on a Sunday night, which left us with Central BBQ, whose rubbery brisket and dry pulled pork I hope is not representative of all Memphis barbecue!

We did enjoy sitting on the outdoor deck with a live brass band playing, despite the food.

Central BBQ: 2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (map); 901-272-9377; cbqmemphis.com

Monday Lunch: Czech Stop, West, TX
Monday Lunch: Czech Stop, West, TX

It's been a year since I last had the fantastic burger from Off Site Kitchen in Dallas, but unfortunately, we pulled up to discover that it's closed on Mondays. Foiled again.

My driving-mate is a native Texan so knew exactly what to do: Head down to West, Texas, for some kolaches from Czech Stop.

Czech Stop: 105 N College Ave, West, TX 76691 (map); 254-826-5316; czechstop.net

Sausage and Jalapeño, and Raspberry with Cheese
Sausage and Jalapeño, and Raspberry with Cheese

It's tough to decide between the dozens of flavors that are available, but we particularly enjoyed the sausage and jalapeño (which had plenty of mustard), one stuffed with sauerkraut, and a raspberry and cheese version.

Czech Stop: 105 N College Ave, West, TX 76691 (map); 254-826-5316; czechstop.net

Tuesday Breakfast: Migas Tacos from Veracruz All Natural in Austin, TX
Tuesday Breakfast: Migas Tacos from Veracruz All Natural in Austin, TX

We had a fantastic meal on Monday night at Qui in Austin (for which I was off-duty, sorry—no photos!), then followed it up the next day with some breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural.

Veracruz All Natural: 1704 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702 (map); 512-981-1760; Veracruz All Natural on Facebook

Migas and Chorizo with Eggs
Migas and Chorizo with Eggs

See, after I'd tweeted that I'm not a breakfast taco fan, tacojournalism, who literally wrote the book on breakfast tacos, decided I needed to have my mind changed. He accomplished his mission with some migas tacos from Veracruz All Natural. Cheesy, saucy, and with very little of the overcooked eggs that usually turn me off, these were the ideal morning-after breakfast to restore us after a night out in Austin.

Veracruz All Natural: 1704 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702 (map); 512-981-1760; Veracruz All Natural on Facebook

Tuesday Lunch: Blue Ox Barbecue in Austin, TX
Tuesday Lunch: Blue Ox Barbecue in Austin, TX

Austin's a great town with a fantastic food scene so we stuck around as late as we could on Tuesday morning. We hit the Blue Ox Barbecue truck for a super early lunch of everything they had. Here's the trailer that houses the pits they cook in—it used to belong to barbecue guru Steven Raichlin.

Blue Ox Barbecue: 1505 Town Creek Dr., Austin, TX 7874 (map), 512-537-2047; blueoxbarbecue.com

Great Barbecue
Great Barbecue

It might not be quite up to Franklin Barbecue levels, but the stuff is pretty darn fantastic, particularly the ultra-moist espresso-rubbed pork tenderloin and the brisket.

Blue Ox Barbecue: 1505 Town Creek Dr., Austin, TX 7874 (map), 512-537-2047; blueoxbarbecue.com

Time for a Pose
Time for a Pose

We spent nearly all of Tuesday driving along the long, straight highways of Western Texas. What better time to stop for a quick photoshoot in the middle of the road? There was no traffic around us for miles.

Tuesday Dinner: Chico's Tacos in El Paso, TX
Tuesday Dinner: Chico's Tacos in El Paso, TX

The call was unavoidable. As soon as we started asking folks for El Paso recommendations, Chico's Tacos quickly came to the top of the list. And frankly...I don't know why. Formless, insipid meat paste inside greasy, salt-less, deep fried tortillas in a red broth that might as well have been water, all topped in grated cheese that might as well have been air, all served out of a kitchen coated in layers of filth by grubby-pawed cooks. At least it was cheap! Surely a border town has better Mexican food to offer than this?

Chico's Tacos; Multiple locations in El Paso

Burger from Chico's Tacos
Burger from Chico's Tacos

The burger from Chico's is significantly better than the tacos themselves, though still not one I'd wish on a close friend.

Wednesday Breakfast: H&H Car Wash in El Paso, TX
Wednesday Breakfast: H&H Car Wash in El Paso, TX

H&H came highly recommended for their breakfast fare, and I'm rarely one to turn down eating in an unusual location. The blue formica countertops are low, the cooks are not too fast, and the owner is a take-no-prisoners type of guy who enjoys picking on tourists (and it's tough to tell if it's the good-natured kind of picking or not!). Then again, the grub's good, and how often can you get your car shined while you eat your eggs?

H&H Car Wash: 701 E Yandell Dr., El Paso, TX 79902 (map)‎; 915-533-1144

Huevos Rancheros from H&H
Huevos Rancheros from H&H

I've never seen this buttery, creamy cheese sauce on huevos rancheros before, but I'd be happy to encounter it again in the wild. The best part of the meal was the fiery green chile salsa that comes served on the tabletop along with deeply charred corn tortillas.

H&H Car Wash: 701 E Yandell Dr., El Paso, TX 79902 (map)‎; 915-533-1144

Hambone the Chile Head
Hambone the Chile Head

We made a quick stop in Hatch, New Mexico, on our way out of El Paso to check out the beginning of chile season. Most restaurants in town were closed, but we managed to snap a shot of Hambone sticking his head through the giant chile in front of Sparky's.

Hatch Chiles
Hatch Chiles

Hatch chiles are being strung out on a line to dry. The smell of roasting chiles is everywhere in town. They get roasted in large metal cages that slowly rotate over live propane fires until the skins are blistered and loose. No other chile quite compares to the smoky heat of a freshly roasted Hatch chile.

Wednesday Dinner: Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ
Wednesday Dinner: Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ

This is the big grandaddy of pizza pilgrimages. I'd been told by numerous trustworthy sources that Pizzeria Bianco is the best pizzeria in the world. Those are big words to live up to. We ordered their margherita and the Rosa, which comes with red onions, pistachios, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and rosemary and ate it in the 115°F Arizona sun. Best pizza ever ever ever? Probably not. But incredibly, fantastically delicious. Damn straight.

Pizzeria Bianco: 623 E Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85004 (map); 602-258-8300; pizzeriabianco.com

Thursday Brunch: Dolce Isola in Los Angeles
Thursday Brunch: Dolce Isola in Los Angeles

Another round of huevos rancheros, this time from Dolce Isola, a bakery in Los Angeles. A completely different interpretation from those in El Paso, these guys came with some excellent charred tomato salsa and guacamole, along with some well-seasoned pinto beans. A fine brunch.

Dolce Isola; 2869 S Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034 (map); 310-776-7070; theivyrestaurants.com/dolce-isola

Apple Tarte Tatin from Dolce Isola
Apple Tarte Tatin from Dolce Isola

I'm not much of a dessert eater, but these deeply caramelized apple tartes Tatin looked so good in the display window that I had to acquiesce to my deeper desires. I'm glad I did.

Dolce Isola; 2869 S Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034 (map); 310-776-7070; theivyrestaurants.com/dolce-isola

Made it to Malibu!
Made it to Malibu!

Our first taste of the California coast on the overcast beaches of Malibu!

Thursday Lunch: Tri-Tip From El Pollo Norteño in Santa Maria
Thursday Lunch: Tri-Tip From El Pollo Norteño in Santa Maria

It's not really barbecue in the American South's idea of the word, but don't tell that to anyone in Santa Maria, who have their own regional style of barbecue made with tri-tip, one of the leaner cuts on a steer. At El Pollo Norteño, a little fast food-style diner in a strip mall in Santa Maria, the trip-tip is slow cooked whole with plenty of garlic and spices, then sliced thin and grilled to order. It comes out smoky, salty, and just slightly overdone for my taste. The celery and tomato salsa and pinquito beans are classic accompaniments.

El Pollo Norteño: 1954 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454 (map); 805-928-9338; elpollonorteno.com

Tri-Tip Torta From El Pollo Norteño
Tri-Tip Torta From El Pollo Norteño

They make a fine sandwich as well, stuffed with lettuce, tomato, jalapeño, and mayonnaise.

El Pollo Norteño: 1954 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454 (map); 805-928-9338; elpollonorteno.com

In-N-Out in Morgan Hill, CA
In-N-Out in Morgan Hill, CA

It was a long trek driving up route 101 from LA to San Francisco, but no trip to California feels complete until I hit In-N-Out at least once. Now that I've had every single item on the menu, the secret menu, and the super-secret menu, I've settle on my favorite: a Double-Double animal-style with chopped chilies cooked into the burger and a whole sliced griddled onion in place of the caramelized. Welcome to the West Coast!

P.S. I don't know why I always order they fries, as they always stink no matter how many times I order them.

In-N-Out Burger; multiple locations