Slideshow: 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?

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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