Truck stops have always had some of the best food around, but that is all changing. Many of these unique diners, cafes and restaurants, that were once at all the truck stops, are being replaced with fast food joints and lower-end, sit-down chains. Roadside eateries, as we know them, are quickly becoming yet another memory of trucking lore, and the fast food chains that dot our cities from coast-to-coast, making every city in America look the same, are replacing these wonderful restaurants. But, with a little effort, you can still find amazing, truck-friendly, unique places to eat.
The time constraints we are forced to work under these days doesn’t always allow for a nice sit-down meal, unless it’s during your 10 hours off. Typically, it’s just “grab and go” out there, which makes for unhealthy eating (usually). Many drivers are also cooking in their truck more these days to save money and eat better, but let’s face it, it’s still nice to get out of the truck and enjoy a meal, and have someone serve you, occasionally. Of course, not every place out there is truck-friendly, in regards to parking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go. Find a safe place to park your rig and use Uber or Lyft to take you there!
Traveling across the country, over the years, I have found many great places to eat, and heard about a lot of others from my trucking friends, too. Getting help from friends Todd Campbell (who was just featured on the December 2017 cover of 10-4), Jamie Roche, Bob Guy and John Jaikes (this month’s 10-4 cover feature), we brainstormed about some of our favorite places to stop and eat.
Since its winter and produce is loading down south, we recently had the opportunity to stop in Clovis, NM, at Cooks Truck Center Restaurant next to the Love’s along Hwy 84, and had a great meal – the food was awesome, and the service was excellent. Another great place to eat in the southwest is the Tucson Truck Terminal. The “Triple T” is still an independently owned and operated truck stop, located on Interstate 10 at Exit 268 in Tucson, Arizona, and it has a terrific restaurant called Omar’s Hi-Way Chef that features several different types of award-winning cuisine, along with some of the best deep-dish apple pie you will ever eat. Bob recommended the Route 66 Casino near Albuquerque, NM at exit 140 along I-40, saying, “Go in the back, to the Thunder Road Steakhouse and Cantina – the steaks are excellent!”
In the northeast, there are lots of little diners, and most have great food. Our personal favorite in Pennsylvania is Esther’s in Fredericksburg, just off I-78 (going east you get off at Exit 6 and going west it’s Exit 9). They have the best open-faced roast beef sandwiches, and there is room for about 15 trucks to park in their lot. Another diner I stopped at once was the Pied Piper in Bally, PA along Route 100. This place has nice and quiet truck parking outside (in the back), and good food and service inside. Jennie’s Diner on Hwy. 30 in Lancaster, PA is also a popular place, and about 40 miles west of there, also on Hwy 30, is Lee’s Diner in York, PA. Established in 1951, Lee’s has minimal truck parking, but a lot of drivers stop there on their way to the East Coast.
If you are traveling I-84 in New York, you might try stopping by the I-84 Diner off Exit 12 in Fishkill. Parking here is limited to maybe five or six trucks since they built a new motel next door, but it’s worth a try if there is an open spot. This “American Classic” has been feeding hungry travelers since 1977 and is a well-known and popular place.
Bob and Todd also shared a couple of diners they know and like in Florida. The first one Bob suggested is Lester’s Diner in Ft. Lauderdale on State Road 84 just off I-95 near the airport (open 24 hours), and the other is Becky’s Garden Grill in Rivera Beach, FL (about an hour north of Lester’s on I-95 off the Blue Heron exit), which only serves breakfast and lunch. Todd recently stopped at the Rainbow Family Restaurant in Mascotte, FL (about 30 miles west of Orlando on Highway 50) and had a delicious lunch. Featuring “Home Cooking Since 1964” (as it reads on the sign), this place was good, and the people were even better.
If you are looking for some good BBQ, Jamie recommended Soulman’s Bar-B-Que in Royse City, TX. They have 18 locations in Texas, but the one he visited was at Exit 77B off I-30. Their billboard advertises “free truck parking” all night long, which is nice to see, for once. Our favorite barbeque place is M&M Old Hickory Smokehouse BBQ located next to the 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, FL. When you pull in the parking lot, the smell is divine, and the food never disappoints. Mark & Michelle are awesome people who serve great food. Another yummy BBQ place is Grandpa Johnsons Barbeque in Plant City, Florida, located next to the Produce Market along Hwy 92. This one has plenty of truck parking, and their onion rings are homemade!
Being a big fan of pizza, John knows where all the good pizza joints are – and he is very fussy about it. We stop at Chicago’s Pizza in Cloverdale, IN almost every time we go by. They are located at Exit 41 off I-70 and have a nice-sized lot for about ten trucks to park. We’ve actually parked there in the morning and waited for them to open up for lunch on a few occasions.
There are still a few truck stops out there that serve good home-cooked food. The Duke Travel Plaza off I-71 (Exit 151) in Mt. Gilead, OH is home to the Chesterville Dutchess Restaurant, which serves good food – and lots of it. The restaurant in the North Forty Truck Stop located off I-40 (Exit 126) in Holladay, TN is open 24 hours – and you can order breakfast 24/7. Be it off the menu or the buffet, the food is going to be good.
One of my favorites along I-80 (at Exit 112) in Morris, IL is R-Place Family Eatery. They have an in-house bakery that will put five pounds on your thighs just looking at all that sweetness in the display case. Homemade bread, muffins and rolls are served, along with a great salad bar, and a huge menu, with lots of choices, that will make your decision on what to have ten times tougher.
Jerry’s J-Boy Restaurant is a small chain that was founded in 1957. There are only five locations left today, and Todd recently stopped at the one in Louisville, KY (on Dixie Highway) and had a great meal. Parking was a little tight, but trucks and truckers are always welcome! Junction City Restaurant in Rolling Prairie, IN (at the junction of US Hwy. 20 and State Road 2), features daily trucker’s specials and plenty of parking – and it is a great place.
Heading out west, John has always talked about Brooks Ranch in Fresno, CA (on Chestnut Ave.), so we recently stopped there. Walking up to the front door, I knew it had to be good, because there was a 10-4 Magazine rack just outside the door! The food was plentiful and delicious, and we had a good time.
In August 2013, I did an article about a place just a little further north, called The Boise Stage Stop. Located 20 miles east of Boise, Idaho, this truck stop is one of Idaho’s oldest ongoing businesses, with nearly 125 years of history. The Boise Stage Stop is a full-service travel center located on I-84 between Mountain Home and Boise, and their restaurant features all sorts of breads, rolls, biscuits, pies, cookies, brownies and cakes, which are all baked fresh daily. Their restaurant also has its own aeroponics garden, which provides fresh produce for them year-round – and parking is always free.
Talking to my friends, I realized that there are lots more places left out here – maybe more than I had thought! With some of the new rules and life moving at a faster pace than ever before, it seems harder these days to stop and enjoy time with friends, swap stories, eat a good meal and get a much-needed break. But, I think this might fall into that illustrious “plan your trip better” category! It may not always be easy, but I believe it’s necessary to have a little time away from the truck, every now and again, to get some good grub.