The car is packed, and you're ready to take the ultimate road trip. Seriously, we're talking a massive drive circling the contiguous United States, making 50 stops, each one at a national natural landmark, national historic site, national park, or national monument. That's one stop in each of the lower 48 states plus D.C. and an additional stop in California. That's big.
No, we didn't map this out. As geography savvy as we are here at The Daily Meal, this route was computed by data tinkerer Randy Olsen and his algorithm. (Click to read the technical details and see the full driving route and list of stops.) And while we didn't cook up this extreme road trip, we did put together a list of what's cooking so your adventure can be a culinary extravaganza of regional cuisines from around the U.S. No rest stops or fast food burgers here. We've pulled together a list of 11 stops with standout food and restaurants for your journey.
To compile this list, we cross-referenced the road trip destinations with our previous best-of lists of restaurants, burgers, food trucks, etc. We matched the National Park stops with Best Restaurants in Parks and compared various regions to our regional food guide. OpenTable's Summer Road Trip passed through a few of our stops with some recs, and we always check in on how avid travelers (who are likely our readers!) are weighing in on TripAdvisor.
We covered a lot of ground with this list — national parks and big cities, regional specific cuisines and upscale New American menus. We highlighted some Daily Meal favorites, like Detroit-style pizza, and got down and dirty with some Memphis-style barbecue and soul food. We bring you to the French Quarter's original Hurricane cocktail at Pat O'Brien's (have it after you've finished driving for the day) and to a Hiker's Stew that requires a seven-plus-mile hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Upscale dining, local joints, Thomas Jefferson's ice cream recipe, and even a D.C. stop that President Obama has made round out this guide.
So take a little trip through American cuisine to see what's in store for when you take the plunge on the ultimate road trip.
Acadia National Park, Maine
A trip to Acadia National Park, encompassing much of Maine's Mount Desert Island, is as much about fresh, local seafood and wild Maine blueberries as it is hiking Cadillac Mountain. Take a midday lobster stew break at Jordan Pond House, the only restaurant in the park, which has been serving afternoon tea and popovers since the 1890s. Or head into the picturesque, romantic town of Bar Harbor, where the food never disappoints. Enjoy breakfast of blueberry pancakes or lobster eggs benedict at Café This Way, and later, grab an outdoor seat with a waterfront view for dinner at Stewman's Lobster Pound, where you'll find all the traditional ingredients — lobster, steamers, mussels, clam chowder, and blueberry pie, the official state dessert of Maine. Not to be confused with the official state treat, the whoopie pie.
Elvis Presley's Graceland, Memphis, Tenn.
When you’re driving up to Elvis’ Memphis mansion blasting “Suspicious Minds,” and you have your heart set on his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich, make a pit stop at Rockabilly’s Burger Shop on the Graceland premises. Once that’s out of your system, it’s time for some Memphis-style barbecue and soul food. Rendezvous is the spot for pork shoulder, dry-rub ribs, and other quintessential Memphis barbecue, while Ellen’s Soul Food is a local favorite that adventurous non-Southerners will love. One more standard not to miss: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.