Even the best road trips can go awry without at least a little bit of planning. After figuring out where to go, the next important step — before getting gas or packing — is to figure out where exactly to eat along the route.
As such, in the spirit of Road Trip Week, Eater asked Houston chefs to dish on their road trip strategies. Ranging from fine Texas food institutions to the junkiest of gas station fare, this is some pretty solid advice for eating on the road.
Seth Siegel-Gardner, chef/owner, The Pass and Provisions
Create some destination dining options, whether it be a recent addition to the Texas Monthly BBQ Top 50, an authentic Czech klobasnek or something more upscale. Most importantly, pack your favorite things from your local spots, (we don’t go anywhere without our Words&Foods Pimento cheese from the Urban Harvest Farmers Market) so there’s no time wasted along the way. Another crucial detail for the cooler would be some pre-batched simple classic cocktails so that when you arrive at your destination and the driving is done for the day, you can relax in style.
Nick Fine, chef de cuisine, One Fifth
Always pack snacks, always! I like a mix of healthy and fun snacks—crunchy Cheetos and almond M&Ms, along with baby oranges, apples, string cheese and waters. Buc-ee's is a must, if possible, because they have clean bathrooms, awesome breakfast burritos and sandwiches and souvenirs! The Hippo (a bean, egg, bacon and cheese breakfast burrito) is the best... And homemade vanilla Dr. Pepper. Make a playlist! George Strait, some UGK, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett have to be on there. Also, due to recent developments, a large supply of baby formula and diapers, and toys that make noise are part of my road trips. The most important thing, however, is Red Bull. It's the life blood of any good road trip!
Jean-Philippe Gaston, Izakaya
Like any other form of travel, road trips require planning. In my case I'm a bit anal about this so I always look at the smallest towns or significant stops along the way and find out what hole-in-the-wall or famous local eatery or brewery or landmark I should look for. It's the simple spots that make a good trip but also maximizing your time on the road.
David Keck, co-owner, Goodnight Charlie's
Road tripping through Texas, there are a few requirements. The first I would mention has probably already been said but is an important one: stop by Hruska's on 71 between Houston and Austin for kolaches. It's a distinctly Texas establishment with some of the best examples of this unique hybrid food. BBQ is also a staple of the Texas diet and one of the best stops on the road is in Lockhart at Kreuz Market for amazing brisket. Throw a cooler full of Topo Chico in the back, load Lone Star tall boys underneath for when you arrive, and enjoy the TX landscape.
Gary Ly, chef de cuisine, Underbelly
I usually start a road trip going to a gas station: filling up on gas, lemon lime Gatorade, cool ranch Doritos and a guilty pleasure of a gas station hot dog. Road trip Spotify playlist usually consists of either '80s retro music or '90s hip hop.
When I'm heading west, I always stop at Hruska’s bakery off Highway 71 outside of La Grange. It's an old European bakery that does traditional fruit kolaches. My favorites are the peach and the cream cheese lemon. The sleepers on the menu are the home style burger with fresh made hamburger buns or the pimento cheese sandwich.
Chris Shepherd, chef/owner, Underbelly, One Fifth, Hay Merchant
At least once a year, we drive to New Orleans. Traditionally, we fly, but we drive at least once a year for one reason--road food. On the way there, you starve yourself until you end up in Scott, LA. Once there, you stop at Don's Meat Market for crispy boudin balls, a boudin link for the road and a small bag of cracklins. A 1/2-lb bag should be fine. Don't fill up. In less than five miles, you'll stop in Breaux Bridge at the Chicken on the Bayou and Hot Boudin Shop for crawfish pistolettes and a shrimp pitcher-boy or fried chicken and red beans and rice. This will satisfy you until you make it to New Orleans.
On the way home, stop in La Place at Jacob's--not to be confused with Wayne Jacobs BBQ--for andouille sausage. Get back on I-10, and stop at Best Stop in Scott to load up your cooler (you have a cooler in the back because you thought ahead) with boudin-stuffed chickens. And if you're hungry, stop at Cajun Claws for some crawfish before crossing the state line back into Texas.