The Great American Road Trip is a right of passage. Families, van lifers, wanderlusters, vagabonds, tourists, and explorers all share the same road. The black asphalt veins pump people around the entire country, every minute of every day. Each bend hides a new wonder waiting to be discovered. There are trees to drive through, canyons to get lost in, amber waves of grain that stretch to the horizon, and seemingly endless chains of mountains. Oh, and there’s thousands and thousands of miles of coast too. America is vast and full of wonder.
One of the great moments of a road trip is stopping for some grub. We’ve all been there — when those hunger pangs set in after the fourth or fifth hour on the open road. We see a billboard, standing alone in the vastness of the world, enticing us that only 30 miles away deliverance awaits. Then it’s 20 miles away. 10 miles away. 5 more miles. 2 miles. Finally, we see the words: “Next Exit!” We take the off-ramp. Anticipation starts to boil over. We park, stretch the legs, and get ready to quell the rumbling in our stomachs.
Somehow, food always tastes better on the road. Even if we’ve eaten at the place a thousand times at home, there’s just something more satisfying about the outpost you find yourself, along a lonely highway. Maybe it’s the miles of road behind you. Maybe it’s the miles ahead of you. Either way, a pit stop on a road trip is almost always a delight.
What is the best place to quell your hunger? Not all meals are equal after all. Some are a pure fuel that’ll have you singing along at full volume to all of Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s Greatest Hits. Others may induce a carb coma that’ll have your eyes drooping no matter what you listen to. Over at Ranker, they wanted some answers, so they asked their users to vote on their favorite restaurants to stop at on a road trip. The results are a menagerie of sugary booster fuel, classic burgers, and coma-inducing diner experiences.
10. Dunkin’ Donuts
Hells yeah! Dunkin’ Donuts‘ combination of sugary fried dough and high-octane coffee means the next hundred miles or so will be pushing the higher end of the speed limits as you rap to every word to Nas’s Illmatic.
Just make sure you have something for the inevitable sugar and caffeine crash. Maybe more sugar and caffeine? You do you.
Chances of going into a food coma: Close to nil. Dunk’s coffee is rocket fuel.
IHOP, huh? While the bottomless cups of filtered coffee are a draw here, the piles of carb-heavy pancakes can get you pretty drowsy. Though, it really depends on how much syrup you’re soaking those cakes with. So maybe it all balances out in the end. Or, you can just order some eggs and bacon and avoid carbo-loading entirely.
Chance of going into a food coma: 50/50. Pancakes are basically “nap disks.”
8. Sonic Drive-In
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This burger is full of flavor, and better for the environment! The Signature Slinger burger patty is made with three ingredients— pure beef, savory mushrooms and bold seasonings. The best part is that it starts at under 350 calories! 🍔 See menu for details. 📷: @manhattantwist
You either love or loathe Sonic. It is just a burger place at the end of the day. Is it the best? That all depends on what your best is. It’s cheap, fast, and filling. Add in the bottomless Mountain Dew, and you’ve got some decent fuel for the open road.
Chance of going into a food coma: Low. Unless you treat yourself to their latest insane-sounding dessert — in which was the coma might be caused by chemicals instead of carbs.
7. Five Guys
Five Guys is another burger place that people ride hard for or just don’t really care about. Their burgers are some of the better ones in the fast-casual biz, the fries rock, and you can get bottomless cups of soda. All good things for a trip on the road.
Chance of going into a coma: How many patties are your ordering, fam?
Subway is a great place to get some calories in your body to keep you grinding. You can go super light here or you can go heavy (or go home). There’s a vast difference between getting a stacked meatball sub than getting a chicken sandwich with plenty of lettuce and tomato. That meatball sub is going to stick with you a while on the road. The chicken sandwich may have you looking for billboards as soon as you get back on the interstate.
Chance of going into a food coma: Very low. Like your standards in food.
It’s interesting to see Chick-fil-A so low in these rankings as it usually dominates these sort of lists. Our theory, it’s too little or too light to really make an impact on the road. Sure, their chicken biscuit is dope, but is it enough to sate that road hunger?
Chance of going into a food coma: Only if you double up on the biscuits.
Wendy’s is always a good option for a fresh burger, some fries, and an ice-cold Frosty. The home of the square burger patty does a mean burger that hits on nostalgia and delectability pretty evenly. You can’t go too wrong pulling into a Wendy’s.
Chance of going into a coma: You’re going to need to walk off a double cheeseburger, fries, and a Frosty. Where’s the next rest stop?
3. Cracker Barrel
Ah-ha! There it is. The good ol’ Cracker Barrel pops right into the top three. There’s nothing like a bowl of grits, side of biscuits and gravy, and a plate of eggs, bacon, and hash browns to cure a deep road trip hunger. End the whole thing with a nice slice of pie, a la mode, and you’re set.
You’re ready for anything after a meal that American. Then you stand up and wonder how Cracker Barrel doesn’t have hammocks out back for long naps.
Chance of going into a coma: Freaking guaranteed.
2. Dairy Queen
Hitting the drive-thru at a DQ for a Blizzard (Oreo obvs) is a road trip tradition. The ice cream satisfies the soul and the sugar bomb from the soft serve and the literal candy in it give you a much need boost to focus up on that next stretch of road. If you need more, you can always grab some chicken strips to keep you going as well.
Chance of going into a coma: If you can sleep after a Butterfinger Blizzard, good on you.
1. In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out wins this round. Which… come on Ranker, they aren’t even in half the country. Maybe it’s the lure of the open road in the west that gives the burger chain the edge here. The burgers are great and fast. It’s the perfect meal while blazing down a dusty ol’ Cali highway. We’ll give it that.
Chance of going into a coma: 50/50. If you order a Triple Triple with Animal fries and a Neapolitan shake, you’re going to need a nap. If you order a burger, fries, and a coke, you’ll be ready to keep driving.
So there it is. What this list is clearly missing are the mom & pops and tiny diners. Those are the real gems and trump most anything you’ll find here. Know a few good ones? Hit us in the comments!