by Pride Transport | Jan 20, 2020
In part one of this article, we addressed the great freeway v. highway debate. As debates go it’s not that great but still, it’s worthy of note. We also spoke about the length of I-80, the states it passes through and we left you in Nebraska wondering what happens next. Well, fear not intrepid traveler, we have returned and we will now take you the rest of the way. From Nebraska all the way to Teaneck, New Jersey. What a glorious trip it will be.
In part one we clued you into the myriad natural wonders and interesting historical points you can stop at and stand in awe. We hope that was informative and enticing. For part II, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of satisfying your hunger for culture and history, we decided to satisfy your hunger for … food. So, part II of our piece about the second longest highway in the nation is going to highlight some of the best places to eat in the towns, cities, and burbs that I-80 passes through. From quick meals to; no, no let’s stop, get out of the car and really experience this meal, type places. So, buckle up, tie your napkin under your chin and dig in because …
Here are the best places to eat, state by state, along I-80 from Nebraska to New Jersey.
Nebraska's Best Restaurants Along I-80
Omaha is a town that has some history. Several modern-day inventions came out of Omaha: cake mix, Raisin Bran, the bobby pin, the ski lift, the Reuben sandwich, and the “top 40” radio format. So this is already a very cool town. But, what about eats? Let’s see.
This place has been family-run for three generations. It looks like a bar, but it’s a family restaurant. This place has something that no other joint nearby can boast; raccoons. Yes indeed, your dinner entertainment consists of watching raccoons and some stray cats, pick at discarded chicken bones. They are outside of course and you are inside. Presumably eating chicken.
Brother Sebastian’ Steakhouse & Winery
The restaurant is in an old California style monastery and it hasn’t changed much in 800 years. Dimly lit, stained glass windows and huge wine casks set the scene. Also, all servers are dressed like monks.
This place has been around since 1922, making it one of Omaha’s oldest eateries.
It’s old school and retro sporting massive, really massive front doors. It also served as a scene in Alexander Payne’s film; “About Schmidt”, starring Jack Nicholson. The entire feeling of the place is what keeps people coming back.
No food here, just drinks. That’s because the Wicked Rabbit is a speakeasy. You get in via a secret passage hidden behind a wall in a small shop next to the Hotel Deco. Fun and funky.
Indiana: Places to Eat Along I-80
experience every conceivable variety of fried food on a stick. If you don’t think a million folks at a fair is a lot, think on this; the entire population of Iowa is about 3 million people.
But, Des Moines has more culinary fare to offer than just what can be impaled on a stick.
This is a Zombie-themed joint in the east village that serves up some amazingly unique burgers. For example, there is the ‘Walking Ched’. This is a breaded, deep-fried macaroni & cheese bun, bacon, cheddar, caramelized onions and raw onions, more mac & cheese, and mayo. All on top of a burger.
Fong’s, as you can imagine by the name, used to be a Chinese restaurant. When new owners took over, they loved the decor and decided not to change it. However, they were making pizza. They kept the decor, changed the cuisine and now we have Fong’s Pizza. This is some intensely quirky pizza with flavors like crab rangoon and Hunan pork. Fusion, by the slice.
El Bait Shop
Des Moines seems to be known for the decor of places often more than the food. This could be one of those places. Simple, fresh Mexican-American food, but the decor is just crazy. They also have a huge selection of craft and domestic beers on tap.
Quirky, trendy and specializing in award-winning BBQ. But, that’s not all. They also have Cajun cuisine and what they call the bold flavors of the Caribbean. Plus there’s live music to be heard from skilled local bands.
Illinois: Best Food on I-80
Joliet is famous for the Old Joliet Prison Correctional Facility. It’s also the home of the famed Blues Brother, Joliet Jake, created and played by the late great John Belushi.
This would be one of those: stop and experience this meal, type of places. The emphasis here is on slow dining and culinary appreciation. An old-fashioned, European atmosphere houses incredible food prepared by the head chef who was born, raised and trained in Italy. He is known for spinning some imaginative twists on classic Italian dishes.
This is not fast food chicken. You won’t see this stuff showing up in some lame, social media war about chicken sandwiches. Everything here is made fresh daily on the premises. They are famous for their chicken-chunks; boneless breast meat cut and seasoned on the day then flash-fried for crispy, delicious goodness. This is really high-quality comfort food.
Hot Pan Noodles and Dumplings
Fresh, hot, aromatic and authentic is the Chinese food you’ll find here. Every single noodle and dumpling is hand made fresh in the shop daily. They also boast a large variety of craft beers and, while you’re waiting for your mea., they have some retro video games to keep you occupied.
Old-Fashioned Pancake House
A good pancake house is a staple of a successful journey. This one is not to be missed. Yes, they specialize in breakfast, with an emphasis on the pancake, but they also have a surprisingly extensive lunch and dinner menu as well. The menu ranges from breakfast to seafood, Italian specials and Greek favorites. Make sure to save room for the homemade pies and cakes.
Indiana: Restaurants Along I-80
Gary is a city that I-80 passes through and not only is it the birthplace of the Jackson Five, it also has some fine places to fill the belly.
This is a small town favorite- long popular with local gastro-maniacs so you know that it’s good. It’s fast food but nothing like the mass-produced chains, Quality ingredients, and top-notch service keep the locals trusting and returning.
Big Daddy’s BBQ
Nothing is better than award-winning BBQ. Seriously, have you ever been to a BBQ cook-off? Those folks are serious and to win an award for your BBQ and advertise it, you know it is good. This place defines laid back and it has all your must-haves: ribs, fried chicken wings, beef brisket, pulled pork and yes, collard greens.
This is takeaway food, although there are a few tables outside with umbrellas. It’s at the end of an off-ramp and nestled near a truck stop. But, don’t let the appearance fool you, this is some super good, super authentic Mediterranean and Balkan classics. Quick in, quick out but, you’ll quickly be back.
You know that feeling when you’re on the road and everyone wants a different kind of food? NY Plate is the answer. This is a diverse menu. From Philly cheesesteak sandwiches to gyros, catfish, chicken wings and so much more. They are most famous for their jumbo fried shrimp. Casual and easy.
Wing Wah Restaurant
Good Chinese cuisine is a must if a town is going to have a credible food culture and when in Gary, you’re going to want to stop at Wing Wah. This is THE spot in town for authentic Chinese and Cantonese food. Inside. It’s all traditional red and black lacquer and the food is traditional as well. They also do a vibrant takeaway business.
Ohio's Best Food On I-80
Toledo’s nickname is “The Glass City” because of its long history with the glass industry. But, it’s not only the glass capital of the country, but it’s also the glass capital of the world. And food for days.
Any list of best places, top eats, things you didn’t know concerning Toledo is going to have Tony Packo’s on that list. And it's usually in the top ten. They claim these hot dogs will change your life. The Hungarian restaurant serves a Hungarian hot dog. Mustard, onions and hot dog sauce. Out of towners need to be told about this place only once, then, they’re hooked.
Burger Bar 419
This place is incredible and beyond any normal burger joint. Why you ask? Okay, how about Sriracha-soy deviled eggs. A pear, almond & brie salad. And then there are burgers -oy to the vey- they are astounding. Like a Pate’ melt which has gruyere cheese and pate. The 3 little pigs has ground pork, bacon, and BBQ pork shoulder. We want to live in that burger.
Home Slice Pizza
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and again, most wonderful. This is a pizza lovers paradise. Concoctions not to be imagined. How about a loaded potato pizza? Yes, go ahead and imagine what that is and … you’re right. Also, locals say if you leave without having the cheese bread appetizer, you’re flat out an idiot.
Right in the midwest, you’re going to find some truly authentic Lebanese food. Perfectly prepared Lebanese staples like lamb shank, shish kabobs, and shawarma. Authentic spices and preparation, this is going to be a regular stop.
This place makes the list because it’s small, family-owned and run and THIS IS SOUL FOOD. Humble in appearance, huge in nostalgic tastes. Pork chops, turkey, fried chicken, meatloaf and that doesn’t even start listing the sides. Feed your soul, feel good.
Pennsylvania: Best Restaurants Along I-80
Parks and falls, national monuments and breweries, Wilkes-Barre has a lot going for it. On top of all that sweet history and nature is some really great food.
Breaker Brewing Company
This is the official brewery of NEPA’s coal-mining region. NEPA being the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. A menu of hearty dishes like kielbasa mac & cheese, soft pretzels, beer cheese, and home-made mustards and, of course, craft beers galore. All of this in an old fashioned, renovated schoolhouse.
What The Fork
This is an award-winning restaurant and… FOOD TRUCK!! Fresh and new is the motto here. And new is pulled pork with candy sauce and sweet potato straws, ahi tuna tacos and how about some crab cake sliders, In the restaurant or off the truck.
Circles on the Square
This is a take-out only sandwich shop and novelty store. This place has been the lunchtime king for about 26 years. For a first-timer, the menu can be overwhelming because it is massive. But, everything on the menu is of the highest quality and all the bread is fresh-baked too!
This would be another one of those sit down, relax and enjoy the meal type places. They are serving authentic cuisine from Northern Italy. It’s a classy place with professional servers doing all the little things that make great service … great. All pastas and desserts are homemade in the shop and this is a big family favorite in Wilkes-Barre.
Teaneck, NJ Best Food Pit Stop
This is where I-80 ends folks, last stop. Teaneck is known for being the first voluntarily integrated school system in the United States. They celebrate their diversity with pride. Only 46 miles to NYC, you could hold out on this part of the trip and enjoy the diverse foods in the Big Apple but, wait… there’s good stuff to eat here.
This is classic Italian food that Italians come to eat. It’s that good. Incredible, authentic food in a quaint and comfortable atmosphere. Locals love it and it always has the highest ratings on any tripadvisor review.
A certificate of excellence winner from 2015-2019. Seafood and soups. Homemade, always fresh, on the weekends, this is a local go-to spot. You can bring your own bottle and there is no corkage charge. Eat-in and take-out as well.
This is a classic roadstand dining experience. And it is hailed as one of the hidden gems in the area. Chili dogs, fries, burgers, Take out or outdoor seating. No frills but friendly service and a local favorite.
A great place for good food, so they say. Spicy shrimp boil, fried green tomatoes, chicken wings, and BBQ. Plates, sides, wings and beer. Casual but one that is not to be missed. Lunch, dinner and this is a good late-night spot too.
If you’re a fan of the classic American diner, then you have got to stop here. Extensive menu and everything is good. Most locals will tell you they have been coming to this place for 20, 30 plus years. All foods prepared fresh and quick and the service is fast and friendly. Locals always use this as the meeting spot when someone is coming back to town.
There it is, travelers, with these two pieces about I-80, you can get your history fix and get the grub you so long for as well. It’s an amazing highway/freeway and the perfect road to travel to get a real feel for these great United States.