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When you are a trucker, you often find the only place you can count on a sit-down meal is at one of the many truck stops out there. Petro has the Iron Skillet, TA has the Country Pride, Flying J has the Country Market. But the same-old, same-old leaves you longing for more every now and then.
The problem is that a big rig can be 75 feet long or longer. We can’t just pull into a Chili’s parking lot, toot our horns, and say “We’re here.” Our choices are often limited by the size of our vehicles. Over the years, though, I have found quite a few places to park my rig that make my tummy glad.
The Beef House
In Covington, Indiana, on I 74 at exit 4, there is a Pilot truck stop. Right across the street, is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. It’s called The Beef House. They are open for lunch or dinner. A good steak dinner for two will set you back about $40 or $50 depending on what you order. I go for the petite filet mignon- and I promise you, it’s worth every penny. There’s not a bit of fat on it, it’s wrapped in bacon and aged. I’ve never tried it but I imagine you could cut it with your fork, it’s so tender. They have a meat counter and you can buy from them and take it with you to grill later, too. They have a fresh salad bar that comes with your meal and wonderful soups (also included). Their service is top rate. Plenty of folks dine wearing suits and dresses, but you can wear a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt if you so choose, and you won’t feel out of place. There are two buildings- a banquet hall and the restaurant. Be sure to go to the restaurant (not the banquet hall)- it’s the building further west. They have room for several trucks to park in the gravel areas of their lot, but, for the less adventurous, you can park at the Pilot. It’s within walking distance.
Nick’s Catfish and BBQ
In Carlisle, Arkansas, on I 40 at exit 183, there is a little restaurant that doesn’t look like much on the outside. Come to think of it, it doesn’t look like much on the inside either, but what comes out of the kitchen is worth stopping for. I’ve never had the BBQ but I have friends who have ordered it and been very happy with it. The catfish is some of the best stuff I’ve ever had. It’s not a place to dine if you’re on a diet, but if you’re looking for a good meal, it’s a sure bet. They have limited truck and rv parking on their dirt lot. They are just a little ways south of I 40 on state route 13.
(870) 552-3887 or (870) 552-7845
In Carson, California, on the 405 freeway at the Wilmington Ave exit, there is a diner with food that will rival your favorite “chain” restaurant. There is only legal parking for 2 or 3 trucks on the street (unless you’re bobtail- then you can fit in the lot). The spots are marked 1-hour truck parking and are just long enough for a big rig. I can’t even begin to delve into their menu offerings- meatloaf, pot roast, stir fry, salads… I’ve never heard of anyone being dissatisfied with their choice. The wait staff has been top notch anytime I’ve eaten there. I know of drivers’ who have parked their rigs a mile away in no parking zones and walked to Spires to get a good meal. It’s definitely worth a trip around the block to get a truck parking spot.
Casa De Fruta
Just outside of Hollister, California, on route 152 (between Gilroy and Santa Nella) thre is a diner with a twist. The food isn’t the main attraction here, though it’s a very pleasant change from a truck stop restaurant. This place is an entire casa de EVENTS- there is a wine shop and wine tastings (not before you drive, please), a sweet shop, and a fruit and nut shop. I had never stopped there other than for a quick meal or a place to sleep until recently when a friend of mine told me about the train. I had no idea there was more than fruit and food there. From the map of the place you can see they have a little train, a zoo, and a gaggle of peacocks walking around. The restaurant is 24-hours and has a variety of options. I’ve only had breakfast there, but it was very good.
In Fairfield, Texas, on I 45 at exit 197, there is a restaurant good enough to make Sam Houston proud. Another driver suggested dinner at Sam’s, and, to be honest, at first glance I didn’t expect much. The outside of the building looks like any truck stop along the I 45 corridor, but what’s inside those walls will surprise you. This place has a little gift shop with all kinds of cute nick-knacks to browse- though I’ve never had to wait for a table. It’s not too fancy but it’s very nice. They have a nice salad bar, fantastic catfish and great BBQ. They are located just east of I 45 and have a dirt lot for truck parking. Don’t mistake it for the truck stop on the west side of the freeway.
(currently truck parking/truck stop is closed for construction of Cabella’s and a new truck facility)
In Verdi, Nevada, at exit 3, there is a Casino and truck stop called Boomtown. Truckers can park at the truck stop and take the free shuttle to the main casino. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, the buffet’s main attraction is the all-you-can-eat lobster. It’s not like what you might expect up in Maine, but it is a nice change from your typical truck stop fare. It will set you back $24 per person ($19.99 each if you show your Player’s Club card). The lobsters are on the small side, but it is, after all, all-you-can-eat, so who’s complaining? Other than that, it is a typical casino buffet.
In Oregon on I 5 at exit 307 (don’t miss the exit because you can’t just flip around at the next exit (the two overlap and there is no ramp when you get back on the freeway) is a poorly marked truck stop called the Jubitz- follow the small signs along the route marked “Jubitz.” I wanted to stay away from truck stops, but this is one that deserves mention. The Cascade Grill restaurant inside the main building is top rate and they also have a bar that boasts live entertainment. It’s a nice change from the traditional truck stop with all the services a truck stop provides (diesel, tires, showers, laundry, etc.). Definitely worth stopping by.
(503) 283-1111 or (800) 523-1193
Other places I have had recommended to me but have not tried:
In Wendell, Idaho. The Farmhouse has truck parking available (unconfirmed), large portions, friendly service… and sure beats the regular fare at truck stops, if you know what I mean!
The Big Texan
In Amarillo, Texas. This place is known for the 72 oz steak you get free if you eat it in one hour. Other than that, I hear their “regular” steaks are out of this world.
Rainbow Casino Steak House
In Wendover, Nevada. Reservations are recommended. There is plenty of truck parking and a free shuttle (although, the casino is right across the street and safe to walk to). I have heard that their filet mignon and jumbo prawns combo is better than hitting a jackpot.