December 5 2012 by Jason Fogelson
When I'm on the road, all of the rules get left behind, in exchange for one new rule: No chain restaurants.
Here's what I figure: A motorcycle trip -- or any kind of leisure travel, for that matter -- is all about experiencing the unfamiliar. One of the major expressions of a region's culture is its cuisine. National chain restaurants reverse the formula, homogenizing meals into familiar offerings. No offense to McDonald's, but the golden arches can't hold a candle to a Mom & Pop burger shack. No offense to Macaroni Grill, but their endless salad bar is nothing when measured against the food in your city's Little Italy. You can always find the familiar when you get back home, if that's what you like. While you're on the road, live a little, and explore the local chow.
I've got a few tips about finding the best meals during a motorcycle trip to unfamiliar territory.
Get off the interstate, and onto the scenic routes. The chains count on high traffic and easy access, so they cluster near interstate exits. Local hangouts are just that: Local. You've got to go where the food is.
Use the force. The force of the Internet, that is. There are many great sites on the web devoted to local food, and there are several excellent smartphone apps you can take with you on the road. My favorites are FlavortownUSA.com and the Flavortown app, which direct you to restaurants that have been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives program from the Food Network. If you're going to a big city, try Zagat.com and the Zagat app, which give free access to the Zagat restaurant guide ratings. Yelp.com and the Yelp app compile ratings and comments from customers. There are plenty of others.
Ask a local. Don't be afraid to stop at a local shop to ask for advice from shopkeepers and customers. People love to point visitors toward their local treasures, including great restaurants.
Ask your Best Western Hotel front desk. Best Western front desk employees are experts on their home town and local area, and are happy to recommend great dining experiences. They might even have a map or some discount coupons to help make the evening even better.
Every once in a while, you'll have to break down and eat at a chain restaurant. It happens to all of us. Sometimes that Denny's is the only place open after 11 pm on a weeknight.
If that happens to you -- don't despair. Order the Grand Slam.