For most Americans, a visit to Las Vegas is a necessary rite of passage. But if you’re coming from LA, the road trip there is a separate one entirely. This 4.5 hour drive (if you’re going the speed limit, which you won’t be) is home to a 12-story tall thermometer, a forest of glass soda bottles, and one giant statue of the guy who discovered the South Pole. It’s f*cking weird. And iconic. And for large chunks, boring. But amazing things manage to happen here because on any given Friday, this 275 mile stretch of desert becomes a high-speed space corridor to debauchery. The camaraderie is palpable. And though it might not seem like it, great food options do exist. It just takes a bit of strategy. Plus you’ve got the munchies from that joint you hit back in LA and it’s food time NOW. Here is where you should be eating on your next road trip to Vegas.
It’s Friday morning and you’re leaving an hour later than you wanted to. The 1-10 East is already a parking lot so your move here is to cut north to the slightly better (and far more scenic) 210 East. Crisis averted. But in an hour’s time your blood sugar is running low and your roommate won’t stop talking about his new medical marijuana card. Time for donuts. Luckily, you’re in Glendora, home to The Donut Man and his quite famous strawberry-stuffed donuts. Depending on the season, you could get served his peach-stuffed version instead and that’s completely okay. Because this Route 66 classic must-stop always has you covered.
The best road trips have the best strategies. And when it comes to eating In-N-Out on the way to Vegas, here is yours: Hesperia, exit 143. You’re on the 1-15, officially out of the LA gridlock but not so far away that it makes total sense to stop yet. So people don’t. Also probably because Hesperia sounds like a movie virus from the ‘80s. Either way, this is your chance. Every other car is getting off at the Barstow In-N-Out because they are sheep people but you just don’t have 45 minutes to kill at the drive-through. There’s a Cosmo cabana waiting with your name on it.
Perhaps you do have the time (and interest) to go exploring, and we certainly won’t judge you for it. Just make sure Idle Spurs is your first stop. Still only about 10 minutes off the highway, Idle Spurs is a California classic and the kind of place Walter White would’ve pit-stopped at for a top sirloin in between cooking sessions. And that’s a compliment. Because even after 40 years, this steakhouse is still cranking out quality cuts of meat in an atmosphere that’s truly as bizarre as it gets.
Yes, the actual original Del Taco opened down the road in Yermo and we don’t care. That one bit the dust years ago and the 51 year-old Barstow location is now considered Del Taco #1. Hallelujah. Sure, there’s a squeaky clean Del Taco right by the highway in Barstow but what fun is that? It’s jam-packed and NOT THE OLDEST SURVIVING DEL TACO IN THE WORLD. Drive the extra five minutes into town and pay homage to stoner history. Pro Tip: Tell your cashier friend to “Go Bold” and you’ll be getting fries and special sauce added into every item you ordered. Life is beautiful.
Barstow Station, aka “Train Car McDonalds,” is a solid option if you have a car full of people too baked to make decisions. Because this gigantic, fake train station is actually a terrifying food court comprised of 15 fast food restaurants you’ll recognize from Food Inc. and you’re too deep into the desert to give a sh*t. You’re here for sustenance. Get in, get out, and don’t talk to the guy selling packs of gum in the parking lot. That’s meth.
Anyone who’s traveled once between LA and Vegas knows Zzyzx Rd. It’s unavoidable. You probably even got out and took a picture in front of the sign because it’s that crazy of a word. But do you know what’s even crazier? What’s actually down that narrow road. Exit south on Zzyzx and in about 4 miles you’ll reach Camp Soda, whose history is too vast and mysterious to ever make sense of here. But let’s just say it involves a bat-shit crazy doctor, a completely fake healing resort and a lot of federal involvement. Oh, and it’s completely open to the public now. If you’re gonna make a detour people, this is the one.
If you thought your trip to weird was over, think again. Welcome to Baker and the home of alien believers who also happen to make beef jerky. In reality, Alien Fresh Jerky is complete roadside fluff and we want all of it. There are little green aliens watching you everywhere, a “Galaxy Peace Patrol” vehicle parked out front, and good enough beef jerky to load up on inside. One has to pick and choose these types of places on a roadtrip but in the case of the amazingly kitschy Alien Fresh Jerky, we choose to stop.
The Mad Greek will be your last pull-over before Vegas so make it count. For whatever reason, people are just drawn to this place and Mad Greek has positioned itself as the most recognizable restaurant along the entire 1-15 corridor. Mad Greek will also tell you they have “America’s Best Gyro” on the menu. That is not true. It is probably the best gyro you’ll have that day though so go ahead and order one to be passed around the car. And then draw your focus solely to the strawberry shake. Because it’s 112 degrees out and this beautiful, football-size calorie dump actually is America’s best.