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On the Road

From the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest, Eater searches for the meaning of America in the restaurants along the way

The great American road trip is our national rite of passage. It's on the open road that we search for ourselves and our place in this sprawling country, and it's in the restaurants along the way — the barbecue shacks, the truck stops, the diners, the seaside stands, and taco-slinging drive-ins — that we discover who we are and where we're going.

A few months ago, Eater asked five writers to drive all across America, and to eat: Gustavo Arellano surveyed the soul of Mexican America, digging into Christmas chicken-fried steak in New Mexico, rolled tacos in El Paso, and a righteous bean and cheese burrito on a gonzo I-10 eating tour. Rachel Khong and her brothers drove up the Pacific Coast to eat oysters pulled straight out of the water and to discover what it really means to be of a place. Rahawa Haile and her father retraced the Appalachian trail, where they discovered sublime baby back ribs as they tried to bridge a yawning generational chasm. Over all-you-can-eat enchiladas with an old high school friend, Bijan Stephen searched for the Texas of the future in Trump’s America. And John Birdsall explored what it means to find safe spaces on the road as a gay traveler in a post-Pulse Florida.

No matter where they started, they all ended up in the same place — whether you stop to take comfort in rolled tacos buried by a blizzard of shredded yellow cheese, or find meaning in fried gator, the road in America always seems to point back home.

Editor: Meghan McCarron
Art direction by Nicole Licht
Art by Melissa Deckert and Nicole Licht
Copy edited by Jaime Green
Contributors: Bijan Stephen, Gustavo Arellano, John Birdsall, Rachel Khong, and Rahawa Haile
Thanks to: Adam Moussa, Amanda Kludt, Esra Erol, Helen Rosner, Mary Hough, Matt Buchanan, and Sonia Chopra

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