I cannot thank Chowhound enough for the skills I picked up over the years. Thanks to what I learned from so many posters, I was able to eat deliciously on my SF-Mexico-Guatemala drive and rather inexpensively at that.
My profound thanks to Jim Leff who started this crazy little site and urged us to grab the tasty fruit hanging low from the trees, so to speak, and never … never … NEVER … settle for anything that wasn’t delicious. I’ve done a lot of traveling in my life, but never ate as exquisitely as on this trip.
Write a review about a restaurant and you feed a person well for one meal. Teach a person to Chowhound and they eat magnificently for life.
What does this have to do with a GPS?
We bought a TomTom navigator which lists nearby restaurants … so to speak. All they list is the name, address, phone and cuisine… nothing about whether these places were good.
The most useful aspect was directions to the restaurant … in the US … usually. Near Brownsville, Texas, it left us at an empty lot about a half mile away from the restaurant. Info in Mexico was less than useful.
As far as the US part of the trip, you could see nearby restaurant that might not be in a guidebook or on the web. There was at Indian fry bread joint 15 miles from the highway in Arizona. There was the mystery of the Brazilian restaurant five miles from the freeway in the middle of nothing in New Mexico. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to detour to those places.
The best food though, wasn’t even listed on the GPS. It completely snubbed the entire stop in Quartzsite, AZ which had a bratwurst stand, two bakeries in trailers, a few other restaurants and a stand selling elk jerky.
In Mexico, the thousand of tasty no name street vendors and tiny restaurants along the road were not listed, which is to be expected. However, to not have ANY info about restaurants, hotels, etc in the major vacation spot of Vera Cruz is beyond deplorable.
In fact, once you got off major routes in Mexico, the TomTom had no clue. In downtown Vera Cruz, it showed us merrily driving in the ocean though we were blocks from the beach. In fact we had to turn off the TomTom when it had a nervous breakdown in that city repeating endlessly “you are five hours away from your destination”.
Also, in Mexico, there was a lapse in time Early in the trip, the closer to the border the better it worked, it was about 5 – 10 seconds off So trying to find a restaurant, it told us to turn left, five seconds after we passed the left.
Add to that it pronounced things incorrectly such as Los Angle-ess (hard g and “A” as in ah) or Los Crux-es (‘u’ as in ugh) My Spanish friend was equally disgusted with the Spanish pronunciation in Mexico. Big city or small town, it rarely pronounced a name correctly
Let’s say the Mexican version of TomTom is NOT recommended for anything and the US only marginally.
In the next few replies I’ll write about where I ate in the US with the help of guidebooks, chowhound tips, and the blessing of the food gods … I lucked across one of the top Texas bbq’s when I pulled off the highway to fix the radio. I had a lot of experiences like that
I’m still working on the Mexico segment so I’ll add that in a later reply.
When Jim did his chowtour a few years ago, I thought it was a little silly not to ask for Chowhound tips in addition to just stopping at interesting places.
I was wrong.
It wasn’t pre-planned stops where I ate best. Yes, it is good to glean in general regional specialties … Hatch chilies in New Mexico … Tlayudas in Oaxaca … for example.
It was seeking out those types of things in local SF Bay area chowhounding that clued me in on what to look for and order. I’m really sorry we couldn’t stop for tejuinos at the many stands in Vera Cruz as I tried every place that sold them near my home in the US.
It was … in the end … chowhounding instincts that made for an amazing culinary journey.
And maybe … just maybe … that’s what upsets me when the site strays from the original intent. There is no other place on the web where those skills can be learned. It isn’t about food obsession, it is about learning how to eat deliciously … and NEVER settle
One major tip for road trip Chowhounding
We had one of those coolers that plug into the cigarette lighter of the car. So we were well stocked and never desparate for food. We had the luxury of picking when and where to eat and never chose a place out of desparation. If we got hungry and nothing was near, we raided the fridge, so to speak. Some food lasted us well into Mexico.
Usually we used the fridge food for dinner when we stopped for the night. A bbq in Texas was dinner hundreds of miles later at the motel where we stopped ... and provided sandwiches when we WERE desparate in Mexico.
Anyway, I hope others will chime in with how their GPS systems work in terms of finding food