by Candy B. Harrington
One of the best parts of any road trip is the food. No, I’m not talking about fast food joints or chain restaurants; but good old fashioned road trip fare. First and foremost the eatery must be a little bit off the beaten path, and then it has to serve some downright delicious food. A little quirkiness helps too. And of course it goes without saying that it has to be wheelchair-accessible.
A tough task to master? Not at all. In fact my notebook is virtually bursting at the seams with yummy road trip finds. Here are five of my top picks.
Whoa Nellie Deli (http://www.whoanelliedeli.com/)
Located on Tioga Pass Road, high above Yosemite in the Eastern Sierras, this combination filling station, grocery store and deli serves up some yummy house specials like cajun chicken jambalaya, lobster taquitos and fish tacos. Of course, you can also indulge in standard deli fare if you prefer. As an added bonus, the outside eating area offers a great view of nearby Mono Lake. Not only is there good access throughout the establishment, but they also have the cleanest accessible restrooms on Tioga Pass Road! And if you’re in the area on Sunday afternoon, be sure and stop in and enjoy the free music.
Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner (http://www.mrdzrt66diner.com/)
No culinary road trip round-up would be complete without at least one mention of a diner. And in that respect Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman, Arizona fills the bill perfectly. Located just across the street from the Powerhouse Route 66 Museum, this nostalgic diner features accessible parking with level access to the front door, and good pathway access inside. Unfortunately the restrooms are not accessible, but there are some very nice ones over at the museum, so plan ahead if you decide to dine here. The décor is retro, the food is filling and the service is good. The menu includes the usual burger and sandwich fare, along with a decent selection of pizza, pasta dishes and dinner specials. And you just can’t beat their milkshakes and malts. Outside seating is also available, and it’s a great place to sit back and watch vintage cars cruise along the Mother Road.
Lee’s Chicken Restaurant (www.facebook.com/leeschicken)
Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, Lee’s Restaurant first opened in 1945 as a twelve-seat beer joint. Apparently one of the regulars got a hankering for fried chicken, so Alice Lee went out back, slaughtered one and fried it up. And although they’ve added burgers, sandwiches and even lobster to the menu over the years, people still come for miles for their yummy fried chicken. No matter when you go, you’ll find the place filled with locals -- a sure sign you’ve made the right dining choice. To add to the quaint atmosphere. there’s even a piano player that takes requests. There’s ramp access to the entrance, but no accessible restrooms inside. Still it’s a fun place to dine. Just take exit 397 off Highway 77, drive two miles west and look for the big chicken. You can’t miss it!
Houmas House (http://www.houmashouse.com/)
Who can resist dining in a southern plantation house, especially one that’s wheelchair-accessible? If that piques your interest, than head on down to Darrow, Louisiana, where you’ll find Houmas House, the crown jewel of Louisiana’s River Road. For a casual lunch, check out Café Burnside, which features level access and serves up sandwiches, southern favorites and salads. If you’d prefer something a tad more elegant, Latil’s Landing, which is located inside the accessible mansion, is the place to go for that special dinner. And then there's the Le Petite Houmas Restaurant, which has level access and offers a Sunday brunch with a definite southern twist; with dishes like Eggs Creole and Grits and Grillades. Accessible restrooms are centrally located between the restaurants. Save some time before or after your repast for a tour of this former sugar plantation, which boasts ramp access, barrier-free pathways and even an elevator.
Last, but certainly not least, for some good old fashioned home cooking in the Mobile Bay area, head over to Mary’s Place. Located just south of Bellingrath Gardens at the intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 188, this Coden eatery has been around since 1922. The menu features a good selection of po-boys, salads and entrees, but the local favorite is the lunch buffet. Buffet selections include black-eyed peas, stuffed pork chops, hamburger steaks, turkey pot pie, chicken and dumplings, greens, fried okra, green beans, rice and a well stocked salad bar. Access is good too, with ramp access to the front entrance, good pathway access inside, and very clean accessible restrooms. It’s a winning combination with good home cooking, great service and very reasonable prices.
Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides including the classic Barrier-Free Travels; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (http://www.barrierfreetravel.net/). Her newest title, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (http://www.22accessibleroadtrips.com/) features 22 driving routes across the United States with information about wheelchair-accessible sites, lodging options, trails, attractions and restaurants along the way. It’s a great resource for Baby Boomers, couples, families, or anybody who wants to hit the road. Candy also blogs about accessible travel issues at www.barrierfreetravels.com.
All photos by Charles Pannell and used with permission.