Food Trip Across the Midwest

Scary Baby and I took a semi-spontaneous eight day road trip at the end of July. I drove (and she rode) over 2,000 miles.

Driving from one city to the next anticipating our next meal was the only way we survived the car trip. Meals that we ate from recommendations on and were almost always the best. A little computer research was worth the time.

Besides eating, we attempted to mix in some education. So much to learn on a car trip together…

Map reading, navigation skills, budgeting, history, communication and conflict resolution were our main topics throughout the trip.

Here are some food highlights of our trip to the great Midwest.

Pancake Pantry – Nashville, TN

One of our most favorite meals. And not just because we drove around in circles in Nashville for 40 minutes and it was way past lunch time. Scary Baby talked about her silver dollar pancakes for days. Said they “might” be better than the Humpfreeze pancakes which means they have to be fabulous.

Adding pecans to pancakes wherever you go is highly recommended. You might not be able to see it with our stellar photography skills but Pancake Pantry puts pecans in the syrup!

I had to send my eggs back – over medium eggs seem to be difficult to get right depending on where you eat. I love them and that means a runny yolk with a solid white. I can’t do jiggly, runny whites. Eww. In spite of that mistake which was corrected, the food is really delish.

Gigi’s Cupcakes – Nashville, TN

Love their packaging.

They looked great in the bakery case. Though they didn’t travel well in the backseat.

White Midnight Magic and Raspberry Buckle were our picks. Scary Baby only ate half of hers. Claims it would have been better the day of purchase. Unfortunately we ate them the next morning in our hotel room. Cupcakes for breakfast are absolutely acceptable on road trips!

Garrett’s Popcorn – Chicago, IL

Scary Baby’s personal food highlight. No line, right downtown on a 100 degree day. Warm popcorn. She picked cheese and I picked caramel with cashews. How did we forget to take pictures of the popcorn?

We walked 2 more blocks to a 7-Eleven where Scary Baby had her first Slurpee®. I have to confess the banana piña colada Slurpee I felt compelled to order because I really the combo sounded great was disgusting. OMG – I didn’t realize it was made with banana soda so it was fizzy. Gross. Thankfully, I bought a back-up Coke.

Harry Caray’s Tavern at Navy Pier – Chicago, IL

Fun to walk through Navy Pier at night when it had cooled down to a breezy 90 degrees. Bonus fun was taking Scary Baby on her first taxi ride from our hotel downtown. Harry Caray’s Tavern was very marginal. I would have been happier with a Chicago hot dog. I forgot until after we got home that I really wanted to go to Superdawg but alas, we were on the wrong side of town.

Perkins Restaurant & Bakery – Janesville, WI

BONUS LESSON: Scary Baby now knows where the newly announced Republican Vice Presidential candidate is from.

Yes, it’s a chain but not in Georgia. They have perfected breakfast and I know because I had it twice. Egg perfection on both visits but different locations! Brioche french toast anyone?

And they have pie.

Scary Baby is still talking about the chicken noodle soup and the pie.

Johnny Pamcakes – Rockford, IL

A brief history lesson for Scary Baby meant I had to introduce her to swedish pancakes. It’s a Rockford specialty that I love. My “Swedish Connection” breakfast was delicious. Are you getting the idea that I really love breakfast for lunch? 🙂

Winner of Best Breakfast Meal on Entire Trip.

In addition to delicious food cooked exactly the way we ordered it, this family-owned restaurant did everything right. From the hostess to the waitress and the chef and kitchen staff, it was a well-oiled machine where everyone was friendly and they all helped each other on a very busy Sunday afternoon.

Even if Scary Baby was less than impressed with the pancakes and said “they’re like crepes and I really don’t like those that much either.” She order a bagel with cream cheese and one swedish pancake. She can’t be related to me.

Culver’s – multiple locations in several states.

Maybe, just maybe we had Culver’s custard more than once three times. But who counts when you’re on vacation and it’s one of the hottest summers of our lifetime.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe – Louisville, KY

A personal recommendation from my friend Laura inspired us to visit this fun and funny restaurant. We have rarely driven through Louisville at meal time in all our years of traveling to visit family so this was a treat on our last day on our way home. My breakfast was good not great – I had to send the eggs back. Yes, it would be easier to order scrambled as PhilBillPaul has kindly pointed out several times. But I really like over medium eggs and think restaurants should know how to cook them correctly.

The highlight was an order of Bourbon Ball French Toast made with cinnamon swirl bread, bourbon vanilla sauce, chocolate sauce, pecans, strawberries and bourbon whipped cream that was featured on Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay“.

Order tip: I asked if they did a 1/2 order because I knew after a full breakfast, I couldn’t eat a whole order. It wasn’t on the menu but the waitress said yes and brought the perfect-sized 1/2 order. YUM!

Scary Baby had scrumptious macaroni and cheese.

Click here for Lynn’s Paradise Cafe macaroni and cheese recipe on their website

I made it for dinner last night.

Pizza, Wisconsin cheese curds and a few other meals and we rolled ourselves home.

Later this week, I’ll show you what else we did on our trip and how much weight I gained as we ate our way through the Midwest.


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  1. 1
    Melinda F says:

    Sherra, you never cease to amaze me with your travels. I would never think of taking a road trip with a kid. With my husband, with a girlfriend but not with someone who can’t help with the driving! Scary Baby is a lucky girl to have you for a mom, lol!
    Love reading about your food and restaurant suggestions also. We have often thought of taking off in search of some of the restaurants we have seen featured on D,D,D and also Man vs. Food. Would love to try some of those bar-b-cue restaurants they feature as well. I’m a BIG fan of B-B-Q!
    My summer trip was a fly/ride up to Sturgis, SD. Beautiful scenery and I got have walleye (a fish) plus a whole lot of other good food. They do have Perkins up in SD (and in FL) but we don’t eat there cause my hubby isn’t a big fan of buffets. Always a lot of motorcycles in the parking lots so all the other bikes must be!
    Thanks for another entertaining column. I must say I much prefer reading about food over typos.

    • 1.1
      Sherra says:

      I did try to wrangle one of the big kids into driving with us. Unfortunately they all had to work and couldn’t take 8 days off. Whatever. One darling twin almost flew one-way to help me drive home. Mentally, I wasn’t sure I could make the drive back. It was looooong.

      Perkins is NOT a buffet. Regular sit down and order from a menu restaurant. Not a buffet fan either unless it’s somewhere fan-cee!

      I’m up for a BBQ road trip and visiting places featured on DDD, etc. Let’s go!

  2. 2
    Melodi says:

    You were here and didn’t call? I could have taken you to Sophias next to my office – awesome pecan pancakes and I always order my eggs over medium! 🙂 Next time!

  3. 3

    I am amazed by your first paragraph – 2000 miles! Now I know who to ask if I ever take a road trip with my own Scary Baby!!!

  4. 4
    Karen says:

    Whenever I travel with my daughter, the food is always one of the huge highlights. Last summer we spent a week camping on a beach in Maryland, and our best memories include grilled octopus, fresh caught mussels and lots of rum drinks (my baby is a grown up!).
    Sounds like a great adventure!

    • 4.1
      Sherra says:

      I hope we can all continue to make time for mother/daughter trips no matter what their age. Spending time with just one is always a treat. Here in Georgia, school starts in August so my 3 bigs started classes this week. Summer is never long enough…

      Thanks for stopping by!