Supermarket shopping isn’t high on my list of favorite things to do. But if we’re planning a road trip, I’ll always check to see if there’s a Wegmans on the route. It’s difficult to explain my love for Wegmans, which burns more fervently because there isn’t one anywhere near us. The chain is based in upstate New York, with additional stores in NJ, PA, VA, and — soon — in MD and MA.
I’ve dragged the family to the locations in Bridgewater, NJ, Pittsford, NY, Scranton, PA, and Harrisburg, PA. At first, they wondered why I would veer off a trip itinerary to visit a supermarket. Little did they know that the itineraries were based around these stops! The most recent addition to our Wegmans passport was in Fredericksburg, VA. It’s the largest store in terms of square footage, and therefore, the world’s largest Wegmans!
If you’ve been to Wegmans, you know why I love it. There’s a huge selection and a high-quality store brand, pleasing décor, friendly staff, etc. What puts Wegmans over the top is the cold and hot food bars within the store, connected to a dedicated eat-in section. There are always hundreds of selections of prepared dishes, served from themed stations (e.g. Asian, vegetarian, salad) and counters (e.g. pizza, subs). Add these to the more traditional deli counter which also offers pre-packaged entrees and sides, and it’s a smorgasbord.
It’s a good thing I don’t live near a Wegmans. We would be poor and I would never cook again.
Wegmans takes priority on our road trip itineraries because it’s a great place for a family to eat while traveling. It’s inexpensive and casual. Everyone can get what they want, and there are always healthy options. (Meaning, I slip some carrots and grapes from the salad bar into the kids’ boxes when they’re not looking.) The dining section is well-decorated; many steps above a cafeteria. Even better, the stores we have visited have fun tables for kids, and even offer movie nights. In Pittsford, we had dinner on a Friday night. Shrek was playing in the front of the room, and the bar in the back was serving wine to the parents! Everyone was VERY happy.
Some stores like Pittsford also have a separate eatery called The Food Bar. You place an order at the counter for hamburgers, fish fry, etc. There’s also The Pub in two locations, Malvern and Collegeville, with full table service and menu, and no tipping allowed.
OTHER GREAT PLACES TO EAT ON THE ROAD
Preparing to write this post made me think about other affordable, non-restaurant alternatives for traveling families. So I put the question out to other family travel bloggers, “Where do you eat on the road instead of restaurants?” The answers mainly fell into three categories: farmer’s markets; specialty supermarkets; and food trucks/street food.
Courtesy of Wandering Educators
Mara at The Mother of All Trips plans ahead to stop at farmer’s markets. “Along the New York State Thruway and the PA Turnpike they even have them at some of the rest stops in the summer. I picked up fresh cherries and blueberry bread at one that we ate for breakfast the next morning.” A great tip — she finds local food sources at LocalHarvest.org.
Heather, the Texas Destination Guroo at Trekaroo.com, likes the Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach, CA for a tasty baked treat, ice cream, or fruits and veggies, and even a petting zoo. She also recommends the farmer’s market on Thursday nights in San Luis Obispo, CA. “It’s crowded, but there are five blocks of street vendors, farm stands, outside barbecue stands, and other restaurant vendors.”
As for specialty supermarkets, Whole Foods got a mention for its great deli selection. I can attest; I’ve spent my fair share in their prepared foods aisle. Lora at Cascadia Kids likes Trader Joe’s, mainly for picking up healthy treats to-go. “I’m pretty big on the protein-while-traveling, so we focus on the trail mixes, nutrition bars and hard cheeses.”
Keryn at Walkingon Travels loves the food trucks in Seattle, especially the city’s wealth of taco trucks. “El Camion is our favorite. It tends to park near Home Depot locations. My almost 2-year-old son can’t get enough of their carnitas (pork) burritos with black beans. I figure anything he will eat is worth the stop.” Even better, music blasts from the truck, so they can dance a little salsa!
Chicago's Chinatown, courtesy of Wandering Educators
Jessica at Wandering Educators loves ethnic grocery stores, particularly those within Asian communities, where she can pull together a meal of seaweed salad, sushi, dumplings, cold noodle salad, and grilled meat. She never forgets the treats. “We LOVE shrimp crisps, as well as those hello panda biscuits with chocolate inside, and Pocky! Don’t forget the bubble tea, calpis, or any of the amazing flavored beverages in the cooler.”
I appreciate all the input, ladies! So, where do YOU like to eat on the road?