|DrVoyageur - Budget Travel Tips Home Page
Enjoy Delicious Budget Meals While Travelling
Know What to Eat and Where to Find It - Part II
Find the best restaurants and cafes in Canada and the U.S.
When travelling in Canada and the U.S., maximize your chances
of having the best food by seeking out the independent cafes
and restaurants favoured by the locals. Only if there is not time,
use some of the better chain places like the ones mentioned
For a great online guide to places locals love, check Roadfood.com. Click on its restaurant tab for reviews and visit the "where to eat" and "trip reports" sections of it reader forum.
In larger cities, utilize various Zagat Survey restaurant
guidebooks to avoid disappointment. These are excellent and inexpensive.
Navigating without a guide
On the other hand, no guide prepares
you for the huge variety of small towns and rural areas you might visit in Canada or the U.S.
When travelling by car, search out the small
towns off interstate and other major highways.
However, beware of places that have been bypassed by new highways. In fact, avoid any small town in decline, ones with vacant
stores and disrepair. These types of places seldom foster great dining.
In the type of small town you are looking for, you often find a town square surrounded by busy stores
catering to the local, not tourist, population. This is a prime
locale for an excellent place to eat. Ask people in the area to point the
way to the best choices.
At meal time, your selection should be
filled with local people. If not busy at peak meal time (such as 12:30 Noon), look for
a better place.
In general, it is much easier to discover
good and inexpensive restaurants in the southern and southwestern
U.S. and along the Pacific Coast.
Traditionally, these areas had access to
the largest variety of fresh food over the longest portion of the
year. In most other places, including in much of Canada, the best
budget food is usually ethnic food.
Prince Edward Island in Canada
is a notable exception, where even the most modest establishments
are likely to serve fine, freshly made food, including sometimes
fresh cooked veggies as a side to hamburgers! With its incredibly long growing season, the Vancouver area takes advantage of its easy access to fresh food much of the year.
Eating at the best chain
As mentioned, Dr. Voyageur likes to seek
out the best independent dining spots favoured by locals. However,
sometimes you just do not have time, and will pick a chain place
that you trust.
Sadly, in Dr. Voyageur's experience, Canada does not have national non fast food chains that compare to the best U.S. ones.
However, White Spot, a sit down restaurant chain in Alberta and British Columbia, makes a fine regional choice, in part because it uses a lot of fresh foods and in part because its contemporary menu features the types of items like chipotle mayo and Nobashi prawns that people enjoy today, as well as old favourites like turkey with all the trimmings prepared well.
For the most part, local small ethnic restaurants are the way to dine best in Canada on a budget. With traditionally high levels of immigration, ethnic choices are easy to find, even in small towns.
Some of the better U.S. chains, in various
the following. Of course, the focus is on inexpensive food
- Burger King: I mention this for one reason only. With its "BK Veggie," Burger King became the sole national burger chain that is truly vegetarian friendly. That means vegetarians now enjoy easy access to food they can eat throughout the U.S.
This smart marketing move also provided a excellent product for people watching their fat intake. The BK Veggie delivers just 5mg of cholesterol compared to the Triple Whopper with 205 mg!
In response to a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals request, Burger King rolled out its BK Veggie to every U.S. location, including the many it has at airports.
Probably in shock over this victory, PETA featured this sandwich on its home page for ages.
No positive news in yet from PETA's "Kentucky Fried Cruelty" and "McCruelty: I'm Hating It" campaigns.
- Culver's, a regional fast food chain mostly in the Midwest, but also with some units in Arizona and Colorado, absolutely trumps the national chains in quality. Look for these. Not very vegetarian friendly.
- Furr's Family Dining, "down home" in Texas and the Southwest:
Very similar offerings to Luby's (see below), very slightly less
expensive than Luby's.
All in all, Furr's is an excellent place to have a balanced
meal at a fair price, and most travellers will want to eat here
when they can for the variety. Dr. Voyageur loves Furr's pecan pie and its macaroni
Cafeterias Texas and other locations from Arizona
to Florida: Excellent made from scratch meals. Nice atmospheres.
Low prices. Easy to select balanced diet. Special price for reduced
size entries at many locations.
Be sure to visit these highly
recommended self-serve restaurants, which are not expensive. The locals expect good food and they get it.
- Old Country
Buffet, expanding from the Middle
West to everywhere: American food at its blandest—pepper shakers
provided at each table—although the food has become more flavorful in recent years. Lots and lots of variety. Often nice atmospheres. Very popular with senior
citizens, although most locations are patronized by all age groups.
At Old Country, one price includes all we care to eat, including
drinks and a variety of desserts. Its Internet site has menus.
High turnover and small portions cooked at one time tend to keep
However, quality varies somewhat amongst locations,
and like all buffets and cafeterias, the food is best and freshest
when the restaurant is busiest at peak mealtimes. All in all,
a good choice while travelling, if, of course, you do not overeat.
In Colorado, Old Country Buffets are called Country Buffets. In California and elsewhere in Southwest, Old Country goes by the name HomeTown Buffet.
Garden, everywhere: Often quite
good Italian-style meals—and even better lately.
Note the term Italian style, which implies modified to American
tastes. Nice atmospheres. Moderate prices.
One reader strongly
disagreed with this recommendation, and in fairness the quality
does vary considerably by location. Some chefs have been sent to Italy to
upgrade their training; others have not.
Steak Houses, expanding everywhere:
A so-called Australian-style moderate-cost, mostly steak restaurant.
Lipid city. Do not visit before your annual physical.
Does not count toward our balanced meal requirement,
but instead counts as five fast food meals. Fun atmosphere. Very
popular. Moderate cost. Not a vegetarian paradise to put it mildly.
John's Pizza: High quality fresh
ingredients. The best of the widespread chain pizzas. Mostly
takeout. Inexpensive to moderate cost.
- Wendy's, almost everywhere, although because of its late
start some locations may be less prominently located than those
of its competition:
Truly the best of the national hamburger
chains by far. Lots of alternatives, including baked potato entries
for lacto-vegetarians. Inexpensive.
- Whole Foods Markets, not restaurants, but a natural food supermarket chain
that usually has a cafe and carry out
counter for picnics and snacks. Many have juice bars. Huge selection. Highly recommended for staying healthy while travelling.
Go To >> Part
I, Experiencing the best foods
Back to Top