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The Best Things I Ate on a Road Trip Across America’s West

by Staff

Business Insider’s author enjoyed dishes like fry bread and chokecherry lemonade on a recent road trip.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

  • I embarked on a 3,000-mile road trip across six states in America’s West.
  • The food was a highlight of the entire journey.
  • I dined on fry bread, sipped on date shakes, and devoured a fast-food burrito.

Last October, I hopped in the front seat of a campervan and set out to explore America’s West.

I knew the trip would involve seeing incredible landscapes, visiting new national parks, and meeting friendly people.

I also hoped it would include some delicious eats.

Thankfully, my stomach was full throughout the journey, which took me through six states where I tried new-to-me local dishes and desserts like date shakes, Roberto’s Tacos, and chokecherry lemonade.

Here are the best things I tasted.

Hands down, the best thing I had were fry bread tacos at Tiwa Kitchen in Taos, New Mexico.

Dessert fry bread and a blue corn taco from Tiwa Kitchen.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

When I arrived in Taos, New Mexico, I was specifically looking for fry bread, a dish I tried once before in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Fry bread is native to the indigenous people of North America and is a piece of round dough that can be consumed with savory or sweet toppings.

I first tried it in Salt Lake City coated with cinnamon sugar and honey butter and I’ve been dreaming of the fried goodness ever since.

Since Taos is home to the Taos Pueblo, a tribe of Pueblo-speaking Native Americans, I hoped I would find a Pueblo version of fry bread.

When Tiwa Kitchen was the only place that popped up on Google Maps for fry bread in Taos, I headed straight there.

I pulled up to the drive-thru window and eyed a menu including a fry bread bison burger, Pueblo stew, and tacos.

Through the drive-thru radio, I asked the person working for their favorite vegetarian dishes and ended up ordering a Tiwa taco, which is fry bread piled with beans, green chili, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes; a blue corn taco, which was fry bread made from blue corn that had beans, red chili, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes; a dessert fry bread; and a chokecherry lemonade, which is made using chokecherries, which are small, bitter berries native to North America.

I pulled up to the window where I met Ben Sandoval, the owner and chef behind the restaurant.

Sandoval, who is a member of the Taos Pueblo, handed me a cookie while we waited for my food. He shared that the baked goods were cooked in a stone oven behind the restaurant and that chokecherries were foraged from the reservation. He dove into the history of the Taos Pueblo and shared that his recipes are native to his tribe.

After a few minutes, my order came out, which was easily enough food for two people.

I was thrilled I over-ordered. Each bite was delicious. The red chili had a smokey, warm heat. The fry bread was just as tasty as I remembered, and the lemonade had a tart flavor I was unaccustomed to.

Eating a meal that I knew was made with care and thought was a highlight of my two-week adventure.

In Palm Springs, California, I picked up a date shake.

The author’s date shake from Windmill Market.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

While I’ve had everything from M&Ms to strawberries in a milkshake, I’ve never thought about adding dried dates to the dessert until I arrived in Palm Springs, California.

According to Forbes, a date shake is one of the “most beloved signature treats” in the region.

The area’s warm environment is ideal for growing dates, according to Forbes. You’ll find the stone fruit wrapped in bacon or added to a cake.

And in Palm Springs, you’ll find dried dates blended along with vanilla ice cream, milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. The result is the beloved date shake.

While there’s a debate over who makes the best date shake in Palm Springs, I picked a place out of convenience. Windmill Market happened to be on my road-trip route, plus it had great reviews.

The shop was simple. Aisles of the store were lined with chips, cans, condiments, coffee, and, of course, dried dates. At the counter, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, salads, and shakes were also available.

I ordered a large date shake and a few minutes later, I was handed a styrofoam cup filled to the brim with blended vanilla ice cream, milk, and pieces of dried date.

The shake was teeth-achingly sweet. The dates added a caramel-like flavor, and the tiny bits of dates were an enjoyable texture.

I understood why the shakes are popular. While I couldn’t finish a large shake, I could envision myself craving the cold, sweet treat during California’s hottest days.

In Las Vegas, I tried the fast-food chain Roberto’s Tacos and enjoyed churros and a chile relleno burrito.

Side-by-side images of the exterior of the store and the author’s burrito.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

At this point in my life, Mexican fast-food options have largely been limited to Taco Bell and Chipotle.

So when I heard about another quick place to grab a burrito, I added it to my list to try.

According to the restaurant’s website, Roberto and Dolores Robledo started their tortilla factory in California in 1964. Shortly after, they opened a taco shop, which has since expanded to over 80 shops in Nevada, Texas, and California.

I found a store outside of Las Vegas and stopped by for a late-night bite. While it’s quick counter-service fast food, I was surprised the store felt more homey than any Taco Bell. Art decorated the walls, a fully stocked hot sauce bar was in the corner of the store, and restaurant workers warmly welcomed me inside.

After looking over the menu, I ordered a chile relleno burrito, churros, and chips and guac.

I had just enough time to grab some hot sauces and then my food was ready.

I happily ate the entire burrito. The flour tortilla was soft and stuffed with refried beans, rice, chiles, and cheese. What made the dish even better were the hot sauces, which added both freshness and heat.

But the best part of the meal was the churros. Freshly fried, they were crispy on the outside, a bit chewy on the inside, and far too easy to eat.

For future road trips through Nevada, California, or Texas, Roberto’s is sure to be a pit stop I’ll make.

I found some of my favorite Thai food in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Thai food from Ewa’s Thai Cuisine in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

After a long day of exploring Grand Canyon National Park, I was hungry.

I found myself near Ewa’s Thai Cuisine, where the thought of spicy noodles and warm soup left my mouth watering. So, I placed an order for Tom Kha soup and drunken noodles with tofu.

Drunken noodles, or Pad Kee Mao, is a dish with flat rice noodles, savory sauce, and vegetables. The meal had just the right amount of heat, the tofu was perfectly fried, and the basil leaves added flavor. It’s my favorite Thai dish, and Ewa’s might just be one of my new top places to get it.

The Tom Kha soup was also very good. The coconut milk contrasted with the lemongrass and ginger. For a cooler night out in Arizona, it was the perfect meal.

Finally, a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado, is never complete without a stop at Taco Party.

Two tacos from Taco Party in Grand Junction, California.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Two years ago, two friends and I stumbled into Tacoparty during a long drive to California.

I had never seen ingredients like sage honey or grapefruit aioli on a taco before, but the flavors worked. By the end of the meal, we all agreed they were some of our favorite tacos.

Ever since that trip, I have made Tacoparty a priority if I’m in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The restaurant serves tacos, pozole, trout, steak, cocktails, and ice cream. According to its website, Tacoparty’s dishes use local ingredients from Colorado’s Grand Valley.

On this trip, I ordered two tacos. One rockfish tempura and the other cauliflower.

This taco shop always nails its flavors. The warm, soft flour tortilla was the perfect vessel for the crispy fish. On top, fennel slaw added freshness, and it paired well with the crema.

But I’d argue the cauliflower taco is the star of the show. I opted for a flour tortilla, although it’s typically served on corn. The charred cauliflower is paired with a savory mole verde, and the sage honey adds a hint of sweetness.

While Tacoparty was one of my last stops on the road trip, it sure won’t be the last time I visit as it’s become a road-trip essential.

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