Travel on Interstate 95

To mark the 50th anniversary of America's interstate highway system, Matt Lee and Ted Lee set off on a culinary odyssey along its Eastern artery, I-95. From New York to Charleston, they sample some of the best road eats around

On the outskirts of Baltimore, a mere quarter-mile from the relentless whoosh and ba-dump of U.S. Interstate 95, is a serene corner table warmed by the glare of the sun off the Chesapeake Bay. Four hours into a journey from New York City to our hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, we'd ducked into Nick's Fish House for the best kind of road food: iced platters of Malpeques, bluepoints, and littlenecks.

Typically, we bomb down I-95 in 11 hours with two stops: one for lunch at Sally Bell's Kitchen in Richmond, Virginia, and a second for a barbecue dinner at Fuller's, in Lumberton, North Carolina. This time, we'd determined to stretch the journey into a few days, to hit our favorites but also to size up a few new spots we'd collected from more I-experienced friends.

We discovered years ago that the key to interstate bliss is finding a few sure things—local restaurants like Nick's and a well-run independent hotel or two—that are just as convenient (or nearly so) as the familiar chains but make you feel as if you have stepped into a real community. On any interstate marathon, the sense of forward motion is heightened when the foods and the inflections (the waitress at Nick's let slip a Baltimorean "hon" as she took our order) keep step with the changing landscape.

Stops like these are also restorative: careening tractor-trailers and traffic jams somehow seem tolerable when you've just inhaled one of the best crab cakes of your life—which is what we did at Nick's after the exquisite oysters and before the classic Baltimore pit-beef sandwich.

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