Road Food: The Mad Greek

road ahead

When you’re on a road trip, the day is punctuated by milestones–whether they be sights, destinations, or meals. I love road trips.

Being on the road is one of the few situations where I begin to relax and toss my “rules” out the window. There are no firm schedules, and we’re constantly hitting unknown territory. Oh yes, there may be a beginning and end point to the trip, but in between? Anything can happen, and we’re open to it.

So it goes with food as well. We’ve had bad road food, and terrific road food. Though we’ve mostly consumed predictable and consistent fast food from McD’s and Taco Bell, the longer the road trip, the more adventurous we become with our food choices. This is a consequence of longer road trips leading us into more remote locales, and the fact that we just become bored (and horrified) by eating McDonald’s meal after meal.

Food on the road, when it’s good, becomes the most memorable of meals. All of us have a story about a delicious meal eaten along a highway–I remember a guy I knew, he raved about “the best sandwiches ever” eaten along the I-5 somewhere as a child with his family. He couldn’t remember the place, alas, but that memory has been burned into his mind forever, and it still gave him an endorphin rush years later. And the great thing about road food surprises are that they truly are surprises.

We’ve been surprised by the perfect rice balls (onigiri) in Japan, by wonderful kim bap and other treats bought by the road in Korea, by prepackaged sandwiches at a gas station in France, and we’ve had plenty of nasty nondescript food at dozens of diners and cafes, all of which become a collective blur in our memory.

A Tuna, Ham, Tomato and Hardboiled Egg sandwich

Seriously–a “tuna, ham, tomato, and hardboiled egg sandwich”? Do you expect that to be good? It was good. The French can make most things taste delicious. The prepackaged sandwich you see above was more delicious than most sandwiches made to order. I’m not sure how they achieve that. Nevermind the fact that tuna, ham, tomato, and hardboiled egg is such a surprisingly tasty combo. (Seriously? Seriously.)

Also delicious are the gyros at The Mad Greek, housed in a delightful blue and white building that screams, “Greek food!” Literally AND figuratively. The billboards, which line the I-15 in California for miles leading up to and from The Mad Greek are almost as obvious as the Mad Greek Cafe itself, filled with neon signs welcoming you in over a dozen languages and blue booths. Yes–when you walk in, you’ll think the world has become duo-chromatic: blue and white.

Of course, you are going to order a gyro.


It is delicious, the best that road food has to offer. You can order it 24 hours a day–the place is open at all hours, and I’m sure a welcome treat in the middle of the night. It sure was a welcome treat for us, after eating horrific food throughout the California desert. And it was NOT a burger or a patty melt or any other all-too-common food found on the road.

Plus–it’s a gyro! Gyros are terrific and yummy! We didn’t try anything else (well, other than a strawberry shake)–but I gather the other food is great. The menu is large and ranges outside of Greek food (so if you’re traveling in a group and some of you want a burger, you can get a burger).

strawberry shake

It’s an oasis, delightfully kitschy, in the one road town of Baker along the I-15 in California, about 90 miles west of Vegas. While we were lunching, there was quite an eclectic crowd–teenage girls in shorts and flip flops (I don’t know why–it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit out), and couples and families of various sizes, ages, and ethnic backgrounds (all of them dressed appropriately for the weather). I quickly gathered this is a regular stop for many people making the drive to/from Vegas.

We’ve got a regular stop from now on too, if we should ever drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas again.

The Mad Greek

3 responses to “Road Food: The Mad Greek

  1. John Kerry made it a point to stop here during his Presidential campaign.

    I heart stopping for munchies at the Mad Greek on our to Sin City. I also adore the deep fried mushrooms from this place.

    We just have to avoid filling up for gas in Baker. Way too pricey!

  2. Deep fried mushrooms! We’ll try the other things if we ever drive by again. I wish every place on the road had food as tasty.

  3. the best

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