What to do during Pac-12 road trips

Sep 3 2011 - 3:52pm

SEATTLE -- With five straight national championships, the Southeastern Conference has pretty much put out of reach the debate on where the best football is played.

But we would contend the newly expanded Pac-12 bows to no one for its varied landscape, inspiring geography and recreational pursuits. Nor for its gustatory delights.

With the additions of Colorado and Utah, we figured it a logical time for a refresher on what you might find if you road-tripped around the conference. The recommendations are from media members around the league who vet this sort of thing.

Arizona

Eating/drinking:

For what some call the true taste of Tucson, try a Sonoran hot dog -- wrapped in bacon, topped with mayonnaise, mustard, beans, onions and salsa -- at El Guero Canelo. Mi Nidito in south Tucson hosted President Clinton in the late 1990s. Check out two campus-area hangouts: Dirtbag's (pitchers of shots for the brazen) and Frog & Firkin with outdoor seating.

Go/do:

Hike Sabino Canyon northeast of the city, or hike/bike/run at Saguaro National Park East, 17 miles from Tucson.

Arizona State

Eating/drinking:

For a chile relleno the size of a knuckleball catcher's mitt, try the Tee Pee in Phoenix. House of Tricks near campus offers an eclectic menu in a remodeled 1920s cottage. The Chuckbox flips outsized burgers in a rustic setting. Four Peaks Brewing Company pours handcrafted ales.

Go/do:

Papago Park, close to campus, houses the Phoenix Zoo and is a good hiking/running spot.

California

Eating/drinking:

Chez Panisse, with owner-chef Alice Waters, is an icon. For those of more modest tastes, Zachary's deep-dish pizza ranks at the top for some people. And for the lowbrow, there are three locations of top dog, earnest purveyor of dogs and wursts. Kingfish, with old-timey Cal sports photos on the walls, is a worthy bar stop, as is Henry's inside Hotel Durant.

Go/do:

Telegraph Avenue is sure to show you something you've never seen before.

Colorado

Eating/drinking:

The Sink, in business since 1923, is a burger-and-craft-beer institution. Pasta Jay's is worthwhile for Italian. Higher-end eateries include the venerated Flagstaff House above Boulder and The Kitchen. Try the sweet-potato chips and fish tacos at West End Tavern, which features rooftop seating with views of the nearby Flatirons. Walnut Brewery is also popular.

Go/Do:

There are always the Rockies, or, if time is tight, hit the Pearl Street Mall and its shops. Boulder Creek Bike Path is a favorite route that leads to kayaking and fishing.

Oregon

Eating/drinking:

Beppe & Gianni's Trattoria is a hot spot. For casual fare, try the Fifth Street Public Market. Rennie's is a popular campus tavern, as is McMenamins East 19th Street Cafe. McMenamins North Bank's outdoor seating, hard by the Willamette River, is big on game day.

Go/do:

Run Pre's Trail, a wood-chip route near campus named for the late, iconic Steve Prefontaine. Tokatee Golf Club, 47 miles east up the McKenzie River, is still a relatively unknown gem.

Oregon State

Eating/drinking:

President Obama sampled American Dream Pizza downtown. The hot place among OSU coaches and players is Local Boyz Hawaiian Cafe. For breakfast, don't miss Sam's Station. If you're brewpub-hunting, the choice is Block 15.

Go/do:

For hiking or running, head to McDonald Research Forest, an OSU-owned preserve with endless roads and trails a few miles north of Corvallis.

Stanford

Eating/drinking:

If you don't mind driving, try San Francisco's North Beach district and Tommaso's Italian, where Francis Ford Coppola is a regular. For pizza in Palo Alto (actually Mountain View), try Frankie, Johnny & Luigi Too. Prime rib is sublime at Sundance the Steakhouse, and Sancho's Taqueria dispenses Mexican takeout and terrific fish tacos. For reliving Andrew Luck's latest tour de force over a cold one, it's the Old Pro or Oasis Beer Garden.

Go/do:

The Stanford campus itself is beyond expansive. Imagine what that property would be worth on the market. Or run/hike the hills above campus.

UCLA

Eating/drinking:

If you're in Pasadena for a game, consider Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles or the Red Lion Tavern, a thoroughly German hangout. Closer to UCLA, opt for Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City or BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, and to top off the meal, Diddy Riese Cookies.

Go/do:

Griffith Observatory, northwest of downtown L.A., is a quiet oasis with great views.

USC

Eating/drinking:

El Cholo, the original one, serves a mean margarita near campus. Chichen Itza, in the Mercado La Paloma about a mile from campus, dishes authentic Yucatan food. The Pantry Cafe; downtown, owned by ex-L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, is legendary, especially for breakfast. The Pacific Dining Car is home to higher-end dining and the occasional celeb. Students and alumni frequent the 901 Bar & Grill and The Lab.

Go/do:

It's hard to go wrong at the beach at Santa Monica, or farther south, Hermosa or Manhattan Beach.

Utah

Eating/drinking:

Ruth's Diner, in Emigration Canyon, is an institution, but be prepared to wait. The Pie Pizzeria near campus is well-known, and Settebello is another choice pizza spot. For lunch, get to Caputo's Deli. Some rave about the Italian at Caffe Molise. Eggs in the City is a choice breakfast stop. Lumpy's is acclaimed as a longtime sports bar.

Go/do:

Drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta and Snowbird ski resorts.

Washington

Eating/drinking:

So many choices, so little space. Can't beat the view at Ray's Boathouse. Portage Bay Cafe; has excellent breakfasts. Agua Verde, overlooking Portage Bay, is funky. Shultzy's on the Ave ("Seattle's Wurst Restaurant") has its own charm. The Ram is uber-popular, and the Duchess is an institution.

Go/do:

Catch a charter boat to a game at Husky Stadium, one of two college venues accessible by water (Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is the other). Rent a kayak or canoe near UW. Or do the tourista thing and visit Pike Place Market or the Space Needle.

Washington State

Eating/drinking:

Swilly's is a classy downtown spot. In Moscow, 8 miles away, there's the upscale Red Door, Patty's Kitchen (Mexican) or The Breakfast Club. Ferdinand's, the WSU-run creamery on campus, is a must. At Rico's, which has been in Pullman forever, there's a considerable beer list, popcorn and frequently, live jazz.

Go/do:

Hike at Kamiak Butte or Steptoe Butte north of Pullman. Or try keeping them in the fairway at WSU's excellent Palouse Ridge golf course.

From Around the Web

  +