Where to Grab Cheap Eats While Traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway

Where to Grab Cheap Eats While Traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway

Photo courtesy of Joe Haupt

By Kalena Thomhave

June 21, 2023

We’ve put together a list of 12 affordable spots that you and a foodie friend might want to visit while road tripping along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway in Western Pa.

The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway is a beautiful stretch of highway in Western Pennsylvania winding through the Laurel Highlands, which are part of the Allegheny Mountains. While most people travel this 68-mile stretch to paddle the Youghiogheny River, hike parts of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, visit Fallingwater, or simply gaze at the scenery, there are also several delicious places to eat along the route, which is just a short drive from Pittsburgh.

We’ve put together a list of 12 affordable spots that you and a foodie friend might want to visit while road tripping along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway. We cover places to grab a bite to eat between Farmington and Ligonier, a few of which are just short detours from the main highway. You’ll find this byway is a feast for the eyes and stomach. 

Fuel Coffee Works, Farmington 

Where to Grab Cheap Eats While Traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
Photo courtesy of Fuel Coffee Works’ Instagram page

A local coffee shop can reveal a lot about a place, especially if it’s a popular gathering spot for residents. Fuel Coffee Works is a fun and friendly spot with the usual coffee drinks as well as unique offerings, like seasonal drinks and specialty baked goods. Pick up a coffee to sip while you head out onto the road or grab a pastry to sneakily let yourself eat dessert for breakfast.

Bittersweet Café, Farmington 

One of your first stops on the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway is likely to be Fallingwater, the famous house atop a waterfall designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Your next stop should be Bittersweet Café, which continues the Fallingwater tradition of nature’s influence through its farm-to-table menu. Breakfast and lunch are served all day.

Paddler’s Pizza, Ohiopyle

The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway features some of the best outdoor activities in the East, if not the entire US. And there’s no better place to serve as your outpost than the small town of Ohiopyle, which features the Youghiogheny River and the promise of white water adventures. After a day on the river, a seemingly ordinary pizza place becomes practically indulgent. Paddler’s Pizza, located just across Main Street from Ohiopyle State Park, offers hand-tossed pizzas with the usual toppings and beer as cheap as $2.

Yough River Brews, Connellsville

Take a 15-minute detour from the byway to visit Yough River Brews, a rare brewery in largely rural Fayette County. While Yough River Brews doesn’t serve food, it does brew its own craft beer, like the Detour, a draft dedicated to the PennDOT bridge construction near the brewery.

Even if you’re not a beer drinker, Yough River Brews is worth a visit because they regularly host local food trucks. Grab whatever food is on offer (empanadas? barbecue?) and relax as you enjoy Yough River Brews’ regular live music.

Out of the Fire Café, Donegal

Out of the Fire Café is a gem of a restaurant in the Laurel Highlands, offering unspoiled views of the mountains. While prices are higher here than what you may typically find on a list of cheap eats, you can still enjoy a meal here without breaking the bank. After all, the restaurant is best known for its smoked salmon, and you can share a big smoked salmon platter with a friend. Unless you want to splurge, you might want to visit during lunch rather than dinner.

Big Mac Museum, North Huntingdon

This one is for McDonald’s fans. From Donegal, you can take a roughly 30-minute detour to North Huntingdon in order to visit the Big Mac Museum, an exhibition honoring the well-known burger. The Big Mac was created in nearby Uniontown in 1967, and that history is now preserved forever at the Big Mac Museum, which features a supersized statue of the popular burger. 

El Vaguero Mexicano, Ligonier

You might be surprised—and excited—to learn that a quality Mexican restaurant is in the middle of little Ligonier. El Vaguero Mexicano serves up traditional Mexican eats like tacos, tortas, flan, horchata, and baked goods in Ligonier’s quaint and historic downtown. Even if you live in the big city of Pittsburgh, El Vaguero Mexicano will serve you the kind of Mexican food that’s hard to find in Southwestern Pa.

O’Shea’s Candies, Ligonier

Where to Grab Cheap Eats While Traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
Photo courtesy of O’Shea’s Candies’ Facebook page

O’Shea’s Candies has been around for nearly 90 years—since 1934. This family-owned business makes and sells homemade chocolates, and there’s a shop right in charming downtown Ligonier. Order your favorite chocolate treats at the counter, whether that’s caramel turtles or chocolate covered cherries. If you’re traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway in the summer, you’ll probably want to eat all your chocolate right away so that it doesn’t melt. 

Summit Diner, Somerset

If it’s important to you to eat “road trip food” on your road trip, look no further than the Summit Diner in Somerset. While the diner is a 30-minute detour from Ligonier, it’s been around since 1960, serving classic diner food like Pittsburgh salads (a salad topped with french fries) as well as specialty items like the diner’s gob cake—for those of you on the Eastern side of the state, that’s a cake inspired by a “whoopie pie.” Plus, Seven Springs Mountain Resort is nearby, and even when it’s not ski season you can enjoy summer activities at the resort like an alpine slide.

Valley Dairy & Lincoln Highway Experience, Latrobe

The town of Latrobe is less than 20 minutes from Ligonier, and here you can grab some grub that’s rooted in history. First, you should know that Latrobe is the birthplace of the banana split, which was invented by a pharmacy owner in 1904. You can grab a banana split in Latrobe today at Valley Dairy, which serves the quintessential sundae made with a banana sliced in half; scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream; chocolate, pineapple, and strawberry toppings; whipped cream; chopped peanuts; and cherries!

Another Latrobe highlight is the Lincoln Highway Experience, a museum dedicated to the first US transcontinental highway, which you’ll travel from Ligonier to Latrobe. The “experience” includes museum admission and a slice of pie and coffee in a restored 1938 diner.

Sheetz, multiple locations

Where to Grab Cheap Eats While Traveling the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
Photo courtesy of Sheetz’s Instagram page

So maybe Sheetz isn’t the pinnacle of foodie fervor—or is it? A visit to Sheetz is certainly a must on any road trip where the gas station is within a 15-minute radius, and that includes a trip along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway. The made-to-order (MTO) stations at Sheetz offer up a bevy of deliciously greasy and fried food, all made exactly to your liking. We recommend the fried pickles or the tots, but it’s your MTO—go wild!

READ MORE: Meatless in Pennsylvania: Discover the 13 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants Across the State

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