I’ll propose a thread for my specific area, which tends to be hard to investigate at times, because it involves peripheral portions of three States–Southeastern Illinois/East Chicago; Northwest Indiana; and Southwest Michigan. It’s actually hard to find a map that covers just this area, but people traveling cross-country go through here in droves. The State-centric approaches favored by maps and websites work against understanding this area as a unit, which it really is.
An example: someone driving westward under Chicago and on the way to Detroit might do well to know that there is an outstanding Naples-style pizza place near the shores of Lake Michigan called Stop 50, in a little Summer-vacation town called Michigan City. You’d stand little chance of finding that place if you looked for Illinois, Indiana or Michigan pizza on Google. I’ve had pizza everywhere including in Italy: this place has got game. Wood-fired oven, all that.
Likewise where I live, in South Bend, IN, there are plenty of chains, Whole Foods, all that. But there are also some really excellent independent pizza joints and genuine Mexican places, off the beaten path. There is a place right off the 83-Mile I-90/I-80 exit called Giannetto’s that makes Chicago Style deep dish as well as any in Chicago (and I’ve had all those Chicago ones); likewise another place in South Bend proper called Toscana’s that makes perfect Chicago-style thin-crust. There are dirt-cheap and awesome Mexican places, many. (Not always located where you want to be at night alone, though.)
And then Calumet Fisheries in East Chicago: really a quintessential Chowhound-style original: smoked-fish, old-school.
I’ve long found that Yelp is a source for reviews of places in smaller communities that I might go to, but the quality of the reviewers can sometimes leave much to be desired.
I think there’d might be some use for a thread treating an area that many live in and that probably millions more drive through every year. This is a crossroads area, and maybe we can gather spots to know.
I would propose that all the places between Chicago, the South Bend area, the Kalamazoo area to Lake Michigan, the Fort Wayne area, and Ann Arbor/Detroit would be relevant. Maybe Toledo, too. People do road trips through these spaces all the time, so freeways like I-94, I-80, and I-90 define that crowd.