Road Trip: The Fastest Route to the Best Breakfast Spots in the United States

When you’re on the big American road trip, breakfast is a more important fuel than a tank full of gas. Fill up on syrupy, berry-topped pancakes, eggs, or waffles and coffee, and you’ll be ready to hit the open road: alert, chirpy, and good to go until your next scheduled pitstop.

Thankfully, America’s restauranteurs know this well. You’re never far from somewhere to have breakfast when you’re out on the road – and, as our new project shows, many of these breakfasting establishments are very well regarded by hungry customers.

We’ve created the ultimate American breakfast roadmap to help you take in the best breakfast stops on your tour of the United States. To do so, first we found out the three biggest cities in each state and used TripAdvisor to identify the three most highly rated breakfast joints in each of these cities. Once we had our list of breakfast spots we ‘computed the optimum road trip,’ using a method devised by data scientist (and Where’s Waldo champion) Randal S. Olson. Aside from tracking Waldo with a doggedness usually reserved for US Marshalls on the trail of America’s most wanted, Olson is known for inventing a way to use Google Maps to create highly efficient, bespoke routes between a high number of landmarks (such as breakfast spots!).

This task is trickier than you’d think. A 50-stop trip has 3 x 1064 possible routes – far too many to evaluate manually before you’ve even had your breakfast. Olson cooked up a genetic algorithm to create his road map of major U.S. landmarks, and we used his recipe (with a few tweaks of our own) to find the fastest route between the best breakfast spots in the land.

Our route includes invigorating pacific northwest cuisine in Seattle, all-day breakfast enchiladas in San Antonio, and twelve types of eggs at the Eagles Nest in Brewer, ME. You’ll stop for corned pork hash at the Three Little Griddles and home-cooked sticky biscuits at Nashville’s iconic Loveless Café. Eat breakfast three times a day like the English do, and you can complete the whole tour in two months.

In total, the route includes 144 of the top-rated breakfast restaurants in the United States. Even if you don’t make it the whole way around, you can certainly carve up a portion of the map to try on a free weekend when your appetite is strong and the road is clear. This is the fastest route from breakfast spot to breakfast spot, so America’s road-trippers need never go hungry.

#breakfastRoadtrip{min-height: 900px;}@media (max-width: 991px){#breakfastRoadtrip{min-height: 800px;}}.sources{padding: 20px;border: 1px solid #DDDDDD;margin-bottom:20px;}.sources p {margin-bottom: 0;}

About our research

To create this map, we first drew up a list of the top breakfast spots. To do this, we researched the three largest cities in each state and used TripAdvisor to find the most highly rated breakfast restaurant within each city limit. Then we removed any duplicate restaurants, opting to take the second most highly rated restaurant in these situations.

Once we had our confirmed list of breakfast spots, we compiled a database of addresses and used Google Maps API to generate a map which featured all of the locations. Next we calculated the optimum road trip between all these location using a method devised by data scientist Randal S. Olson. Olson’s method is a technique that involves using a ‘genetic algorithm’ to determine the most efficient route. This involves the creation of a python script that uses the Google Maps API to calculate the distances and drive time for all the possible routes between up to 50 waypoints. We had to expand this script to be able to handle 150 waypoints, but, in essence, it is the same method. Once you have all the possible routes the difficult part is evaluating them for efficiency. As Olsen states “With 50 landmarks to put in order, we would have to exhaustively evaluate 3 x 1064 possible routes to find the shortest one. To provide some context: If you started computing this problem on your home computer right now, you’d find the optimal route in about 9.64 x 1052 years — long after the Sun has entered its red giant phase and devoured the Earth.” This is where the ‘genetic algorithm comes in. Instead of looking at every possible solution, the algorithm selects a handful of random solutions and continually refines and contrast these solutions until an optimum solution is reached.

Once we had this most efficient route our development team created a backend database to store it and a frontend interactive map built in leaflet.js to display it.

To see the sources behind our selection of restaurants visit