I'm not going to lie, it's a strange place. It's got a funny name, no website or Facebook page that I can find, and not a single mention on Yelp or Urbanspoon. Plus, the restrooms make up the vast majority of establishment. You actually have to go almost all the way around the back to purchase food.
There is a grouping of machines dispensing previously-made foodstuffs. Weird, I know. I looked it up on my phone, and it seems to be something that's fallen out of favor but used to be quite popular, especially in large cities. Apparently it's called an Automat.
This particular Automat had seen better days. Several selections were missing, and the coin slot was jammed and the machine would only take paper currency. However, for some reason it would only accept one bill per purchase, and since all I had was singles I couldn't buy anything that cost more than a dollar. This ruled out higher-end options like beef jerky, the intriguing "Double Salami", and the tantalizing-sounding hot fudge sundae toaster pastries.
While I internally debated my entree options, I figured I'd get my drink order out of the way. Since we were driving alcohol was out of the question, so I opted on this bright red, cherry-flavored health drink. It was pretty tasty, but I was a little taken aback by how sweet it was. I mean, I don't go around licking plants on mountain tops, but I can't imagine that it would taste like this, even if there were a lot of cherry trees around.
Since my main course options were so limited, I opted for the Salsitas, which apparently is Spanish for "salsa chips". I didn't bother taking a picture myself, since they were nice enough to provide a professional photograph on the front of the package. According to that package, there is real tomato and avocado involved in this, but I didn't find any in the bag. This could explain why the whole thing was so dry. Luckily they still had a decent amount of flavor. I would buy these again, but next time I'll make sure to have salsa on hand in case they forget to put it inside again.
For dessert, I chose the "fruit snacks". I was pretty stuffed from my Salsitas, so I held on to these for a while. Once again, they were nice enough to provide a professional picture on the packaging. Once I opened the package, though, I was horrified that they looked nothing like that picture.
I don't know if they were stale or what the problem was, but they looked nothing like fruit at all! Well, maybe a little bit in shape. But the colors were weird and flavors didn't taste much like fruit, either. I'm not saying they were bad, but they were mostly just chewy and sweet, more like a candy. I'm not much of a dessert guy though, so bear that in mind. You may want to split an order of these with a friend or a date to see if you like them, rather than ordering a bunch for yourself and deciding that you don't.
All in all it wasn't a horrible experience (though I wish I had the chance to try an Automat when they were at their peak), but I probably won't visit a Rest Area again. Yeah, apparently they're a pretty huge chain. Like there are several in almost every state it turns out, which surprises me considering how mediocre their food is. Then again, look how many Taco Bells there are.
Food: Everything tasted good, but it all seemed to be either really salty or really sweet. I didn't put too much time into looking, but I'm guessing there probably weren't a lot of vegan or gluten-free options.
Value: Nothing was more than $2, so no complaints here.
Service: They lost some big points with me on this score, between the coin slot being broken, several items completely missing, and no matter how much I yelled or how loudly I knocked on the front of the machines, nobody came out to assist me.
Atmosphere: Maybe it was just the fact that the Sun was setting, but I honestly found this place kind of creepy. Nobody was sitting around eating at all. In fact, most people just seemed to be there to use the bathrooms. I guess Rest Area might earn some points back with that, because most places won't let you make use of their facilities unless you're a paying customer. You would think they would at least make the switch to pay toilets, then perhaps they could afford to take better care of the place. All the people loitering around and staring at me while I was trying to register my complaint with the Automat made me feel a little uncomfortable as well.
Final Grade: D+