I had to do a double take when I first saw this topic. Leaving NYC on a long trip almost always means starting the trip on a toll road or former toll road. I still have to stop in them when on these roads, if only to use the rest rooms. I thought EVERYONE knew about these Oases. All these roads still have their Oases/Travel Plazas/Service Plazas, even if now free roads. They are certainly fun for kids, because it is a new experience for them. The rest areas of these toll roads get remodeled from time to time. If you look at the web sites of the Illinois and Ohio toll road authorities, you will see the impressive architecture of their new rest areas.
Yes, today’s service areas do remind you of the food court at a mall or the shops in an airline terminal. In addition to fast food joints, some do have table service restaurants on the Dennys/Friendly’s/Bob Evans/Bob’s Big Boy format. There are also other types of shops such as a newsstand, farm market, convenience store, etc. Then, there is always a gas station and possibly a service garage as well.
Nowadays, I find them boring. The food is about 25% more expensive than at off-toll road locations. I usually brown bag food in an ice chest or leave the road to eat. From a management viewpoint, this approach is probably the lesser of all evils. Since you are running a 24-hour operation, you have to have food that is consistent, well known, and hopefully will not give anyone food poisoning.