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Route 66 Lodging Attractions Driving The Road

Like the motels, most of the classic Route 66 restaurants are closed, empty, torn down, often replaced by other buildings. But there are a few which weathered the opening of the interstates, repositioned themselves, and are still in business. Some are in their original buildings, while others have suffered fires and tornadoes and rebuilt. Some of them are still run by the same families. Others have changed owners. They've become legends of the road, serving comfort foods the way they were served back in the 1950s. We've included the best of them here, in order from East to West. They're spaced too close for you to stop at every one on the way out, but with planning, you could stop at one set on the way West, then hit the others on the way East. Some are only lunch stops, and others are only worth a mid afternoon pie break. But most are full scale restaurants, serving three meals a day. They tend to specialize in 1950s comfort foods, but some, like La Posada, are cutting edge 21st Century.


Route 66 begins at Lakeshore Drive and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. And sure enough, there's Lou Mitchell's, at 565 Jackson Blvd., where it's been since 1923. Lou watched workmen hang the Route 66 signs in 1926. The place has been visited by singers, actors, athletes and businessmen, and is a frequent stop by those running for mayor, governor or president. Lou's is most famous for breakfast and "the midwest's finest coffee." That's fine with Route 66 drivers, who usually stay at the Congress Hotel, pack up, eat breakfast at Lou's, fill a thermos with coffee, and hit the road. They fix everything fresh right here, including hand squeezing the orange and grapefruit juice. The belgian waffles, pancakes and fluffy omelettes are legendary. The founder of Milk Duds was a daily customer and would drop off free boxes of the snacks. A tradition began of giving out free donut holes to the men and milk duds to women and children. Lou's is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is considered the finest breakfast restaurant in the Midwest.

The Super Dawg is one of the few restaurants we list which does not directly face Route 66. Coming into Chicago, you would turn left (north) on Cicero, cross under I-95, and turn left (West) on Devon. We list it, however, because it was a favorite among Route 66 drivers in the 1950s and 1960s and is one of the finest remaining examples in the nation of a classic 50s drive in. Maurie Berman and his wife Flaurie opened it in 1948 when he returned from WWII. Flaurie concocted a secret recipe to marinate the hot dogs in to set their restaurant apart from all the other hot dog stands in Chicago. Their grandchildren operate the Super Dawg today with the same recipe. They've added several other hot dog options, like the WhoopskiDawg, the SuperChic and the WhooperCheesieDawg. Their Fries, Malts and Shakes are also among the best in the Midwest. Carhops still deliver orders and the place is still alive with neon. This is, quite honestly, the greatest hot dog stand in America. It's also the last drive in restaurant still operating in the city limits of Chicago. If you drive to Chicago and stay at the Congress Hotel, the evening before you set out on Route 66 you really should stop at the Super Dawg. If you drive the road West to East and finish up in Chicago, it would be a fine treat just before you check in at the Congress. You can even buy Super Dawg postcards to send to your friends as a way of announcing your beginning or completion of the road trip.

Along Route 66 in Springfield, Illinois, is the famous Cozy Dog. Owner Ed Waldmire spent his time in WWII tinkering with a special recipe that would adhere to a hot dog while it was being french fried on a stick. When he came home he opened a stand across town and introduced The Corn Dog. It was such a success he introduced it to the Illinois State Fair in 1947. As the Corn Dog became a Midwest junk food craze, Ed moved across town to this location and the Cozy Dog has prospered ever since. Today the grandkids run it. The menu includes breakfast and a page of burgers, chili and the usual sides. But you don't come here for those. You come for the Cozy Dog, the original Corn Dog, still better here than anywhere else on Earth. Halfway between Chicago and Illinois, the Cozy Dog makes a convenient lunch stop. You can even buy t shirts, mugs, door magnets, hats and key fobs at the Cozy Dog Store. We've never liked corn dogs. We tried them at amuswement parks, state fairs and beaches and thought they were pretty tasteless. But here, at the Cozy Dog, we love them.

The Luna Cafe on Route 66 in Mitchell, Illinois, across the river from St. Louis, is a modest looking white frame building with a legendary past. Here since 1924, it once included a gambling parlor in the basement and a bevy of call girls upstairs. Inspect that sign carefully and you'll see a cherry in the glass. When it glowed bright red, the girls were on duty. The Luna was frequented by Al Capone, Elvis Presley, Clark Gable, Hank Williams Jr., Ike and Tina Turner and others as they drove back and forth on Route 66. The food was the best in Southern Illinois. Especially during Prohibition, the Luna parking lot overflowed down both sides of the highway for a mile. As the interstates bypassed Route 66, the gambling and girls faded and the Luna devolved into a quiet neighborhood bar and restaurant. Larry Wofford bought it in 2006 and is reviving it as a classic roadhouse. The neon sign was rewired and upgraded in 2011. Today, the bar is the biggest moneymaker, but the food is actually pretty good. However, we highly recommend you stop for dinner early, say around 5 or 6. Later in the evening as locals show up, it becomes crowded and noisy and service drops off.
Missouri Hick Barbeque is next to the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. This is not only the best Barbeque on Route 66, but is among the best two or three in all of Missouri. It's classic Dry Rub BBQ. The whole place is sort of a monument to Dennis Meiser, woodworker and BBQ artist who built the tables, chairs and staircase and perfected his own rub and 12 hour bbq process. They still do it all right here. You start with an Ozark Salad, consisting of locally grown mixed greens (not wilted lettuce trucked in from California), tomatoes, red & green onions, two kinds of cheese, bacon bits and your choice of nine dressings. Entrees are long smoked over Wild Cherry. There are Ribs, Pulled Pork, Pulled Chicken, Pork Loin, Smoked Chicken, Beef Brisket, Turkey and Bison Brisket. There are 18 Sides, all great. Our favorites are the German Potato Salad, Corn on the Cob, Baked Sweet Potato and Poppy Seed Cole Slaw. Cobblers are the desert stars, but the Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake is just as good.
The Bradbury Bishop Deli is on the main corner in Webb City, Mo., one block off Road 66. This 1948 establishment reeks of the 1950s, with Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean posters everywhere, 50s music playing softly in the background and an Eldorado back end mounted over the door. Primarily a lunch stop, the Deli is famous for its Milkshakes, Phosphates, Malts, Sodas, Sundaes, Banana Splits, and Cheeseburgers. They make them right in front of you the old fashioned way while you spin on a counter stool, or you can pick a booth or table as seen here at right. But they also offer 19 classic sandwiches and five very good salads. The Muffuletta, Manhattan, Club, Reuben, and BLT are outstanding. Save room for the Blackberry Cobbler, another signature item. Their fresh squeezed Lemonade, Limeade and Cherry Limeades are the best on Route 66. If you're coming through town early, they also do a great job with breakfast. There are five Omelettes plus Pancakes and French Toast. And there are nine combination breakfast platters featuring eggs with various side items (steak, sausage, pancakes, ham, corned beef hash, etc.) and named after 50s movie and record stars (John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Buddy Holly, etc.). One of the great wall murals on Route 66 is right across the street. The Deli got new owners in 2011 and appears well positioned for another several decades.

The Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma, is one of the most famous restaurants on Route 66. It was literallty built from rock fragments left over from when the road crews built the original Route 66 through here. Open since 1939, it still has its original stove ("Betsy") despite a major fire in 2011. The Pixar crew was so impressed with owner Dawn Welch they based the character Sally Carrera in the movie Cars on her. 70 years of Route 66 memorabilia cover the walls, so you can spend half an hour just wandering around looking at it all. But the real reason you stop is the food. The menu is an eclectic mix of Southern, Western and German. The Buffalo Burger, Jagerspaetzel and Grilled Chicken Salad are excellent. Fried Pickle fans insist these are among the best anywhere. All of the regular burgers and sides are very good. As was true back in 1950, the pace is a bit slow. They're not pulling something from a freezer and popping it into a microwave. They're actually making it and cooking it. So place your order and enjoy the wall displays. However, we suggest going early for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Between the locals, Route 66 roadies, and people driving up from Tulsa or down from Springfield, The Rock fills up, and that's when service really slows down.

Ollie's Station in Oklahoma City is a joyous mix of great food and a love of trains. Inside, 10 model trains are running everywhere while train artifacts decorate the walls, sit on the counters and hang from the ceilings. It's hard to tell which owner Joe Gilling loves more : Route 66, the Santa Fe Railroad or good food. The Fried Sweet Potatoes, Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Chicken and Peach Cobbler are probably their best items. The salad buffet is interesting with such items as Tabouli, but overall, we think ordering off the menu is better. We were not, however, very impressed with their coffee, and service is very hit or miss. Some of their waitresses are great and others are abysmal. If you have kids or adult train fans along, this is a MUST stop. But the trains, with their whistles, bells, and clickety clacking along the tracks and across the bridges, do create a certain noise level. This is not the place for a quiet meal and a lengthy conversation. Located on Route 66 in southwestern Oklahoma City. The restaurant predates all the trains. It was here when this was a small town, Redfork, well outside of the city. A restaurant was built on this site in 1894 but burned in 1920. This building was erected in 1936 with the paving of Route 66. Joe added the trains when he bought it 30 years ago.

One place you absolutely MUST stop is The Big Texan in Amarillo. Bob Lee opened it in 1960 on Route 66 in downtown Amarillo and the neon sign with the lanky cowboy has long been a Route 66 icon. However, when I-40 came through he built a new facility on the interstate. They carefully hoisted the neon sign by helicopter and flew it to its new location. The Big Texan is thus the only classic Route 66 business that is now actually ON I-40. Prices are reasonable and they serve excellent Sirloin, Prime Rib, T-Bone and Strip. If you can eat the 72 ounce (4.5 pound) steak within 60 minutes it's free. This is not quite as good (or expensive) as the best Texas steakhouses, but it's in the top 25. There are seven appetizers and 17 sides. Of the Appetizers, we recommend the Smoked Little Ribs and Howlers (freshly spiced Jalapenos, breaded and fried). Of the Sides, The Fried Okra, Cole Slaw, Mac & Cheese, Cowboy Beans and Potato Salad are particularly good. They serve great Ice Teas : Regular, Sweet, Raspberry and Peach. Lunches are also good, with hearty Soups and Buffalo, Chicken or Steak Quesadillas. The Ranch Breakfasts are great, with a unique Omelette Bar and fabulous Cowboy Coffee.

The Midpoint Cafe, Adrian Texas. So named because it sits at precisely the midpoint of Route 66, halfway between Chicago's Lakeshore Boulevard and the Santa Monica Pier. Founded as the Adrian Cafe in 1938, the Midpoint has changed hands six times and is now owned by Dennis and Donna Purschwitz. Previous owner Fran Hauser and the Midpoint were the inspiration for Flo and her V8 Cafe in the Pixar movie Cars. Adrian is a wide spot in the road with a population of 150 and the Midpoint parking lot is filled with license plates from seven states, so you know the food must be pretty good. This is not a dinner restaurant. It's only open from 8 til 4. But breakfast and lunch are very good. Their claim to fame is their pies. Under Fran and friend Joanne they were called Ugly Crust Pies. Dennis has changed the crust recipe so they're not ugly any more but they're still delicious and worth a mid afternoon stop. In addition to the pies and cinammon rolls, the grilled cheese sandwiches and traditional burgers are their best items. Service is cheerful and the whole place is squeaky clean, including the rest rooms. There's a neat gift shop and you can get your picture taken at the wide stripe across the road marking the official midpoint.

Del's Restaurant is on Route 66 in the heart of Tucumcari. This 1956 classic has a menu with 50s American plus Mexican and a few Native American entrees thrown in. Del's is the best family restaurant in town. It doesn't have as many Mexican offerings the two local Mexican restaurants do, but what it does have are as good or better. Del's Chicken Fried Steak is its signature entree, but we think their Smothered Chicken (char grilled with onions, mushrooms, peppers and Swiss cheese), Chile Lime Haddock, Chipotle Raspberry Chicken, and Hot Roast Beef Dinner are just as good. The Stuffed Sopopillas and Red Chile Pork Enchiladas are something you don't get back home. There are four Quesadillas. The Soup & Salad Bar is very good; whatever they prepare as their Soup of the Day is always excellent. They don't mention it in their ads, but their Green Chile Enchiladas might be their best entree. Service and ambience are fine. Also a good breakfast stop.
The Route 66 Diner in Albuquerque is about as 1950s as it gets. Waitresses in blue poodle skirts, bobby sox and saddle shoes. 50s music blaring from the jukebox. Black and white tile floors, lots of pink and turquoise and neon and a thousand pez dispensers arrayed above the counter. The restaurant was originally located in an old Phillips 66 gas station, but it burned in May 1995 and they rebuilt in the current art deco structure, reopening in February 1996. There's a Blue Plate Special on daily rotation : Spaghetti & Meatballs, Chicken Pot Pie, Taco Platter, Catfish, Hot Turkey Sandwich and Meat Loaf. And, of course, there are the milkshakes, made in front of you with real milk and ice cream, mixed in a stainless steel cup with a green Hamilton Beach blender, just like all the ice cream shops did back in the 50s and 60s. The Route 66 Diner offers the usual burgers, but the one you have to try is the Green Chile Cheeseburger. This is one of the beloved fod items in the state, and the Route 66 Diner makes one of the best. If you happen to be driving past early in the morning, stop for breakfast. Their Breakfast Burrito is legendary. It's a large tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, home fries and chopped green chiles topped with melted cheddar cheese and your choice of green or red chile.
Out in the middle of the desert in Milan, New Mexico is the Wow Diner. It's four blocks off the current Route 66, located where a previous alignment was, but has long been a favorite stop of truckers, desert rats, oil and gas workers, ranchers, locals, frequent I-40 travellers and Route 66 roadies. It's a beautiful rendition of the classic 1950s railcar diner. This one was brought in as a kit. It has an expanded floor plan and stainless steel exterior. The decor inside is all 1950s pop, and the food is definitely worth a stop. Booths are comfortable and there's a soda fountain. Current owners Bill Sorenson and Stephanie Matkovich are former steak house restauranteurs, so the kitchen here is way above the typical diner. The menu is a mix of Mexican, Native American, Cowboy, German and Eclectic Southwest. You can get Pastas, Seafood, Steaks, Salads, Pizza, Fajitas, Pork Carnitas and Enchiladas. Their Soup of the Day is always worth ordering. We particularly like their Fish Taco and the accompanying Chipotle Sauce is also good. Their Egg Rolls are good and the Bread Sticks are outstanding. The Chicken Enchilada With Green Chile Sauce is competitive with major Mexican restaurants across the Southwest. If you stop for Breakfast, we recommend the Breakfast Quesadilla With Chrizo Eggs & Cheese, Beans and Hash Browns for $6. You won't need lunch. If you're taking I-40 through this stretch, it's off Exit 79, but you could rejoin 66 here.

The Turquoise Room in Winslow, Arizona is the restaurant of the La Posada Hotel. Originally one of the Harvey Houses built by the Santa Fe Railroad and run by Fred Harvey, it was then and some say still is the finest hotel in Arizona. The Turquoise Room is either the finest restaurant on Route 66, or at least one of the top three. La Posada opened in 1920 and has served both the railroad and the highway ever since. Today, under Chef John Sharpe, it still serves many of the traditional Harvey House items, but has evolved to a Contemporary Southwest menu. The place is worth a stop just for the arched doorways, hand painted glass windows, glittering tin chandeliers and locally hewn furniture. But the food more than lives up to expectations. Many of their ingredients are grown right out back or locally, and others come in by train daily. The best appetizer in Arizona is their Giant Squash Blossom. They dip the flower in beer, corn meal and two types of cheese, spoon on homemade salsa, and finish with a dollop of sour cream. All meals come with the house specialty Corn & Black Bean Soup. The Elk and Quail are fabulous and, as you can imagine given their location in the heart of Cattle Country, their steaks are excellent. But the star of the show is the Native American Cassoulet, a rich, slow cooked casserole of Lamb, Duck and Elk Sausage. A close second is the Wild West Sampler, a casserole of Grilled Quail, Seared Elk Medallions, Venison, Buffalo, Boar and Scarlet Runner Beans, in a Prickly Pear Jalapeno Glaze, with Black Currant Sauce.

We just have to use a second frame and talk about the breakfasts at the Turquoise room. There's nothing on Route 66 to compare. If all you want is a traditional breakfast, they'll serve you The Silver Dollar, which includes two eggs, three pancakes with prickly pear syrup, green chile potatoes and either bacon, sausage or ham. But the house specialty is the Beef Machaca Chilaquiles --- shredded beef with tomatoes, peppers and onions scrambled into two eggs, smoky red chile tomato sauce and jalapeno jack cheese, topped with roast corn salsa and black beans. We will promise you that after this breakfast you will not need lunch. The final attraction is their Green Chile Eggs. They cover the dish with a pool of green chile and tomatillo sauce, layer on two eggs, then add melted jalapeno jack cheese, roast corn salsa, diced tomatoes and black beans. Oh, and as a final touch, they serve the best Coffee in Arizona. The trains, passenger and freight, still rumble past the large windows and add to the ambience. The two gift shops are outstanding. This may be the priciest restaurant you stop at along Route 66. But this is a MUST experience. Budget for it in advance. It will be one of the highlights of your trip.
Joe & Aggie's is the famous Mexican restaurant in Holbrook,Arizona, right on Route 66, down from the Wigwam Motel. Started by the Gallegos family in 1943, it is now run by the third generation, and featured in magazines, newspapers and TV shows. It's not purely Mexican. There's a page of American entrees on the menu, and some of them are really good, but they're not what people come for. They come for the Homemade Red and Green Chili, Egg Wrapped Chili Rellenos, Navajo Fry Bread Tacos, and the Dessert Apple Burrito (a flour tortilla with apple pie filling deep fried and topped with ice cream). Joe & Aggie's also serves a very good breakfast, so you can eat here before heading to Meteor Crater. Huevos Rancheros With Red or Green Chili is particularly good. Route 66 and Cars memorabilia decorate the place, including autographed drawings from John Lasseter and the Pixar crew. Check out the Route 66 map on the side of the building. Go early. Tour buses, motorcycle touring groups, vans and lots of locals stop here and it can get incredibly busy.

Romo's is the other Holbrook Mexican restaurant, right across Route 66 from Joe & Aggie's. It hasn't been in business as long ("only" since 1960), hasn't had the coverage, and is not as large a building. If you're here for two nights you can try both restaurants. If you're only here for one night, it's a tough choice. They're both popular with locals and Route 66 roadies. They both fix good Mexican food from scratch as you order it. And they're both still run by the families who started them. (The founder, E. M. Romos, was born and raised in Holbrook and was a WWII war hero. He came home and started the restaurant in the evenings while serving during the day as a Navajo County Constable. The grandchildren now run it.) Romo's specializes in Sonoran style Mexican, is considered by SW foodies as more authentic, and is definitely spicier than Joe & Aggie's. It has outstanding Green Chile Sauce, Chile Rellenos and Enchiladas. They serve a Sopopila dessert with each meal; it's a pastry with honey. Romo's offers a great selection of beers and beverages. If you go for dinner go early; It's a small restaurant and as the locals begin arriving from mid evening on it gets crowded and service slows.

Route 66 still runs right down the main street of Flagstaff. Sadly, none of the downtown restaurants facing 66 remain. The wonderful Adobe Grill, home of the world's greatest Chili Rellenos and Quesadillas, closed in 1990. But on the Eastern edge of town, at 2220 Route 66, Salsa Brava still reigns as the finest Mexican restaurant in Flagstaff. Featured on TV networks and in newspapers and magazines, Salsa Brava makes everything including Salsa in house, uses only cholesterol free canola oil, and never uses MSG or lard. They're famous for their Salsa Bar, which includes an extensive array of salsas ranging from mild to hot. The "hot" is not extremely hot, but for most Americans it's about right. The best flavors are Pineapple Habanero Salsa and Tomatillo Salsa, both from the medium category. Other signature items are the Navajo Fry Bread, Smoked Chicken and Carnita Tacos. They have more seafood entrees than any other Mexican restaurant on Route 66. The Sopapillas are an extremely popular item with most regulars. Portions here are huge, especially by California standards. Our only problem is the absence of Chili Rellenos. This must surely be the only Mexican restaurant in America with Chile Rellenos not on the menu. It's a shame, too, because we would like to taste their interpretation. Otherwise, the menu is very creative.

The Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, Arizona is in the center of town on westbound Route 66. If you're heading eastward, you'll need to turn left on 2nd Street and drive one block. It has long been popular because of its good comfort food at reasonable prices. The menu includes most traditional entrees. The food is not gourmet quality. The mashed potatoes and lettuce aren't fresh, and they don't know how to fix a steak. However, everything else is good, the Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie is excellent and their Pies are outstanding. If you're coming through Williams between meals, just stop for a piece of pie. They go a little heavy on the meringue or whipped cream, but there's more than enough pie hiding down there to satisfy the fussiest dessert fan. The Pine Country opened in 1951. It closed briefly in 1995 when the original family sold it, but was bought and reopened in 1997 with a gift shop added and has prospered ever since.
The Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona, no longer rents rooms. But the restaurant is still open, and is a MUST lunch stop. They're famous for their Buffalo Burger with Vinegar Based Cole Slaw and Burro Ears (homemade thick potato chips), washed down with Iced Sweet Tea; their Grilled Chicken and Tomato on a Sesame Seed Bun; and their Pulled Pork Sandwich With Carolina Vinegar Based Sauce. If you're a beer conneisseur, sidle up to the bar and ask Theresa for a Horseshoe Pale Ale, brewed locally by the Grand Canyon Distillery. The walls are decorated with over a thousand dollar bills signed and put there over the last century by most of the film stars and other celebrities you've ever heard of. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon night upstairs. Route 66 is the only street in Oatman, an old gold mining town. The prospectors' abandoned burrows and their descendants have been running loose on the streets ever since, which makes for interesting traffic jams and photo ops. The last eight miles of Route 66 coming from Kingman is officially classified as the hairiest paved road in North America. The Dust Bowl migrants often hired locals to drive their vehicles over it.
The Wagon Wheel, open since 1955, is just down the hill from the Rio Del Sol Motel on Route 66 in Needles, California. The Wagon Wheel is a favorite with truckers, railroad workers, R66 roadies, desert rats and boaters coming off the river. It's famous for impressive breakfasts, including pecan waffles, french toast, ham, eight kinds of omelets, pancakes, biscuits and various combinations involving eggs (steak & eggs, corned beef hash & eggs, turkey sausage & eggs, chicken fried steak & eggs, etc.). Our favorites are the Wagon Wheel Omelet, Chorizo & Eggs, Huevos Rancheros, Cowboy Burrito, and the four cast iron skillet arrays. The Santa Fe Skillet includes steak, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, chilies and three eggs. Dinners include Meat Loaf, Pork Chops, Chicken Fried Steak, Liver & Onions, and Charbroiled Chicken, but we think the Pot Roast (slow roasted for 7 hours) is the best.
The Wagon Wheel also offers four very good soups. They're famous for their Navy Bean & Ham Soup, but their Chili and Soup of the Day are also good. Every Friday they serve Clam Chowder, which is tasty, but we don't think it's as good as the first three. They offer seven burgers and 12 really good sandwiches. We think their Open Face Hot Meatloaf and Open Face Pot Roast Sandwiches are the best versions of these on Route 66. The regular Meat Loaf Sandwich, Pot Roast Melt (their famous pot roast with added grilled onions, jack cheese and horseradish), French Dip and Beef (roast beef, jack cheese, green chilies, tomatoes and grilled sourdough) are outstanding. Six salads and three sizes of sirloin are offered. The Wagon Wheel is not primarily a Mexican restaurant, but their versions of classic Mexican entrees are very good. These include the Grilled Super Taco, Enchiladas, Tostadas, Steak or Chicken Fajitas and a Super Burrito. In Route 66 tradition, they serve excellent fresh baked Pie. Temperatures in Needles hover between 100 and 120 degrees and you may not be in the mood for a a hearty hot meal. However, this is one of Route 66's great road houses.
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