I am quite sure that the majority of Route 66 enthusiasts would like to believe that every town along that old highway is just like Radiator Springs. However, the harsh reality is that even on this legendary highway it is the 21st century and the conglomerate as well as the franchise rule the roost.
This isn’t to say there are a number of mom and pop operations that are doing quite well along the double six. In fact, I would feel comfortable in stating that it is only on Route 66 where these little motels, cafes, and diners can compete, and do, successfully.
With that said, let me provide you with an update on what we found on the last trip. After all, eating is a key component if a road trip is to be fully enjoyed. This goes beyond good food. It is hard to enjoy yourself if you are sicker than a spoiled egg sucking dog.
My first recommendation is to obtain a copy of the Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide published by the National Route 66 Federation. I would also strongly suggest obtaining a copy of the EZ Guide by Jerry McClanahan. Both are available through the federation website.
Okay, on our most recent trip my dearest friend had dinner ready when I got home from work so it was just supper we had to concern ourselves with. As we hit Winslow around 4:30 we decided to splurge and hit the LaPosada.
The first problem was they did not begin seating until 5:00, which meant a delay but that wasn’t really an issue as we were only driving to Grants the first night. As always the food and service were excellent.
However, if you travel on a budget as we do, my suggestion would be dinner instead of supper. On our trip to Amarillo we stopped around noon and even though the prices were a bit steep, it better fit our budgeted daily expenditure.
My dearest friend isn’t a big breakfast person and instead goes for the brunch. As an old farm boy breakfast is a big thing for me.
So, if a continental breakfast is available I start the morning there. If not, I use the coffee pot in the room to heat water, make some instant oatmeal, have a muffin or two purchased the night before, some apple sauce, and then some coffee.
If we have an in room refrigerator, a trip to the supermarket is made after we register to stock up on some juice, muffins, yogurt, and maybe, a couple of beers. What we don’t eat or drink goes in the ice chest. If we don’t have a refrigerator we polish off the ice chest contents for a late snack before bed.
For fast food franchise stores we prefer Subway. At least we can pretend we are eating healthy and, dependant on cravings, we actually can.
As with any store or restaurant, not all are created equal in regards to cleanliness. There is a pretty good Subway store near Zuzax just east of Albuquerque on old Route 66. On the east bound leg that store served as our dinner stop.
To tide us over between meals we fill the car with all manner of trail mix and similar items, as well as a case of bottled water, and snack away the miles. We usually try to make the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian a stop but on both legs of this trip it was late on Sunday afternoon when we rolled by.
So we decided to try Amarillo for supper. As I was signing books at the Barnes & Noble it seemed a logical choice.
Well, we tried the restaurant across the street but walked out when our shoes stuck to the floor and we saw the trash cans were over flowing onto the floor. To save a bit of time we decided to suck it up and hit Denny’s at the Flying J on the east side of time, which would us allow us to gas up the car and ourselves with one stop.
If you find yourself in Amarillo and are hungry my suggestion for this place is quite simple. Don’t. The food was marginal in taste, the service one step above poor, and I gave up counting the flys and just pretended we were back on the farm.
The next day’s dinner was a real treat. We stopped by the gallery of acclaimed artist, and the author of the EZ Guide, Jerry McClanahan, and persuaded him to join us for a bite at the Rock Cafe in Stroud. As it turned out Dawn Welch, the owner, was in and so we had a wonderful time with great food, excellent conversation, and a chance to examine the new book by Jim Ross, Jerry McClanahan, and Shelle Graham.
For the rest of the trip we tried as many of the mom and pop places as possible but did give into a couple of Subway’s and a Chilli’s in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Some, such as the historic Maid Rite in Rolla, Missouri were adequate or a bit better than average offering fair value for the dollar.
A few, however, were truly exceptional by any standard and should not be overlooked on your next rip along the double six. These include the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois, Route 66 Family Restaurant in Dwight, Illinois, and Angela’s Cafe in Gallup, New Mexico.
Unfortunately, another one that belongs on this list, Zeno’s, is closing its doors as of the 22nd of this month. If you have the opportunity reward yourself with a meal here before this restaurant becomes another footnote to Route 66 history only remembered in sepia toned memories.