Okay, in the last installment of Route 66 Chronicles we discussed lodging recommendations based upon our last adventure. Today we turn toward the gastronomical side of our adventure.
As noted previously, we kicked off the adventure with a late Sunday afternoon drive to Prescott, Arizona. After checking into the Hotel Vendome, we set out for the Firehouse Kitchen on Goodwin Street just off historic Whiskey Row and a few blocks from the hotel.
Old Firehouse Plaza in Prescott, Arizona.
We discovered this little gem on our last visit to Prescott. On this adventure I was looking for something on the lighter side. So, I selected the most delicious Firehouse chopped salad and a bottle of dark, thick beer.
In addition to delightful meals, the restaurant also offers a wide array of excellent deserts, and directly across the plaza is a gelato shop that also offers a few tasty treats.
We were mere hours from home and had yet to enter vacation mode. As a result, we decided to forgo desert and pretend that we would be able to avoid gastronomical temptations on this adventure.
Morning was a bit of a rushed affair as I had an interview on AM Scramble with Tonya Mock that required an appearance at the studio by 7:30. So, I curbed the appetite with a few of the freshly prepared treats in the hotel lobby.
As a result, by the time I finished the interview, drove a bit over one hundred miles into the Mogollon Rim country, and we explored the Gold King Mine in Jerome, with only a bit of trail mix to sustain us, hunger was setting in. So, with highway 87 entering Winslow a mere block to the west of the La Posada, the decision was made to see this as a fortuitous turn of events and indulge.
The food and atmosphere at the La Posada is always excellent. However, the prices have edged up a bit since the visit last October. Now breakfast and lunch has, in my humble opinion, slipped past the high end of reasonable and is nudging expensive.
Still, you have to treat yourself once and awhile. If not, whats the point of having an adventure, especially one on Route 66.
Our target destination for the end of the day was also where we planned on curbing the evening hunger pangs with a touch of supper – the historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico. The Rita Moreno plate (enchiladas) was, as always, just a touch better than average in quality. Then, as has become our custom, we basked in the ambiance of the lobby while sipping on a cold beer. What an idyllic way to end a day on the road.
However, for me it is breakfast at this beautiful old hotel that is difficult to resist as they have a little something special on the menu that I have yet to see in any other restaurant, atole and Navajo tea. For the uninitiated atole is a hearty blue corn hot cereal that is absolutely delicious with a touch of honey.
Our drive into Albuquerque was a leisurely one with many, many stops for photos and a bit of exploration. Shortly before our arrival in the historic old pueblo on the Rio Grande our conversation turned toward lunch, or dinner depending on where you were raised.
On a whim we stepped out of character and decided to see if the Route 66 Casino to the west of the Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park had a buffet of interest. In part we were hoping to save Albuquerque exploration for the return trip.
Usually casino buffets are rather predictable, with food quality that is mere steps from fast food served amidst an atmosphere that presents a sense of dining in a sterile institutional setting with colorful wallpaper and carpet. The wall murals depicting Route 66 locations past and present was a bit of a change but I must confess this buffet was an exception to the rule. An expansive variety of international foods, better than average quality, and a price of $10.00 ensured we will add this to our list for the next trip. I should add that on the return trip, after a delightful evening at the Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park just up the road, we learned that breakfast is not available, only lunch and dinner.
Over lunch, or dinner, we made the decision to bypass Route 66 and shoot for Santa Fe, and the El Rey Inn, on I-25. Utilizing our Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation we decided to give the venerable Pantry restaurant next to the motel a try and we are quite glad we did.
Perfect, at least for simple folk such as us, is an understatement. The price, the quaint understated atmosphere that reminded us of the old City Cafe in Kingman and countless other little diners from our youth, the service, and of course the food, put this little gem near the top of our list for places to eat in Santa Fe.
Then, after a pleasant and restful evening, we set out to photograph the historic plaza at sunrise. Our tip of the day, if you want to photograph this area, or negotiate the twisted, narrow streets with a minimum of frustration, there is no time better than sunrise.
After an hour or so of walking the quiet streets, stuffing the parking meter and a bit of exploration in the sweet, cool morning air our appetites were adequately stimulated. So, we returned to the El Rey Inn, for a more than adequate complimentary continental breakfast that included fresh red chili salsa, warm tortillas, and a wide array of staples that we enjoyed on the patio surrounded by flowers and overhanging vines.With our sites set on Las Vegas we motored east with a wide array of stops in between – the historic Pigeon Ranch, Glorieta Pass, Pecos National Historic Park, the Pecos River at San Jose, and a great deal of exploration in the railroad district of the other Las Vegas. A variety of healthy snacks held hunger at bay during our explorations but by mid afternoon the appetite was no longer something I could ignore. Our original plan had been to have lunch at Estelle’s on Bridge Street but after decades of operation it had closed its doors since our last visit. Flexibility is key to the enjoyment of a road trip and so we decided to try the El Rialto across the street.Once again, the front door seemed as a portal into another time. This was a comfortable little cafe with good food and lively conversation that left little doubt this was a locals hangout and that Las Vegas was a small, friendly town where everyone knew each others families. As a bonus the food was very good and the price quite reasonable.Dinner, and breakfast, were enjoyed in the historic Plaza Hotel. This venerable old hotel again proved to be the bargain of the entire trip. An $89.00 room rate that included breakfast (up to five dollars) ordered from the menu in the on site restaurant. For food quality, service, and historic atmosphere, as well as price, the Plaza Hotel rates quite high on our lists of favorite destinations. As it is but a short detour from Route 66, I highly recommend this stop to every enthusiast motoring east or west on the double six. The homeward leg of the adventure included a drive down scenic highway 104 to Tucucmcari with a few dozen stops to gather photos, and to do a bit of exploration. Counted among the interesting discoveries was a beautiful old schoolhouse, a cottage type service station, and a uniquely designed but abandoned bridge. As there was a pack of growling, mangy dogs at the north end I chose to photograph the bridge from a distance.Lunch at Kicks on 66 in Tucumcari was a triple bonus as it was good food shared with my dearest friend, and another good friend, Nancy Mueller, one half of the duo that is infusing the iconic Blue Swallow Motel with vibrancy and charm. Good food, good friends, and a front row to Route 66, a near perfect combo. After bidding adios to Nancy we set off for Santa Rosa, our next stop. Of course we couldn’t resist a few Route 66 related side trips as the lighting and clouds made it a near perfect time for photographing the haunting ruins along this segment of Route 66. After setting up camp for the evening at the Best Western in Santa Rosa we decided to round out the day by photographing Route 66 related sites against the backdrop of the incoming storm. Then we turned our attention to dinner at Joseph’s, which again was a real delight. I should note that the gift shop at Joseph’s has a selection of autographed books, while they last. Whenever I find my books at a gift shop, restaurant, or motel, it is a tradition to sign them and then promote the business by advertising the fact that they have autographed copies available.The focus for the next day, after a continental breakfast at the motel, was the exploration of Central Avenue in Albuquerque from east to west. To say we were quite fortunate on this adventure would be an understatement. The traffic was relatively light, we were able to find a parking space directly in front of the historic Kimo Theater, and when it came time for lunch around noon, were able to find a parking place at the rear of Kelly’s Brew Pub. Even though the menu had a wide array of tempting offerings, I cast aside budget constraints as well as distractions once my eyes locked on the bison burger with feta cheese and green chili.
Housed in a vintage Ford dealership, Kelly’s should rate high on the list of stops for anyone visiting Albuquerque. We plan on a return visit when we can enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of an evening there while sampling a couple of their craft beers.With reluctance, at about 5:00 we abandoned our explorations that included a visit to the museum hosting the Titanic exhibit, and set out for Bookworks on Rio Grande Boulevard NW for the book signing and, hopefully, supper at a nearby restaurant. Quite fortuitously, as we were unfamiliar with the neighborhood, directly next door to the book store was a Flying Star Cafe.To say the very least the menu was eclectic, healthy, and, for the most part, reasonable. Our evenings dinner (rosemary chicken with couscous and risotto, and a morning sundae consisting of vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit, walnuts, house made granola, and honey)was quite tasty. Our one complaint was that the asparagus was under cooked and tough, a relatively minor issue.The last day of our trip was a bit of a harried affair as there was a need to be back in Kingman by Saturday evening. So, for most of the 480 mile drive from Albuquerque we stuck to I-40 with but three exceptions – breakfast at Grants (1st Street cafe that is not on 1st Street), photographing the Querino Canyon Bridge, and a late lunch at Miz Zip’s in Flagstaff.I can suggest the 1st Street Cafe for decent food at reasonable prices. I can even sugest it for the service. If, however, your looking for something memorable or unique, this isn’t the place to find it.
Miz Zip’s is always a dependable stop for a hearty lunch or supper with traditional old fashioned road food, a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, and moderate prices. For us it was great way to close out another gastronomic safari on the old double six.