Welcome to Part 2 of our highly recommended places to eat on Route 66. If you’ve already read Part 1 you’ll already know the required criteria for a business to be featured – if not then you can check it out here.
What this list represents is a selection of the most commonly recommended diners and restaurants from the website and Facebook page, and is by no means a definitive list – think of it as a “flavor” of what’s on offer!
1. The Joliet Route 66 Diner, Joliet, IL
The Joliet Route 66 Diner is a great retro diner featuring wall signs from the 50’s and 60’s, offering a traditional diner breakfast and lunch menu. Located within walking distance of the Joliet Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, the diner boasts a wide range of dishes including Mexican, crab, Florentine or country Benedicts for breakfast, omelets with corned beef hash, chorizo, feta, spinach or more, burgers, sandwiches and salads galore and breaded pork tenderloin or veal cutlet.
2. Launching Pad Drive-In, Wilmington, IL
Situated in the small town of Wilmington, the launching Pad Drive-In has been feeding Route 66 travelers since it first opened it’s doors in 1960. The colourful interior has had a recent makeover courtesy of new owners Tully and Holly and makes the diner an inviting stop between Chicago and Springfield. Recent posts on social media indicate a huge renovation after being empty for quite some time. On the south side of the diner is the Gemini Giant – a huge fibreglass astronaut and one of the 3 “brothers” of Route 66 in Illinois. Supporting the Launching Pad, one of the most iconic stops in the first leg of your east to west journey, is essential. Stop by, grab a bit to eat, and soak up the atmosphere – it’s out of this world!
3. The Ariston Café, Litchfield, IL
The Ariston Café was founded by Pete Adam, a Greek immigrant, in 1924 and has now been placed on the National Registry of Historic places. The Ariston Café is believed to be the oldest café on Route 66 and holds a spot in the Route 66 Hall of Fame. A family-run restaurant, the staff are friendly and genuinely interested in interacting with Route 66 travelers. The menu incorporates a world of influences, including Italian, Western Favorites, Southern Traditions, South of the Border, and Ocean Catches. In April 2015 the café was voted the No.1 Restaurant on Route 66 by users of Route66News.com.
4. Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ, Devils Elbow, MO
A popular biker bar with notably friendly clientele, the Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ was built in 1929 and has been serving Route 66 travelers ever since. Visitors will often highly rate the brisket and ribs, and even more telling is that locals eat here regularly. Smoking their own meat and serving up very reasonably priced barbecue dishes, the Elbow Inn has something of an unusual reputation for it’s ceiling decor! Big, small, lacy, plain or colorful, the ceiling is covered in bras signed by their former owners!
5. Mr D’z Route 66 Diner, Kingman, AZ
Mr D’z serves classic diner food in an attractive kitschy environment adorned with vintage Americana. Mr D’z is a great dining experience featuring beautiful plastic and chrome booths in electric pink and turquoise, images of 1950’s stars and cars, and music in-keeping with the sounds of the heyday of route 66 travel. In 2006 Mr D’z received an unexpected guest in the form of Oprah Winfrey who gave her hamburger and root beer a big thumbs up while filming “Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure”!
6. Waylan’s KuKu Burger, Miami, OK
Famous for its giant yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird emerging from the front wall, Waylan’s KuKu Burger is an authentic Route 66 hot spot. Located just off Route 66, this restaurant remains the only surviving location of an original fast food drive-in chain from the 1960s. Believe it or not, there used to be close to 200 KuKu’s in the US. It remains a highly praised restaurant for both the quality of food and the nostalgic decor inside, and you’ll meet plenty of other Route 66 roadtrippers here to swap stories. The KuKu is often cited as a top venue on Route 66 for burgers and other fast food.
7. Tally’s Good Food Café, Tulsa, OK
Open 7 days a week for breakfast (served all day), lunch, and dinner, Tally’s Good Food Café has become a fixture for locals and Route 66 travelers passing through Tulsa. Although not an original historic diner the interior of Tally’s embraces the classic fifties-era design and the exterior boasts some impressive neon. Famed for it’s expansive cinnamon rolls (the size of a dinner plate!) the diner has also been the recipient of a number of awards over the years including Tulsa’s Best Diner, Tulsa’s Best Breakfast and the admittedly niche Tulsa’s Best Cinnamon Rolls.
8. Rock Café, Stroud, OK
Opened in 1939 and named after the local sandstone used in it’s construction, the Rock Café in Stroud is a true historic stop on Route 66. In 2001 John Lasseter and a Pixar research team visited the Rock Café and upon meeting owner, Dawn Welch began developing the character of Sally Carrera for the hit movie Cars. The food is highly rated and the cafe has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor due to it’s great menu, service and decor. The interior was given a complete makeover following a devastating 2008 fire, and the cafe reopened in 2009 coinciding with the launch of the restaurants own cookbook.
9. Pops, Arcadia, OK
It may be more glossy than the usual Route 66 restaurant or soda bar but the 66-foot illuminated soda bottle out front (the worlds largest soda bottle) certainly gives the place that familiar touch of kitsch! The roadside soda bottle weighs 4 tons and although appears to be made from neon tubes, is actually lit by LEDs, providing a spectacular light show each night. Pops boasts a strong selection of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and home-style dinners including a mouth watering chicken quesadilla and beautifully prepared chicken fried steak.
10. Cafe Daily Fare, Flagstaff, AZ
With exceptionally high ratings on TripAdvisor the restaurant currently (March 2018) holds the number 1 spot of 265 restaurants in Flagstaff! All food is made with fresh ingredients and the portion sizes certainly don’t leave you wanting. The staff are very friendly and know their menu inside out. This is a must stop if you’re passing through Flagstaff with an empty stomach – not just for the food but the welcoming atmosphere. It’s a great place to chat with locals, meet fellow travelers and pick the brains of the friendly and welcoming staff.