Highly Recommended Places to Eat on Route 66 - Part 1

Updated June 25, 2022

The Route 66 experience is packed with many great diners and restaurants so when it comes to places to eat on route 66 you'll be spoilt for choice. Road trips can be pretty exhausting at times so rest assured that after a stop at any of the diners/restaurants in this list you'll be re-energised and ready to hit the road again!

What makes a diner/restaurant “highly recommended”?

  • Well firstly, each business had to have been recommended by one of our website’s users. There have been many recommendations made to this website over the years by a large number of very happy travelers. If your favourite is not listed and you’d like to submit one of your own you can do so here.
  • Secondly, the business needed to have a sustained, and widely held, positive reputation among the Route 66 community. Each motel listed is part of an established Route 66 experience.

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! That's why this post is Part 1 in a series – so expect a second installment very soon!

1. Lou Mitchell's, Chicago, IL

Lou Mitchell's, Chicago, Illinois

Lou Mitchell’s restaurant has earned it’s nickname “the first stop on the Mother Road” due it’s huge popularity with Route 66 roadies. Many folks stop at Lou Mitchell’s for a good breakfast and a caffeine injection prior to heading off on their Route 66 adventure. The restaurant is known for it’s quality food and generous portions making it popular with locals and tourists alike. In 1958 the restaurant added a new service that embodied their sense of fun – free donut holes for all and boxes of milk duds for the ladies and children!

2. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, Willowbrook, IL

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, Willowbrook

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Illinois, started life as a simple sandwich counter in a gas station on Route 66. In 1946, following the purchase of the building next door, it was up-scaled to it’s current form and has been boasting excellent food and service to Route 66 travelers ever since. It’s world-famous slow-cooked chicken has earned the restaurant quite a following, and many would consider it a must-stop on Route 66. The bar area of the restaurant is known as The Blue Rooster Lounge and is open every day except Monday and features live music and events on weekends.

3. Cozy Dog Drive-In, Springfield, IL

Cozy Dog Drive-In, Springfield

The Cozy Dog Drive-In is the home of the one and only “Cozy Dog.” The Cozy Dog is a delicious hot dog on a stick that is found nation-wide at many county and state fairs and is a speciality of this Drive-In. The restaurant features Route 66 memorabilia and it also features a gift shop with Route 66 merchandise. Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire (1945 – 2009) was the son of Cozy Dog owners Ed and Virginia. He traveled along the route, getting ideas for designs for postcards and maps, and was a much loved and respected icon of Route 66 himself.

4. Pappy’s Smokehouse, St Louis, MO

Pappy's Smokehouse, St Louis

Pappy’s Smokehouse is a very well respected BBQ restaurant in St Louis and has been voted the number one restaurant in the city on Urbanspoon. Pappy’s pork ribs – cooked dry and slow over apple and cherry wood – have been making mouths water since 2008. It’s frequently voted the best barbecue restaurant in the state and boasts a delicious range of barbecue food including baby back ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burnt ends, turkey breast and sausage. It’s best to call ahead if you’re planning on going out late as Pappy’s closes when each day’s barbecue sells out.

5. Boomarang Diner, Chandler, OK

Boomarang Diner, Chandler

Well known for it’s great small-town atmosphere and friendly staff, the appeal of the Boomarang Diner covers all ages – great fast food will never go out of fashion. People not only talk about the best burger they have ever eaten but they speak of the genuine service and spotless restaurants. The decor is fun and charming and you are bound to notice something new every time you go. Wall displays feature images of Route 66, Marylin Monroe, The Beatles, Elvis Presley and many movie stars of the ’50s and ’60s.

6. Lucille’s Roadhouse, Weatherford, OK

Lucille's Roadhouse, Weatherford

Lucille’s Roadhouse is inspired by the original Lucille’s historic gas station not so far down the road near Hydro, Oklahoma, including the vintage gas pumps just outside the entrance. The Route 66 themed restaurant is designed in the style of a 1950’s diner complete with brightly colored motifs, colored lighting, glass bricks and polished chrome. Aside from the great food on offer it makes for a brilliantly colorful photo opportunity. The food itself is as authentically “diner” as it gets – hamburgers, mashed potatoes, french fries, pork chops and steak!

7. Tumbleweeds Grill, Texola, OK

Tumbleweeds Grill, Texola

The Tumbleweeds Grill is located in Texola, Oklahoma, in the world famous Water Hole #2 building. The owners have completely renovated the original structure into the oldest building on Route 66 operating as a restaurant. Tumbleweeds is open seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7am to 7pm. The restaurant is very clean and serves excellent home-cooked food including all-day breakfasts. A real selling point for the Tumbleweeds Grill is Masel, the owner – a woman who is ever-welcoming and enjoys interacting with her customers with real enthusiasm.

8. The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo, TX

The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo

Where else can you get a free 72oz steak? There is, of course, a catch: it’s only free if you can eat it within an hour! Don’t forget to finish the shrimp Cocktail, baked potato, salad, and bread roll too – that’s all part of the deal! This pretty much sums up the entire attitude of the Ranch – big, extravagant and over the top! There are games and exhibits while you wait for your table, live music while you eat, and of course the occasional announcement that someone with eyes bigger than their belly is going to attempt the 72oz challenge! It’s a great family-friendly venue, and a top night out for all.

9. Jeff's Place at Goldie's Route 66 Diner, Williams, AZ

Jeff's Place at Goldie's Route 66 Diner, Williams, Arizona

Originally a Denny's in the early 1960's, Jeff's Place at Goldie's Route 66 Diner serves up a nostalgic menu including hand-formed burgers, home-cut fries, delicious shakes and tasty malts. The atmosphere and service here is frequently singled out by customers as being worthy of praise and the decor is delightful both inside and out - Jeff's Place has all the looks of a traditional 1950s diner.

10. MidPoint Cafe, Adrian, TX

MidPoint Cafe, Adrian

If you have made it to the MidPoint Cafe in Adrian then congratulations – you have made it exactly half-way along Route 66! The MidPoint Cafe is located at the exact “geo-mathematical” centre of Route 66 – 1139 miles from both Chicago and Los Angeles. I found the cafe to be very welcoming and the food was great. They’ve made a name for themselves with their home-made pies and terrific gift shop. Every Route 66 traveller should stop here and celebrate their road trip progress.

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