The Best Route 66 Diners, Drive-Ins, And Dives
The Main Street of America is packed with restaurants, soda fountains, and diners. Route 66 stretches across 8 states and is more than 2,000 miles long. With all that space, it makes sense that a variety of restaurants have made a home for themselves along this historic highway. Some Route 66 diners, drive-ins, and dives have been there since the road was built, while others are much newer to the scene.
No matter what kind of food you’re looking for, you’ll find it somewhere along the Mother Road. There is a huge selection, from the quaintest mom and pop stores to massive chain restaurants. Even if you drove this route for a lifetime, there’s no way you could hit every stop or taste every menu item.
So which places should you prioritize on your next trip down Route 66? Well there are a few famous stops you won’t want to miss, each with their own history, unique menu, and special gimmick. Don’t discount the hidden gems and smaller restaurants though! Keep your eyes open from Illinois to California and you might be able to find a few personal favorites that are off the beaten track. Roadtripping foodies will have no shortage of choices!
But if you’re looking for some good reliable food to power your next road trip, check out the following list of Route 66 diners, drive-ins, and dives (arranged by state).
Historic Route 66 diners, drive-ins, and dives
Lou Mitchell’s Bakery and Restaurant – Chicago, Illinois
If you’re looking for a great breakfast spot, don’t overlook Lou Mitchell’s Bakery and Restaurant. It’s the perfect spot to start or end your trip, since it’s located at the far northeast point of Route 66.
This restaurant was founded in 1923 and it’s been a popular destination for travelers ever since. They have a wonderful selection of breakfast foods (which are all served all day) and a great lunch menu as well. The bakery also produces fresh, warm, delicious food every day. Treat yourself to a sweet roll or coffee cake that was made in-house. Nothing beats it!
Everyone in your group is certain to find something that they enjoy. Lou Mitchell’s specialty is delicious comfort food that’s served in large portions. The locals love it almost as much as travelers.
The Berghoff – Chicago, Illinois
Route 66 has a rich history, and many of the restaurants near it have been around for decades. The Berghoff goes back even further though! Some could even claim that it’s the oldest restaurant along Route 66. Its roots go back to 1898 when Herman Berghoff moved from Germany to Indiana and opened a brewery. He originally sold beer and offered a sandwich to go with it. The tradition grew from there and bloomed into a restaurant that is still going strong over 100 years later.
Today the Berghoff is a popular stop for Illinois locals and Route 66 travelers alike. The building’s decoration retains a bit of their founder’s German heritage and is a cozy, warm, and welcoming place to grab a bite to eat. They operate their bar and restaurant separately, and offer German cuisine with an American twist. This is a great place to sit down, relax, and enjoy a nice meal before you get back on the road.
Maid Rite Sandwich Shop – Springfield, Illinois
Lots of restaurants along Route 66 claim to be pioneers in their various fields, but the Maid Rite Sandwich Shop has a pretty big claim to fame. They are the inventors of the first drive-through restaurant! The idea took off from there, but this little business will always have a claim to a major fast-food breakthrough.
This restaurant was opened up in 1921 in Springfield (the capital of Illinois). Several other shops have opened since then, and some of them are even operated by third generation family members of the original Maid Rite founders.
Their specialty is obviously sandwiches, but no classic Route 66 stop would be complete without some delicious fries and milkshakes as well. Like their name suggests, all of their food is made just “rite”!
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket – Willowbrook, Illinois
As you head into or out of the Chicago area, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is the place to grab some fantastic fried chicken. With their famous tagline of, “Getting Your Chicks on Since 1946″ you know immediately that this place has been around for awhile and has food that’s good enough to keep it popular!
This restaurant is a Route 66 favorite of many people and has been featured in all sorts of documentaries and travel guides. One notable patron of this restaurant is Guy Fieri, the master of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! This man has a famous love for chicken, so it speaks volumes that he’s a fan of Dell Rhea’s.
Their chicken is award-winning and the rest of their menu is full of delicious fried options. You can stop by for a big serving of chicken wings, mac and cheese, pot pie, chicken sandwiches, and anything else that falls under the comfort food category.
Big Texan Steak Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
This Texas destination is a meat-lover’s paradise. Big Texan Steak Ranch was opened in 1960 and has been going strong ever since. It’s easy to recognize with it’s yellow and blue color scheme and Old West saloon style.
A trademark of the Big Texan Steak ranch is their 72 oz. steak. This is just what it sounds like: 4 ½ lbs of juicy, delicious beef. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, this restaurant also offers a challenge: Try to eat the 72 oz. steak, plus a bread roll, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, and a salad in 1 hour or less. If you can do it, the whole meal is free! Otherwise you’d better pay $72 (one dollar for every ounce of steak!) This challenge isn’t for the faint of heart, and it has attracted lots of meat lovers over the years. The current record holder has eaten the meal in 20 minutes.
Even if you decide the challenge isn’t for you, the Big Texan Steak ranch is certainly worth a visit. They have great service, a delicious menu, and some of that classic Texan hospitality.
Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger – Miami, Oklahoma
No list of Route 66 diners would be complete without mentioning Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger. It’s located in Miami, Oklahoma, which is sometimes called the “Gateway.” It hosts the longest remaining main street of Route 66, as well as some timeless classics.
There are countless burger and shake stops along this road, but Ku Ku Burger has stood apart from the rest for years. Part of this is due to their iconic decoration of a yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird that complements their yellow and green color scheme.
This diner used to be part of a larger chain of restaurants in the 1960s, but now this location in Oklahoma is the last one standing. You can get the classic American dining experience here with their delicious burgers, fries, shakes, and other made-to-order foods.
El Comedor De Anayas Restaurant – Moriarty, New Mexico
Decorations and branding are other important staples of a Route 66 restaurant, and the El Comedor De Anayas has an iconic landmark that will help travelers spot it. Roto-spheres were popular in the past decades, but most of them have broken or have been replaced over the years.
One of the few remaining Roto-spheres stands proudly outside of this popular Mexican restaurant. This is a ball with neon spikes protruding out of it. It can light up at night and spin to attract attention and dazzle guests. It’s a true piece of Americana that has been lovingly preserved by the town of Moriarty, New Mexico.
The restaurant itself (now renamed to El Ray Comedor) has long been a popular spot for locals, travelers, and even politicians! The interior hosts lots of signed photographs of important people who sat down to negotiate policy over a delicious plate of food. The menu items have been a hit for years and it’s a good place to get tasty, fairly authentic Mexican food. If that’s one of your favorite types of cuisine, you should definitely plan to make a stop here!
Midpoint Cafe – Adrian, Texas
Just as the name suggests, this restaurant sits almost exactly at the halfway point between Illinois and California. Adrian, Texas is proud of its heritage as the halfway point on the Mother Road and they have a lot of pride in their town.
The Midpoint Cafe is a symbol of their history and love of great American food. It was founded in 1928, so it’s one of the oldest diners in the area. This is a great place to pick up some Route 66 souvenirs as well as a nice meal. You can get nicely sized portions for a good price, so it’s nice stop for large groups who may want to share food.
It has a classic menu with all the American favorites that Route 66 travelers will enjoy. You can get breakfast here, as well as a great burger and some fantastic BBQ sandwiches.
Miz Zip’s Cafe – Flagstaff, Arizona
Arizona is another popular stop along Route 66 and it has its fair share of noteworthy restaurants. Miz Zip’s Cafe has stood the test of time and is still one of the most famous and well-loved stops along the Main Street of America. This cafe was founded in the 1950s and it retains those same classic decorations and old-timey atmosphere that travelers love.
You can stop in at any time of the day for a satisfying meal. Miz Zip’s hosts a full breakfast menu, so it may be a great place to start off your day before hitting the road again. They also have lots of burgers, salads, and sandwiches, so everyone in your party should be able to find something they enjoy.
This is a true Route 66 classic, and the people of Flagstaff, Arizona are proud to have it as part of their town.
Goldies Route 66 Diner – Williams, Arizona
Another Arizona classic is the Goldies Route 66 Diner. It says it right in the name: this is a Mother Road classic! The town it’s based in (Williams, Arizona) is said to be the gateway to the Grand Canyon. So if you’re planning on stopping by this national landmark (and you definitely should), think about grabbing a bite to eat at this classic diner while you’re in town.
This diner is decorated in the classic 1950s style with booths and bar stools for customers to sit down. It’s a true blast from the past, but all the food is cooked fresh and delicious. They offer a breakfast menu, burgers, sandwiches, as well as cuts of beef and chicken.
Don’t overlook the Betty Boop special either: A Surf n’ Turf special with a 12 oz ribeye and breaded shrimp. Goldies is well known for their service and hospitality. They’ll make sure you have a good experience when you stop in for a bite to eat. With the generous portions served up here, no one will walk away hungry.
Oatman Hotel – Oatman, Arizona
There are plenty of places to grab a meal or stay for the night, but the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona offers something a bit more… supernatural. This hotel was built in the early 1900s and has been renovated and renamed multiple times.
It has seen the town rise and fall in prosperity and is packed with history. This is still a popular spot for Route 66 travellers, but many have reported ghostly encounters over the years. Luckily the spirits of the Oatman hotel are content to flush a few toilets in empty rooms or flicker the lights. Nothing too sinister has come from this destination, but it continues to attract curious visitors.
You can also get some tasty food and drinks from this haunted hotel! It has a small, but popular bar that offers a variety of menu items that range from a light appetizer to a full meal.
If you’re looking for other things to do in the area, burro rides are another popular choice for many travelers. Be sure to put it on your list of possible activities.
Roadkill Cafe – Seligman, Arizona
This quirky restaurant has a very specific theme that’s evident in the name. Most of their menu items are named after the varmints that you could find roaming the area. Although luckily, you won’t actually have to eat a possum or toad when you sit down at one of their tables. The names are just for fun, so for example the “possum blossom” is just another name for chili fries.
When you’ve been traveling all day, anything sounds appetizing. Though this misnomer may be disappointing to more adventurous eaters, this restaurant is worth a stop if you’re going through Arizona.
You can recognize this building by its bright red exterior and collection of unique antiques and art pieces that decorate the space around it. It’s definitely a great stop for the meat lovers of your group, and you can still get some nice juicy steak, chicken, and buffalo wings.
Bluewater Grill – Newport Beach, California
As your journey ends (or begins) in sunny California, be sure to treat yourself to the experience of the Bluewater Grill. You can purchase something from their menu of fresh, delicious seafood, or you can even take the experience one step further! The Bluewater Grill offers a, “You catch it, we’ll cook it” policy. If you coordinate with the managers before you arrive, they will gladly prepare and serve your freshly caught fish. It’s fun to take part in the process and the fishing and dining can be a great way to make memories at the beginning or end of a Route 66 trip.
This isn’t just a novelty stop though. The Bluewater Grill has been ranked in the top 10 best restaurants in Newport Beach (which isn’t easy considering the competition!). So if you’re a fan of great food and service, don’t miss this seaside stop. The nearby Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort makes the perfect home base while you’re in the area!
Hidden gems and traveler favorites
Route 66 travelers have a special place in their heart for this long stretch of highway. Many people take annual trips down this road, and they have a deep love and appreciation for the significance of the Mother Road. Everyone has their own personal favorites and hidden gems to recommend as well!
There are thriving online communities where people can share their travel experiences, ask questions, make recommendations, and share their personal favorite restaurants. The list below comes from the wonderful people of the Route 66 Facebook group. They are an amazing community that truly represent the spirit of adventure and hospitality that Route 66 is known for. Check out some of their recommended Route 66 diners below, and you may just find your new favorite pit stop!
- Pine Country Restaurant, Williams, Arizona. Breakfast and brunch are the main courses. Wonderful desserts with an emphasis on pies!
- Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-in, Seligman, Arizona. An iconic, quirky eatery that serves burgers, malts, and shakes.
- Westside Lilo’s Cafe, Seligman, Arizona. German and American cuisine. Glowing reviews for potato salad, chicken fried steak, and gravy.
- Mr. D’z diner, Kingman, Arizona. Classic 50’s style diner. Fun decorations and great food to match.
- Golden Light Cafe and Cantina, Amarillo, Texas. Old-fashioned burgers are the specialty here, and everyone loves them!
- Cozy Dog, Springfield, Illinois. Hot dogs and corn dogs are top choices from this restaurant. The prices are cheap and the food is delicious!
- The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois. This cafe has been around since 1935 and serves American, Greek, and Italian cuisine. It has high quality food and great service.
- Jubelt’s Bakery, Litchfield, Illinois. Another Litchfield stop is Jubelt’s Bakery. Coffee, pastries, and other breakfast foods are served daily.
- The Crown Railroad Cafe, Flagstaff, Arizona. This cafe has the novelty of a miniature train set running through the dining room. They have a diverse menu as well and it’s a very kid-friendly spot.
- College Street Cafe, Springfield, Missouri. Classic homestyle cooking with an emphasis on burgers, fries, and shakes.
- Old Log Cabin in Pontiac, Illinois. Family-owned diner with fun decorations. Breakfast and brunch are favorites here.
- The Brown Mug, Winslow, Arizona. Authentic Mexican food. Their rice and beans, as well as tacos, are recommended.
- Chuckwagon, Mclean, Texas. Breakfast, brunch, and burgers are on the menu at Chuckwagon. They offer large portion sizes and Texas hospitality.
- Papa Tony’s Diner, San Bernardino, California. This diner is a cut above traditional fast food. There are good portion sizes and they offer American dining classics.
- The Dog House, Albuquerque, New Mexico. This restaurant is featured in the popular show, “Breaking Bad.” It has a delicious and straightforward menu that mainly focuses on hot dogs.
- Charlie Parkers, Springfield, Illinois. The breakfast menu is a fan favorite here. It has a retro style as well, so you get the true Route 66 feeling.
- Handle Bar and Grill, Amarillo, Texas. This bar and grill is located within a vintage gas station. It has a great atmosphere and is the perfect place to grab a drink.
- The Elm Street Eatery, Lebanon, Missouri. Breakfast and lunch are available all day here. The burgers come highly recommended as well.
All sorts of people travel up and down this iconic route, so there are Route 66 diners to suit everyone’s preferences. No list of Route 66 diners, drive-ins, and dives could be fully comprehensive because there are so many fantastic places to eat along the way. Hopefully this list will give you some ideas and potential destinations as you plan your stops. Let us know about some of your favorite Route 66 diners in the comments below!
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