There are few road trips more iconic than traveling Route 66. Unique attractions line the road, and unsuspecting tourists cannot help but stop to admire them.
However, you can work up quite an appetite. So why not plan your stops to enjoy some of the best diners along Route 66?
Today, we’re sharing nine of the best diners along Route 66 that we think are worth enjoying. So buckle up and get your taste buds ready. Your mouth is sure to be watering by the end of this article. Let’s dive in!
What Is Route 66?
U.S. Highway 66, better known as Route 66, stretches three-quarters of the way across the United States from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California.
The original highway began in 1926 as a combination of more minor roads to create “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. The route featured 2,400 miles of diverse landscapes and small-town America.
World War II ended in 1945, and the infrastructures around Route 66 began to take shape. As car ownership became more popular across the country, more Americans sought to experience the highway they’d heard so much about. Businesses were booming in many of the small towns along the route.
However, many didn’t expect President Eisenhower to develop a new and improved road system with higher speeds, limited access points, and multiple lanes a decade later. The interstate system, especially Interstate 40, was a fatal wound to Route 66.
In 1984 the final section of Route 66 was bypassed by I-40, and the government decommissioned the famous highway in 1985. The decommissioning of Route 66 devastated the many family-owned businesses and small-town communities along its route.
Why Is Route 66 So Famous?
The U.S. 66 Highway Association aggressively marketed the route as “the shortest, best and most scenic route” from where it begins in Chicago to where it ends in Los Angeles. The marketing campaign was highly successful as Americans sought to take their new vehicles on road trips across the country.
The route became a part of pop culture and has been mentioned in songs by artists like Chuck Berry, The Eagles, and Bruce Springsteen. The popular Disney movie Cars keeps Route 66’s spirit alive in a new generation as it tells the story of Radiator Springs, a fictional town along Route 66. Like many towns along the route, Radiator Springs experienced better days before the interstate bypassed their town.
Route 66 became famous for the priceless memories, attractions, and diners the route provided for families and travelers. The highway was an opportunity for endless adventures for all ages.
It allowed travelers to enjoy the open roads and experience landscapes, cultures, and freedoms they never knew existed. However, all good things must eventually come to an end.
Pro Tip: Make sure to check out these 10 Best Roadside Attractions Along Route 66 on your drive.
Can You Still Drive the Entire Route 66?
Sadly, you cannot drive the entire Route 66. However, roughly 85% of the highway is still driveable. You’ll want to be careful when navigating the highway. It’s not as smooth as it was in its heyday and is nowhere near as smooth as most of the interstate.
Some areas are beyond repair or no longer exist. Other portions of the highway show their age with bumps, pot-holes, and little to no shoulder space. Driving the route in many sections requires drivers to navigate highly carefully to avoid hazardous and potentially deadly situations.
9 Best Diners on Route 66
You better listen to your stomach if it starts grumbling. Trust us when we say you don’t want to miss out on some of the best diners on Route 66. Many of these diners serve an entire experience with their delicious meals. Let’s take a look!
1. The Donut Man
Location: 915 E Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740
About: The Donut Man served up deliciousness since 1972, when it opened its shop along Route 66 in Glendora, California. The store’s owners, Jim and Miyoko Nakano are prime examples of the American dream. The shop spun out of a franchise location for Foster’s Donuts in the 1980s. Jim earned a reputation in the community as “The Donut Man,” the namesake for his new solo venture in the donut business.
They make all their donuts by hand and on-site daily. Jim states that his hard-headed attitude prevents him from compromising the quality of customer service at his shop. If you visit today, they’re using the same ingredients and processes that made them famous over the years.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: The Donut Man offers delicious donuts. Whether you prefer glazed, sugar, maple, crumb, or chocolate, they have them. You can find filled donuts, donut holes, and an assortment of hot and cold drinks to wash them down.
2. 66 Diner
Location: 2502 E U.S. Rt. 66, Gallup, NM 87301
About: If you’re looking for an authentic Route 66 experience for diners, it doesn’t get much better than 66 Diner, which opened in 1987. When you walk through the doors of this diner, you’re stepping into a time when life was a little slower and much less dependent on technology.
The neon signs, jukebox, and soda fountains will remind you of the days when life seemed more straightforward, and Route 66 was hopping.
A section of 66 Diner once served as a mechanic bay, and you can still see the hydraulic lift today. You can almost imagine the vehicles the lift would have hoisted off the ground needing repair as travelers crossed the famous highway on a road trip.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: The 66 Diner offers everything you’d expect from a classic diner. You can find a collection of burgers, shakes, and even some New Mexican favorites unique to the area.
3. The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Location: 7701 I-40 East Access Rd, Amarillo, TX 79118
About: They say everything is bigger in Texas, and The Big Texan Steak Ranch is no exception. This Route 66 icon opened in March 1960 and used a massive 60-foot neon cowboy sign to attract travelers along Route 66. R.J. Lee, the restaurant’s owner, laid out the challenge, “Anyone that can consume the steak challenge winners eating accomplishment in one hour-gets it for FREE.”
While many sit down to accept the challenge, few are victorious.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: You’d better be wearing your stretchy pants when you walk through the doors of The Big Texan Steak Ranch.
You don’t come here if you’re expecting to stick to your diet or the advice of any cardiologist. In a state known for its beef, it should be no surprise that the portions here are huge, and the menu is full of fresh red meat. However, the most famous item is the 72-ounce steak challenge.
4. Pops 66
Location: 660 U.S. Rt. 66, Arcadia, OK 73007
About: Pops 66 is precisely what travelers love about diners on Route 66. It’s one-stop with a full-service restaurant, gas station, convenience store, and many options for bottled soda. It all features a family-friendly atmosphere. Top it off with a gigantic 66-foot-tall soda bottle that changes colors, and you couldn’t ask for a better place to stop.
Pops 66 tips its hat to the historic Route 66 and what it meant for the Oklahoma towns that it ran through for so many years.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: You can’t go wrong with a burger when visiting Pops 66. Try the Mother Road Burger or Pops Burger, or kick it up with the 66 Fire Burger.
If you arrive before 10:30 for breakfast, try the biscuits and gravy, French Texas Toast, or Mother-Road Breakfast. They are all so good they’ll stick to your ribs.
5. Waylan’s Hamburgers the Ku-Ku
Location: 915 N Main St, Miami, OK 74354
About: Waylan’s Hamburgers, the Ku-Ku grabs your attention with the giant yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird on the front wall. There’s a massive green-and-yellow neon sign, making it impossible to miss. Waylan’s Hamburgers the Ku-Ku is an authentic Route 66 hot spot that serves some of the crispiest fries and cooked-to-order burgers.
They’ve created an atmosphere and menu that will take you back in time.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: While they have pork tenderloin sandwiches and hot dogs, you’re coming to a burger joint for a greasy, giant hamburger. Waylan’s double giant hamburger doesn’t disappoint.
It’s one of the most popular items on the menu, and you can get it with a side of fries, tater tots, onion rings, or waffle fries. Wash it all down with a delicious milkshake or malt, and you’ll have an authentic Route 66 diner experience.
6. Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que
Location: 913 East Washington Street, Cuba, MO 65453
About: Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que may have opened in February 2002, but it instantly became a Route 66 diners favorite. It offers rustic decor and delicious cuisine. The founder was a master BBQer and woodworker who had his hands in almost everything when creating the location.
The handmade tables and chairs show his attention to detail, creating an atmosphere that brings guests back.
However, while the atmosphere is inviting and comforting, a diner must have good food. Luckily, the Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que doesn’t disappoint. Their meats use a specially seasoned rub, and they smoke them overnight for 12 hours. They offer various house sauces to lather on the meat, and you can try your favorite beer, wine, or soda.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: They cook and season their fall-of-the-bone St. Louis Style Ribs to perfection. If you want a bit of everything, give the sampler platter a try.
If you love the sauce so much you want to take it home with you, you’re in luck! You can grab a bottle of your favorite BBQ and homemade sauces before getting back on the road.
7. Cozy Dog Drive In
Location: 2935 S 6th St, Springfield, IL 62703
About: The Cozy Dog Drive In on route 66 opened its doors in 1949. The Cozy Dog was an alternative to the “corn dog,” which took too long to cook. Through trial and error, Ed Waldmire Jr. and a friend, Don Strand, invented a solid alternative.
Decades later, this is still a family-run establishment that showcases what was special about Route 66 diners. If you’re traveling Route 66 and make it to Springfield, there’s no better place to stop!
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: You can’t come to the Cozy Dog Drive In without getting their signature Cozy Dog. However, if you decide to march to the beat of your drum, they have solid burgers, pork tenderloins, and a BBQ sandwich.
If you arrive before 11:00, grab one of their breakfast options. They’re all delicious!
8. Western View Diner and Steakhouse
Location: 6411 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87105
About: The Western View Diner and Steakhouse has been filling the bellies of locals and travelers since 1937. The generous portions and budget-friendly prices are excellent, but the homemade tastes and culinary excellence bring people back.
Explore the history documented on the walls in black-and-white pictures showcasing the diner’s history.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: The Western View Diner and Steakhouse takes breakfast to a new level. It’s not uncommon for patrons to eat breakfast in the middle of the day here. Breakfast favorites are pancakes, biscuits, and gravy.
However, the deluxe burger is a behemoth of a beef burger that will leave you loosening your belt a notch or two.
9. Miz Zips Cafe
Location: 2924 E Rte 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
About: Miz Zips Cafe is a cash-only retro location with a Route 66 diners vibe. People most know it for its burgers, pies, and typical American comfort foods. While the menu may have everything you expect, its delicious take on typical dishes separates this cafe from the rest. Miz Zips Cafe reminds those passing through Flagstaff of the days when Route 66 was something special.
Take the time to appreciate the decorations and attention to detail in the decorations for this retro diner. Pictures of the first Miz Zips, famous for its breakfast, hot apple pie, and zipburgers, cover the walls.
Menu Item/s It’s Known For: Miz ZIps Cafe stays true to its roots and has incredible breakfast options. You can get a breakfast burrito, messy tacos, or our favorite, “My husband’s breakfast sandwich.” Your taste buds will thank you no matter what you choose!
If you’re not there for breakfast, grab one of the many sandwich offerings or special dinners like homemade chicken fried steak, roast beef, or a zipburger steak. It’s your fault if you hit the road hungry!
Pro Tip: Not sure if a drive down Route 66 is right for you? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid a Route 66 Road Trip.
Is Stopping at Route 66 Diners Worth It?
To get the entire Route 66 experience, you must use all of your senses, including taste. Stopping at Route 66 diners allows you to taste the many different takes on American favorites like burgers, steaks, and desserts.
Exploring Route 66 and its roadside attractions is only one part of the road trip experience. You’re doing yourself and your trip an injustice if you don’t stop at a diner or two along the way.
Which diner will you visit first while cruising down Route 66? Tell us in the comments!
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