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Ariston Cafe put up for sale October 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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The landmark Ariston Cafe, located on old Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois, and owned by the same family for 90 years, has been put up for sale for $1.2 million.

The restaurant was listed on an online real-estate site here by Gary Niemeier of Landmark Realty in nearby Edwardsville, Illinois.

Ariston co-owner Nick Adam, reached by phone Sunday, confirmed the decision to put the restaurant up for sale came about six weeks ago, but not without “a lot of tears. It was an emotional decision.”

“It’s time to sit back,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 48 years. But it’s definitely bittersweet. It was a difficult decision to make. I’m hoping some Route 66 aficionado can take it over. We’ve met so many wonderful people over the years.”

Adam, 76, insisted his decision to put the restaurant on the block is not health-related. But he noted running a restaurant is “a very demanding business. It’s hard to raise a family with that.”

On a related note, Nick Adam said Paul Adam, a third-generation manager of the Ariston, is not interested in taking over because of the time demands. “He’s a stay-at-home dad when he’s not here,” he said. “He wants to try something different.”

The listing includes the restaurant’s old-school counter seats and wooden booths that have been lovingly maintained over the years. The restaurant seats 200 and, according to the listing, generates $1.3 million in annual sales.

The restaurant also is almost directly across the street from the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center.

The Ariston started before Route 66 existed, in Carlinville, Illinois, which wound up being on the original alignment of the Mother Road in that region. The Ariston moved to Litchfield in 1935, a few years after Route 66 was realigned there.

The Ariston was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1992.

(Hat tip to Peter Stork; images of the Ariston Cafe by Larry Myhre and John Hartnup via Flickr)

A visit to Ollie’s Station October 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Railroad, Restaurants.
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DiscoverOklahoma, which is part of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, recently uploaded this video about Ollie’s Station restaurant on the southwest side of Tulsa.

As you might guess, the restaurant and its toy trains are a big hit with children. If you go there, don’t miss the big train set in the back of the restaurant. And the real thing runs on several sets of tracks just spitting distance away.

(Image of Ollie’s Station by dogsbylori via Flickr)

A visit to the Ariston Cafe October 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Restaurants.
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Continuing with his Genuine Route 66 Life video series, KC Keefer sat down with Paul Adam, a third-generation manager for the historic Ariston Cafe on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois.

This video comes out during the restaurant’s 90th anniversary. It started a couple of years before Route 66 existed in Carlinville, Illinois, which wound up on the original alignment of the Mother Road in that region. The Ariston moved to Litchfield in 1935, a few years after Route 66 was moved there.

If you do go to the Ariston, try to snag one of the old-school wooden booths. If those are full, the old-school counter seats will do.

It’s a genuine landmark in central Illinois that’s found favor with locals and tourists.

(Image of the Ariston Cafe by Alan Berning via Flickr)

A visit to Dan’s Bar-B-Que Pit October 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Magazines, Restaurants.
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Dan's Bar-B-Que Pit

Oklahoma Living magazine, a publication of electric cooperatives of Oklahoma, recently made this Table Talk video about Dan’s Bar-B-Que Pit, which has served hungry folks on Route 66 in Davenport, Oklahoma, for more than 40 years.

Incidentally, the video’s host goes by the name of Grant Leatherwood, which is so awesome you’d swear it was made up.

The magazine article about the restaurant can be found here.

Just a block or so off Route 66 in Davenport is the town’s original brick-paved Broadway, which has been there since 1925.

(Image of Dan’s Bar-B-Que Pit by jamsawthat via Flickr)

Unusual ice cream shop opens in Galena next weekend September 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants.
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A new ice cream shop soon will open on Route 66 in downtown Galena, Kansas. But it’s not just any ice cream shop.

The proprietors of Eye Scream Labs at 606 S. Main St. use liquid nitrogen — which cools liquids at colder than 300 below zero — to make their sweet treats right on the premises. The shop plans to open Saturday, Oct. 4.

Shop owner David Endicott said he made his own ice cream as a sort of party trick, and the idea for a shop went from there. He said in an email:

I had read about making ice cream with liquid nitrogen online from a chemistry teacher’s blog.  It looked like fun to me, so I began researching how I could do it at home. We started making ice cream for our family and friends at our Halloween parties and just for fun. It turned out to be a big hit, and the product we were turning out was so popular, people kept telling us we should open a store. My sons are the driving force behind this enterprise.  They were the ones that really ran with the idea of opening a shop. I own and operate a computer consulting practice in Joplin, NeoTech Solutions, so I already have a full time job. My wife and I sat down with them and said “We will help you get this going if you are really committed to running it”. So here we are.

The process for making liquid nitrogen ice cream is really pretty simple.  We make our ice cream base with only 3 ingredients.  No eggs, no thickeners or emulsifiers, just milk, cream and sugar.  We use the liquid nitrogen as a cooling agent and it goes directly into the mixture.  Since the nitrogen is -321 degrees (f) below zero, as soon as it hits the ice cream mixture, it boils away, taking heat with it.  In a few seconds the nitrogen in completely gone and the ice cream is frozen.  In our lab we can freeze a batch of ice cream (about 4 liters, a little over a gallon) in about 3 minutes.  We do this on our stage right in front of the customers, so they can see the process.  It is pretty neat to watch the mixer churning away while fog pours out of the bowl and across the floor.  We use a food grade nitrogen to make sure purity is high and as I mentioned, the nitrogen boils away almost instantly. [...]

We have tried to make Eye Scream Labs a really fun place for families to come and enjoy a high quality premium ice cream, see a few interesting demonstrations, and maybe learn a little about cryogenics, the science of really cold things.

Endicott provided a few photos of what the inside of his shop looks like:

And, of course, a proper ice cream shop needs to show what if offers. Here are three flavors: pineapple upside-down cake, red velvet cheesecake and blackberry peach cobbler.

I’ve noticed in recent years liquid nitrogen used by a few chefs during the “molecular gastronomy” craze. And a few liquid-nitrogen ice cream shops have popped up in big cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. But this one in Galena wouldn’t have such a competitor for hundreds of miles in any direction.

Hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The shop will be closed Monday and Tuesday. Endicott said he is considering expanding the shop’s hours in the spring.

You can also find Eye Scream Labs on Facebook.

After kids go see Tow Tater at Cars on the Route down the street, you know most of them will be begging to go to Endicott’s store once they learn of it.

(Hat tip to Renee Charles; images courtesy of David Endicott)

Johnny Rockets to open four types of Route 66-themed restaurants September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Theaters.
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The Johnny Rockets restaurant chain plans to open four types of Route 66-themed prototype restaurants — including drive-ins, food trucks and drive-in theaters —  as soon as this year, according to a news release Monday from the company.

The restaurant stated:

Established in 1926 as one of America’s original highways, Route 66 became the major path for those who migrated west, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. No company is better suited to resurrect the nostalgic brand than Johnny Rockets, which was founded on Classic Americana and opened its first location down the road from the culminating point of Route 66 in Santa Monica.

“Johnny Rockets launched exactly one year after Route 66 was officially removed from the highway system in 1985,” explains James Walker, chief development officer of Johnny Rockets.  “We feel privileged to have the opportunity to re-introduce the Route 66 brand to the new car culture generation through our already cravable food in what we are sure will be a cravable environment.”

The Johnny Rockets Route 66 concept will take the form of four distinct prototypes: drive-thru, drive-in, food truck and pop-up.  Through enhanced operational efficiencies and technology, the Route 66 concept allows guests to enjoy Johnny Rockets’ made-to-order burgers and hand-spun shakes while they are on the road or being entertained at the classic American drive-in.  Johnny Rockets anticipates some of the first prototypes to debut as early as Q4 2014. [...]

Drive-Ins LLC, a company that collectively has 135 years of experience in the motion picture exhibition, production and distribution industry, is spurring a resurgence in the American drive-in theatre.  At one time, there were an estimated 6,000 active drive-in theatres across the country, with the number now dwindled to 350. USA Drive-Ins LLC, however, announces plans to open 200 new drive-in locations including Johnny Rockets Route 66 as the food and beverage option for attending guests. These locations will present family-friendly films and embody a nostalgic, all-American experience.

Also in cooperation with Drive-Ins LLC, Johnny Rockets will configure a pop-up theatre prototype with a combined mobile restaurant that allows owners to create a dinner and movie combination in a myriad of venues, throughout the country. As with existing Johnny Rockets restaurants, this combination of food, families and fun was created for franchise partners interested in providing an entertaining and satisfying dining experience. For current Johnny Rockets restaurant owners, Route 66 food trucks now provide the capability to increase visibility and sales. The Route 66 food truck can be utilized for catering and community events or added to a market’s existing food truck line up.

Nation’s Restaurant News also has a few more details about this four-pronged initiative. Franchise info — including discounts for entrepreneurs who are veterans — is here.

This entire plan sounds incredibly ambitious. Then again, the number of drive-in theaters has declined to a point to where perhaps Johnny Rockets sees an opportunity in select areas — especially in suburbs that never had a drive-in.

And I suspect the drive-in and drive-through restaurant ideas take aim at Sonic, which built its business on largely the same model.

As for the food trucks, Johnny Rockets probably is betting that people — especially children — will more often order food from a truck with a familiar name.

In case you’re wondering, Johnny Rockets has locations in only the Route 66 towns of Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

(Images courtesy of Johnny Rockets)

The rebirth of Tulsa’s 11th Street September 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants, Towns.
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KTUL-TV in Tulsa recently did this story about the “rebirth” of 11th Street in town, known as Tulsa’s Route 66.

KTUL.com – Tulsa, Oklahoma – News, Weather

We’ve dutifully reported about many of these businesses — including Ike’s Chili — moving to the more-prominent alignment of Route 66 in Tulsa. I was a bit saddened Ike’s moved from the older Route 66 alignment of Admiral Place, which has a few of its own charms. But if such a move provides greater assurance for the century-old Oklahoma landmark restaurant, I’m all for it.

And I suspect more businesses will follow to the 11th Street corridor. Lots of space is available, and the more tourists talk favorably of 11th Street, the more tourists eventually will follow.

(Image of decorative brick inlays along 11th Street in Tulsa by Don Thornhill via Flickr)

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