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Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket wins state tourism award October 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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Ladies and Gentlemen:  Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket!

The historic Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket restaurant in Willowbrook, Illinois, received a Delicious Destination honor from Illinois Tourism, according to a news release.

The Illinois Office of Tourism and DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that Dell Rhea’s is among a small group of Illinois establishments to receive this designation from the state tourism bureau.

“From family-owned restaurants with long and storied histories to the hottest new cuisines in the world, Illinois has emerged as a premier culinary destination for both domestic and international visitors,” said Illinois State Travel Director Jen Hoelzle in a press release. “The Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destination award honors those restaurants that are authentically Illinois, making a trip to the state unforgettable.” [...]

To be considered for an award, restaurants must be nominated by a convention and visitors bureau, community member or Enjoy Illinois social media fan. The nominee must be a one-of-a-kind restaurant that is authentic to Illinois and an established part of its community.

The Chicken Basket opened in 1946 on Route 66, right next to its original location that dates to the late 1930s. Since then, the restaurant has been featured in countless television programs and magazine articles.

It also was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

I asked Illinois Tourism whether other Route 66 restaurants had won the award. Brian Rehme emailed this reply:

As of now, there haven’t been any additional Route 66 restaurants that have been honored. However, it’s worth nothing that this program just recently launched and additional restaurants will be honored in the coming months, so we’ll keep you updated on any additional Route 66 restaurants.

So stay tuned.

(Image of Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket by Jenny McG via Flickr)

A visit to Amarillo’s Sixth Street District October 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Restaurants.
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This video produced by TourTexas.com features Tucker Yeldell — described as “a lost prospector, reluctant farmer and early Texas Panhandle settler” — touring some of his favorite spots on Route 66 in Amarillo.

Most of the tour is devoted to the city’s historic Sixth Street District, which is a terrific menagerie of antique shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries.

(Image of Sixth Street shops in Amarillo by Steve Herrera via Flickr)

Former owner of Club Cafe dies October 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, People, Restaurants.
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Ron Chavez, 78, a former owner of the long-closed Club Cafe in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, who later became noted as a writer and poet, died Oct. 15 in Albuquerque, reported the Taos News.

His daughter, Sonia Valdez, told the newspaper he died of complications from diabetes and a stroke. The family declined to give details about his services or burial.

The newspaper provided some background on Chavez’s early days:

Chávez was born June 18, 1936 in the valley of Puerto de Luna on the banks of the Pecos River near Santa Rosa in southern New Mexico.

“When I was 6 years old I traveled Route 66 to California straight out of my village of Puerto de Luna in 1942 when my father went to work in the shipyards building warships. There, I befriended the owner of the corner grocery store who charmed me with his stories of how he had fought with (Emiliano) Zapata in Mexico. I am captivated with Zapata to this day,” Chávez said in an article published in Tempo (September 2013).

In Santa Rosa he was the owner of the famous Route 66 Club Café. During that time, Chávez and his café enjoyed fame in major media, which included books, television, magazines and newspapers, according to an online bio. He was known as the “Route 66 Storyteller.”

Chavez owned the Club Cafe for nearly 20 years after he saved it from closing during the 1970s, according to an archived article in the Chicago Tribune. Club Cafe was known since 1935 for its sourdough biscuits, New Mexican cuisine and its trademark “smiling Fat Man” logo on signs and billboards.

The restaurant closed in 1992, with Chavez mostly blaming it on the opening of a McDonald’s up the road. After fitful and unsuccessful attempts to reopen the eatery, the remnants of Club Cafe and its signs were slated to be demolished this year.

Chavez eventually found himself reciting and writing poetry in Taos in both English and Spanish. Many of his stories and poems were collected in two books — “Winds of Wildfire” and “Time of Triumph” (my review of the latter here) — and were published in numerous magazines.

Here’s a video from 2011 of his poem-recital style:

Chavez said he often was inspired by delving into New Mexico’s centuries-old cultures of its Native American and Hispanic residents.

(Image of Ron Chavez in 2007 by santiagosintaos via Flickr)

Fire destroys old A&W building in Carthage October 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants.
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A former A&W Restaurant near Route 66 in Carthage, Missouri, was destroyed by fire late Friday during the city’s annual Maple Leaf Festival.

After the A&W closed at that location, it became Hartman’s Mercantile, a secondhand store.

KODE-TV has a report about the fire:

The building was at 502 S. Garrison Ave., which is about a block south of where Route 66 turns from Garrison onto Oak Street.

According to A&W’s website, the restaurant’s signature root beer was created in 1919, and the first restaurant went up in 1924.

(Hat tip to Ron Hart)

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 Jim Simpson and Shannon Simpson Hall of Century 21 in Litchfield.

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)

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