As a high school history teacher, I had talked about Route 66 with my students, but it wasn’t until my 2 sons started repeatedly watching Pixar’s Cars that this fabled road found a spot on my travel bucket list.
Commissioned in 1926 and fully paved by the late 1930s, Route 66 stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, winding its way through small towns and big cities, eventually earning the moniker the Main Street of America. Travel on the road declined as the interstate highway system grew, and Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985, but as countless guidebooks, travel shows, and movies attest, the Mother Road never fully left the American consciousness.
Route 66 had captured my imagination, so in September 2021, after years of planning and research, my friend Karen and I embarked on a road trip of a lifetime: We drove more than 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles using Jerry McClanahan’s turn-by-turn EZ66 Guide for Travelers to help us navigate what is left of the original Route 66.
Stopping at all the requisite roadside landmarks was part of our plan, but so was sampling as much local fare as we could. On top of the tasty dishes, we enjoyed warm hospitality, and for me, the history buff, delicious stories from the past. Over 14 days, we made 26 food stops in 8 states. Of them, here are the places to eat on Route 66, from east to west, that landed on my list of favorites.