For those who seek some wanderlust inside the boundaries of the United States, one of the most well-known and romanticized roads to explore is the infamous Route 66. Known as the Main Street of America, it begins in Chicago, IL and winds its way southwest, eventually reaching Santa Monica, CA. It’s been popularized in songs, TV, movies, and has been the subject of countless books and documentaries.
During the Great Depression, Route 66 was a major thoroughfare for those heading out west to escape the poverty of the Dust Bowl. While workers made their way down the Mother Road, travelers would trade goods and services with one another at rest stops and gas stations. This was the spark that ignited scores of roadside businesses in the ensuing years. Now, it’s where you’ll find the purest (and most lasting) form of Americana: The roadside diner.
Diners are a culinary experience outside the boundaries of the “food scene.” Simple flavors thrive, presentation is trumped by taste, and grease is king. While these types of restaurants are slowly closing down across the nation in favor of cookie-cutter fast food chains, they’re alive and well up and down this 2448-mile stretch of road. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
While its beginnings go back to sometime in the late ’30s or early ’40s, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been at its current location since the summer of 1946. Located in Willowbrook, IL, it’s the perfect place to stop for those coming from or going to Chicago — not to mention everyone who’s on their own personal odyssey along Route 66.
The fried chicken obviously comes highly recommended, but if you’re there on a Friday you can partake in some fresh catfish, shrimp or even some live Maine lobster, provided they haven’t run out.