Built in 1935 (and on the National Register of Historic Places), the Ariston Cafe located on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois is the longest continuously running cafe along the route’s whole stretch. So I planned my trip so as to include a meal here.
According to Wikipedia, with the exception of having added a banquet room and a few other minor tweaks, the interior of the Cafe has not been altered substantially since it first opened. In most other locations would be a bad thing, but on Route 66, it’s a selling point.
As restaurants go it has a highly confused menu; they have: Mexican, Greek, Deli, classic American, Southern, Italian, Steak, and Seafood … with 7 different kinds of fish — where most places would do one or two
but I guess if you’re a restaurant in a small town you sort of have to be all things to all people. That said, they also have an all you can eat soup and salad bar which had some tasty stuff on it… even if it is kind of seriously old-fashioned.
I asked the waitress what the difference was between the pond and fillet catfish dishes. The pond catfish is two big catfish served on the bone for $15, while the fillet is one catfish filleted for $14… as two would have been too much food me, I got the fillet… but if I lived nearby I’d have ordered the pond for $15 and taken home leftovers.
That said, the Catfish was rubbery and had a funny after taste …which I think the chef was trying to hide with all the spices. But with seven different kinds of fish, unless fish is VERY popular in this town, I don’t see how they can be serving anything remotely close to fresh.
There was a large selection of HUGE slabs of various kinds of cake… but passed. When the owner noted that I was keeping notes about meal, posting to social media, etc., he came over and gave me two postcards and a refrigerator magnet.
I’ve only been in this town for two days and I already don’t like it. [Postscript… if you can only stay at one, spend a few days in Williams, AZ, rather than this dump of a town]
Firstly, the Airbnb owner who I had initially booked with had double booked the room — apparently she was advertising it on multiple sites and got confused — and was trying to manipulate ME into cancelling the reservation. In airbnb the person who cancels using the web site, is the person who pays their fee, so sketchy. THEN she expressly tried to trick me into NOT doing was calling them, saying she’d already spoken with them and it wasn’t necessary … which of course I called bullshit on… and call them is what I did. She knew (and I knew) that once they read the emails they would set the cancellation as though SHE had done it even if I initiated the phone call, so not only was she going to have pay their fee for using their site, but as a hostess, she was going to loose a lot of points in their “trustworthy” rankings. IF she’d done it herself, she’d have lost them anyway (unless she lied and said a death in the family or some such) plus the fee. So, I called them and explained the situation in full, they cancelled it and gave me a full refund. [Now one person is not a town, but unfortunately, this did ultimately prove to be the “culture” of the town… to my experience.]
Her home was in the historic section of town, which is where I wanted to be. All other rentals were in the new parts … and if I was going to be there I’d rather be in a hotel since there are SO many of them in this town that rooms here are well within my budget (A quick look on google found about 120 motels/hotels in 34 square miles, with the next largest employer being the hospital… I think its safe to say that tourism is their main industry). I opted for Ramada.
That said, no one comes to Kingman to see Kingman. Kingman is on I-40, Route 66, and its a about a two hour drive from here to either the west ridge of the Grand Canyon and/or the Hoover Dam (… so it’s a good base location for short stays while seeing other things.
When I got here, my hotel room had no wifi… it turns out that whole side of the structure has no wifi and they’ve known about it for a while and haven’t bothered to fix it. What killed me was how nasty the staff was to me about it. Orlando has a lot to teach Kingman about customer service when your whole economy depends on on it.
Oh, and I’ve decided that REALLY there’s no reason to stay in downtown Kingman or even on route 66 (which is where my hotel is). The hotels in the other side of town are cheaper, newer, and most likely nicer… and the food there is better… although still not good.
That said, I tried FOUR different locally owned restaurants only to be DEEPLY disappointed. I even tried the steak house on 66 .. my fish smelled bad and tasted off. The Chinese couple at the next table were clearly really unhappy with their steaks, as in DEEPLY unhappy.
The sad fact is that in this town … with the exception of Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner which not only came highly rated on every site I looked at, but I noticed it was full of the local high-school kids on their high-school’s homecoming night … but that didn’t have one healthy thing on it’s menu (it really is all about the burgers, fries and milk shakes)
…. you really are better off eating at any of the plethora of national chain restaurants in town.
I even tried the Garlic Clove, which is supposed to be one of the better Italian mom and pops in town, and having done so, I seriously question if ANYTHING they serve isn’t frozen, or from a can. That and I had the WORST case of gas and acid reflux afterwards.
OK, I found someplace NOT horrible. It’s totally out of the tourist area. It’s past the hospital and out by the car dealership (I have a feeling it’s the affluent part of town)… it’s called the Kingman Chophouse (king of steak). I got a baked not fried crab cake, a bowl of bean medley soup and a baked sweat potato… and everything tasted just fine.
Alleia is a very upscale, tasty, romantic, and (by Chattanooga standards) expensive, chef driven rustic Italian eaterie. It is located in a renovated brick industrial building that sits directly behind the historic terminal station for the now defunct passenger railway line that used to pass through town, and was made famous by the Glen Miller mega hit “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” I was invited to dinner here by my Dalton friends, as we were going to go to a Buddy Guy concert that night at the Tivoli Theater (one of the many former vaudeville & movie palaces nationwide that cities have wisely been saving from the wrecking ball). This is one of the oddities of travel, I’d never heard Buddy Guy live in concert before, even though he’s based in my home town of Chicago — I had to come to a much smaller city at the GA/TN border to do it.
Free parking in that part of town is almost nonexistent, and it was raining, so I was incredibly happy to discover Alleia offers complementary valet parking. Directly behind the stand is the entrance to the restaurant, but good luck on finding the door during daylight. The contrast between the outdoor light and darkened space in which the massive ancient-keep-like wooden door sits, makes it almost impossible to see it till your eyes adjust to the difference — and keep in mind it was raining when I got there. As I had arrived a good half-hour before my hosts the restaurant placed me at a table right near the front windows so that I could spot them arriving, and while there I watched one befuddled elderly gentleman walk right past it — twice, trying to find the entrance. Once you’ve lugged open the door (it required grabbing the ring on the front and leaning back to get the thing to move) you enter into a darkly lit space reminiscent of a church, with massive candles that have been allowed to drip their wax to the floor, and hanging gas lanterns.
My meal was nummy. For my appetizer I had a very finely cut carpaccio with truffle and radish, and then for my main I had quail which lay on a fig, onion, and something else purée that was served with a side of sauteed purple cabbage and new potatoes … all of which was wonderful. The star of the show, however, was my dessert, an olive oil gelato (something that sounded incredibly odd but my friend promised me was something to be tried) with bits of salty pistachio in it. The gelato melted in the mouth in a way I’ve never experienced before, and the counterpoint to the pistachio was just amazing.