The Rock Cafe is the kind of place that made Rout 66 famous.
The Stroud, Oklahoma, restaurant has been a fixture of the Mother Road for decades. Even though Route 66 has been long decommissioned as a national highway, there are some 350 intact miles of it running through Oklahoma, and many of the classic restaurants and attractions that became popular with travelers along the old road can still be visited.
Rock Cafe is one such place. The restaurant is frequented by both locals and tourists, who come from far and wide to eat here. Several years ago, a crew from the Pixar movie studio stopped by the cafe for a meal during a trip to research their animated movie Cars. The producers were so taken with the Rock Cafe and its owner Dawn Welch (pictured below) that they returned many times, and based the movie character Sally on Dawn and her family business. A couple of years ago, Food Network personality Guy Fieri visited to feature Rock Cafe on his hit show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
The restaurant has earned its fame over decades, but recently almost lost everything overnight. In spring of 2008, a fire originating in the kitchen extensively damaged the restaurant, forcing Dawn and her family to close down for more than a year to rebuild the business that has been central to their lives.
In May, the Rock Cafe reopened, with a brand-new, expanded dining room, but the same eclectic menu. Diners can come for chicken-fried steak, a shrimp po-boy or German-inspired schnitzel. When she knows that groups are coming, Dawn will make her way out of the kitchen and share the Rock Cafe story with her visitors.
It’s places like the Rock Cafe and people like Dawn that make Route 66 such a loveable, memorable part of our American heritage… even if it only lives on in song.