Steak 'n Shake, Main St. Normal
Founded by Gus Belt in 1934, Steak 'n Shake adopted the motto: "In sight, it must be right." Belt understood that travelers would be far happier if they could see their meal being cooked in front of them. It took the mystery out of what they were going to eat and who cooked it. The white-and-black design was borrowed from the White Castle chain. It carried the message: "This place is clean".
Bob Johnson's Brandtville Restaurant, Bloomington
Neon lit up the cornfields at this eatery in the late 50's. This cafe served Midwestern sandwiches and blue plate specials. In later years, a giant chicken was added to the sign when Johnson started serving chicken dinners.
Oasis Drive-In on Rt.66, Lexington, IL
A hot day's drive could be cooled by treats, served up by Elmo and Arline Winterland. Their "Googie" design drive-in was a landmark for Chicago-to-St. Louis Route 66 travelers and it was "THE" place for Lexington-area teenagers.
Dixie Trucker's Home, McLean, IL
Dixie was opened as a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week operation in 1928. The original buildings burned in 1965 and the Dixie was rebuilt as a modern and larger full-service truck stop. Today's Dixie Travel Plaza is a great stop for Rt. 66 tourists and I-55 truckers.
Steve's Cafe, Chenoa, IL
In the late 1940's, Steve's Cafe' highlighted its beef steaks and locals recall coffee and pie with great fondness. Steve's held local wedding receptions and club events. In addition, it was a favorite stop for tourists.
Snacking while driving is a great American road tradition, and Beer Nuts have become a favorite road snack. The Shirk Family started selling glazed Redskin Virginia peanuts at their Bloomington shop in the mid-1930's. Just a few years later, the shop was moved to Main St. on Business Rt. 66. By word of mouth and clever branding, the snack became an American favorite. The Shirk family still produces Beer Nuts in their plant, just 9 blocks east of the Visitors Center.
“We reserve the right to seat our customers”
When AfricanAmerican travelers on Rt. 66 read such a sign, they knew they were not going to be seated at all! Green Mill Cafe on West Washington Street in Bloomington would not serve meals to Black customers. The restaurant sign with the wording "We reserve the right to seat our customers" posted that fact. Such signs were common in central Illinois restaurants in the 1940's until the early 1960's. AfricanAmerican travelers could get meals served by other AfricanAmericans, such as at the Chat N Chew in Normal.