Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Club 21 - Tucson

The Club 21 menu proudly displays the earliest known photo of the historic restaurant at 2920 N. Oracle Rd.
Tucson's Club 21 is the sole survivor of once common Family-owned restaurants alongside US 89 through the Old Pueblo.  While all the original roadside diners and small restaurants that once lined US 89's famous Miracle Mile along the Stone-Drachman-Oracle Corridor are gone, Club 21 remains in the Founding Family's hands and lives on stronger than ever.

Club 21 joined the scene on the north end of the once glittering neon Miracle Mile in 1946.  Brothers George and Abe Jacob borrowed some money from their mother and rented a tourist cabin what was then north of town. The cabin had been turned into a hamburger stand. "It had about six or seven stools and three booths," says John Jacob.
Club 21's founders, Abe & George Jacob in Sept. 1950.

George, who had been a cook in the Navy, assumed kitchen duties. "He was too young to serve beer and wine," says John.

At first, Mexican food was not on the menu, says John. "I think my mother suggested it," he says. Then they took on a cook their Uncle Joe recommended who could cook Mexican food, John adds.

Over time, the brothers bought the property and the restaurant expanded, especially after a full liquor license was granted. "We kept the original building and built all around it," says John, adding that in the beginning, "we were only taking $25 a week apiece for ourselves."

"While several competing stories exist about how the restaurant got its name, the one current owner, Taft "Skip" L. Jacob, likes to tell is that his dad, George Jacob, and uncles salvaged parts of old signs — one reading "Club," and the other "21" — to come up with a name for their fledgling cafe."
Taft "Skip" Jacob loves his Family History & Heritage and celebrates Club 21's unique
role as one of only two remaining restaurants from  Mexico to Canada during
US 89's Glory Days that  remains in the hands of The Founding Family.
The US 89 Team was honored and delighted the morning of March 21, 2018, to spend an hour chatting with Skip Jacob.  Skip is a wonderful story teller and regaled us with Family Tales and some wonderful personal anecdotes.  Skip was born in  1947 and might has started working "part time" in Club 21 when he was 5 years old.   He was for sure working regularly at the eatery by 1955 when he was 8.  Skip's Family Pride in Club 21 clearly glows through all of his words and recollections.  We returned later at lunch time and enjoyed a superb lunch.  We highly recommend Club 21.

Club 21 opened its doors just as US 89 was on the doorsteps of ever-increasing post World War II traffic.  The restaurant's great location at the north roundabout on Miracle Mile helped it reap a steady flow of local and traveling customers until I-10 eventually siphoned off Miracle Mile's heavy traffic.  However, Club 21's menu and reputation was by then well known far and wide.  The restaurant not only continued to survive but thrived.  Many reviewers talk about visiting Club 21 for years, some even back into the 50's and 60's.  Some reviewers call Club 21's Mexican food the "best in Tucson".  Roughly four out of five reviewers rate Club 21 Very Good or Excellent.

Club 21 is a "must visit" for any US 89 Heritage Tourists passing through Tucson!


We took quite a few photos of Club 21 on March 21 and placed all of them in a Google Photo Album located here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UqAFFOQWVIqkfylz2

Many Thanks to Kimberley Jacob for sending along this rare photo of the
Budweiser Clydesdale's pulling the old beer wagon on Miracle Mile.
Judging from what appears to be a late-1940's Buick in the background.
we're guessing this photo shows Club 21 after it had been expanded
and improved from the original cabin. Look carefully above Club 21
and you can see a Budweiser sign. Club 21 must have already
been a very popular place for the Budweiser Clydesdale's to visit!


For the source of the above quotes and a look at Jacob Family History see:
http://tucson.com/lifestyles/opinion-by-bonnie-henry-club-family-roots/article_222d7088-aa15-5265-bb1c-238ca46a0faa.html

We wish to thank Jill from the Tucson and Pima Co. History Facebook group for helping us find Club 21.  We had searched "high and low" without luck for any remaining ancestral Family-owned restaurants from US 89's early Tucson days.  We even created a post that said there were no such restaurants remaining.  Luckily, Jill came to the rescue and told us about Club 21.  Thank You, Jill!

(Editor's Note added April 10, 2018: Our original article on Club 21 was posted December 16, 2017. We interviewed Taft "Skip" Jacob on March 21 and updated the article on 10APR18.)

http://www.club21restaurant.com

https://www.facebook.com/Club-21-Mexican-Restaurant-146951261992010/


Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Club 21.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Wisdom's Cafe - Tumacacori

http://www.wisdomscafe.com/

Wisdom's Cafe in historic Tumacacori stands alone on old US 89 from Mexico to Canada.  It is the oldest remaining roadside restaurant still in the hands of the same Family and still in the same location where it began in 1944.
Howard and son Harold.

Wisdom's is named for Howard Owen Wisdom and his wife, Petra Gomez Wisdom. The enterprising couple were in their early 30's when they decided to set up shop in the Upper Santa Cruz on land gifted by Petra's father. Howard is said to have been an athlete in the saddle who learned the cowboy ropes near Canoa on the Baca Float.

In Wisdom's early days there was a counter with four or five stools and three or four tables. The cafe soon had a beer license and the food was said to be very good. Howard, Petra and their Family cooked. There was an outdoor patio on the north side where small parties 15 to twenty people were held from time to time.  Howard catered the food and beer for a very reasonable price, and often joined in later in the evening.  Back then, the cafe didn't need any advertising.  There was a sign in the front window that simply said "Wisdoms".

Howard was a natural born cowboy so, naturally, he built a small roping arena where bulldogging and rodeo champions came from around the U.S. and Mexico to show off their skills. Frequent events there often drew 50 to 60 people, usually local ranchers, cowboys, and area families.

Success smiled on Wisdom's Cafe and it gradually grew into what is now a regional tourist attraction known far and wide for a famous fruit burrito.  Today, passersby Wisdom's are likely to see dusty old local pickup trucks parked beside shiny new rental cars with California license plates.  The modern Wisdom's is a far cry from the original little place with a rowdy bar but it stays true to its deep Tumacacori  roots. Diners now enjoy a classic Mexican motif amid walls decorated with artifacts of old times gone by.

Wisdom's is a "must stop" roadside attraction for US 89 Heritage Tourists.  The cafe gets solid reviews and high marks for both service and food.  The fruit burro remains a fan favorite.
Click here for Wisdom's menu.

Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Wisdom's Cafe.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hassayampa - Prescott

http://www.hassayampainn.com
Prescott's Hassayampa Inn isn't your ordinary deep-fried roadside restaurant . It is a splendid, first-class, top-shelf dining experience in one of Arizona's premier hotels.  The Hassyampa owes its very existence to one of the first crowd-funding projects in America.  Back in the 20's, local folks were asked to buy "shares" and, voila, this is what they got as a reward.  The Hassayama opened to great fanfare in 1927, just a year after US 89 came into existence.

Today, the Hassyampa can easily lay claim to being the highest class elegant restaurant located right alongside curbside of old US 89 in historic downtown Prescott, Arizona.  Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn and Mammoth Hotel dining rooms are the Hassyama only rivals between Mexico and Canada!

Below is the Hassayampa history as told by the property's owners:

"Among Prescott hotels, the story of the Hassayampa Inn is truly unique. Even before it was constructed, the Inn helped to bring the people of Prescott together. During the “roaring twenties,” El Paso architect Henry Trost was challenged by a group of residents to design a grand hotel – a place where people could relax, chat and escape the grind of their hectic lives.

Hundreds of Prescott citizens bought shares into the project at $1 each and the result was the construction of a stunning red brick building, completed in 1927, that would serve as the cornerstone of downtown. Back then, it was known as the Hassayampa Hotel.

These warm and welcoming accommodations were named after the Hassayampa River located north of Prescott, which mysteriously sinks beneath the surface for much of its 100-mile journey. The Apache word “Hassayampa” loosely translates as “the river that loses itself” is a fitting moniker for a hotel that was designed to be a place where patrons can emerge refreshed and relaxed.

Today, the Hassayampa Inn remains an anchor in the community. The building is included in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. But most of all, this red-brick hotel is as charming today as it was more than 90 years ago."

 The Hassayampa is definitely light years removed from the typical roadside highway diner!

As one reviewer put it, "I am rating The Peacock Room 5-stars, not because it is the best restaurant I've ever eaten at, but because it is an outstanding example of how a hotel can "get it right" with their on-site dining room. This is a place I would willfully choose again even if I wasn't staying at the Inn."

Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for The Hassayampa.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tucson

You'd probably bet Tucson would have some fine, original examples of the roadside diner genre.  You'd be wrong.  They're all long gone.

Whatever fleeting food service outlets may have existed in Tucson during US 89's early decades disappeared for several reasons.

(Editor's Note: Early on December 16, Jill, a member of the Tucson and Pima Co. History Facebook Group, alerted us to Club 21.  It definitely "fits the bill" as perhaps the lone surviving restaurant from US 89's old days.  You can read about it here: https://us89food.blogspot.com/2017/12/tucson.html )

First and foremost is economic reality.  Prime Time Tucson real estate along any heavily traveled arterial is very valuable property....far more valuable than any mom and pop diner could afford.  If there were indeed any iconic diners along the Stone-Drachman-Oracle Corridor that was US 89, those diners were long ago bought out and bulldozed to make room for something newer, bigger, better and pricier.

Secondly, Tucson's early culture didn't favor roadside diners.  Tucson is Arizona's oldest non-Native community by perhaps one or two hundred years. By the time US 89 rolled around in the late 1920's, Tucson's culinary paradigms were well established and set in Stone (pun intended).  Most, if not all, of those cultural culinary channels remain intact today in one form or another.

When US 89 was just getting established, Tucson's dining traditions covered a lot of bases.  The Old Pueblo's thriving downtown district included numerous popular small cafes and restaurants.  Congress Street was the center of Tucson's early 20th Century commerce. It's where people went to shop, eat and be entertained.  It was Tucson's first street to be paved.  Meanwhile, the many Tucson neighborhoods and barrios were well supplied with small mom and pop places to eat, especially in the Mexican neighborhoods.  Street vendors were arguably more common (and popular) in Tucson than in any other US 89 community from Mexico to Canada. Tucson's Late Legend Roy Drachman writes of one such vendor: "One of the most interesting and useful characters found on Tucson streets in the early days was the Greek popcorn man who had a regular spot on the northeast corner of Stone Avenue and Congress Street.  He was a short, dumpy gentleman who had a handlebar mustache and always wore a felt hat.  Every evening at dusk, he would come down Congress Street pushing his glass enclosed popcorn wagon.  He would park it in the gutter on the Stone Avenue side of the corner, light up his gas burner, and start popping corn.  That was all he sold, but it smelled so good, few people could resist buying a bag, so he sold a lot of it.  George, as he was known, carried on his business at that stand for thirty years or more. He raised his family and supported them as the only popcorn maker in town." (Page 104)

Lastly, Tucson also arguably had more fine dining places to eat than anywhere else along US 89. Over 100 guest (dude) ranches and other enterprises catered to seasonal visitors. The 1929 opening of Stone Avenue's famous Pioneer Hotel provided one of the highest class dining establishments to grace the roadside of early US 89.
Pioneer Hotel ballroom in 1929.

Tucson now certainly has no lack of restaurants and yesteryear's popcorn vendor has become today's taco truck.  Small cafes continue to be a thriving part of Tucson's culinary scene.  Meanwhile, fine dining in Tucson is some of the finest in the entire state.  Furthermore, fast food franchises dominate the busy intersections.  Tucson's oldest remaining restaurant, the original 1922 Court Ave. El Charro, is now nationally famous and serves as a shining example of the Family restaurants that were once common throughout the Old Pueblo.

As a result of all of the above, we won't be writing a US 89 restaurant review for Tucson.  If you come across a genuine ancestral diner that meets all of the informal criteria for an early US 89 roadside eatery, by all means send the information to us89team@gmail.com

Salt Lake City

The one and only State Street is US 89 through Salt Lake City.  Back in US 89's Glory Days, we have no doubt that State Street was a rhinestone roadway sparkling with beckoning neon glittering in front of motels, diners and sundry attractions.  While there might be a few such ancestral overnight accommodations remaining, it appears 100% of the roadside diners have gone to the great deep fat fryer in the sky.

Salt Lake City's eldest diner was gentrified 15 years ago when auto and sports mogul Larry Miller bought the 1902 Snappy Service Lunch and plopped it into lobbies of multiplex theaters throughout the region.  Snappy Service Lunch was best known for its SPAM and egg sandwich. We'd bet it was a very popular dining spot through the pre-fast-food early decades of US 89.

We've searched high and low for any remaining old diners along State Street.  We've come up empty handed.  There are hundreds of places to eat in Salt Lake City so you're certainly not going hungry there.  Unless and until we can find a historically accurate, culinary certified roadside diner along State Street, we won't be providing a restaurant review for Salt Lake City's stretch of US 89.

If you know of or find a suitable candidate, please send the information to us89team@gmail.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ranch House - Yarnell

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http://www.ranchhouserestaurantyarnell.com

Yarnell's Ranch House dates back possibly into the 1940's.  It's difficult to determine the age of the restaurant from available online history.  It's only open four days a week from 7 AM to 2 PM so it's strictly a "weekend warrior" breakfast and lunch kind of place.  It appears to be extremely popular with the biker crowd so beware, you could be in for a long wait if you happen to show up when a biker group has stopped for a meal.


Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Wisdom's Cafe.

Mom's - Salina


"Mom's Cafe has been on the cover of National Geographic. It's been the subject of various glowing national restaurant reviews, including "One of the Best Places To Eat in the United States" by Eat Your Way Across the USA. Its walls are lined with famous people who have dined there, from Willie Nelson to Tom Brokaw to Ashlee Judd. Its scones, biscuits and chicken-fried steak have been praised far and wide. People will crawl on their hands and knees for Mom's pies."

With comments like the above and framed proof as seen below, it's easy to understand how the 1926 Mom's Cafe in Salina can call itself "famous".  Mom's is one of those all-time classic highway diners that seems frozen in time, turning out biscuits and gravy just like they did 90+ years ago when US 89 was born.  Mom's is arguably a culinary shrine to US 89's Diner Days, sitting as it does on a key 90-degree dog leg on US 89's route through the Beehive State.
From what we can find online, Mom's has gone through at least a couple of new owners in recent years.  Luckily, the Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews suggest the food and service remain as famous as ever.  The graphic below shows the location of Mom's at Salina's main intersection.

Here are some links to various Mom's stories we found online.

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/765566413/New-Mom-restaurant-owner-could-use-a-little-help.html

http://www.richfieldreaper.com/news/local/article_1f8b98ae-9e67-11e3-92df-0019bb2963f4.html

http://utahstories.com/2010/07/mom’s-cafe-salina-utah/

Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Mom's Cafe.