Monday, December 18, 2017

Wisdom's Cafe - Tumacacori

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.

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Reviews for Wisdom's Cafe.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hassayampa - Prescott
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


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: )

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ranch House - Yarnell


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.’s-cafe-salina-utah/

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Glades Drive Inn - Spanish Fork

Spanish Fork's Glades Drive Inn got its start in 1954.  The gas station that preceded Glades Drive Inn sat in a strategic location.  It was probably the last gas leaving Utah Valley heading south...or the first gas coming in from the other direction.  (See old photos at end of this post.)

Over the past 60+ years, Glades Drive Inn has staked out a golden, long-standing reputation for "best burger & fries" and many other mouth watering specialties. Their Facebook has over 6,000 Likes! This archived article is 17 years old but gives you a very good idea how Glades Drive Inn has always fit into the local Spanish Fork culture. Glades Drive Inn is definitely a "Must Stop" for US 89 Heritage Tourists.

Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Glades Drive Inn.
 The photo above of Tink Measom's Texaco Station was posted on the Glades Drive Inn Facebook.  The photo says "about 1930".  Note the vertical mapboard in the background.  For our speculation on that map, see:
 You can easily see how the gas station building morphed into Glades.
 Below is the map graphic that shows Glades Drive Inn location.
Bottom arrow shows US 89 heading north toward Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Little Wonder Cafe - Richfield

It's little wonder that Richfield's Little Wonder Cafe has survived on US 89 since 1929. Back then the cafe carved out a niche for "home-style food when away from home" and it's stayed true to that niche ever since.  Places like the Little Wonder could never survive on travelers alone.  It's the local folks who help keep the Little Wonders of The World in business through the generations.

That said, it's very likely that the Little Wonder did a box office business in the first 2-3 decades of US 89's existence, especially in the 1930's and 40's.  There weren't many places to eat between Panguitch and Richfield and it was a long haul to the Sevier Valley.  We can easily imagine many a carload of hungry travelers ready to clean their plates at The Little Wonder.

Interestingly, it's said that the Richfield restaurant got its name from the Little Wonder percolator.  The ad shown here is from a 1912 cookbook so apparently the Little Wonder was well known long before 1929 when the Richfield cafe took its name.

The Little Wonder Cafe gets very positive reviews both from locals and visitors.  Last year a TV station did a 1:46 video on the establishment that you can see here:

The restaurant was mentioned in a July 2016 feature by the Salt Lake Tribune that said, "This cafe is the center for activity in this tiny south-central Utah town. Named after the Little Wonder percolator that originally made coffee for guests, it serves "world famous" breakfasts and chicken-fried steaks, says owner Francie Stubbs, who worked at the cafe for two decades before buying it. Originally a home, the building was later turned into a cafe with a motel upstairs. "There are rumors that it once was a brothel, too," Stubbs said."

The Little Wonder's Facebook describes the establishment this way, "Here at the Little Wonder diners experience good ol fashioned American cuisine combined with a quirky, fun atmosphere making you feel at home."

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Reviews for Little Wonder Cafe.

Flying M - Panguitch

The caption on the above postcard said:
"Deluxe Juicy Steaks Our Specialty.
 Snappy Service--Complete Meals--Homey Atmosphere."
Panguitch means "Big Fish" in the Paiute language.  Panguitch City has been celebrating being on US 89 for longer than most local folks remember. It may not seem like it when travelers blow through Panguitch but there's a lot to see and do there.
Even though this is an old postcard, somedays The Flying M
can look just like this once again when a classic car tour stops by.
For US 89 Heritage Tourists there's only one place to eat--The Flying M.  Sure, there are plenty of other choices but the Flying M has been around for longer than most travelers have been alive. The Flying M serves up a normal menu of American Classic Diner Food.  Four out of five social media reviewers rate it average or better.  The Flying M is still well supported by the local folks and that's always a good sign.  Everybody in Panguitch knows everybody else so word gets around real fast.
The fact that the Flying M has managed to survive so many years in this small city is proof positive it's got something going for it.

In the fall of 2017, The Flying M closed for the winter, the first time this has ever happened in the restaurant's history.  It will reopen probably in May of 2018.  Things are very slow in Panguitch during the "off season," as they call it when tourists aren't driving through.

Whoever owns the Flying M these days has a sense of soup humor.  The soup of the day is described both in words and art work on the restaurant's white board.  We excerpted ten such pieces of soup art and made a 20 second video.

Click either button to see reviews for the Flying M.

A snippet from the Flying M menu.

Parry Lodge - Trails End - Kanab
In Kanab, Utah, we will discuss two vintage restaurants: Parry Lodge and Houston's Trails End.  Parry is the oldest Kanab restaurant remaining alongside US 89. Parry Lodge has quite a history dating back to 1931.  During Kanab's Golden Years as a Mini Hollywood, Parry Lodge was THE Place to see and be seen.  Stars, starlets, cast, crew and movie moguls mingled and moved about in casual western garb.  Although Kanab's Golden Years are distant history, Utah's southern-most city still tries to cling to that brass ring.  As a result, the lore and legend of Parry Lodge lives on.

Local folks no longer own Parry Lodge.  It was acquired by Forever Resorts, owner of more than 70 resort and recreational properties in the United States, Europe and Africa.  Corporate ownership and management equates to corporate food in the Parry Lodge dining room. Chances are good that the menu at Parry is roughly the same at you'd find at other nearby Forever Resorts properties such as Bryce and Grand Canyon Lodges or Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.

My wife and I occasionally stop by Parry Lodge between lunch and dinner hour just to visit the empty dining room and look at all the nostalgic Hollywood Era photos on the walls.  The Staff doesn't seem to mind and it's a fun "oh-so-Kanab" thing to do.
Now that we've paid our respects to Kanab's rightful heir to the Oldest Restaurant Title, let's turn our attention to Houston's Trails End which happens to be right across US 89 (AKA: Main Street) from Parry Lodge.  The Trails End has been around and doing quite well, Thank You, since 1945.  You'll find a lot of vintage postcards on eBay showing Peaches Trails End under operation during US 89's 1950 go-go days. The Houston Family took over in 1975.

Trails End is the place you're going to find the US 89 fixing's to feed your comfort food cravings.  Even though Trails End might seem like another local mom and pop kind of place, it's run by some of the best food service people in the business.  In 1978 the Houston Family expanded into the mobile catering business and since that time has worked for the Federal Government feeding fire fighters at remote sites all over the West. In 1999 Houston’s Catering, Inc. was awarded the “Small Business Contractor” of the year award by the Department of Agriculture. This was no small task for a company from the small town of Kanab, Utah. The catering company continues in operation today and you may very well see their rigs running up and down the roads of the West.

As the Houston's website says, "The pride of the operation has always been homemade cooking with a touch of western personality. Today, Grandpa Bob still makes 10 gallons of his country gravy and DayLean bakes her rolls daily. It’s the old family recipes and home style cooking that have made the Trails End a legend."

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Reviews for Parry Lodge.
Please use the buttons below for Trails End.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Grand Canyon Cafe - Flagstaff

The Grand Canyon Cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona, is without doubt the oldest US 89/Rt. 66 diner remaining on the old highway in that mountain town. One source says the Grand Canyon Cafe was "born" December 18, 1942.  However, another source indicates the diner was well established in the early 1940's. (Click here to read the sad tale.)

The Wong Family bought the venerable cafe in 1945 and ran it for over 70 years before selling to local investors.  Luckily, those investors have restored Grand Canyon Cafe to its glory days as a quintessential US 89/Rt. 66 roadside diner.  Only Brigham City's Idle Isle Cafe and Parry Lodge in Kanab have longer tenure on US 89 than Grand Canyon Cafe.

The Grand Canyon Cafe represents perhaps the epitome of a highway diner food establishment.  Back from the late 1920's well into the 1950's, roadside diners served up the bread and butter of highway food.  Fast food chains were unknown in the many small cities and towns along US 89's winding route from Mexico to Canada. Travelers back then knew they had to make it to the next town on the road map to find food....and the food they found was pretty much the same as the last place they ate...good old fashioned, down home American comfort food.

The menus of countless roadside diners across America could probably have been swapped with any other diner and no one would have noticed the different.  Chicken fried steaks, biscuits and gravy, heaping stacks of pancakes, a greasy burger and fries, bottomless cups of coffee...the list goes on.

Luckily, you'll still find all of the above and more at Grand Canyon Cafe.  From 1926 until I-40 came along, US 89 and Rt. 66 shared the same pavement from Ashfork to Townsend, Arizona.  Flagstaff was the main stopping point between those two pinprick communities.  Although there were many, many other road food diners in Flagstaff back in the day, only Grand Canyon Cafe stands alone as a survivor today.
The Grand Canyon Cafe has long been a
Comfort Food Beacon on US89/Rt. 66

Fred and Tina Wong's names will remain
forever tied to Grand Canyon Cafe.

The new owners represents a cross section
of New Era Flagstaff business owners.

The photo above is circa 1942 and attached to a sad story of discrimination and death at the Grand Canyon Cafe. Note the cafe was smaller in the early 1940's.  The Wong Family expanded the iconic diner to its present size.  Click here to read the woeful tale associated with the photo.

Click either button above to go to the
Reviews for Grand Canyon Cafe.