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 actually 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"
Neon lit up the cornfields at this eatery in the lat 50s. 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.
A hot day's drive could be cooled by treats set up by Elmo and Arline Winterland. Their "Googie" design drive-in was a landmark for Chicago-to-St. Louis 66 travelers and it was THE Place for Lexington-area teenagers.
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 in the late 1940s highlighted its beef steaks and locals recall coffee and pie with great fondness. Steve's held local wedding receptions and club events as well as 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-1930s. 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.
When African-American 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 African Americans. The restaurant placed a sign with the wording "We reserve the right to seat our customers" to post that fact. Such signs were common in central Illinois restaurants in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. African-American travelers could get meals served by other African-Americans, such as the Chat N Chew in Normal.