Route 66 in the News

Route 66 Landmark Palms Grill Reopens

2009-05-19 20:30:34

ATLANTA, Ill. - Bill Thomas punched a few keys and turned a crank to open the old-fashioned cash register at the Palms Grill Cafe.

Moments later, the Atlanta resident, instrumental in reopening the business, took a call on its rotary telephone.

The old cash register and phone, as well as a vintage refrigerator, are all part of the effort to make the cafe appear as it did during its 1930s heyday.

The restaurant, 110 Arch St., will celebrate its grand reopening from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday. Once a halfway stop for those traveling Route 66 from Chicago to St. Louis, it was left off the beaten path by the opening of Interstate 55, and closed in the late 1960s.

Now, Thomas, chairman of the Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway program, hopes renewed tourism on the Mother Road will again make the cafe a destination.

“We want people to see, taste and feel the Route 66 experience,” said Thomas, also treasurer of the Atlanta Public Library, which owns the building that houses the restaurant and the Atlanta Museum.

The building was renovated at a cost of $500,000, with money raised from grants and gifts. Attention to detail was painstaking. For instance, there are namesake palm trees in the cafe and the back room has space for groups to play bingo, just like in the past.

Palm trees were first placed in the cafe by Atlanta resident Robert Adams, who opened the eatery in August 1934. Adams was inspired by palms he saw in California.

Customers also get a taste of yesteryear from menu offerings that include fried bologna and grilled Spam sandwiches. There’s also more typical offerings such as roast beef, turkey, hamburgers and hot dogs. Most lunches are $5 to $7.

Homemade pies, including peach, blueberry, banana cream and coconut cream, are popular, Thomas said. Another favorite is the blue plate special, consisting of meat and two or three side dishes on a divided blue plate.

Hours for the business are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The cafe reopened in late April and one goal is to help the city of 1,650 economically, Thomas said. Rental income from the cafe helps support the Atlanta Museum.

The grand reopening will also help support the museum. There will be catfish and prime rib specials, homemade baked goods and music by David Hout and Ben Rudolph plus the Prime Time Country Opry Musicians.

Meanwhile, Atlanta resident Marge Dyer, who loves the pies, eats at the cafe about once a week. One of her recent meals included a grilled Spam sandwich.

“It’s like an old fashioned diner, very personable and the food is good,” said Dyer, 70.

~Bob Holliday,


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