When I began planning the Route 66 trip, the tour books gave different opinions on what to visit during the 2,200 mile trip from Chicago to L.A. But they all agreed on one thing: Route 66 starts in Chicago.
My three traveling companions and I booked a suite at the Best Western River North on Ohio Street in downtown Chicago. We weren’t far from State Street so we decided to get out and walk until we found a place to eat. The first thing I always notice and appreciate about Chicago is the melding of the architecture with nature as the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan in the area known as The Loop. As we walked in the heart of this area, we often stopped and gawked and took pictures.
Another thing agreed upon in the book is where to have breakfast before heading west. Lou Mitchell’s sits right at the start of the original route, which began on Jackson Blvd. at Michigan Ave. before the World’s Fair in 1933 displaced it further east toward the entrance to Grant Park. However, Lou Mitchell’s, a Chicago landmark since 1923, remains true to the spirit of the Mother Road. The diner is known for its hearty breakfasts and the free things they give to patrons. We found this to be true immediately while we waited in line for our table. The hostess gave us all doughnut holes, and once we were seated, the waitress handed us all small boxes of milk duds. We discovered later only women and children received the milk duds.
After we placed our breakfast orders, large, juicy prunes sprinkled with cinnamon were placed in front of us. Now I don’t normally eat prunes, but when I saw one of my companions cut into hers and spied the juicy insides, I couldn’t resist. I’ll never eat a regular prune again after tasting that sweet morsel.
My breakfast came in an 8-inch skillet. I ordered two eggs over easy, but received four yolks as did everyone else at the table. When I asked the waitress, she said all the eggs they served were double-yolked.
I was already sold on the place, but the final act sealed my sticker of approval forever. The waitress brought us all soft-serve ice cream for our breakfast dessert.
What’s not to love about a place that serves prunes and ice cream after an appetizer of milk duds? We were fueled for the adventure that lay before us, which that day included visiting the several fiberglass giants along the route in Illinois. And it all began in Chicago.