When you're entertaining friends from out of the area, and you're in the vicinity of Newberry Springs, isn't a visit to the "World Famous" Bagdad Cafe a "must-do" stop on your travel itinerary? If you've ever seen the funky movie, Bagdad Cafe, and if you're visiting Newberry Springs, a visit to the Bagdad Cafe is a must. A visit to this fine restaurant is also in order if you're in the mood for a great meal, and you're a history buff, especially if you're a fan of historic Route 66...
Photo: It's 11 o'clock Tuesday morning, September 04, 2017. I've pulled into the empty parking lot of Bagdad Cafe, which is a rarity, as this restaurant is one of the most famous landmarks along historic Route 66, at least in California. I thought the restaurant was closed until I saw the friendly neon "OPEN" sign in the window, welcoming me to come in and enjoy breakfast.
Photo: As you enter the restaurant, you'll notice the counter, the order window, the tee-shirts for sale, and the unbelievable decor. Since my last visit to this unique restaurant, over 10 years ago, I noticed the decor had moved way over the "funky" line compared to my previous visit. No worries, as it gives the place more character.
Photo: One wall features many autographed dollar bills and business cards. Some of the autographs are hilarious, especially when you read between the lines and read the fine print.
Photo: Bagdad Cafe is a registered landmark along Route 66, and the restaurant is proud to display it's heritage on menus, posters, and practically everywhere. I definitely love the worn, mismatched stools at the counter.
There was only one local diner present, who looked to be a very over-the-hill desert rat, who finished his cup of coffee, and departed shortly after I arrived. Today was very unusual for this restaurant, but the solitude was quite welcome to me, as this fine diner is frequently mobbed by tour buses full of affluent tourists visiting the high desert from overseas. During the remainder of my visit, I had the dining room all to myself.
Photo: A portion of the breakfast menu. This fine restaurant is serious about breakfast, as breakfast is served whenever the restaurant is open. For some crazy reason I wasn't really hungry on this late Tuesday morning, so I decided to go mostly meatless, but I couldn't resist ordering a bowl of gravy to dip my hash brown potatoes into.
Photo: Another view of the counter, the funky decor, and the mis-matched stools and "table for two" at the counter. The window to the kitchen is a little hard to see, at the center of the photo, due to amount of "decorations" in the room.
Photo: After placing my order, I wandered around the restaurant, taking photos, and discovered this upright piano in the back dining room. I decided to amuse myself, so I sat down at the piano to belt out Beethoven's "Fur Elise" in A Minor, to make an impression and to bring a little culture to Newberry Springs. After playing the opening rift, and a few bars of this beautiful song, I gave up, as the piano was hopelessly out of tune.
Photo: Flags are tacked to the ceiling. The only employee working today, Gina, told me many of the flags were brought by foreign tourists and posted to the ceiling to mark their visit.
Photo: Another wall with patches, business cards, flags and souvenirs from previous visitors. g
Photo: Gina, the only employee on duty, works the counter. I asked her what happens when she's by herself and a bus load of visitors arrives. She told me she "gets busy." To me, that would be an understatement!
Photo; I sat next to the open windows and looked out into the parking lot. During the hour or so I spent at the restaurant, a few cars pulled into the lot, somebody jumped out and snapped a few photos, and then drove away. Why didn't the come in to enjoy a burger or a great breakfast? I wish that I'd had the presence of mind to take a photo or two of the folks taking photos...
Photo: Another view of the counter and the amazing decorations.
Photo: Gina works on my breakfast, as I snap her photo through the window to the kitchen. Note the "Route 66" tee-shirt she's wearing, which is should as a souvenir in the restaurant.
Photo: Gina brings my breakfast to my table. My breakfast arrived about 20 minutes after ordering it, which is not bad for a gal who is running the whole restaurant by herself. As I previously mentioned, lucky for me, I avoided tour bus visitors on this late Tuesday morning.
Photo: Thanks, Gina, for snapping my photo after bringing my breakfast to the table.
Photo: I usually heavy appetite deserted me today, so I went "meatless..." almost, and simply ordered two eggs over easy, hash browns and toast. I could not resist ordering a bowl of sausage gravy, as it is simply heavenly to dip my potatoes and toast into the gravy.
My breakfast was perfectly cooked, delicious, and the portion was very large. The total cost of my breakfast, including the bowl of gravy - only $.60 - and tax came to an unbelievable $6.59, which is about the same that you'd spend at a "fast food" restaurant and you'd suffer with a bland, corporate meal, that is the same from coast to coast.
At Bagdad Cafe, you'll enjoy a great meal, amazing atmosphere, and you can boast to your friends that you dined at a famous Route 66 landmark restaurant.
Let's go back to Thursday, January 11, 2007, when my wife and I visited this classic Route 66 diner with our friends, Gerry and Edna Flinn...
Left: Bagdad Cafe, on National Trails Highway, a.k.a., Route 66. Right: Looking inside Bagdad Cafe, as Edna gets up from the table and takes a look around the cafe.
Our friends Jerry and Edna were on their way home to Texas, after a three-week visit to northern California to visit friends and family. Jerry is a "roadie" at heart and a great fan of Route 66, and had seen the quirky movie Bagdad Cafe, and when I suggested to him that we might want to visit the place, and enjoy a lunch at the restaurant, he jumped at the chance. Since we were spending a "mini-vacation" with them in Laughlin, Nevada, as they were traveling home to Texas, lunch at Bagdad Cafe seemed the right thing to do.
I won't go into many details about Bagdad Cafe, as they have been covered in my previous article from 2005 about a wonderful lunch that my bother Paul and I enjoyed at the cafe, back in 2005. Neither Jerry nor Edna had ever been in the place prior to our visit, so when they entered the restaurant, they immediately commented that it looked like a 1950's roadhouse.
Left: The dining room of the "World Famous Bagdad Cafe," and it is, indeed, world famous. Right: Andre takes our order, and does an excellent job as chef, waitress and "chief cook and bottle washer." Oops... my '70's slang is getting the best of me...
Like Jerry and I do every time we visit a restaurant together, we always attempt to talk to the proprietor, take a lot of photos, and above all, try to get into the kitchen. Jerry was in his natural element as he chatted with Andre, a.k.a., the very friendly "Boss Lady," who on this cold January day of Thursday, January 11, 2007, was "manning" ... personing?... the entire restaurant by herself, sans the help of her helpful husband Tanen. Since she is a co-owner of the business, and doesn't have to deal with all of the middlemen, and other corporate clowns, she was glad to allow Jerry and I into the kitchen of the "World Famous Bagdad Cafe," to show us what really happens in there.
Photo: Andre graciously give me a tour of the kitchen, and I was able to watch our meals cooking on the large industrial range. I'm definitely a "sucker" for kitchen tours.
Photo: As Andre slices vegetables for the meal, she answers the numerous questions that Gerry and throw at her about Bagdad Cafe, and life at Newberry Springs. Photo taken by Gerry Flinn.
What is the kitchen like in the Bagdad Cafe? Plain. Functional. Clean... spotlessly clean, as Andre was proud to tell us how many hour she spends cleaning the restaurant, and the kitchen, and when you take a tour of the kitchen of the Bagdad Cafe, you can see that she's just not all talk, as the place is clean! Another phrase that come to my mind is low-tech, as a tour of Bagdad Cafe's kitchen is a step back to the 1950's. If you want a peek into a very functional, low-tech kitchen, without all of the modern, computerized equipment that has invaded the kitchens of the United States, be nice to Andre, talk to her, and maybe she'll give you a tour of her kitchen. After Jerry and I had thoroughly toured the kitchen, we returned to our seats to enjoy the wonderful lunch that awaited us.
Photo: Friendly Andre is cooking at the range and griddle, in the kitchen of the Bagdad Cafe. We were treated to a rare kitchen visit, and we got to see what really happens "behind the scenes" at the Bagdad Cafe. Jerry Flinn took this great photo.
As our meal was being prepared, a tour bus stopped by, and the restaurant was immediately inundated by a flood of European tourists, speaking French and German. Jerry and I attempted to speak to them in Spanish, but there were no takers, perhaps due to the fact that Jerry and I speak Mexican Spanish, and to that end, many Europeans don't care to apply. Like most of the tour bus crowd who adhere to a tight schedule, the crowd was in and out, in the space of around 20 minutes, which allowed us to marvel at the whole atmosphere, and to realize what a movie, and a DVD has done to direct tourism to an ordinary, obscure, out-of-the-way desert roadhouse cafe. Wow!
Left: Andre is truly adept at multi-tasking, as she cooks a fine meal as well as chatting with Jerry and I. Right: Oh yes, Andre serves my Ortega burger, as well as a salad for Edna, as Sharlene and Edna look on...
Andre is a person who you want to engage in a conversation, especially if you're interest in local history, trivia from the movie, Bagdad Cafe, or for that matter, any subject. She's an excellent cook, a gracious hostess, a friendly person, and someone who you can feel comfortable with. When you walk into the Bagdad Cafe, she'll greet you with a friendly hello and a smile, and make you feel like you're at home. Dine at the Bagdad Cafe, and you'll enjoy the cuisine of the Mojave Desert, and you'll get a chance to meet many of the friendly locals.
Photo: Andrea Pruett, co-owner of the restaurant and the "Boss Lady," works in the kitchen, as we take a peek through the window behind the counter. Compare this photo to the photos I took in 2018, and you'll see there have been quite a few changes in the decor over the past 13 years.
Photo: My wife Sharlene and I are checking out the menu. Thanks to my longtime friend, Gerry Flinn, for taking many of the photos, and allowing me to publish them on this web site.
Left: Andre serves Edna her meal of fried chicken. Right: My Ortega burger is ready to eat, and it smells delicious. If you're eating at Bagdad Cafe, you know all of the food is delicious!
Photo: Andre presents Edna's meal with a smile. Bagdad Cafe serves breakfast anytime the restaurant is open, so if you're serious about breakfast, this is a good place to stop when you're visiting Newberry Springs.
Left: Gerry snaps a photo of Sharlene and I, as we're ready to devour our delicious lunch. Right: Andre is good at photography, as she perfectly snaps our photo, taken behind the counter at Bagdad Cafe.
Sharlene ordered a clubhouse sandwich, Edna ordered a fried chicken lunch, and Jerry and I each ordered small, Ortega burgers. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the desert, and enjoyed very friendly conversation with the friendly co-owner and hard worker, Andre.
Bagdad Cafe: Pig-out, enjoy the local cuisine, chat with Andre, and have a wonderful time. Highly recommended!
Meanwhile, here's a write-up of a previous visit to Bagdad Cafe, back on Friday, May 27, 2005...
You've read about U.S. Route 66 during your junior year in high school history... You've read John Steinbeck's book, Grapes of Wrath... You've seen the late 1980's vintage movie Bagdad Cafe... Remember Whoopie Goldberg in the TV show Bagdad Cafe... You've seen the tour buses in front of the place... What am I talking about? Why the world-famous Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs, about a half hour east of Barstow, California, along historic Route 66.
Left: I park at Bagdad Cafe, east of Newberry Springs, California. Right: Bagdad Cafe has a historic Route 66 marker. Prior to the 1980's movie, Bagdad Cafe, place was known as the Sidewinder Cafe. After the movie, the new name just sort of stayed.
Yes, Bagdad Cafe is a real restaurant that is internationally known, but serves food that caters to locals. It's also a hangout for locals and if you'll look in the corner of the restaurant, you'll find the daily paper from Barstow and a whole bunch on contemporary magazines to read.
Left: "Boss Lady" Andre and helper Mary work the counter. Right: The breakfast counter at the Bagdad Cafe and the Route 66/Bagdad Cafe-oriented souvenir shop in the background.
If you're a fan of the 1950's and Route 66, then you'll want to pay a visit to the Bagdad Cafe. Inside you'll find such items as a counter with stools, where the "Boss Lady" will make you a real milkshake, with real ice cream. Then you can look into the corner of the place and check out the heater. Yes, to bring you back to the 1950's or earlier, it's one of those large enameled boxes mounted near the ceiling at the corner of the building, held to place by half-in galvanized pipe fittings; a plumbers dream. Such is a roadhouse of 1950's vintage.
Left: Tanen prepares my lunch, which consisted of an Ortega burger. What is that you ask? A hamburger with a grilled Ortega chili pepper placed on top of the meat, a standby in southern San Joaquin Valley cuisine. Right: My brother Paul and a local are seen in the Bagdad Cafe dining room.
Andre and Tanen own and run the Bagdad Cafe, and they're hard at work from 0700 to 1900 every day of the week; naturally they have other employees on an "as-needed" basis. Andre is known as "Boss Lady" and she will greet you as you walk in the door. She keeps the place clean, takes your order, brings your meals to you and does just about everything in the place. Tanen's main job is taking care of the kitchen and cooking food, as he's not as gregarious as his wife, but you'll see Tanen waiting on tables in between kitchen duties.
Photo: I demonstrate how to successfully eat a Ortega burger at the Bagdad Cafe.
What kind of a menu does a world famous eatery like Bagdad Cafe feature? How about local, California, desert cuisine. Bagdad Cafe features good food, but their menu could not be considered fancy by any means, nor could their menu be considered exotic; basically, it's a reflection upon the taste of the locals. However, as a native of the southern San Joaquin Valley of California, I find the menu of the Bagdad Cafe right in line with my tastes. Order anything on their menu and you'll be happy, as the food is good, the price is reasonable and Andre and Tanen are gracious hosts. Not the mention the atmosphere of a 1950's roadhouse. Darn, I wish James Dean was still with us!
Left: If you're a local resident, Bagdad Cafe maintains a "bar tab" for locals, so you can charge your meals and pay them once a month, as this gentleman is doing. Right: Andre and Mary check out the receipts. Note that there are no electronic computers or calculators, as the bookeeping is done the old fashioned way.
When you're east of Newberry Springs, pull off the Interstate and take the old road, historic Route 66 and stop by the Bagdad Cafe for a great meal at a reasonable price. You'll come away satisfied and you'll experience a piece of history that you won't find on the Interstate.
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