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.
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.
Left: Andre lets me into the kitchen and I see the range, where most of the food is cooked. Right: As Andre slices vegetables for the meal, she answers the numerous questions that Jerry and throw at her about Bagdad Cafe, and life at Newberry Springs. Photo taken by Jerry 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.
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!
Left: Jerry 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 in 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 know, 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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