When I'm on the road, I prefer to start my day off with a stick-to-my-ribs breakfast, preferably with a plate of biscuits and gravy, and a hot cup of coffee on the side. Fast food is ok for dinner, but it's just not my "thing" for breakfast. I also like to sit at a table, choose from a menu, and enjoy coffee that is poured into my cup by an attentive server. If the aforementioned describes the way you like to start your day, and you're in Ludlow, CA, the only game in town is the Ludlow Coffee Shop.
Photo: Ludlow Coffee Shop is located across from the Chevron Gas Station, and it's owned by the same people. Note the name Coffee Shop is on the sign, and painted on the roof of the building.
There seems to be some confusion about the name of the restaurant, as both the names Coffee Shop and Café are used interchangeably... not to mention the name of the street is confusing as well... is it Crucero Road or is it National Trails Highway? Note the road sign, as it seems to be confused as well. After I checked into the Ludlow Motel for the night, I pondered this mighty question, and I resolved to find to answer to my dilemma -- any way I could. Since the Coffee Shop is the only restaurant in town that offers a real, sit-down breakfast, I decided to pay them a visit in the morning, not only to enjoy a delicious breakfast, but to have my eternal question answered.
Photo: What is the name of the road? Is it Ludlow Drive or National Trails Highway? To top it off, most addresses in town give Crucero Road as their address... Heck, it's just historic Route 66, as any address in Ludlow is easy to find.
I've enjoyed the fine cuisine before, and wrote an extensive article about my January 1, 2009 visit... later in this article, to the restaurant, so I'll skip the descriptions. Suffice to say on this Monday morning, March 16, 2009, the decor was as rustic as ever, and the waitress on duty, Linda, was dressed just as "folksy" as the restaurants that I'd had the pleasure to meet during my previous visit. After a menu was placed on my table, and my first cup of coffee was poured, it was time to get down to serious business, to find out the name of the restaurant. (I already knew what I wanted to order for breakfast...) The menu offers no clues... so when Linda came to take my order, I popped the question to her, "Is the name of this place the Ludlow Café, or the Ludlow Coffee Shop?" She answered, "Both," as I placed my order of two eggs, over easy, home style potatoes, and biscuits and gravy on the side.
Photo: The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant is the breakfast counter. Linda is behind the counter, and I stand in the door, with the sun to my back, snapping a silhouette of a self-portrait.
Perhaps the name Ludlow Café could be somewhat misleading, as an uninformed traveler could easily become confused with the predecessor of the restaurant, the Ludlow Café, which is a long-closed, burned-out hulk from the glory days of Route 66. Linda did go on to tell me that since so many people confuse the present operation with the relic of the past, that the official name of the establishment is the Ludlow Coffee Shop, but they're happy to cash-in on the identity of the old restaurant. Now that solves the riddle of the name of the restaurant!
Photo: My breakfast is on the table in front of me, as I snap the inside of the main dining room from table level. The gentleman in the photo was the only other customer, on this sunny March Monday morning, at 0715.
Photo: My breakfast of home style potatoes, fried eggs over easy, biscuits and gravy, and a cup of hot coffee. This is, perhaps, my favorite breakfast combination, especially when I'm on the road.
Like my last visit, my breakfast was cooked to order, and done to perfection. Unlike my previous visit, my breakfast arrived in a timely manner, which was a welcome change. Maybe they read my previously published review of the restaurant? The food was delicious, the service was good, my coffee cup was always full, and the price was right.
Photo: Linda graciously snaps my photo, as I'm about ready to enjoy a delicious breakfast. The breakfast cost only $6.40, the coffee was only $1.25, but I left her $11.00 and told her to keep the change.
Ludlow Coffee Shop is a modern-day Ludlow institution, and carries on the highway tradition of historic Route 66. When you're visiting Ludlow, and you're in the mood for a great meal, I'd highly recommend that you pay Ludlow Coffee Shop a visit.
Now, let's back up to January 31, 2008, when my brother Paul and I spent New Year's Eve in Ludlow, and dined at the coffee shop. What a way to bring in 2009!
Photo: The Ludlow Café, or is it the Ludlow Coffee Shop? Whatever the real name is, it's the only sit-down restaurant in the historic Route 66 town of Ludlow, in the Mojave Desert,
There are exactly three places to eat in the small desert town of Ludlow: Ludlow Café , the only sit-down restaurant, a fast-food Dairy Queen, located inside the 76 station, and the hot-dog--pre-packaged food served at the Chevron station. Sure, Ludlow isn't a diner's paradise, but it's an oasis in the Mojave Desert, and a pit-stop for gas 'n grub in the middle of nowhere.
My brother Paul and I were on a railfan trip, enjoying the railroad action at BNSF's busy Needles Subdivision, and staying the night at the only motel in town, the Ludlow Motel. The same folks that own the motel, the auto repair shop own the restaurant, and all of the businesses are co-located, so why not take the opportunity to dine at the Ludlow Café? After all, it's only a 30-second walk from the motel to the restaurant, so why walk across the street for a pre-packaged sandwich at the Chevron station when you can enjoy a sit-down meal at the Ludlow Café?
Photo: Note the rustic decor of the main dining room. Near the center of the photo, souvenirs of the Route 66 days are displayed. Unfortunately, they don't have any souvenirs that mention the name of Ludlow.
Ludlow Café is located in a rustic, a-frame building across the street from the Chevron station, and next to the motel. When you walk in, you'll notice the rustic decor, and the heavy emphasis on the café's emphasis on its Route 66 heritage. Back in the 30'S, 40'S and 50'S, Ludlow was a major highway oasis, but those glory days are gone... in 2009, Ludlow is a semi-ghost town. Back to our story... you seat yourself, at the counter, or turn to the right and you can seat yourself at a booth, or a dining table, the choice is yours, as you seat yourself. Quite informal, in keeping with the harsh conditions of the Mojave Desert. You look around the dining room, and if you'll look past the racks of Route 66 souvenirs, you'll note the dining room is attractive, and very rustic. At Ludlow Café, you seat yourself, as Paul and I seated ourselves at a booth at the back of the restaurant, and I noted on my watch that about 10 minutes elapsed before Vanessa, our waitress, acknowledged us, and presented us menus.
Photo: Vanessa places Paul's 16-oz Porterhouse steak on the table. My dinner, and my only cup of coffee is already present, yet I'm too busy taking photos to eat. Such is the life of a restaurant journalist...
In all fairness, we noted that Vanessa was the only waitress, and she preformed the duties of the sever, table busser and cashier on duty, and there was only one cook in the kitchen, and we noted that Vanessa was a busy person, as we weren't the only diners in the restaurant. If you want a sit-down meal in the small town of Ludlow, then Ludlow Café is the only game in town. Whatever... After the 10-minute wait, Vanessa brought the menus, and we ordered our drinks immediately: Coffee for me, water for Paul. Within the timeframe of only two minutes or so, our drinks arrived and we placed our orders: 16-oz Porterhouse steak dinner for Paul with all the trimmings, and a chicken fried steak dinner for me. Salads for both of us, with ranch dressing. I was able to really savor my dinner, as it was Paul's turn to pay. Yeah!
There is a point of contention when you're eating at this restaurant, as the name of the place varies. The neon sign on the roof of the restaurant reads Ludlow Coffee Shop, yet the menu reads Ludlow Café. If you travel a block or so east along old Route 66, you'll see the burned-out, gutted relic of the original Ludlow Café, which hasn't served a hamburger for probably 50 years. Stupid me, as I neglected to ask Vanessa what the real name of the place is.
Our salads arrived shortly after placing our orders. The menu had cautioned that the salads were "side salads" and that was an accurate description, as the salads were very small, and they were composed of shredded lettuce and carrots; nothing else, with a generous helping of watery ranch dressing. The salads were quite average and very unforgettable, except for the fact that after we'd finished our salads, watery liquid was left in the bottom of the small salad bowls. Quite unappealing... But the dressing was good, and the soda crackers were delicious, which added the right touch for the salads.
Photo: Vanessa snaps our photo, as Paul digs into is huge steak dinner, cave man style. Despite the lethargic service, Vanessa was gracious enough to take our photo, and put up with my photo journalism, and my constant questions. We rewarded her with a $5.00 tip for a $20.00 meal.
In minutes, our dinner orders arrived, served to us by our server Vanessa. She seemed quite nonchalant as I snapped her photo as she served us dinner, and she to be the seemed to be the same girl as I asked her to take a photo of Paul and I, with our dinners, which is a ritual when I dine at a unique restaurant. The performed the photo ritual without hesitation... thanks Vanessa. At this time, my coffee cup was nearly empty, and I was lusting for more of the delicious coffee that my first cup contained. But there was the meal to tackle, in Paul's case, as pound of steak, fries and veggies... he devoured his meal like a cave man. I was a bit more refined, as I carefully cut my savory meal of chicken-fried steak into bite-sized pieces, and marveled at the gravy that not only covered my steak, but my mashed potatoes as well.
My cave man brother Paul devoured is meal in record time and enjoyed every morsel. He really didn't comment on the quality, or quantify, nor the presentation of his dinner, as he was too occupied eating it, cave man, style. I love to see a guy enjoy his meal... as for me, I savored every bite of my wonderful meal, as I noticed the same, delicious sausage gravy covered my chicken-fried steak, as well as the mashed potatoes... a nice touch. As an unexpected bonus, I was treated to a slab mixed vegetables on the side.
Photo: My definition of an outstanding dinner: Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, both covered in delicious, in-house made gravy, with a side of mixed vegetables. Not shown in the photo is the watery salad that proceeded the main course.
My chicken-fried steak dinner was delicious, most probably the best chicken-fried steak dinner I have enjoyed in years, and the wonderful sausage gravy was liberally applied to my side order of mashed potatoes, but trying to get a second cup of coffee was a chore, as it didn't happen. I really wasn't able to quiz Paul about the quantity, quality, and presentation of his dinner, as it was largely consumed by the time I'd taken a couple of photos and written a few field notes in my log book.
By the time Paul and I had finished our meals, the dining room was largely empty of guests, and Vanessa was clearing tables, but despite my hand and eye signals to our server, Vanessa, she seemed to ignore my eye signals, hand signals and body contact. What does a guy do for a second cup of coffee at dinner?
Photo: Paul pays for our meal, as it was his turn. Note the Christmas decorations that still lingers in the dining room on this New Years Eve, 2008. Wow! New Years Eve in Ludlow!
After pushing our empty plates aside and waiting for another 15 minutes or more, , we finally gave up, and said "heck-to-it" to the second cup of coffee and Paul's order of hash brown potatoes. It was Paul's treat for dinner, so he bellied up to the cash register, where Vanessa promptly took his money for our meal. Upon my suggestion, we left her a $5.00 tip, for a $30.00 meal, mostly due to the fact that I took a few photos of our dining experience. Vanessa seemed to be out of her comfort zone as I snapped the photos, yet she readily submitted to my demands, so despite the mediocre service, upon my urging, we left her a generous tip.
Photo: The time: 0630. The date: January 1, 2009: The place: Ludlow Café, Ludlow, California. Our server Julie, hard at work. Unlike the night before, Julie kept my coffee cup full. Maybe the restaurant had a New Year's resolution or something?
My honest review of Ludlow Café? Good food, maybe even great, as their dinner chicken-fried steak and gravy that I enjoyed can't be beat, as it is one of the best chicken-fried steak dinners that I've ever enjoyed, but be sure to order mashed potatoes on the side if you want to savor all of their delicious gravy. Their gravy is good, but all that aside, Ludlow Café is the only sit-down game in town, such that it is. Keep in mind that the cafe offers delicious food, but marginal service. Again, they have a monopoly on dining for a huge area in the Mojave Desert, as they're the only full-service restaurant in the town of Ludlow, California.
Photo: January 1, 2009 breakfast of two fried eggs, over easy, country fried potatoes, and a side of biscuits and gravy. Note the large chunks of sausage in the gravy. Mmmmmmm good!
We noted that Ludlow Café is open from 06:00 in the morning until 08:00 in the evening, (0600 to 2000,) so they're you're full-service restaurant. If you stay at the motel, you'll be provided a copy of their extensive menu, which features a choice for every taste. Whatever satisfies your palate, Ludlow Café has a choice on their menu for you.
Would I recommend dining at the Ludlow Café? Sure, why not? ... as they're the only full-service restaurant in the small town of Ludlow, and for miles around... they're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good food, marginal service... go ahead and roll your dice, and go for it. Ymmmmmm... enjoy!
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