I'm a huge fan of history, and one of the more recent chapters in modern U.S. history is the migration of people affected by the dust bowl, of the 1930's into California. I've followed what's left of Route 66 from Santa Monica all the way east as far as Elk City, OK, and I find the history of the "Mother Road," and he events that led up the mass migration to be very fascinating. One of my favorite towns along the old road is Barstow, CA, and when you're finished with history, and you're ready enjoy a great meal, head over to Village Cafe, located on Main Street, historic Route 66, in Barstow.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: Village Cafe is located on Main Street - historic Route 66 - in Barstow, CA. You can definitely tell the building dates from the heyday of Route 66, and it looks like it was once named "The Village," according the stylized letters on the overhang.
It's early Saturday evening, September 14, 2019, and I'm in the mood for some classic, "Route 66" style food...
Photo: As I entered the restaurant, I wasn't surprised to see the restaurant sports classic "diner" style decor, complete with naugahyde upholstered booths, and 1980's style faux wood tables. I would imagine that "back in the day" there was a counter, rather the low partition. I did note the decor has been considerable updated, and definitely has a lot of Chinese influence, which is appropriate, as Village Cafe specializes in Chinese cuisine.
My host, Ellis, sits at a booth to the left, doing paperwork and watching a college football game on television, and local character, Jeff, relaxes in a booth against the wall. Besides Jeff, I was the only customer in the restaurant during my visit, and Jeff's status as a customer was uncertain to me.
Photo: The layout to get to the Coca Cola dispenser, glasses, condiments and other items is quite unique, and it appears you'd have to step into a booth to access these items. I wonder what the staff would do if the booths were occupied? I suspect a counter used to line this area in days gone by...
Photo: One of several pages of the "Chinese Food" section of the menu. It's seen better days, and is well-worn, but everything on the page of the menu looks good to me. However, historic Route 66 was calling me, so I flipped the page over to the "American Food" section of the menu...
Photo: The well-worn "American Food" section of the dinner menu seems to have seen many changes and corrections since it was printed. I came in anticipating Chinese food, but after looking over the "American Food" section, and thinking about historic Route 66, I switched gears and ordered "Chicken Fried Steak and Brown Gravy" instead, as that's a classic "comfort food" standard, and one of my favorites. Also, I was interested to see what "American" cuisine would be like at a Chinese restaurant...
Photo: Meet Jeff, a colorful, local guy, who was sitting in the rear of the restaurant in a booth, across from Ellis. As I was entering the restaurant, Jeff was chatting with Ellis about football, along with local issues such as the fact that the rent for his room was increasing. Eventually, I joined the conversation, and found Jeff to be a really friendly guy. I'm not sure of his status as a customer, as he didn't order any food during the entire time of my visit, as he seemed content just to relax in the booth.
Photo: After Ellis took my order, I wandered around the restaurant, taking photos and chatting with Jeff. At the rear of the restaurant, there's the pick-up window to the kitchen, where I caught a glimpse of the kitchen through the window. This fine restaurant is truly "old school" as the orders are taken on an order pad and given to the kitchen on an order wheel. I love the nostalgic atmosphere!
Photo: I noted this sign in the front window, but I wasn't given a breakfast menu - I should have asked to see one - so I can't vouch for this. However, even a very "basic" breakfast at $2.75 is a true bargain!
Photo: Meet Ellis, my host, who brings my dinner with a smile. Ellis was a great server, a great guy, and a true lover of football! After serving me, he returned to his booth at the back of the restaurant, resumed watching the football game on television, and continued his conversation with Jeff.
Photo: Thanks, Ellis, for snapping my photo as I prepare to enjoy my delicious dinner of "Chicken Fried Steak and Brown Gravy."
Photo: From the "American Food" section of the "Dinner" menu, I ordered "Chicken Fried Steak" which came covered in brown gravy, and included mashed potatoes, corn, and a piece of toasted sourdough bread.
The chicken fried steak was a decent size of meat - most likely 6 ounces - pounded flat, and tender. It was covered with delicious batter, deep fried to a golden brown, which definitely added to the taste of the meat, but didn't overpower it. The batter to meat ratio was perfect, and the steak was delicious. The thick, brown gravy had chunks of meat in it, and was delicious. I guess the chef was reading mind when I placed my order, and knew that I love gravy, and lots of it, as both the steak and the mashed potatoes were covered in his delicious gravy, and there was plenty of gravy left over for the corn.
Speaking of mashed potatoes, the potatoes were whipped perfectly, creamy, and just plain delicious, but nothing really special. The corn came from a can... but when you added the gravy, who cares? This fine dinner reminded me of the type of dinner many Route 66 travelers enjoyed during the glory days of the "Mother Road," and to me, this was a perfect dinner. The price was right, the food was great, the atmosphere was nostalgic and the company was great!
Photo: After placing my order on my table, Ellis went back to his table, and resumed his paperwork, all the while watching a college football game on the television. Ellis and I had quite a conversation about football, as he's an avid football fan of both college and N.F.L. - am as well - so he and I had a lot to chat about on this early Saturday evening.
The building is run down and has seen better days, mostly from the Route 66 era, it's a dive restaurant, but it has character, charm, and lots of local flavor. The food is great, the prices are just the way you like them, and you'll be treated to the company of Ellis, who is quite a gentleman. When you're in the mood for great Chinese or American "comfort food," you can't go wrong with a visit to Village Cafe, located in Barstow, CA.
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