Texans have loved a good road trip at least as far back as the creation of the most iconic road in the U.S.—Route 66. The “Mother Road” from Chicago to Los Angeles cuts right through the Panhandle. Interstate 40 now bypasses many of the route’s original towns, but if you know where to exit, you’ll be treated to a dose of nostalgia and some really good food.
Whine Knot Ranch and Café
This small town café embraces its identity as a roadside stop for Route 66 travelers with signs, maps, and even a mural of Betty Boop in a red Corvette. International tourists frequent the restaurant looking for an authentic American experience, and the menu provides with a mix of country comfort cuisine and southwestern staples. If you make it here by breakfast, order the burrito smothered in spicy green chili. But you can’t go wrong with their diner-style cheeseburger any time of day.
Devil’s Rope Museum
Learn how barbed wire changed the American West at this museum dedicated exclusively to “the devil’s rope.” There are more than 2,000 types of wire on display including some that look so painful they must have been dreamed up by the devil himself. Across the hall, the Route 66 Museum highlights past roadside attractions, complete with a 12-foot-long snake from the now defunct Regal Reptile Ranch once located in the nearby town of Alanreed.
McLean-Alanreed Area Museum
Located in a historic building on the town’s red-brick streets, this museum’s artifacts are arranged in rooms covering every era of the town’s past. Ogle at the fashion of the Texas prairie, learn about how one of the town’s founders died on the Titanic, and even climb aboard McLean’s old fire truck.
Old Route 66 to Alanreed
Since it was first established in 1926, Route 66 has followed a number of different paths. The original route was anything but a straight line between cities, and it now feels like a meandering country road. The next version, which was active from 1932 to 1956, is now the southern access road to I-40. I recommend taking a short road trip to the town of Alanreed via the original route. Stop for a photo op and a glimpse of the past at the 66 Super Service Station in the middle of town.
Red River Steakhouse
The Texas Panhandle is known for its beef, and this restaurant puts it front and center. The interior décor tells the story of the pioneers who settled the area and features a full-size covered wagon in the corner of the dining room. The menu includes chicken, fish, and pork, but I’d recommend saddling up to a 14-ounce Cowboy rib-eye that’s been hand-cut and flame-kissed.
So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the McLean episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.