If you’re going to start Route 66 in Chicago, start your trip right with a meal at Lou Mitchell’s diner. Nicknamed the “first stop on the Mother Road,” I can’t think of a better place to break your fast or mark the beginning of a journey. Also, since the place opens at 5:30 on weekday mornings, you don’t have to derail your whole day with a stop here. (Tangent! One of my few complaints about living on the West Coast is that nothing opens early. A huge thing I miss about Midwestern living is being able to run errands and go out to eat at the crack of dawn!)
And if you go, you best come hungry. Not only are the plates enormous (double-yolk eggs!), but even the simplest breakfasts turn out to be five-course meals there. Leave room for the doughnut holes, is all I’m saying.
Now, the food and history are reason enough to eat at Lou Mitchell’s. But the icing on the proverbial cake, for me, was the lettering. Hoo boy, there is more gorgeous, vintage, hand-painted sign lettering in there than can be found in some entire cities. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
All I can say is thank goodness this place is still here, still largely untouched. It seemed like a good omen for embarking on an Americana pilgrimage. Long live Route 66, long live Lou Mitchell’s.