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Legendary Delgadillo’s: A Route 66 Must-See

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This is one of a full series of articles about interesting food locations along Route 66. See "related articles" or search "Route 66" for the full series.

There are a lot of historic places along Route 66, but few of the restaurants have their own Wikipedia entry. So we won’t attempt to go into the history of Delgadillo’s here—you can check it out for yourself.

What we will tell you is that Delgadillo’s is a must-see. Even more must-see than the Road Kill Café down the street, both in Seligman, AZ.

Yes, you’ll get treated to the trademark humor (fake mustard anyone?). But you can also get a really good hamburger, cheeseburger, even an Oinkburger (bacon, get it?) made anyway you want it.

The place was literally built from scrap lumber, held together today by the masses of business cards from all over the world that plaster their walls. It’s a family business, started by Juan Delgadino when he applied for a Dairy Queen franchise and, according to his daughter, was turned down.

So, instead he obtained a Snow Cap franchise; when that company when under, Delgadillo kept the name and continued to operate his business.

His daughter, Cecilia Alvarado, who comes in with her husband, Paul, on weekends to give her brother some time off, talks about the family tradition. “Up until the day he died my father was in here seven days a week. Here, everyday. Mom was mad he opened on Sundays—she said those should be church days. He only left for funerals, and then he had to think about it.”

His day job was with the Santa Fe railroad. “The stuff they threw away is how he built this,” she says.

“This” has grown over the years into a thriving business, quirky enough to show up on Arizona postcards as a landmark, and tasty enough for repeat customers to seek out their cheeseburgers and soft serve ice cream. The burgers, in fact, were voted best burger in the State by the Arizona Highways.

Alvarado cooked one for us, using the same grill that her father started with. She hand-pattied the meat, fried it with a little seasoning, then steamed the buns, and served it with crinkle cut fries and a small potato round cut into a smiley face. That same type of fry, by the way, has been in every order of French fries for about the last 15 years.

As for the burger itself? “I never squeeze the meat,” she said, poking small holes in it to test for doneness. “I like it nice and juicy.” Brandishing the spatula for emphasis she told us, “You can take that same meat, take it home, and it’s not the same, because this grill has been seasoned since 1953.”

Dan Lopez, who is really the boy’s basketball coach at the high school in Seligman and a cousin to Cecelia, also comes in to help out when needed. “I don’t know how many people come and tell us, ‘Spare me the mustard; I was here four years ago.’ Or, they come in and start telling us stories about Juan.”

Paul Alvarado also remembers his father-in-law with affection, saying, “He always wanted people to leave here with a smile, but he really got a kick out of them coming back. He always wanted people to come back.” He adds, “You meet some very interesting people.”

Cecilia adds, “My Dad ran circles around me. He was twice my age, and I couldn’t keep up with him. He was amazing.”

The family calls the restaurant “his legacy.” Cecilia says, “This was his dream, and we are working to keep it up for him. For him, and for the people who come back. It warms the heart.”