Opened in 1946 as a hamburger stand on old Route 66, The Golden Light Café is struck by brilliant Western rays in afternoons when the sun is low in the south. The old brick front fairly glows and the otherwise dusty interior – where décor is neon beer signs and vintage license plates – is touched with highlights wherever light beams through glass in the door and windows. The high counter chairs towards the front tend to be occupied by locals, the miscellaneous tables and booths crowded with long-neck beers and burger platters. Ambience alone is an inspiring remnant of life along “America’s Main Street” before it became Interstate 40.
The hamburger is a nice one, albeit cooked cowboy-style (well done!), served with mustard, lettuce, tomato slices, onions, and pickle chips, nicely complemented by layers of cheese and chili on top. Available extras for the burger include roasted green chilies, jalapeno peppers, and fried onions. We also like the Fritos Pie (here known as “Flagstaff Pie”) – a large oval plate of Fritos chips topped with the stout house red chili, cheese, and onions.
The most memorable dish in this old café is French fries: thin-cut and superbly crisp, they have a starchy savor that calls only for a sprinkle of salt to attain perfection. If you want to walk on the wild side, apply some of the pepper-hot sauce that the Golden Light makes especially for its tables. Containing jalapeno, garlic, and corn, it is a ketchup-alternative condiment that is virtual dynamite.
A notable house motto, on the place mat menus: We serve good food, NOT FAST FOOD, so please be patient. At the peak of lunch hour, it may take a while for the two harried waitresses to get your burgers out, but they always manage to keep the frosty mugs of Shiner Bock coming.