This extremely well-worn cafe has been remodeled many times since it originally went up in 1939 as the last of Route 66 was being paved. Roy Rieves built it out of sandstone removed as the highway was constructed, and from 1959 to 1983 it was operated by Mamie Mayfield, who became a legendary hostess known to long-haul truckers and road trippers on the old Mother Road. The current proprietor is Dawn Welch, a prodigious cook who credits the goodness of her food to the vintage griddle in the kitchen, which she describes as having been “seasoned for eternity.”
Among Dawn’s menu innovations are a chicken fried steak she makes out of a pork cutlet rather than a slab of beef. It is juicy and tender, sheathed in a luxuriously brittle crust. Having been married to a man from Switzerland, she also broadened the menu with spaetzel (topped with melted jack and cheddar cheese) and apple streusel crepes. There are Mexican dishes, stir fries, po-boys, beignets, tall stacks of pancakes, and a short bowl of beans with cornbread on the side.
A cool destination halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Rock Cafe survived a devastating fire in 2008. It was reborn with a bigger dining room, but with the same cozy local-cafe spirit. On the a set of shelves are over half a dozen guest books signed by visitors. “We are from Oslo,” wrote a couple called Greta and Stein. “This is the only place between here and there,” another customer contributed. Someone else drew a map of Corsica with a star marking home.
Stroud, which bills itself as the heart of the heartland, is a sleepy small town once known for its rough-and-tumble taverns, but now more famous for its every-July brick and rolling pin throwing competition.