Roadkill Cafe – Seligman, Arizona
I had my dinner yesterday
In a place they call the Roadkill Cafe
They serve their dishes full of tricks
Scraped off Highway 66.
From the Roadkill Cafe menu
The legality of gathering and consuming roadkill varies from state to state. In Tennessee, gathering and consuming flattened fauna (save for domestic pets) is not only perfectly legal, it made for great comedic fodder when Volunteer State native Al Gore ran for the Presidency. In Maine, the police have to tag the furry Frisbees before you can take them home to cook it, while in Wyoming, the tagging is done by a game warden. Only if you have a scientific collecting permit and plan to study it can you pick up roadkill in California. Arizona state laws not only prohibit gathering and consuming roadkill, jurisprudence specifically prohibits the hunting of camels.
States in which roadkill is legal would envy the menu at Seligman, Arizona’s famous Roadkill Cafe on Route 66. The menu includes such flattened food and car-crashed carrion as “Rack of Raccoon,” “Long Gone Fawn,” “Rigor Mortis Tortoise,” and “The Chicken That Almost Crossed the Road.” Political correctness doesn’t spare the child either. The children’s menu includes “Donald Forgot to Duck,” “Poached Bambi Burger,” “Barney Con Carne” and “Rocky the Low Flying Squirrel.” The restaurant’s motto is “You Kill It, We Grill It.”
The many species of wildlife–among them mule deer, elk, antelope, javalina, turkey, rabbit, mountain lion, coyote, fox, prairie dog, bobcat and black-footed ferret–which call the Seligman area home obviously can’t read the Roadkill Cafe’s menu or they might have relocated. Many of the illiterate among them hang on the walls of the OK Saloon on the back of the restaurant, the handiwork of a taxidermist. Still, it’s precisely because of the presence of wildlife in its natural habitat that Seligman is a very popular destination for hunters and photographers.
Situated about halfway between Flagstaff and Kingman, Seligman calls itself the “birthplace of historic Route 66” (though Springfield, Missouri would dispute that claim). At 5,250 feet in elevation, it has one of the few remaining Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad stations as well as a Harvey House. Aside from mounted wildlife, the OK Saloon is a veritable museum with antiques from the area’s Old West heritage. Located immediately outside the saloon is the old Arizona Territorial jail which once confined several unscrupulous scofflaws. Adjacent to the jail are Old West storefronts which have had several cameos in commercials and documentaries.
The Roadkill Cafe is replete with roadside kitsch–and not of the dead animal variety (though there are several mounted animal heads on the walls). The walls and ceiling are paneled in rustic woods resonating a pronounced Western or Old West theme. Farm implements, animal traps, frying pans, pots, tools and sundry bric-a-brac serve as decorative touches. There’s something to see everywhere you turn, but perhaps the most catchy kitsch is the menu which will bring a snicker to all but vegetarians and animal rights activists.
The simple thing to do would be to order the all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar which will set you back a pittance and enthrall you with a nice variety of ingredients, toppings and dressings. Beverages are served on quart-sized Mason jars and are refreshed faithfully. The coffee is served on thick ceramic mugs and is hot and delicious. You can easily tell the tourists from the locals. The tourists are the ones with the cameras flashing and the locals are the ones who walk in and sit down without waiting to be escorted to their tables. Both tourists and locals are welcomed as guests.
The charbroiled cheeseburger (whose roadkill sobriquet escapes me) is one of the more popular items on the menu, perhaps because no matter what it’s called on the menu, it’s bound to be good. That’s the magic of charbroiling. Not only does it make the entire restaurant smell as if you’re cooking out-of-doors, it leaves a nice crusty bark on the outer edges of the burger no matter the degree of doneness. The Cafe’s burger features a thick beef patty of about eight ounces topped with a slice of melted American cheese. Pickles, tomatoes, onions and lettuce are plated on the side and there’s mustard and ketchup on the table. A charbroiled buffalo burger is also available.
Lame jokes about the chicken that crossed the road have been told for years. We now know about the chicken that didn’t make it across that road. It’s on the Roadkill Cafe’s menu where it’s listed as the “chicken that almost crossed the road.” It’s a good thing it didn’t make it all the way across. The Cafe’s fried chicken is delicious with a crispy golden crust that sheathes a juicy leg, thigh and wing. The crust isn’t greasy as chain restaurant chicken tends to be. Served with two sides of your choice, you’ll be well advised to order the seasoned Texas fries which are cut from baking potatoes.
The menu features a number of pies, not made on the premises but quite good. The pecan pie and pumpkin pie are fresh and tasty with a thick, buttery and flaky crust. Both go very well with the restaurant’s coffee.
Seligman is the quintessential Old West frontier town which has parlayed its Route 66 heritage into a popular travel–and perhaps dining–destination. The Roadkill Cafe is one of several reputedly excellent restaurants in the town. It’s become our preference for a meal on the way to or from Las Vegas.
502 West Highway 66
LATEST VISIT: 12 November 2011
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Fried Chicken, Cheeseburger, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie