The sign of a large, chocolate-dipped cone sits atop Delgadillo’s Snow Cap in Seligman, Arizona, drawing drivers off Route 66 for burgers that come out quick — and a gentle razzing by Snow Cap staff. Ask for a straw to go with your shake, and the woman behind the counter is likely to offer you a handful of dry straw. Cashiers have been known to feint squirting youngsters with mustard. All of it in honor of the Snow Cap’s founder, Juan Delgadillo, the self-described “clown of Route 66.”

Delgadillo built the diner from scrap lumber in 1953, back before Interstate 40 opened, bypassed the town and rendered America’s most storied roadway obsolete. The ’50s are kept alive, though, via the walls, decorated with hand-painted pictures of food, and old beer, and cola ads, and, naturally, Route 66 signs. The founder died in 2004, but he lives on, too, via “Juan’s Garden” where patrons sit amid old trucks and fuel pumps behind the restaurant.

Nowhere is the spirit of Juan Delgadillo more alive than in the diner’s seemingly forever joshing customer service. And no one carries the mantle more than his son John, who has helped take over the family business. On a recent Friday night, he and his wife, Rita, could be seen hustling around the kitchen, hot oil snapping as they cooked up French fries for a growing number of customers waiting outside for their order.

“Kiki?” John eventually called from the window as he set down a basket with a hamburger and a pile of fries topped with a potato in the shape of a smiley face.

His granddaughter and I, it turns out, have the same name, though spelled differently, and John explained that they call her Kiki.

I told him my friends call me Kiki, too, but he didn’t miss a beat.

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“You have friends?” he said, and then he smiled. 

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap

301 AZ-66

Seligman, Arizona

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