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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Rock Cafe rebuilt in Stroud

  • One year after a fire gutted the historic Rock Cafe along Route 66 in Stroud, the famous cafe has been rebuilt with lots of “heart and soul” and with its famous outer rock walls intact. While the finishing touches on the restaurant are being completed for an official opening to serve food as early as Frida...
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  • One year after a fire gutted the historic Rock Cafe along Route 66 in Stroud, the famous cafe has been rebuilt with lots of “heart and soul” and with its famous outer rock walls intact. While the finishing touches on the restaurant are being completed for an official opening to serve food as early as Friday, visitors are already stopping by for tours.
    The Rock Cafe, 114 W. Main, was closed at the time of the May 2008 fire. Over the past year, work has been done to rebuild the icon to keep its historic integrity.
    Owner Dawn Welch said she’s working towards an opening to begin serving customers sometime Friday if at all possible, but by Monday at the latest. The menu will be the same and while there’s been some expansion for more seating, Welch said, “It’s been done in a way that doesn’t lose the Rock Cafe charm.”
    Owned by Welch since 1993, the Rock Cafe was built in 1939 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The rocks used to build the cafe were unearthed during construction of the Route 66 Mother Road.
    The outer shell of the building was saved and great care has been taken to ensure the historic preservation on the interior in hopes of keeping it on the National Register of Historic Places. David Burke, historic preservationist, has been working on the project, Welch said.
    As part of the rebuild, the interior design was built to look much like it did before the fire and there were some items that were difficult to find, such as the right ceiling fan lights, but Welch said she’s had help from many with special deals for the project along the way.
    “The Rock Cafe customer service has rubbed off everywhere,” Welch said.
    In addition to the building’s historic significance and an eclectic menu of Buffalo burgers, Chicken Fried Steak and Spaetzle, a dumpling, the restaurant will continue to be part of movie history. Dawn Welch is known as the direct inspiration for the character of Sally the Porsche in the Disney-Pixar animated film “Cars.” The Rock Cafe was one of the stops for the film crew researching Route 66 in 2001.
    Before the fire, the cafe contained “Cars” memorabilia and there was artwork on the walls of the bathroom, where graffiti was encouraged.
    Welch said she’s heard Disney-Pixar is sending new memorabilia to the restaurant and new signatures are already beginning to adorn the bathroom walls, with many more likely to follow.
    While construction has been ongoing, Welch has been busy working on a cookbook set for publication in November. The book will feature the Rock Cafe, along with 150 recipes, she said.
    Before the fire, the Rock Cafe and Welch were featured on the Food Network Show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” where the host shared her recipe for Spaetzle.
    Page 2 of 2 - While it has had different ownership over the years, the Rock Cafe has served Route 66 travelers since it first opened as a cafe Aug. 4, 1939.

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