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Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket
Description

The Rhea family has welcomed Route 66 travelers since the 1940's, when the restaurant served as a Blue Bird bus stop. Today, they serve some of the best fried chicken you'll eat! Make sure to save some room to browse through all the great 66 memorabilia and their incredible collection of chickens. Featured on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" with Guy Fieri. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket recently was awarded a 2016 National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Program Neon Sign Restoration Project grant for $34,600. 

From the National Park Service grant: “The Chicken Basket began in the 1930s as a lunch counter attached to a service station in then- rural Hinsdale, Illinois. This mix and match of functions was typical for Route 66 establishments, which often operated on very thin profit margins that required them to be creative in attracting customers. Legend has it that in the late 1930s two local farm women offered a deal to original owner Irv Kolarik, who was looking to expand his food menu. They would reveal their excellent fried chicken recipe to Mr. Kolarik and his customers if he would promise to buy the necessary chickens from them. To sweeten the deal the women offered to teach him how to actually fry the chicken. Soon, the service station was history and the Chicken Basket was born.

The restaurant we see today was built in 1946 adjacent to the original location of the 1930s station. The one-story brick building was constructed in a no-nonsense, utilitarian commercial style of the immediate postwar period. Overall, the restaurant retains much of its original 1946 appearance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restaurant has a flat, steel roof that did double duty in the 1950s; to attract customers, Mr. Kolarik flooded the roof in winter and hired youths to ice skate on top of the building.

The restaurant flourished, but like many other successful businesses along Route 66, the Chicken Basket faced a serious challenge with the coming of the interstate in 1962. However in 1963, Delbert (Dell) Rhea, a savvy Chicago businessman, purchased the restaurant and turned things around through aggressive advertising aimed at Chicago’s expanding suburban population as well as Route 66 travelers. Today the restaurant continues to flourish. NPS grant funds will assist with restoration of the neon sign.”

Closed Mondays.

Location
Alignment 1926||1930||1940
Northern Region

645 Joliet Road (I-55 and Route 83)
Willowbrook, IL
60527

Contact
(630) 325-0780
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