Route 66 News

A feature on Maldaner’s, one of Route 66’s oldest restaurants

The Springfield State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., soon will publish a section on area businesses that are at least 100 years old.

One of them is Maldaner’s Restaurant in downtown Springfield, which has operated since 1884. It sits on Sixth Street (aka Route 66), which makes it one of the rare still-operating restaurants that predate the Mother Road.

The newspaper produced this video about Maldaner’s featuring an interview with Michael Higgins:

The newspaper provided this brief history of the restaurant and founder John C. Maldaner:

The Milwaukee native moved to Springfield in 1866. He opened the forerunner restaurant, Confectioneries and Bakers at 216 S. Sixth St. in 1884, according to a history compiled for the restaurant in 2002 by Springfield high school student Nicholas Feller. Feller compiled the history as a class project.

Maldaner worked as a pastry chef at the former Leland Hotel before opening his own business.
After a couple of moves and a name change, the restaurant opened at the current address, 222 S. Sixth St., in 1898.

Maldaner established his restaurant as a political watering hole earlier on, including his involvement in the still-young Republican Party. He jointed The Tanners in support of the presidential bid of Ulysses S. Grant.

“I was captain of the Springfield Tanners,” Maldaner told a forerunner of The State Journal-Register in 1920, “and we wore leather caps when we paraded on hot days.”
Maldaner died in 1924 at age 71.

Higgins bought the restaurant 20 years ago and restored some of the restaurant’s early 1900s look. Downtown preservationist Carolyn Oxtoby also brought back some of the building’s early look after she bought it about 1980.

The restaurant’s menu has evolved over the years, but continues to serve local standards such as Beef Wellington and the horseshoe.

Maldaner’s cannot make the claim as the oldest restaurant on Route 66. The Sycamore Inn in Rancho Cucuamonga, Calif., probably takes the crown, with roots going back to 1848.

(Hat tip to Cheryl Eichar Jett; image of the interior of Maldaner’s by ryangs via Flickr)


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