The historic U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, will reopen its diner later this summer for the first time more than a quarter century.
Longtime Shamrock resident Baldo de Leon in a telephone interview Wednesday said he’s leasing the restaurant space for one year from the city, which owns the Route 66 landmark, to run the restaurant that he’ll call the U-Drop Inn Cafe. He anticipates opening the restaurant by mid- to late July.
De Leon said he anticipates the cafe’s hours will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It will serve banana splits, milkshakes, sundaes and other treats, plus a variety of sandwiches.
De Leon has plenty of experience in the restaurant industry. He and his parents run the long-operating El Sombrero restaurant, a few blocks south of Route 66 on U.S. 83 in Shamrock.
He said city officials several months ago approached him about reopening the restaurant in the U-Drop Inn, part of which operates as a visitors center.
The diner portion of the building had remained inoperable even after the building was taken over by the city and renovated about 20 years ago, though it contains displays that include where Elvis Presley dined during one of his cross-country trips from his home base of Memphis to Hollywood or Las Vegas.
“They thought it was a missed opportunity,” he said of the diner being closed. “They wanted to bring in more tourists.”
Anthony Reichardt a few years ago posted online a video of the U-Drop Inn from 1994 and 1995, including an interview with cafe owner Wayne Pierce shortly before it closed.
De Leon said he understood the importance of the U-Drop Inn’s history and wants to respect it with his restaurant.
“I’ve told the city council I don’t take this stuff lightly,” he said. “I understand the gravity and all it entails.”
The National Park Service wrote this history about the U-Drop Inn, aka Tower Station:
Built in 1936 by J.M. Tindall and R.C. Lewis at the cost of $23,000, this gem of a building got its start in the dust when John Nunn drew his idea for the station on the ground with an old nail. Plans were later given to architect Joseph Berry who set the final wheels in motion. With its Art Deco detailing and two towers, the building was designed and constructed to be three separate structures. The first was the Tower Conoco Station, named for the dominating four-sided obelisk rising from the flat roof and topped by a metal tulip. The second was the U-Drop Inn Café, which got its name from a local schooolboy’s winning entry in a naming contest. The third structure was supposed to be a retail store that instead became an overflow seating area for the café.
UPDATE 5/28/2021: News Channel 10 in Amarillo published a story about the diner’s imminent reopening.
(Image of the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, by Jeff Kays via Flickr)