This week, the vintage Route 66 restaurant opened with new owners, revamped menu and a fresh approach.
The prized buffalo head still graces Big Chief Roadhouse restaurant’s main dining area in Wildwood, but customers will find many new touches and a remodeled ambiance at 17352 Manchester Road. Big Chief owner Stephanie Mulholland said even the buffalo head was retouched and fixed up.
Big Chief’s owners recently received their liquor license from Wildwood officials, and as planned, officially reopened the doors June 11. This week, the new staff has been working through the ordering and “soft-opening” operational process.
Located across from Wildwood Middle School, customers have been frequenting this historic Route 66 restaurant since 1929. The present owners took possession of the building March 4, and it has been closed since for remodeling.
Big Chief Roadhouse originally was built in what was at the time Pond, MO, as part of the Big Chief Highway hotel to serve transcontinental travelers on the now famed Route 66. Local historians and tourists guides from the period indicate Big Chief was one of the largest tourist cottage courts in Missouri. It differed from average spots of time in that it offered relatively elaborate and elegant dining. It is one of the last remaining full-service restaurants on the Route 66 today.
Big Chief’s kitchen hours are Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The tavern portion is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Mulholland, a Wildwood resident, said she has two partners who both are chefs. One has 25 years of experience; the other 31 years. One interesting note is that Big Chief’s staff smoke their own meats. They expect to soon be able to move their smoker onto the restaurant’s property.
Indoor seating capacity at Big Chief is about 150, and outdoor is nearly 80. Starting in July, an upstairs room will be available for private parties of up to 40 people.
Mulholland knows the local area well because her children are or were part of Pond Elementary and Lafayette High School.
About two weeks ago, Floyd Gilmore and his family traveled from Show Low, AZ, to see Big Chief, where Floyd was born April 9, 1944. Mulholland said the Gilmore family showed up on the restaurant’s doorstep, before the restaurant was open.
“We were still moving things around and didn’t have the kitchen open or anything, but we welcomed the Gilmores in,” she said. “It was absolutely amazing to hear the stories he shared about the area. His aunts and uncles went to the Old Pond School and are buried at Bethel Cemetery one block away. They just stopped by in two full RVs and four cars!”
Mulholland said it was an incredible experience to meet the Gilmores. “Floyd was so proud to show his family, four generations, his birthplace after he had shared stories with them for years.”
Gilmore walked away with a new Big Chief T-shirt, photos and new memories of one of his favorite restaurants in the United States.