The Rock Café in Stroud, Oklahoma, a historic restaurant on U.S. Route 66, takes its name from the local sandstone used in its construction.[2]

Rock Café
Rock Cafe Oklahoma.jpg
Rock Café is located in Oklahoma
Rock Café
Rock Café is located in the United States
Rock Café
Location114 W. Main Street
Stroud, Oklahoma
Coordinates35°44′56″N 96°39′16″W / 35.749°N 96.6544°W / 35.749; -96.6544Coordinates: 35°44′56″N 96°39′16″W / 35.749°N 96.6544°W / 35.749; -96.6544
Built byRoy Rieves
Architectural styleBungalow/Craftsman
MPSRoute 66 in Oklahoma MPS
NRHP reference No.01000661[1]
Added to NRHPJune 14, 2001

Originally built in 1936 and opened in 1939, the Rock Café reopened on May 29, 2009[3] after extensive repairs by historic preservationist David Burke[4] due to damage from a 2008 fire.[5] The restaurant's cookbook,[6] written during the rebuilding effort,[7] was published in November 2009.

Rock Café proprietor Dawn Welch, a long-time promoter of U.S. Route 66 in Oklahoma[8] selected by The Oklahoman as Oklahoma's 2009 Woman of the Year,[9] is the basis for animated character Sally Carrera in the Pixar film Cars.[10]


Roy Rieves started building the Rock Café in 1936 during the Dust Bowl era of the Great Depression and relied on local materials to build the café's distinctive stone exterior, doing much of the construction work himself or hiring students. The original costs included $100 for the land and $5 for local Kellyville sandstone[11] left over from construction on the U.S. Route 66 roadway which had come to Stroud, Oklahoma in 1926.[12]

The café opened in August 1939, initially operating under manager Miss Thelma Holloway,[13] and was a busy local Greyhound bus stop during World War II.[2] Its neon signage was installed in the late 1940s. Mamie Mayfield operated the Rock Café twenty-four hours a day in 1959 and retired at age 70 on July 14, 1983.[14]

Business from cross-country truckers declined with the construction of Interstate 44 in Oklahoma, a toll road, although Highway 66 remains as a free alternative to the Turner Turnpike. After U.S. Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, highway 66 became Oklahoma State Highway 66. Dawn Welch, the current proprietor, acquired the café from Ed Smalley in 1993.[15]

Mamie J. Mayfield's (December 22, 1912 - September 25, 1994) name was kept alive in the form of a souvenir shop, Mamie's General Store.

In 1999, an F3 tornado heavily damaged Stroud, destroying the town's 53-store Tanger Outlet mall and wiping out a handful of key local employers including a Sygma food service distribution facility.[16] The Rock Café survived, though its neon sign was damaged, but business was down by half due to the state of the fragile local economy. In 2001, the Rock Café was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, qualifying it for matching grants and loans to finance its historic restoration.

When the first Pixar crews researching Route 66 stopped at the Rock Café in 2001, restoration and repair of the 1999 tornado damage was not yet complete; the neon flickered briefly but failed to come to life. With a federal grant and a loan of $30,000 in matching funds, the Rock Café was restored with new heating and air conditioning systems, replacement of the original wiring, restoration of neon signage and a return of the building to its original layout.[17]

In 2007, travelling artist Bob Waldmire depicted the café in one of his works;[18] Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives also devoted part of an episode to the Rock. On January 21, 2010 Dawn Welch appeared on NBC-TV´s Today show, cooking and promoting her book. The January 2010 edition of "Oklahoma Living" magazine named the Rock Café "Best Oklahoma Diner", featuring its proprietor in a cover photo.[19]

Stroud, Oklahoma also slowly began to recover economically through increased activity in the oil and gas sectors and in tourism. While the destroyed outlet shopping mall was not rebuilt, the community successfully marketed its industrial park, and is now a leading small city in oilfield manufacturing and transportation, particularly in the rail and pipeline sectors.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Rock Cafe-Route 66: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  3. ^ David Cathey, food editor (May 19, 2009). "Return of The Rock Café Imminent". The Oklahoman. Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ Morava, Kim (May 26, 2009). "Rock Cafe rebuilt in Stroud". Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  5. ^ "Rock Café Owner Looks Back at Fire, Remembers". KWTV News 9 Oklahoma City. 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  6. ^ Dawn Welch; Raquel Pelzel. Dollars to Donuts: Comfort Food and Kitchen Wisdom from Route 66's Landmark Rock Café. ISBN 978-1-60529-571-8.
  7. ^ Dawn Welch (2009). "The Rock Cafe on Route 66 in Stroud, OK" (video, 0:13:55). Channeling Media.
  8. ^ "Oklahoma Businesswoman and Route 66 Promoter Dawn Welch Honored by State Senate". Oklahoma State Senate. February 4, 2010.
  9. ^ Brandy McDonnell (December 31, 2009). ""Cars" inspiration Dawn Welch named Oklahoma's Woman of the Year; Carrie Underwood a finalist". The Oklahoman. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012.
  10. ^ David Hanigar (August 2006). "Dawn Welch, the Little Blue Porsche". Edmond Outlook. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Oklahoma Byways: Route 66 "The Mother Road"". Archived from the original on 2012-05-22. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  12. ^ Quinta Scott (2001-12-01). Along Route 66. p. 125. ISBN 9780806133836. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
  13. ^ Michael Karl Witzel; Jim Hinckley (2010-10-16). Greetings from Route 66: The Ultimate Road Trip Back Through Time. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-7603-3885-8. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  14. ^ Marian Clark; Michael Wallis (2003-03-01). The Route 66 Cookbook: Comfort Food from the Mother Road. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-57178-128-4. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  15. ^ Jon Sonderman; Jim Ross (2011-12-05). Route 66 in Oklahoma. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7385-9051-6. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  16. ^ Marie Price (1999). "Stroud struggling to survive". The Journal Record.
  17. ^ Brian Brus (March 10, 2006). "Rock Cafe thrives on Oklahoma loan program". Journal-Record. (archived)
  18. ^ Ron Warnick (April 11, 2007). "Rendezvous at the Rock". Route 66 News (blog).
  19. ^ "Oklahoma Senate resolution 83: A Resolution honouring Dawn Welch; and directing distribution" (PDF). February 8, 2010.