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Iconic Route 66 Diner Destroyed In Blue Cut Fire

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(Photo courtesy of Summit Inn via Facebook)
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The Summit Inn, an iconic roadside restaurant on a stretch of what was once Route 66 high in the Cajon Pass, burned in the Blue Cut Fire. The Summit Inn had been dishing out classic diner fare—along with their specialty ostrich burgers and date shakes—for more than six decades. The restaurant was destroyed by the explosive fire on Tuesday afternoon, according to KTLA.

The 1950s-style eatery was known for its memorabilia-filled gift shop, which was considered something of a tourist attraction in its own right, and the frequent classic car shows held in its parking lot. It opened in 1952 on a two-lane stretch of Route 66. Interstate 15 replaced the Mother Road in 1970, but the restaurant remained as a local landmark featured countless guidebooks.

They were forced to close for several months in 2014 after a suspected drunk driver plowed through the building in March of that year, according to the Victorville Daily Press. The restaurant's general manager told the Daily Press that regular customers called every day during the restaurant's four-month closure to find out when it would be reopening; she took down numbers and called back more than fifty people the week the restaurant reopened to let them know that they could come on down.

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Legend has it that Elvis once stopped in to eat, but then left in a hurry after seeing none of his records were in the jukebox. As historian Glen Duncan wrote in Route 66 in California, "The Summit Inn has had a place in road lore for a long time."

During the late 1980s, representatives from the Denny's Corporation came a-knockin', looking to buy and convert the restaurant. When the restaurant's then-owner C.A. Stevens asked longtime waitress Hilda Fish what she thought of the idea (Fish predated Stevens' tenure at Summit Inn, having already been in the diner's employ when he purchased the restaurant from its original owners in 1966), Fish is said to have retorted "You put a Denny's here and I quit." He didn't, and she didn't either, according to another Mother Road historian's book Route 66 Lost & Found.

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The former site of the Summit Inn on Wednesday Morning. (Photo by Thomas Orescanin)
Fans of the restaurant from near and far are mourning its demise and sharing memories on social media. Scott Slater, a Chino Hills native, told LAist that he and his family are avid off-road racers who head out to Barstow and Lucerne Valley most weekends, "and always made it a point for everyone to meet up at the Summit Inn and have a great breakfast before heading into the desert."

"It was kind of a tradition for us for as long as I can remember. We are really sad to see it gone and I hope they can rebuild it," Slater said.

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(Photo courtesy of Summit Inn via Facebook)