Bouffage| bu-FWAJ | (noun) a grand feast; derived from the French for “any meat that fills the mouth and makes the cheeks to swell.”
Since my travels are currently confined to the continental United States, it’s no surprise that the nostalgic siren song of the Mother Road would lure me to explore its storied route. With the help of the Roadside America app and a healthy sense of curiosity, one of our first finds was a tasty stop on historic Route 66 — the Cozy Drive In which has been serving hungry travelers delicious “hotdogs on a stick” since 1949. (Please don’t call them “corn dogs,” which are a pale copycat by comparison.)
The story begins with Ed Waldmire who had an idea, a batter recipe and some time on his hands while stationed at Amarillo Airfield. Using cocktail forks for sticks, Ed created a tasty, batter-enrobed hotdog on a stick that he called a “crusty cur.” They were an immediate hit at both the USO and the PX. He sold thousands of crusty curs until he rejoined civilian life in the spring of 1946.
Ed figured there was a market for the delicious dogs outside the military, but his wife Virginia didn’t think the name “crusty curs” would appeal to civilians. The newly named “Cozy Dogs” were officially launched at the Lake Springfield Beach House on June 16, 1946 and introduced at the Illinois State Fair the same year.
A permanent Cozy Dog House was opened in Springfield shortly thereafter, and the Cozy Drive In opened its doors in 1949. Sue (Ed’s daughter-in-law) Josh, Eddie, Tony and Nick (Ed’s grandsons) run the business today right next door to the original location.
The charming restaurant not only serves delicious food, it’s a Route 66 museum of sorts. Ed’s son, Bob Waldmire was an artist and cartographer known for his writings about and detailed pen-and-ink maps of sights and attractions along the Mother Road. Bob’s library and artwork are on display inside Cozy Drive In, along with a collection of Route 66 artifacts and memorabilia.
Bob researched his maps and writings while traversing Route 66 in a converted Chevrolet school bus, collecting stories and inspiration from the places and people he met along the way. You can walk through the self-contained “land yacht” Bob built himself in nearby Pontiac, IL, adjacent to the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum.
So if you want to satisfy your hunger for some tasty road food and a side of Route 66 nostalgia, the Cozy Drive In is the place. You can peruse Bob’s bookshelf while munching on a crispy Cozy Dog. Then you can pick up a couple of souvenir postcards featuring his intricately detailed maps of cities, states, countries and, of course, Route 66. Maybe it will inspire your next stop on the Mother Road.