On a recent weekday afternoon, Romo’s is bustling. That’s no surprise, even for a no-frills restaurant in the small Northeastern Arizona town of Holbrook. That’s because, after a half-century in business, the family at the helm of this downtown favorite still knows how to lure hungry patrons. And it starts with zesty green chile, one of Romo’s most popular recipes.
Anything with the green stuff sells well, according to owner Phyllis Romo, but so does the shredded beef she makes daily. And then there are the tacos, especially on Taco Wednesdays, when it’s not unusual to see diners order as many as 50 — and many add a side of the bold, tomato-based rice that Phyllis makes in small batches throughout the day.
But the restaurant and its location along Historic Route 66 are draws, too. The building’s pink adobe exterior, decorated with painted Route 66 shields and a Mother Road-inspired mural, is a beacon for travelers and locals. Some of the regulars have been coming since the beginning.
In those days, the restaurant and Phyllis’ grandfather’s bakery shared the building. The café has since expanded into what used to be the bakery space, and with Phyllis at the helm, it continues to thrive today.
As a kid, Phyllis would help out at the restaurant after school, but now, Romo’s is her home away from home. She usually can be found in the kitchen, cooking up the classic Mexican dishes she’s been perfecting for most of her life. She often arrives before dawn and turns out the lights after dark. Her love of people, she says, keeps her going.
But people skills aren’t enough if you’re running a Mexican restaurant in the American Southwest — you also need to know a thing or two about making that green chile. Phyllis has that covered, as evidenced by her version of huevos rancheros, which features two eggs, refried beans, hash browns and your choice of green or red chile, along with a warm, homemade flour tortilla. The subtle flavors just keep coming. For dinner, the green chile is featured on enchiladas or atop a burger.
Even as Route 66 has transitioned from a major highway to a piece of American history, Romo’s has endured, serving quality Mexican food at a fair price. Maybe it’s true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It is at Romo’s.
121 W. Hopi Drive