By Roger Naylor | Photo by Paul Markow
If you prefer to dine in a quiet, meditative space, better keep looking. Westside Lilo’s Café treats mealtime as a celebration, to be enjoyed in a bustling, convivial atmosphere. The clatter of plates and rattle of cups add percussion notes to the chorus of table-to-table conversations and echoing laughter.
Local ranchers and townsfolk chatter back and forth and banter with the friendly staff. Seems like everybody knows each other. Then you catch the flurry of accents — even different languages — adding to the general hubbub. Jackets worn by a group of bikers indicate they’re from France. A couple from Australia poses with the mounted elk head. And the Japanese family breaks out in shrieks when giant plate-draping cinnamon rolls are brought to their table. Everyone is local at Lilo’s, even if they traveled across the globe to be there.
A small town set amid the high plains of Northern Arizona doesn’t seem a likely spot for a family restaurant to grow into an internationally known eatery. Yet that’s the story of Westside Lilo’s Café.
Of course, it helps that the small town is Seligman, birthplace of Historic Route 66. Since the preservation movement of the iconic highway began here, Seligman has become holy ground for legions of travelers.
German-born Lilo Russell slings the kind of homemade grub that keeps everyone coming back for more. She opened the restaurant in 1996 with the help of her husband, Patrick, and daughters, Brenda and Nancy.
Burly breakfast platters, fork-tender steaks and juicy Black Angus burgers fill the menu, along with some surprises. The nachos are a spicy avalanche of pork, green chiles and cheese atop fresh-cut tortilla chips. Lilo’s sauerkraut is made in-house with juniper berries and displays a sassy tartness that prompts customers to bring in glass jars for take-home portions.
Yet the restaurant might be best known for its decadent desserts. Lilo bakes an assortment of cream pies daily, using mascarpone cheese — the same cheese used in tiramisu — infusing them with a defiant silkiness. Unlike some cream pies that quiver and collapse at the first touch of a fork, Lilo’s are as luxurious in texture as they are in taste.
The carrot cake proves to be her masterpiece: a towering slab, incredibly moist, flavorful and packed with enough carrots to make Bugs Bunny swoon. There’s been so much demand it can now be purchased online. Imagine that: a sweet taste of the open road delivered right to your door.
Westside Lilo's Café is located at 22855 W. Historic Route 66 in Seligman. For more information, call 928-422-5456 or visit www.westsidelilos.com.