Get your kicks on Route 66, but stop first for a burger in Zemst

U.S. Highway 66 – the Mother Road – stands out in the American cultural landscape as the vintage icon of a newly mobile nation on the road. Stretching from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California and hitting six other states on the way, Route 66 was the principal East-West artery in the nation’s original highway system. For many Americans, it harkens back to simpler times; when diners and motor lodges lined Main Street America with their bright neon lights and novel diversions. Given the close cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Belgium, we weren’t too surprised when we discovered a slice of this drive-in Americana down the road in Zemst.

Not too far off the beaten path in Elewijt, we pulled into The Snax. Our jaws dropped when we entered an unassuming façade and stepped into 1950s USA, the glory days of the American automobile culture. The dining room was a celebration of what it meant to be young, mobile, and free on Route 66.

From the wall montage of license plates from every U.S. state, to the booths with the iconic vintage candy-cane striped upholstery, to the unmistakable glass Coca-Cola contour bottles filling the fridge, the aesthetic was authentic –  no – almost  eerily familiar considering that I wasn’t even alive during the 1950s! With the Embassy being the first, I think we had discovered America’s second home in Belgium.

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Perhaps Ambassador Gutman’s favorite part was the retro icon parked out back. The classic American automobile was carefully chosen as a mascot for the restaurant: destined for sale in the United States, it and many others were produced at a Belgian factory in Antwerp in the 1950s.

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It wasn’t long before my eyes wandered to the mouthwatering main attraction. Kenny and Leentje, the Snax’s owners, had emerged from the kitchen with the Big Farmer, a colossal creation which revealed itself to be a cross-cultural culinary masterpiece. The burger’s traditional 100% American Angus beef – a delicacy in itself in the United States – was coupled with some new favorites from Flanders. A chicken patty, bacon, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Leentje’s own secret sauce made this best-selling burger complete. A pleasant indulgence enjoyed in the company of friends: Belgian and American, old and new. Oh how it hit the spot!

The Big Farmer was quite an impressive burger and certainly more than enough for lunch. Yet, having grown accustomed to life in Belgium, I couldn’t help but thinking how well it would pair with an order of frites!

 

Matthew Finney

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The Big Farmer and over 45 other delicious burgers are on the menu at The Snax, with seafood, salad, and dessert. While enjoying a hearty meal, be sure to ask Kenny and Leentje about the transformative experience in California that inspired them to follow their dreams and start their own small business.
Get Your Kicks on Route 66 and plan your own trip through the American West! Discover this iconic era in America online at: http://www.discoveramerica.com/usa/experiences/n/new-mexico/route-66.aspx.

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