By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. —
Within just a few hours of an announcement on Facebook that Cafe on the Route was closing, the post had generated 114 comments from fans near and far who already were mourning the loss of one of their favorite eateries.
“Cafe on the Route has been such an great source of pride to our town; it will be missed by people near and far,” wrote Judy Ann Brewster, of Baxter Springs. “You can be proud of what you have done with the restaurant, and I know the town is proud of you. You have always treated people like they were special friends. Thank you for all of the effort you have put toward making Baxter a better place. I’m sure Baxter will realize that this is a true loss to our town. Hugs and best wishes to you.”
Town officials confirmed Tuesday that the Facebook announcement of the closing was accurate.
The restaurant had been a landmark on historic Route 66 since opening in May 1998, and it gained national fame in 2007 when it was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” with host Guy Fieri.
The building, which originally was home to the Crowell Bank, is of the Civil War era. It is said to have been robbed in 1876 by Jesse James and Cole Younger.
Managed by Amy Sanell, Cafe on the Route was known for its eclectic lunch and dinner menu of “traditional American with a twist.” It was created by her husband, chef Richard Sanell, an executive chef who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City. Luke Prauser, a native of Baxter Springs, helped head up the kitchen.
In 2011, the couple opened L.L. Sayers restaurant on the first floor of the Gryphon Building at 10th and Main streets in Joplin, Mo. It closed last year. They also opened Cafe on the Green at the Briarbrook golf course in Carl Junction, Mo.; a sign on the door at that restaurant said “Closed,” and no one answered the phone there Tuesday.
The announcement that the Baxter Springs restaurant was closing was abrupt, as winners of holiday gift certificates had been announced just a few weeks ago. No closing date was included in the announcement, no one answered the phone at Cafe on the Route on Tuesday, and the Globe’s attempts to speak to the Sanells were unsuccessful.
Barbara Hall, of Baxter Springs, said on Facebook that she considered Cafe on the Route “an important part of our family,” from being the host for rehearsal dinners for two of her children, her parents’ 60th and 65th wedding anniversary dinners, and numerous family get-togethers.
And Ron Noble, of Texas, asked in a Facebook post that the owners send him an autographed T-shirt and menu, for which he would happily pay.
“I just read the sad news,” Noble wrote. “It will be with fond memories that I have of the Cafe. ... I have often thought to ask if you would cater to Texas. No one can beat your Build-your-own Salad.”