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Bagdad Cafe Route 66

Bagdad Cafe on Route 66 in Newberry Springs, California, is a must-stop while traveling Mother Road. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Bagdad Cafe was the set location for a 1987 cult classic film directed by Percy Adlon. Check our photos and tips from this iconic place!

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Bagdad Cafe on Route 66

Bagdad Cafe on Route 66 – Introduction

A desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Someplace better than where you’ve been
A coffee machine that needs some fixing
In a little cafe just around the bend

I am calling you
Can’t you hear me?
I am calling you

Jevetta Steele’s song Calling You from “Bagdad Cafe” has become the informal anthem of dreamers traversing Route 66.

We love cinema, the old classic cinema, and movies that offer the viewer more than just computer special effects. We also love film locations, we like to visit weird, often abandoned places or inconspicuous towns where cult series and films were shot. That’s why we could not pass up the Bagdad Cafe – an unassuming cafe on the roadside of California. It was the filming location of the 1987 indie cult classic of the same name, Bagdad Café, by German filmmaker Percy Adlon.

Bagdad Cafe Route 66

Road Trip across Route 66 as the movie inspiration

The script of Bagdad Cafe was inspired by a road trip along famous America’s Route 66 that German director Percy Adlon and his wife Eleanor, a producer, took in 1984. They were enthralled by the small cafe near the town of Barstow, California. The cafe wasn’t always the Bagdad Cafe. Until the producers chose it as the location for their film, it was known as the Sidewinder Cafe. The name “Bagdad” referred to a ghost town 50 miles east of Route 66 called Bagdad, a reference to its location in the driest corner of the contiguous United States.

In 1995, the real owners of the cafe officially changed the name from Sidewinder Cafe to Bagdad Cafe.

Bagdad Cafe Route 66

Bagdad Cafe – Movie Plot

Premiere

Bagdad Cafe, which had its world premiere on November 12, 1987, is an American-German production. The film was directed by German director Percy Adlon. Despite winning several European film awards, Baghdad Cafe was not successful in America. It gained more popularity among European audiences. The song “Calling You”, sung by Jevett Steele, was a composition by Bob Telson nominated for the Oscars in 1989 for Best Song.

Bagdad Cafe on Route 66
Bagdad Cafe on Route 66

The Plot

The story is a bit weird and belongs to the genre of drama-comedy. A Bavarian, conservative tourist named Jasmin, who wears a hat with a feather and has a little excess weight, has an argument with her husband in the middle of the sun-drenched Arizona desert. She has left him.

She finds refuge in a miserable, forgotten hotel in a remote area called the Bagdad Cafe. The motel is located in the middle of the Mohave Desert – somewhere between Las Vegas and ” nowhere”.

Under the influence of a lonely German woman, the dreary and gray place soon gains color. The owner of the Bagdad Cafe is liberated black woman Brenda, who lives with two teenage children, a baby, a lost Italian cook, a tattoo artist, and a down-and-out former Hollywood decorator.

Jasmin immediately starts doing major cleaning at the Bagdad Cafe. But she slowly succumbs to the atmosphere in the desert environment. Her traditional Bavarian uniform gives way to a shirt and pants. The differences between the women seem insurmountable at first. But soon it turns out that the ladies cannot live without each other, and the friendship that unites them will change their lives so far.

Stars

Starring: Marianne Sägebrecht as Jasmin Münchgstettner, CCH Pounder as Brenda , Jack Palance as Rudi Cox, Christine Kaufmann as Debby, and Monica Calhoun as Phyllis. The film story was inspired by Carson McCullers’ novella The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951).

Bagdad Cafe on Route 66
Bagdad Cafe on Route 66

Bagdad Cafe – TV series

In 1990, the film was remade as a television series starring James Gammon, Whoopi Goldberg, Cleavon Little, and Jean Stapleton, with Stapleton playing the tourist and Goldberg the restaurant owner. In the TV version, the tourist was no longer from Germany. The series was shot in the traditional sitcom format. However, it wasn’t popular and was therefore canceled after two seasons.

How to get to Bagdad Cafe on Route 66?

Bagdad Cafe is located on the old Route 66, in Newberry Springs, California. It’s between Barstow and Ludlow on National Trails Highway.

  • From the End of the Trail Route 66 in Los Angeles is 152 miles east via I-15 N and I-40 E. Driving time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
  • It’s also a perfect stop if you are driving from Las Vegas. Via I-15 S is only 146 miles and 2 hours and 20 minutes of driving.
  • However, if you are in the area, you can’t miss the fabulous Roy’s Motel & Cafe in Amboy, which is only 55 minutes of driving (57 miles) via I-40 E and National Trails Hwy. So, make sure to visit both places as they are iconic on Route 66. The road leads through a desert full of ruins on the roadside.
  • If you are driving from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon take I-40 W and drive via the Best Route 66 Towns in Arizona, such as Williams and Seligman. From Tusayan to Bagdad Cafe is 348 miles.
on the way
on the way

Bagdad Cafe on Route 66 Today – what to expect?

The café was still open at the time of our visit. Its interior was filled with hundreds of flags from all over the world, stickers, banknotes, and souvenirs from the movie and the series.

The guest books overflow with comments from all over the world, dating back several decades.

For us, it was a great stop in the desert for a cup of coffee and an American burger. The Bagdad Cafe menu offered classics like fries, burgers, and sandwiches. Our burgers were fresh and delicious, chili con carne was well-seasoned. The service was great as well, and we chatted with the waitress for several minutes about the history of Bagdad Cafe.

But unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has come, the world has closed, and the tourist traffic has stopped. Bagdad Cafe was also closed at that time.

What’s more, vandalism, and other misfortunes wreak havoc on Bagdad Cafe and its owner. After COVID-19, in August 2021 the Bagdad Cafe windows were vandalized. There was an announcement of fundraising on Facebook to support Andrea Pruett, longtime owner of the Bagdad Cafe. Fortunately, the damage was repaired and Bagdad Cafe still hosts tourists.

It is worth buying a little something in their souvenir shop to support the owners of Bagdad Cafe. The traffic on Route 66 is very light and it is difficult to stay in business.

Pro Tip: Before you go to Bagdad Cafe on remote Route 66 check their official Facebook website if they are open or call +1 760-257-3101.

Bagdad Cafe California

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8 Comments

  1. Oh my god this looks so cool! How did i miss this when we were there… our trip was pretty exciting though, we almost run out of gas in the death valley and they were filming a movie in the only gas station around there in route 66, and it was getting very late 😁 i saved this for next time! Thanks

  2. I would certainly be happy to find the Bagdad Cafe travelling through the Mojave Desert for coffee and a burger. Sad to hear it was another victim of Covid business challenges. But it was interesting to read the history and learn about the name change. I have not seen either the movie or the tv series about the Bagdad Cafe. But will keep an eye out for them.

  3. I like the opening of your blog, and how you have tied the link between the movie and the cafe, it has piqued my interest. Would make for an interesting stop with its rustic charm intact and an unusual name!

  4. We drove Route 66 and I totally missed this. How sad! I am planning to drive this again when we retire, as we had to make the trip too quickly. I’ll be sure to look for this place.

  5. I have always dreamed of a road trip on Route 66. If I ever get to go, I will be sure to stop at this super cool cafe. I’m sorry to hear about their troubles post Covid. Thanks for sharing the movie backgrounds, I had no idea!

  6. How have I never heard of Bagdad Cafe?! I’ve only been on Route 66 once and that was on the way to Grand Canyon from LA. So cool to hear its history in the movies and music!

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