Joe’s Route 66 Diner refers to a road in its name, but there are many paths that take the hungry to the small Strafford stop that still has a walk-up window and a legacy so well known that it doesn’t matter much that the sign is missing out front. 

There are families and students – both current and former – who have long made memories in the few-booth stop just a ball’s throw from the school. There are the folks who come down the road and across the world, traveling through town on the Mother Road. And there are the “everyday” stops for lunch breaks for just good food. 

As diner Lance Bradley puts it, “It’s fast food – but it’s ‘real’ fast food.

“It’s like a McDonald’s hamburger times 10,000.” 

But even he had a history. Bradley began eating at the diner when he was about eight years old, making the quick stop for lunch part of a much longer story. 

“There’s a few years trapped in these old walls,” he says between bites of his burger. 

The backstory of Joe’s Route 66 Diner

Those past, present and future memories are currently made by Kaitlyn McCarty-Sconce and her husband, Wes Sconce, who purchased the mainstay diner in 2021. 

Located along the original alignment of Route 66, Kaitlyn McCarty-Sconce says, the couple helped the diner continue a legacy that began in the early 1970s as M and P Drive In.

After a few years in business, however, one of the stop’s defining moments occurred when it was purchased by Joe Waugh, who bought it with a friend before taking over the entire business.

“Joe was a high school kid who was getting ready to graduate,” says McCarty-Sconce, showing vintage photos hung on the refrigerator with magnets. “Joe ran it for 25, almost 30 years. His idea was to put himself through school and open a mechanic’s shop – and then he got married, and he and his wife were doing it together for a while.”

Joe's Route 66 Diner in Strafford Missouri

Kaitlyn McCarty-Sconce shows a photo of Joe Waugh, the namesake of Joe’s Route 66 Diner.

It had gone through other owners before the Sconces came into the picture. They weren’t looking to buy a diner when they heard about Joe’s. At the time, they were looking for a prep space for McCarty-Sconce’s catering company. But when they visited, they decided to buy a legacy – and got a diner along with it. 

“We had no intention of buying a diner,” says McCarty-Sconce, but she ultimately visited after being encouraged by a family friend. “I was like, ‘OK, we’ll look.’

“We came through and talked to the owner, walked through, and then my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘We’re buying a diner.’”

Joe's Route 66 Diner in Strafford, Missouri

Lance Bradley and Tanner Stoops stop for lunch at Joe’s Route 66 Diner on a recent Monday.

When the Sconces bought the business, they amplified what was already there.

Joe’s face became the brand, and today smiles from T-shirts and other merchandise. (He’s also still in town, McCarty-Sconce says. “When we first had it done, I took one of the stickers and said, ‘Hey, I haven’t met you, but are you OK with me taking this sticker literally all over town? He thought it was really funny.”) 

They expanded hours, which had been reduced in recent years, and made making their food accessible to families a priority. 

“Our goal is to be able to get it back and preserve some of those memories and good times – and keep the costs really low,” she says.

Joe's Route 66 Diner

Kaitlyn McCarty-Sconce owns Joe’s Route 66 Diner with her husband, Wes Sconce.

Today, their menu – visible from an old-fashioned lettered sign above the cash register – includes a variety of burgers; homemade, hand-breaded onion rings; pork loin and BLT sandwiches, chili and legendary Coney sauce; and traditional ice cream treats. 

“The burgers are our biggest item; our burgers and our hand-cut fries,” says McCarty-Sconce. “We don’t use frozen patties; it’s all back here made-to-order.”

Along the way, they took some of the favorite menu items back to homemade. 

“We actually got with Joe and (his wife) Jackie and were like, ‘We want your original recipes. We want to go back to making everything the way you had it.’ I would say 85 to 90% of our menu is now made from scratch; all original recipes from Joe and Jackie. 

“That’s one of the draws for people – it’s the ‘old’ Joe’s. That’s what we keep hearing; ‘It’s like it used to be.’”

A number of those legacy items came to be because of a former school lunch lady who came to work at the diner under Joe’s ownership.

Joe's Route 66 Diner

Kathryn Vicat prepares a meal — including homemade onion rings — at Joe’s Route 66 Diner in Strafford. The diner has been in business for more than 50 years.  

“She was their main cook, so from my understanding all of the recipes are hers,” says McCarty-Sconce, who believes the cook was at nearby Marshfield, or possibly Fair Grove. “I don’t think she’s around anymore. But a lot of the people from there will come in and say, ‘I used to have this as my school lunch.’”

That legacy even comes through in the food’s preparation today, where employee Kathryn Vicat batters onion rings and builds burgers. As a kid, she herself was a regular customer at Joe’s. 

“I remember standing at that corner and ordering ice cream,” she says. “I just lived a mile away, and we would ride our bikes up every Sunday. Sunday was lawn day, so we’d mow the yard and all ride our bikes to Joe’s for ice cream and burgers. You’re in your swim trunks, bare feet, it’s hot — I remember it like it was yesterday.

“Then in high school, we’d come here after tryouts and wait for the results. It’s been a part of this community for as long as I can remember.”

Now, her daughter works there, too — and “I eat here all the time when I’m not working,” Vicat says.

Looking ahead

Joe’s operation is a team effort between the Sconces. Wes, who has a day job at Convoy of Hope, comes in the mornings to get things started. McCarty-Sconce runs them during the day (and also still runs her catering business). And then Wes comes back at night to close. 

“It’s kind of a lot of hours and a lot of work. It’s a labor of love — but we’re loving it,” McCarty-Sconce says. “We weren’t sure – since we’re not from Strafford – how welcoming that would be, but the community has definitely rallied around and gotten excited.” 

Part of that pride will hopefully grow through a new sign and neon lights. McCarty-Sconce says that the couple plans to apply for grant funding to replace the sign, which was destroyed years ago in a windstorm. Yet it’s been an interesting test to not need one. 

“That’s kind of the crazy thing – we’ve been able to build the business back up without a sign,” says McCarty-Sconce.

Joe's Route 66 Diner

Comments in the guestbook at Joe’s Route 66 Diner show visitors’ satisfaction.

In addition to full bellies, that sense of community satisfaction is also in focus through a series of events that McCarty-Sconce shares is in the works. One example is Joe’s second-annual Spring Cruise-In & Craft Festival, which is scheduled for May 18.

Of course, community in the context of Joe’s can mean many things. There are the local folks in the Greene County town of about 2,500 people, but there are also others who come through town while driving Route 66. That space is one where they stand out too, McCarty-Sconce says — and, given the famed road’s pending centennial in 2026, even more reason to celebrate. 

“There’s a lot of fun little touristy stops, but there’s not as many food stops as there used to be,” she says. “It’s kind of becoming a one-of-a-kind thing, which is really sad, but our whole goal is preservation. We just want it to stay here.”

Want to visit?

Joe’s Route 66 Diner is located at 201 E. Chestnut St. in Strafford. For more info, click here.

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