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La Cita Sombrero, 2022.
La Cita Sombrero, 2022.

La Cita Sombrero

Field review by the editors.

Tucumcari, New Mexico

Before Interstate 40 drained away its traffic, downtown Tucumcari promoted itself as an oasis in otherwise empty eastern New Mexico ("2,000 motel rooms!"). At the time, many westbound travelers on Route 66 got their first taste of Mexican food at Tucumcari's La Cita restaurant.

La Cita Sombrero, 2003.
La Cita Sombrero, 2003.

Business was so good that in 1961 the restaurant built a 30-foot-tall, 15-foot-wide stucco sombrero above its front door. The hat's exaggerated shape, embellished with Las-Vegas-style neon letters on its brim, has been unfavorably compared to a traffic cone sitting in a washtub, but generations of hungry tourists and shutterbugs have found it endearing. Depending on what year you stopped by, the peak of the hat could be painted fuchsia, pepper red, or habanero yellow, while the restaurant building itself cycled from turquoise to pink to peach.

In 2004, panic swept the Route 66 community when La Cita went out of business, but by 2006 it had reopened with new owners, a restored neon sign, and yet another color scheme on the hat. By 2022 it had been reborn again, featuring an art gallery and Mexican food business. The most recent orange top paint job gives it a Cozy Cone Motel vibe, a la Cars, and it continues to be a landmark on Route 66.

La Cita Sombrero

La Cita

820 S. 1st St, Tucumcari, NM
Southeast corner of S. 1st St. and Route 66 Blvd.
Lit at night. Restaurant M-Sa 11-8, Su 11-2. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Blue Swallow Motel: Route 66Blue Swallow Motel: Route 66, Tucumcari, NM - < 1 mi.
Tee Pee Curios on Route 66Tee Pee Curios on Route 66, Tucumcari, NM - < 1 mi.
Roadrunner Lodge: Magic FingersRoadrunner Lodge: Magic Fingers, Tucumcari, NM - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Billy the Kid's Caged Grave, Fort Sumner, NM - 59 mi.

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