ROUTE 66 TRAVELERS have rarely had it so good. Oh, sure, maybe during the heyday of the Mother Road, but these days, breakfast at The Mystic, on the original Route 66 in Santa Fe, is pretty tough to beat. Honestly, the Hecho de Mano Tacos—two tortillas overflowing with fluffy eggs, melty queso, and hearty bacon, served with beans, potatoes, and fruit—are worth a trip all on their own.

Opened in August 2023, the motor lodge’s High Desert Café, Cocktails & Curios helped transform the 1950s-era Silver Saddle Motel into a desert-chic version of the roadside standard. With its white walls and tables, double-sided fireplace, long U-shaped group seating area, and art featuring snakes, cacti, and chiles, the space feels modern and inviting, whether you’re here for coffee before hitting the road or kicking back with a cocktail after a long day of driving.

On an uncharacteristically gray Sunday in January, the midmorning crowd was small but diverse: a couple speaking German, a mother and her toddler, and two Santa Feans who couldn’t resist the buzz about the High Desert’s brunch on a foodie Facebook group. The bar had hosted live music the previous night, and a single speaker remained like some forgotten neon sign along a back wall.

Hide away in the Mystic's High Desert Café, Cocktails & Curios. Photograph by Steve Gleydura.

“We want to have a space for travelers and also for locals, a space to hang out, a space that feels like us, that has live music,” says Amanda Tucker, who purchased the property with her husband, Rick Goldberg, in 2022. “We wanted to have a space to gather community.”

Except for two time-capsule rooms, The Mystic doesn’t try to re-create the 1950s motor lodge in its look and feel—even if Goldberg estimates that 80 percent of the Silver Saddle’s guests were traveling Route 66 before they took over. Instead, the roadside motels—whether modern interpretations or updated throwbacks—featured in this month’s “Fresh Kicks” cover story have tapped into an experience, a sense of adventure, and an American dream that connects with generations of travelers new and old.

In New Mexico, we’re lucky to still have people who love and care for places like the Motel Safari, in Tucumcari; El Vado Motel, in Albuquerque; and El Rancho Motel, in Gallup. As the 100th anniversary of the Mother Road revs up in 2026, it might be time to make those reservations now.

Read more: Along New Mexico’s Route 66, the motor lodge is once again hip, whether as a nostalgic nod to the past or a modern take on a classic.