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Every seasoned Route 66 traveler knows where to find the best food. Burgers, barbecue, hot dogs, burritos, pancakes and pie — that’s the fuel of classic road trips. We draw comfort from the simple flavors and retro charm of highway diners and cafes.

But there is one stop on the Mother Road that has absolutely nothing to do with simplicity. It’s a chance to slow down, to savor, to sample the flavors of the Colorado Plateau and to celebrate a wide range of cultures. If you don’t dine at the Turquoise Room in Winslow, you haven’t experienced the best of what Route 66 has to offer.

Housed in La Posada Hotel, the Turquoise Room is known for contemporary Southwestern cuisine using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. This is where you’ll find paper-thin piki bread from the Hopi mesas, tepary beans harvested by the Tohono O’odham people, Navajo-Churro lamb raised on the Navajo Reservation, wild mushrooms foraged from the San Francisco Peaks, goat cheese from nearby farms, native greens from the desert, vegetables plucked from the restaurant’s garden, elk, bison and, oh yeah, juicy burgers sizzling on the grill.

Now, after 20 years, the man who created this diverse culinary oasis will walk away.  Chef John Sharpe, a James Beard Award semifinalist, retires Sept. 30. He and his wife Patricia look forward to spending time with family and friends.

“When Patricia and I arrived we were often told that a fancy dining place in Winslow would never make it,” Sharpe says. “Today we are proud to have succeeded in spite of the challenge.”

Succeed they did. The Turquoise Room has received numerous accolades, including being rated one of the Top 5 hotel restaurants in North America by Conde Nast. In 2011 and 2012, Sharpe was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Southwest category. Not bad for someone who never planned to come to Winslow at all.

TAKE A RIDE: Arizona’s Route 66: Favorite spots, hidden gems

La Posada’s Harvey House history

During the 1870s, Fred Harvey did more to civilize the Wild West than anyone with a six-shooter.

In a time when train travel meant going days without decent grub, Harvey established dining rooms and hotels known for cleanliness, impeccable service and outstanding food. He even instigated the shocking practice of hiring young women as servers. They soon became known as Harvey Girls.

La Posada – the Resting Place – was designed by legendary architect Mary Colter in 1929, and while she is best known for her hotels in the Grand Canyon, she considered this Arizona hotel to be her masterpiece. (Photo: Daniel Lutzick)

La Posada Hotel, opened in 1930, was one of the famed Harvey Houses. Designed by pioneering architect Mary Colter, the opulent Spanish-style hacienda was the finest hotel on the Santa Fe line and became a magnet for the rich and famous. It was the only project for which Colter designed the buildings, decorated the interiors and planned the gardens. She considered