OLD RT. 66 FAMILY RESTAURANT, Dwight, Illinois.


by Brandon LaChance

TV cameras are not the norm in the village of Dwight. However, this may change thanks to the Old Rt. 66 Family Restaurant. “CBS contacted me a month ago and then called me (Wednesday, June 22) for an over-the-phone interview for a show. The very next day, they called me back and told me we were selected for their new TV show,” said Maria Ahmedi, owner of the Old Rt. 66 Family Restaurant. “The guy I had done the interview with had to present our story to the CBS executive producer in Los Angeles and he’s the one who approved us for the show. “They loved our story. We have a oneof-a-kind restaurant and we have four generations. It’s a family-owned business and we’ve been serving food for 30 years. We’ve survived everything in those 30 years. We’ve put our heart and soul into the business. “With the complete renovation of the restaurant, they just loved it and felt like our story was good enough for the show.” The show Ahmedi and her family (husband Naser, son Luan (Lu, 29), daughters Brendita (25), Lindita (20), daughter-inlaw Malia (29), and granddaughter (Leona, 2, the fourth generation) will be featured on is Destination Chicago, Series 1. To Maria’s understanding, the show is based on CBS picking numerous businesses, of all sorts, not just restaurants, in Chicago, suburbs, and the towns surrounding the suburbs. For the Ahmedi family, the contact, the interview, and the acceptance was surprising but rewarding. The family opened a small restaurant in Odell 30 years ago and moved to Dwight on Nov. 5, 2001. After taking over the building at 105 S Old Rt. 66, the family never closed the doors. They renovated during the night while keeping the business open during eating hours. Through the trials and tribulations of owning a restaurant in the United States of America, Old Rt. 66 Family Restaurant still opens its doors, serves award-winning dishes, and welcomes all visitors back. “This is a dream come true. I feel like we’ve accomplished something really big and it’s a sign that we’ve made it,” said Maria Ahmedi. “Our renovation was a dream come true, but this is the icing on the cake.

The Ahmedi family owns and operates Old Rt. 66 family restaurant, a four-generation family-owned business in Dwight.

When you have CBS calling you, it’s a big thing. “It’s a great feeling to be chosen to have your restaurant displayed on national TV. I just feel like it’s a great accomplishment for our family. We’ve worked so hard for 30 years in this business. Being self-employed in the restaurant business is a very hard business, especially during Covid-19 and the way things are right now with the economy.” Ahmedi said she didn’t know why CBS chose her restaurant. But, if you’ve been inside, you know. It could be the fire engine, the old school hostess stand, the gift shop with Rt. 66 memorabilia, the Rt. 66 sodas, the mural painted by Steve Connor, the honor of being Illinois Country Living Magazine’s Top Restaurant in 2017, or being selected by the Best Things in Illinois as a Top 10 mom and pop restaurant and a Top 10 place to eat fried chicken. It doesn’t matter which of these options is the single reason, all of them are bringing in CBS cameras for four hours in the near future. CBS hasn’t set a date to come to Dwight but after a questionnaire is filled out and the TV schedule is inked instead of penned, Old Rt. 66 Family Restaurant will be featured in millions of households across the country. Note: An update of the filming and the airing of the TV show will be published upon notification.Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. He can be reached at (815) 876-7941, blachance20@gmail.com, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.