Get Your ‘Que at Route 62
By Ray Rodriguez
You can’t miss the 17-foot BBQ/smoker in the Route 62 Diner parking lot. Nor should you. Running through the desert, State Route 62 makes for the perfect namesake since the road to great food in the desert (not to mention, good times) now runs directly through the Route 62 Diner.
Barely open a month, and currently only serving on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 9 am – 9 pm, Route 62 Diner features a talented, hands-on, hardworking ownership whose journey and sense of place has just begun.
“I did something!” exclaimed French Director Thibault Debaveya when announcing his purchase of the restaurant to a friend (and soon-to-be business partner), with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation. As only a friend can do, Yucca Valley resident and LA set designer, Anton Goss, mused, “This is going to ruin our lives.”
After the initial surprise of two friends suddenly partnering in the restaurant business, things got serious and professional quickly. When a third partner was recruited, Israeli-born chef, Nir Dagan, the trio of friends hit the accelerator on their passion to serve their neighbors in exceptional ways. Already it’s clear this trio brings to the table the collaborative experience to impact desert dining creatively and deliciously.
With design in their blood, Thibault and Anton each took a space and went to work creating multiple dining environments. After preliminary treatments on their respected rooms, they then switched and gave input to the other, furthering each vision. “WOW” is the result.
Upon entering, you are greeted by Anton’s decorative touch, incorporating soaring ceilings, exposed ductwork, impressive woodwork, a sweeping bar, and community tables. Even the wall art and unique décor touches are by Anton and Thibault. The walk-up order counter features locally baked breads and croissants by Nice Loaves. The easy, positive attitude of the staff speaks to the casual confidence of the place. The large, custom-built wooden community tables are a perfect fit for outstanding BBQ and friends.
In the neighboring room, where window diners are visible from the highway, Thibault has recreated the classic American diner. Step in for a “Happy Days” experience, complete with pink booths, tabletop jukeboxes, counter dining, an open griddle kitchen, and a familiar breakfast menu. Thibault’s enthusiasm for the “classic American diner brings a renewed appreciation for the style when hearing it through Thibault’s strong French accent. “There is nothing in the world like an American diner! We grew up seeing them in the movies and on TV and we love them!”
“Shantytown” features a third way to enjoy Route 62 Diner. Like its name, “Shantytown” sprung from practicality and location rather than by design. Prior to opening, early attempts to understand how to manage the giant smoker led to practicing on friends, family, and tradesmen-turned-friends in the parking lot. Once the restaurant opened, the owners quickly recognized the giant smoker had proven drawing power and christened it with its own identity. Thus, Shantytown was born.
Occasional outdoor music in the parking lot has added another level to what is already a smoking cool vibe. But Shantytown almost didn’t happen. With an opening date looming, original plans to open and feature more upscale dining had to give way under the practicality of sourcing multiple gourmet items, and was replaced with “everyone loves BBQ, it’s a great unifier!” Chef Nir was thrilled by the group decision, as BBQ is something he does very well, but then raised the pressing question of “where do we find a smoker”?
Enter local contractor, resource, and friend, Wes Rush, who had befriended Anton while building his home. “Within 10 minutes of calling Wes, he put us in touch with metal master, Kenny Wire of “Wire Fire Fabrication”, and he put together this great BBQ for us and fast.” Chef Nir recalls, “Kenny was still working on the BBQ as I was loading it with mesquite to fire it up.” And in “firing it up”, only mesquite product is used in the giant smoker. No coal at Route 62.
Multiple additional features are still in development, including: a regular music program, expanded vegan offerings to compliment the current vegan burger, and family activities in a largely undeveloped fourth space for movies or game nights for the kids while parents dine.
It was family that originally bonded the owners’ friendship while attending their children’s school and activities. Now they share a bond of appreciation for Yucca Valley and the surrounding area. Anton recalls, “I’ve been coming here my entire life, hiking and rock climbing. And while the area can seem strange to some or tough to understand, I always loved it and am so happy to have a home here.” Thibault, who also has a local residence, muses, “My first short film was about a desert trip, called “Hasta Luego”. I shot it in France on green screen using terrain footage I had never visited. Amazingly now when I look at the film, it’s clear; it was the road to Landers.” Chef Nir, having lived in Israel, South America, Florida, and LA, finishes the conversation with, “I didn’t really understand why my friends loved it here, but now, well, I get it. I really get it.”
Route 62 Diner is located at 55405 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA. For more information, call (760) 820-1562 or follow them on IG @route62diner