Desert Inn Bar & Restaurant

5570 S Kenansville Rd
Yeehaw Junction, 34972
Rumor has it that it's closed!
I've been driving past this place for at least 20 years on trips to Tampa for both business and pleasure. When you cut across the state horizontally on Highway 60, you can't miss it, just a few hundred yards west of the Turnpike. It's been a trading post since the 1880's, & the current building dates back to the 1930's -- I believe the upstairs rooms over the bar/restaurant were at one point a brothel -- so, no question, the place has a place in Florida's history. I believe it is also on the state's list of historical landmarks as well, so, there you have it. My brother lives in Tampa, & this last weekend, we decided to go see the FSU v. UF football game in Gainesville as our one annual game. He lives in Tampa, so I usually have to drive to his place the day before, then on the day of, he'll drive there and back (usually Tallahassee for home games, obviously) on game day, & on the following Sunday, I drive back home from Tampa. Well, this Sunday was dreary & wet, and I hadn't slept much during the last 36 hours, so I was exhausted. My bladder's strength was at an all-time low. A few minutes from bursting, & about 90 minutes into my trip home, I find myself pulling into the Desert Inn to use the facilities, & maybe have a drink (it had just turned noon) just to say I had done it (finally). I walk in, & was greeted by a fresh-faced teenager behind the bar saying "Sit anywhere you like, I'll be right with you." There were two other couples in the place, & despite it being lunch time, no one had meals in front of them, just drinks. While I'm absorbing the visual atmosphere w/ my eyes, I begin to absorb to actual atmosphere w/ my nose, and it is rank, dank, musty, dusty, rusty, moldy, & less vintage than just plain old. It's been maintained, but just barely, & as I'm looking around, I remember that I'm about to wet myself on account of the 4 cups of coffee I drank in the morning. Seeing the restroom doors on the other side of the room, I make my way there, & as I get closer, I realize how thin the doorways are -- not standard doors by any stretch. I actually had to turn sideways & side step to get in and close the door behind me. The lone toilet wasn't as old as the building, thank goodness, but it was definitely older than me, & there was a little hand written note on the window sill just above it saying "Please don't put ANY PAPER in the toilet. Thank you. Management." Nice. This made me pretty weary about what might have been in the trash can in the corner just between the toilet & the sink. I got out of there quickly, and pretty much made up my mind to just break for the exit & leave, but the young girl who greeted me gave me a big smile as I walked out of the restroom & asked what I was drinking, so now I felt obliged. I noticed they carried a light beer from Puerto Rico I drank way to much of on my last few visits called Medalla, & actually asked her hesitatingly if they had it cold. "Well, of course we do," she laughed and disappeared through a giant purple swinging door into the back as I sat down @ the bar, & came back out the same door while it was still swinging w/ the bottle. "I would have guessed you drank Miller," she laughed as she twisted off the cap for me & placed it on the bar. I guess I look corn fed or cheese headed, I'm not sure. "Want to see a menu?" was her next query, and I really was hungry, so I figured why not. "Sure. What's the house specialty?" I ask. "Our burgers are pretty famous" she offered, & I confirmed her statement with the menu, which had their "Famous Burger" under the sandwiches category. "Medium well, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard please." Then came the waiting. No TV's to watch, no music to hear, no view to see, no breeze to enjoy, just sitting and waiting. The two couples had grown to 4 up until my order, & shortly thereafter, a motorcycle "gang" of about 12 guys in their late 50's and early 60's came in & basically took over the place, Now, ALL I could hear was them talking, ALL I could smell was fuel from their boots & exhaust from their clothes, ALL I could see was them. A family of 5 actually came in a few moments after them, & took one look at Hell's geriatric angels, spun around, & went back out the door. At first, I thought they were intimidated, but I realized by the end of my visit, they knew that w/ everyone that was inside, it would be an hour before they ate. Nearly finished w/ my beer after 20 minutes, a small bell rang at a pass-through in the wall next to the purple door -- an order was up! But unfortunately, it wasn't mine. This was a meal that one of the other couples had ordered before I had even come in! The waitress must've sensed my disappointment as she walked by me with the sandwiches, b/c she said "Yours should be right up." Well, 2 dings & 20 minutes later, I had my prize. Remember what a burger from your middle school's cafeteria looked like? Yeah, like that. Bigger than a slider, but not by much.
This place is what it is...a small hole-in-the-wall place that has good simple food. It's close off the turnpike, the place is clean, and the staff is pleasant. The menu is small: burgers, BBQ chicken, fried fish, a couple of salads, BLT. The place is a designated historical site and there are a bunch of interesting tchotchkes around the walls. We were served by one of the owner/managers, a gruff but friendly Massachusetts transplant. He was great with our kids and we had fun talking with him. The BBQ chicken sandwich was a generous portion of chicken that was moist and tender with a sweet BBQ sauce. The burgers were an 8 oz thick patty with a choice of cheese as well as lettuce, onion, and tomato and were cooked to order. Both came with fresh hand-cut french fries that were hot and just perfect! There is nothing fancy about the place, but it was a detour well worth taking.

(407) 393-7054

Burgers, American (Traditional), Sandwiches

Store is open now