With over 90% of new restaurants failing in their first year, it’s a big accomplishment to be successful, let alone flourish for over a half a century. And that’s exactly what these 15 restaurants in the Sooner State have done. These establishments are not only full of history but inspiring as well. Read on to learn more about the history behind these old restaurants that have stood the test of time:
1. Cattlemen's Steakhouse: Oklahoma City
Cattlemen's stands as the oldest continually operated restaurant in Oklahoma City. Cattlemen's Cafe opened its doors in 1910. The restaurant changed owners a few times and in 1945 the ownership changed hands from a strange turn of events. At the time, Cattlemen's was owned by Hank Frey, a gambler of sorts. In a smoke-filled room at the old Biltmore Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, Frey was running out of luck and money in a dice game attended by a local rancher, Mr. Gene Wade. Frey put up Cattlemen's as the pot if Wade could roll a 'hard six,' otherwise known as two 3s. Wade put up his life savings, which was a sizable amount of money. With one roll of the dice, Gene Wade was in the restaurant business. The '33' brand on the wall of Cattlemen's Hereford Room became a well-known symbol of Wade's good fortune.
2. Hank's Hamburgers: Tulsa
This tiny, old-timey joint has been turning out hamburgers, fries & milkshakes since 1949 in Tulsa. They serve old fashioned hamburgers with the onions grilled in the meat and special seasonings that make the burgers melt in your mouth.
3. Eischen's Bar: Okarche
The oldest bar in Oklahoma sits in the small town of Okarche, Oklahoma. Eischen's Saloon was established in 1896 by Peter Eischen and was open until Statehood and Prohibition. Eischen's Bar opened shortly after the end of Prohibition by Nick & Jack Eischen, son and grandson of Peter Eischen.
4. Savoy Restaurant: Tulsa
The Kelamis family has been cooking their original, always from scratch recipes, in Tulsa for four generations. They started out in 1925 as Kelamis Cafe which led them eventually to opening Savoy's in 1954. It has been at its current location at 6033 S. Sheridan since 1975.
5. Clanton's Cafe: Vinita
Clanton's has been a family tradition in Vinita, Oklahoma since 1927. It is the oldest continually owned family restaurant on Route 66 in the state of Oklahoma. You'll love the history and artwork in this eatery. The original name was Busy Bee Café, started by Grant Clanton. Mr Clanton was famous for coming out in the street and banging a pot with a spoon to announce to the town locals that lunch was ready. The local merchants would then close their books and head to the Busy Bee.
6. Click's Steakhouse: Pawnee
In 1962, Clifton "Click" Nelson opened a bar and grill in Pawnee, Oklahoma, originally named Click's Alamo Club. Customers knocked at the locked door and were checked through the 2-way mirror. We're not sure which customers were welcomed and which weren't, but women didn't go into the club for the first few years. Besides being known for his outstanding steaks, Click was also known for his colorful language. He served hamburgers and fries for lunch, but if a customer ordered that for dinner, Click could be heard bellowing from the kitchen "Who ordered the @!#?@! fries? They can go across the street to the @!#?@! Tastee Freeze for that!" In fact, the locals would bring in new customers and urge them to order the fries just to watch their reaction to Click's tirade.
7. El Rancho Grande: Tulsa
El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant originally began in 1950 on Boulder between 6th and 7th and has been in its current location on Historic Route 66 since 1953. From the historic neon sign that still adorns the entrance of their one and only location, to “Tulsa’s Best” cheese enchiladas and margaritas, they constantly strive to preserve the restaurant’s 60-year history.
8. Kumbach Lunch: Perry
This historic restaurant has been welcoming diners and local patrons since 1926. Besides being famous for their good food and a gathering place for the locals, it's regarded as an authentic Perry landmark. The Kumback welcomes visitors to enjoy the historical pictures of celebrities, Pretty Boy Floyd and Perry heroes which line the walls of the restaurant. The Kumback serves delicious homemade pies.
9. Robert's Grill: El Reno
In the town famous for its fried onion burgers, sits Robert's Grill. Robert's dates back to 1926 when it started adding in fried onions to make the burgers bigger, when times were tough during the Great Depression. It still serves those same mouthwatering onion burgers today.
10. Ike's Chili House: Tulsa
Ike’s Chili has a long history in servicing Tulsans since 1908. From serving Will Rogers to Peggy Cass, they have kept the same recipe that keeps people coming back asking for more. It's the best place on Route 66 to have what Will Rogers calls a "Bowl of Blessedness."
11. Van's Pig Stand: Shawnee
Oklahoma’s oldest barbeque restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family is Van’s Pig Stands. On June 5, 1930, Van opened his third Pig Stand Location at 714 Highland in Shawnee. In 1935 the Shawnee store moved across the street to its present location. he stories of these earliest days in the life of Van’s flourishing Pig Stands are legendary among the family. During the Great Depression that swept across America throughout the 1930s, Van’s sandwiches—which originally cost 10 cents and had risen to 30 cents for hungry customers—returned to the 10 cent price, with a malt and pig sandwich costing a whopping 20 cents. The restaurant was also home to the area’s first ice cream machine.
12. Pete's Place: Krebs
Pete Prichard came to Oklahoma in the early 1900s as an immigrant with his family. After an injury working in the Oklahoma mines, he was out of work. While searching for a new job he noticed all the golden wheat in the Sooner State. He eventually made choc beer and was giving it away to his friends. It only seem fitting to start serving them food as well, and that's when Pete's Place was birthed.
13. White River Fish Market: Tulsa
O.T. Fallis, the founder and owner for almost half a century, opened White River Fish Market in 1932 and added the restaurant a decade later. Garry Cozby, a native Texan, bought the business in 1981, and continues the tradition of providing a family-style restaurant where everyone feels at home. Today, White River is still the place to go for an informal fish feast at great prices for everyone.
14. Polly Anna Cafe: Woodward
The Polly Anna Cafe has a long and colorful history stretching back to the 1900s when it first opened as a candy shop. In 1928, Poly Anna's Cafe moved across the street to its current location in downtown Woodward, and since 1953, it has been owned and operated by the Williams family. They serve delicious American cuisine six days a week. Don't forget a slice of homemade pie to top off your experience.
15. Hamburger King: Shawnee
For over 80 years, guests have been ordering their burgers, potato wedges and slices of house made pies from phones found at each table. Local residents still say they have the best hamburgers here. The diner maintains an old fashioned feel with 1950s style decor.
Which one of these nostalgic places is your favorite in Oklahoma? Do you have any memories to share from these restaurant’s early days?