Oldest Bar in Oklahoma
Don and I lived in Oklahoma years ago, but experienced Eischen's for the first time this past September! We rolled into Okarche about 1:30 pm and parked in back, near the beer drinkin' cowboy. I was pretty thrilled to finally visit the bar, that Peter Eischen opened in 1896.
We walked around to the front entrance. It didn't exactly look like the Oldest Bar in Oklahoma, but it still had a great small town, retro feel.
Signs and Announcements
I was prepared to see a line out the door on a Saturday, but we were able to head straight inside. There was hardly time to take in all the information on the windows and doors... about supporting our heroes... praying for their safe return... Oldest bar in Oklahoma... No credit or debit cards... No coffee or tea or outside food and drink... And what was up with all those stickers near the door handle?
When we arrived, almost every bar stool was taken and the booths and tables were full. That gave me a little time to study the place, which was mostly filled with locals on that day.
It didn't take long to get filled in on some of Eischen's history. I found a bar photo taken before 1993, when a grease fire in the kitchen destroyed the restaurant/bar. The image is so dark, it's hard to see if the hand-carved 19th century back bar is in the photo.
The Back Bar Shrine
On the back wall, I found lots of photos and memorabilia. A charred piece of the old backbar helped create a bit of a shrine to the Eischen family business.
A photo of George Eischen was displayed at the top of the bar's arch. I believe George (known as Boog) was the great grandson of the original owner, Peter. He worked as a butcher at the IGA grocery store, next door. In the 1960's, he started offering fried chicken as a prize on Wednesday night shuffleboard tournaments. Boog's chicken caught on and it is his recipe that has been drawing crowds since that time.
After a short wait, Don and I were offered a table in a different room. We held out a while and got this great round booth, opposite the bar. Our young server seemed sort of excited to know we'd come all the way from Texas. She assured us the chicken was worth waiting for. One whole chicken, cut and fried up in 8 pieces, for $14.00 including tax. Don ordered a beer... since we were at the Oldest Bar in Oklahoma.
Don enjoyed his draft beer in an Eischen's cup. He enjoyed it even more when our server said, "No charge for First Timers!" Cheers to that!
Chicken, Pickles and Bread
Another woman served our food. I had noticed her earlier, rushing back and forth carrying trays of food. She brought us our piping hot chicken in a paper container. There were about 8 slices of bread and a huge helping of dill & sweet pickles and sliced onions. There were no veggie or French fry options. We could have ordered chili or fried okra, but we had our hands full with the chicken.
The place was too busy for me to ask more than a question or two. I believe Kat was the name of the sweet woman, carrying the trays. She seemed delighted that we were enjoying our first visit to Eischen's. She said she was working the day of the fire in 1993. She suddenly got called away before I got to hear more of that story! That really left me hanging!
After eating, my hands needed a good scrubbing. On the way to the restroom I sort of glanced into the kitchen and wondered about that fire, nearly 30 years ago. The fire was many years after the fried chicken days began. Boog first started cooking the chickens in an iron skillet, but by the 1990's there were numerous fryers working at once. Whew! That must have been a scary day!
The IGA Room
Just past the kitchen window, there was a door to the other dining room. I don't actually know what they call it now, but the space once housed the IGA grocery store, where Boog worked as a butcher. The Eischen-owned grocery store didn't suffer from the fire, so after the bar reopened, they eventually closed the store and offered up more dining space. I was pretty amused, looking at all the grocery store memorabilia.
Off We Go
We hit the road feeling full and satisfied. A complimentary beer and the best fried chicken I've had in a long time... along with friendly staff and a decorative charred bar! Not bad!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.