Vintage Restaurant Collection
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Background:

An advertisement in the Dec. 5, 1932 Daily Oklahoman introduced the Britling Cafeteria as “Oklahoma City’s newest good place to eat,” adding it would “soon be famous in Oklahoma City for serving fine home-cooked dishes at new and sure-to-be-popular low prices.” Accompanying renderings showed patrons dressed in fine gowns and tuxedos dining in opulent settings.

The restaurant at 221 W First was opened a few days later by A.W.B. Johnson, who had opened his first cafeteria during World War I utilizing conservation methods popularized as a war measure, combined with serving quality food. He opened his first Britling Cafeteria in Birmingham, Alabama, followed by additional restaurants opened in Louisville and Memphis – both of which were then transferred to the control of Johnson’s sons.

Those who dined at the cafeteria that first week were treated 5-cent bowls of vegetable and cream of tomato soup, beef loaf with onion sauce for 12 cents, deviled crabs for 15 cents, veal pot roast and dressing or baked ham for 24 cents. Sides included Mexican slaw, potato salad, sweet slaw, Colorado lettuce, Waldorf Salad and sliced tomatoes.

The restaurant isn’t mentioned after 1948. A year later the address of 221 W First appears to have been swallowed up by the appliance section of the growing John A. Brown Department Store.

Such restaurants, however, are a critical part of a community’s history. They are where happy memories are created – and hopefully a memento might survive decades later.

Such is the case with the Britling Cafeteria, which closed decades ago. A simple matchbook collected by restaurateur and self-professed history geek Kyle Anderson gives a glimpse at the cafeteria’s reach for grandeur.

The Collection:

Anderson, owner of Kyle’s 1025 at NW 70 and Western (formerly Charlie Newton’s and before that the Kentucky Club), is a fifth generation Oklahoman whose collection of restaurant memorabilia includes menus from Beverly’s and Glen’s Hickory Inn, matchbooks from numerous old restaurants and hotels, table settings, advertisements and other mementos.

Anderson learned about the importance of such acquisitions as a youth volunteering his time for the Oklahoma Historical Society at the Overholser Mansion. He admits his mother and grandmother rarely cooked – and the family dinner hour was often spent at Queen Anne Cafeteria in Founders Tower, which was where his grandfather worked.

He remembers enjoying meals at Sleepy Hollow Restaurant, where his grandfather often joked that the pineapple sherbet, which never seemed to disappear, was left over from a truck that wrecked in 1945.

Anderson’s mementos are the foundation for Retro Metro OKC’s vintage restaurant collection, which also includes items displayed by members and the Oklahoma Historical Society. And this is one collection where visitors’ comments may shape the future of our history.

Anderson’s restaurant is itself a bit of history, having once been home to the last incarnation of the Kentucky Club, where the city’s well to do used a secret buzzer to gain access to an upstairs room where drinks flowed a bit more freely than legally allowed and certain games were conducted despite the disapproval of the law.

The history of the Kentucky Club goes back to 1939, when it was opened at 1226 NE 63 by Kentucky transplants Tony and Winnie Bell Marneres. The site was far out in the country – and customers could pay a $1 cover charge and enjoy a 25-cent Coke in the air conditioned oasis. Newspaper clippings document the gambling; only legend and gossip support reports of alcohol (Oklahoma remained a Prohibition state long after the national ban was repealed in 1933). The original building burned in 1949 and reopened as the Ramada Club (it is now home to the County Line BBQ).

John Bell, Winnie Marneres’ brother and head chef at the Kentucky Club, was lured away to start a new Kentucky Club at NW 70 and Western, where, legend has it, some of the old activities enjoyed at the original establishment were resumed in an upstairs room that could only be accessed by a hidden buzzer. The restaurant was later renamed Bells – then Charlie Newton’s – and now Kyle’s 1025.

As this collection is being added (July, 2010), Anderson is planning to share the history of his restaurant, and his extensive mementos with patrons, with menus changing every couple of weeks to feature recipes from beloved old eateries.

Please feel free to use the comments section to share your own memories, even recipes, from your favorite old Oklahoma City restaurants.


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50 Comments

  1. Congratulations. Your efforts are going to be a major contributor to preserving Oklahoma City history. Having what I have seen available for public viewing is awesome.

    I predict your organization will be the template that will spread this type effort across the nation.

    Again, congrats and a big thank you for what you are accomplishing.

  2. Thanks Gary! Look forward to seeing you later today!

  3. When it comes to old restaurants in Okc that I would love ot hear more about, Molly Murphys takes the cake. That was such a fun place that I was definitely sad to see go. Sleepy hollow is another one that I grew up on, and as the years went by the fried chicken went with. I actually grew up on queen anne turkey and dressing! We got their giblets gravy every year for thanksgiving. You guys really have something with this website and I can’t wait to see what’s next! I really like the old matchbooks.

  4. Jason, thanks so much for your kind words. We have more matchbooks we’ll be adding soon, and we capped off our “birthday” celebration Thursday night with a scanning session of some great photos, menus and other mementos from Dolores Restaurant.
    Please come back often and follow us via Twitter or on Facebook. We will soon be announcing an exciting project that might actually let you relive some of your favorite restaurant memories.

  5. bill G. Moore

    I enjoyed the commenets about old estaurants in OKC. Several I thought were worthy of mention wee “Bervely’s Chicken In The Rough”, The Delores Restaurant near the Capitol, Cattlemens Cafe in the stockyards, The Silver Balcony at Katz Drug, The Anna Maude in the basement of John A. Brown store, Vic and Honey’s, a steak house way way out on the west edge of town where you could have a drink from the bar and a good steal too, and speaking of steaks, Bill Hardy’s Steak House at Sheridan and Dewey, I sure would like to know if anyone ever got the recipe for his ” Shore Patrol Salad Hey, those were the days!!!

    • From what I can remember the shore patrol salad was- Wilted romaine, green olives, bacon, and dressing with hot bacon grease?

      • My Mother-in-Law, Jackie Rozzell, managed Hardy’s for a while.. I want to say that was in the 70s.
        She re-connected with her ex-husband and moved to Latimer county.
        She’s 91 now and in a care center in North Texas, but she still remembers Hardy’s and Bernard, the cook that made that wonderful Shore Patrol salad.

  6. Good news Bill – we’ve got a big collection of items from Dolores Restraurant being added to this site very soon!

  7. You asked me to contact you. I’m assuming that you needed my email address to contact me back? Your website facinates me. Any help or involvement I can give, be happy to oblige.

    Jim Telcocci, OKC

  8. Yes Jim, if you can email us at info@retrometrookc.org, that would allow us to get in touch with you directly.

  9. I am the grandson of the late John and Eva Bell. If you or Anderson want to do a story on my family you guys need to get the facts straight.. My grandfather and grandmother were not lured away from the Ramada Club. They retired and after a brief retirement they opened the Bell’s Restaurant in 1979-1980 time frame.. The club was never called the “New Kentucky Club” it was always called the “Bell’s Restaurant”. The fact you said “legend has it, some of the old activities enjoyed at the original establishment were resumed in an upstairs room that could only be accessed by a hidden buzzer” is NOT true at all.

  10. I wondered about that, Mike. I’d never heard anything along those lines. Sounds like some “dreaming” might have taken place. But, what do I know? I’ve not heard it all.

  11. Mike and Bill, there was no “dreaming” that took place. I wrote the above text using information obtained from the archives of The Daily Oklahoman. Email us at info@retrometrookc.org and let’s visit so we can ensure we can present the best recap we can of the restaurant!

    • Steve: I just made my comment from memory. I do recall a Bell’s Restaurant being on N. Western, and never heard it called anything else. Also, I had never heard of the Kentucky Club being anywhere other than on N.E. 63rd. Perhaps Mike might take a look at the archives from which your writing developed, and comment on the original stories. I can only comment on locales from what I’ve seen. All the other stuff Mike referenced is unknown to me.

  12. Bill, I’m excited to hear from Mike and I’m hoping to get to talk with him. Newspaper archives are subjective at best, and the opportunity to talk to a family descendant who can relate their own story is always a plus to finding out more of the story. I’d love to flesh out more of the Kentucky Club/Bells history as we have with Dolores Restaurant!

    • Steve,

      You were right with the “New Kentucky Club”… After my great aunt and uncle sold the Ramada Club in 1979 the new owners did name it the “New Kentucky Club” After a year or so that is when Countyline BBQ bought it…

      My grandparents opened “The Bell’s” in 1980. They finally retired in 1989 I think.. It might have been in 1988, I can’t remember..

      Just email me and maybe we can talk.

  13. Would be nice to know about the Captain’s Table Restaurant that was atop some building in the late 1960’s…was a great seafood place and a good rival of Herman’s…was atop a building (around 10-12 floors up) and had a great OKC view…

    • I know this is an old post, but in case the original poster (or some other interested person) comes back here to check…

      My first date with what would become my husband was January 22, 1971, and we had dinner at the Captain’s Table. The address was 7300 NW 23rd Street. Whatever building housed the restaurant was apparently taken down shortly after as the building that now occupies that address was built in 1972.

    • It was in the Western Oaks Tower on the south side of NW 23rd Street, west of Mac Arthur Boulevard. I was a fan of the restaurant too.

  14. I’m wondering if Shipman’s Cafe is still in operation.
    They had the best sourdough biscuits!
    Also, was there a Mexican restaurant in the vicinity of
    23rd and Broadway or Robinson? I can’t recall the name.

  15. Mary, Shipman’s closed about 20 years ago. I’ll be posting an article about it soon at http://www.okchistory.com.

  16. Back in the 50’s there was a restaurant on the west side of Broadway just up the block from the Huckins Hotel. It was open all night or very late.

    Does anyonne remember the name of the restaurant? For some reason Bullock’s is in my mind.

    • You have to be thinking about Bishop’s. Booths in front, a long counter, and tables in 2-3 dining rooms that followed. Great steaks,
      famous bean soup, wonderful “wine-oil” salad dressing. THE late night place after downtown events.
      My first shrimp cocktail was there.
      You could see visiting performing artists, and local dignitaries any night of the week. Great memories!

  17. I’ve been away from Oklahoma City for many years but I
    used to frequent a delicatessen on N.W. 23rd street. I
    think it was in the same block as the Tower Theatre.
    I can’t remember the name of the place, but they had
    wonderful kosher corned beef sandwiches on rye and a
    seven layer cake that was to die for. Would love to
    know the name of it.

  18. I remember one called Alamo Plaza on south Shields with great fried chicken and unusual blue glass windows.
    The Dinner Bell cafe on N.W. 23rd with a large bell in front that you could ring.
    Sussy’s introduced pizza to OKC at their N.W. 23rd location and on Lincoln Blvd.
    I remember Anna Maude’s Cafeteria being so loud as they bussed the heavy-duty crockery dinnerware in a “hard” basement room that bounced back the sounds.
    There was a national chain called Nickerson Farms on I-35 owned by I.J. Nickerson who used to come to that store quite often.
    Adair’s Cafeteria which tried a fast food chicken startup called the Silver Pullet, which didn’t last very long.

  19. I remember seeing the Spike Jones orchestra at the Municipal Auditorium with Beverley’s Chicken in the Rough owner Mr. Beverly Osborne acting like he was playing a trombone in the band, even though he couldn’t play one. He was of friend of Spike Jones who let him fulfill his fantasy of playing with a stage band. The audience never knew.

  20. I remember the men who bought Kentucky Fried Chicken from Colonel Sanders having dinner at the Chandel revolving resturant atop Founders Tower. John Y. Brown, later Governor of Kentucky and Jack Massey, a Nashville resident wealthy from the pharmaceuticals industry.

    • does anyone remember how fast the old Chandel atop the united founders tower used to rotate

      does anyone remember how fast the old Chandel atop the united founders tower used to rotate.

  21. I remember there was a hotel/motel built on the east side of Lincoln Blvd. near the Capitol. It had a restaurant in the front. I don’t remember the name but John Wayne was an investor and flew in to check his investment in the mid 60’s. Western movie actor Tim Holt who worked at KLPR country radio went out to see his friend from Hollywood. But Wayne had quite a bit to drink on the flight in and could barely stand up in his room and talk to Tim.

  22. Does anyone remember the name of the restaurant south of Will Rogers Park on that lake just west of the interstate? Some friends are trying to remember and we think the names was Chandel or something like that?

  23. My sibings and I are trying to remember the name of a restaurant on Lincoln Blvd., just north of the capitol bldg. where we would eat breakfast back in the 60’s? My brother recalls a white building with red or maroon trim. It was not a cafeteria. Thanks for any help you can give.

  24. I am trying to find info on Sussy’s Retaurant around NW 90th and Western. My great-uncle Norval lived across the street from it and in 1960/61 was a witness in a manslaughter trial from a fight/death that happened in their parking lot in December of 1960. I was looking at the articles from the papers about that night and now am curious about the restaurant itself. Thanks!

    • To my knowledge, the only restaurant of the Jack Sussy lineage is Nomad II on the west side of N. May Avenue at about 66th Street. It still serves Sussy’s sauce on the Italian dishes and pizza. Also on the menu are lamb fries, fried chicken livers and steaks.

  25. Does anyone know of a restaurant called Dave’s Steakhouse in 1937 or City Market Cafe around 1940? My husband’s grandfather was a chef at these. We would love to know more about them or if there was an old picture or something.

  26. It has been very interesting reading about the restaurants that I remember growing up. I remember going to Glen’s Hickery Inn at NW10th & May (NE corner) on Sunday’s after church. Herman’s for sea food. What great memories

  27. I had an aunt and uncle that had a drive in burger place in Oklahoma City I believe was called The Spot or Burger Spot. Later they converted it into a restaurant. The time frame would have been from the 50’s thru 70’s I believe. Their names were Freeman and Jewell. My Aunt use to sell her Porky Pigs BBQ sauce.

  28. The Washington Post had a picture of Hollie’s (Chicken) in the Travel section last Sunday, and it brought back OKC memories. My son was born at Deaconess Hospital in 1973. From the age of pre-one, he loved French fries from a restaurant around our apartment complex on N. Rockwell. As I recall, it was WestOaks or something similar. Does anyone remember a restaurant with that name?

  29. I used to buy Queene Anne’s Dressing Founders Tower Okc raw and bake it off at home it was very watery like and thin but it was delicious does anyone know the recipe I NEED IT BADLY

  30. Wonderful stuff here. We went to the Spaghetti Factory on Paseo in the 70s. Dark ambiance with black and white cartoons on a movie screen. You made your own pizza with the help of the old guys that ran the place. Real magic to remember.

  31. My late husband and I used to eat at Queen Ann’s Cafeteria quite often. I loved their Mexican Spaghetti Casserole. I would love to have the recipe if anyone has it. Thanks

  32. I’ve been trying to remember the restaurant across from Baptist Hospital. At one time it was called Whistler’s. But later I believe the name began with an S. The theme inside was somewhat “Bombay” appearance.

  33. I got to eat at the Lunch Box by the Bus Station a number of times in the 1990s. Corned beef or Pastrami sandwiches and pie. My dad ate there often in the 1960s-1980s.

  34. Does anyone remember the RJ Ranch(?) on nw 10th near Portland? We had a number of family get togethers there. We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes green beans with bacon (?) rolls, salad, and hush puppies.
    Or Nicholosi’s on nw 10th near Portland.
    I also remember Hans BBQ on 10th and Glen’s Hickory Inn.
    Ever eat at the House of Chan? Or at the Green Rickshaw on 1-35 near Frontier City?

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