Ike’s Chili

When the recent cold snap suddenly dropped the temperatures into the lower 80’s, I decided that would be a good day to get some chili for lunch. I drove down old Route 66 (11th Street) west toward downtown, looking for the new home for Ike’s Chili. I had been there once in the before times.  After passing through the massive construction zone at Lewis Avenue, I found myself entering a nearly unrecognizable stretch just past Utica. The construction there was creating new stores, restaurants, and touristy-type businesses. I was so disoriented by it all, I missed Ike’s altogether and had to go way out of the way to get back to where I was headed. After parking in back, I noticed Ike’s was preparing for a celebration.

The posters were inviting everyone to their Anniversary Party and Cruise, which seemed a little much for a place that serves bowls of chili. Ike’s is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Tulsa. September 10th will mark 114 years. There will be a big party on Saturday, including an invitation to “cruise” Route 66. Ike Johnson, who died in 1928, started his “chili parlor” in 1908 at 2nd and Boston. I was most familiar with the location on Admiral towards Sheridan, where it stood from 1966-2014. The current menu has a copy of the Tulsa World article from 1936, which tells the backstory. Included is a story of the time entertainer Will Rogers got to Ike’s too late—everyone had gone home. From its beginning Ike’s customers regularly included some of the most prominent people in Tulsa—unusual for a place that basically serves chili and hot dogs. Million-dollar deals have been brokered by people sitting at the counter on bar stools trying to keep the chili off their ties. Ike would be surprised that a regular bowl of chili now costs nearly $8.00, and a coney the same. I ordered my favorite—three-way chili and a coney. More than enough for anyone. Of course, when I stepped back outside after lunch, the weather was a humid 92˚.

Ike Johnson stuck with a good thing, and so have four generations in his family.  Anyone from any station in life is welcome to sit down for a simple meal, have a good conversation with a friend or stranger, and continue their day, satisfied and full. That is worth celebrating.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate the simple things. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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