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Oklahoma's oldest restaurant: Ike's Chili celebrating 114th anniversary

Ike's Chili
Posted at 1:29 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 19:59:10-04

TULSA, Okla. — Ike's Chili, believed to be Oklahoma's oldest restaurant, is celebrating its 114th anniversary on Saturday.

The celebration at their location on Route 66 in Tulsa will be serving up $1.14 Coneys and $1.14 drinks along with cake and a charity raffle from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"We're too old for a birthday, so we're calling it an anniversary," Ike's owner Len Wade said. Wade runs the family business that's spanned four generations starting with uncle and nephew pair Ike and Ivan Johnson.

"There was a chili recipe, and they kind of played with it," Wade said. "When it first opened it didn't even have a name."

They settled on Ike's which first opened in an alley around 2nd and Boston in 1908. The restaurant has changed locations throughout the years, but the chili recipe stayed the same.

"For a long time it wasn't written down.. but now it's written down and my wife knows where it is," Wade said.

He mixes up the recipe a few times a week, but ultimately keeps it a secret. However, he does have a clear stance on a hot-button chili debate.

"Chili does not have beans," he said.

Most Ike's customers order the popular "three way."

"Spagetti.. beans and chili.. that's by far my number one," Wade said.

"It's habit forming," said Kenneth Hill, an almost-weekly Ike's customer since 1973. "I just love it, and it's just as good in the summer as it is in the winter."

Linda Abate said she came to Ike's to get down to business.

"I'm on a personal quest to find the best three or four-way chili... and everybody told me to come here," Abate said. She admitted it's her favorite so far on her taste test quest.

It isn't only the locals who love this place. Wade said Oklahoma's favorite son Will Rogers used to eat at Ike's, Martha Stewart once called this the best chili in the nation, and iconic author Stephen King stopped in.

Though the famous visits help, the key to Ike's longtime success comes down to a handful of key points:

"Be yourself, take care of your customers, be consistent, don't try to get too fancy and just take care of people," Wade said.

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