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Table Talk


The Chief of Chicken EISCHEN’S By Mitch Steichen I


n the state of Oklahoma, there are few foods more famous than the fried chicken served at Eischen’s Bar in Okarche. Patrons from around the corner and around the world stop in and sit down for the eight-piece meal that put this restaurant on the map.


Found right in the middle of town, Eischen’s has been a mainstay in Okarche since 1896. It began its history as a saloon run by Peter Eischen. Over the years the business saw many changes including at least one move across the street. “Peter ran the saloon until statehood and prohibition put him out of busi- ness,” said Ed “Chief” Eischen, Peter’s great-grandson and the current owner of Eischen’s. “It became a billiards hall, then part bar, part grocery store. When we started serving food, the restaurant part really grew.” Ed recalls the place using a steam table and lunch counter in the 1930s to beat out the competition. The family’s continued perfection of original recipes put them above the rest. “They served roast beef, barbecue beef and chili,” Ed said. “We still use the


same chili recipe to this day. I think we owe it to the food for helping us stay open, even when the other three bars in town kept changing hands and eventu- ally locked up.” It is the story of Eischen’s fried chicken that really took hold of the hearts and stomachs of Oklahomans and out-of-state visitors alike. It started in 1960,


WATCH!


If viewing our digital edition, click here to view the “Table Talk” video showing how the Eischen’s chicken and fi xings are made. Access our digital edition at www.ok-living.coop or fi nd our FREE app at the Apple Newsstand, Google Play or Amazon.


“People say that Eischen’s is one of those must-stops in the state.”


- Ed “Chief” Eischen, owner


when Ed’s brother George came up with a new way to reward the winners of their weekly shuffl eboard contest.


“George started serving the two winners one of his fried chickens,” Ed said.


“They wouldn’t be able to eat the whole chicken by themselves, so they’d bring their friends along. Eventually it grew into something we thought we could sell.” For many years, Wednesday night was chicken night at Eischen’s. It became so popular that the family could not keep up with the crowd of hungry custom- ers. By 1964, they opened it up for the rest of the week and purchased automatic fryers to meet demand. As time went on, the chicken business brought customers in by the droves.


Everything nearly went up in smoke in 1993 however, when the restaurant caught fi re. “When the building burned down in 1993, we had a great business,” Ed said. “I was 55 and my brother was 54. We knew we had to rebuild since we didn’t think we could try anything else.” Rebuild they did, and with it came a new customer base 10 times its previous


size. Today, Ed estimates they average between 2,000 to 3,000 customers on a daily basis. For perspective, that’s double or triple Okarche’s population. “Ninety percent or more of our customers are coming in from outside of


Oklahoma,” Ed said. “It’s like going to Bricktown or visiting the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. People say that Eischen’s is one of those must-stops in the state.” Eischen’s keeps its clientele well fed starting at 10 a.m. until the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. With the no-frills menu, great atmosphere and special fried chicken recipe, customers make it a routine visit. “My family comes about once a year for the chicken,” customer Emily


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