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Table Talk Dinging in Davenport Diningin Davenport L


By Gail Banzet-Ellis


Dan’s BBQ’s original style keeps the restaurant as a special spot for diners on historic Route 66. Photos by Gail-Banzet Ellis


ike most sleepy, small towns dotted along the roadside of Route 66, a restaurant or landmark often refl ects the timeless charm of America’s mother road. For Davenport, Okla., that special spot is Dan’s BBQ. Central Rural Electric Cooperative (CREC) members Mike and


Annita Vandever began working in the restaurant just a few years after Mike’s parents purchased it from original owner Dan Thompson. High school sweet- hearts from Stroud, Okla., Mike and Annita knew they wanted to help their family continue the Dan’s BBQ tradition. Annita began waitressing in the early 1980s, and since then she and Mike have made the restaurant their livelihood. “We love the business and we love the people,” Annita said. “We’re bringing


the fi nest of barbecue to the fi nest of people.” Behind the simple brick exterior of Dan’s BBQ, patrons dine on a rainy


Wednesday night, making soft conversation as country music fl oats through- out the restaurant. Route 66 metal signs and memorabilia fi ll the walls of both dining rooms along with pictures of the Vandevers’ three daughters. There’s a baseball game on the television hanging in the corner and a young waitress greets customers with a warm smile. Whether they are locals who have visited every week for the past three decades or world travelers chasing the nostalgia of Route 66, they all feel at home at Dan’s BBQ. Stroud residents Bob and Linda Thomas sit at a table chatting with their young granddaughter. They eat at Dan’s BBQ every few weeks for the tender ribs, down home dishes and comfortable atmosphere. “We always run into people we know,” Linda said.


WATCH!


If viewing our digital edition, click here to watch how Dan’s ribs 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.


Barbeque is prepared in the restaurant’s original, “seasoned” smoker where the famous ribs are cooked three to six hours. According to Mike, the family’s original sauce is based on a special spice mix that leans more toward the mild side.


“It’s nothing fancy, but we powder them and cook them fast. I can’t give out all our secrets,” he said with a grin. Other star items on the menu include chicken-fried steak, juicy hot links, a smoked chicken salad, fresh home-style fries and all of the southern side dishes customers enjoy such as coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad. In addition to these famous plates, Dan’s BBQ offers a daily buffet along with catering “anytime and anywhere.”


“Catering is a big part of the business for us,” Annita said. Head cook and CREC member Josh Tipton has worked at the restaurant for 14 years and oversees most of the catering. He started as a dishwasher and helped with prep work before eventually becoming the Vandevers’ trusty man- ager. The ‘life’ of the kitchen, Tipton knows Dan’s BBQ like the back of his hand and believes in the food’s old-fashioned, original style, he said. “He cares about the restaurant and loves it like we do,” Annita said. A true family business, the Vandevers’ daughters grew up in the restaurant.


When they weren’t out winning games on softball fi elds across the state, they were waitressing and helping their parents.


“It’s demanding, but it taught them the value of hard work,” Mike said. Once they began college, Annita said she was always grateful when her daughters returned on the weekends to support their parents. “It was a little gas money in their pockets and a chance to help them out,” Annita said. The past 30 years have been a juggling act for Mike and Annita. Softball is a competitive world in Oklahoma where teams travel hundreds of miles each weekend for intense tournament action. Mike would accompany his daughters and coach while Annita supervised operations at the restaurant. “I would work all weekend,” she said. “The girls would ask me why I put in so many hours and I would say for the love of my children and husband—to see them happy.” Twenty years of devotion and sacrifi ce at home and on the road paid off for the Vandever family; Mike and Annita are proud of the fact that all of their daughters played Division I college softball and now are beginning careers in their favorite sport. “They all want to be softball coaches,” Annita said. “The restaurant has been good to us. We’ve been fortunate enough to raise our children and put them through college.”


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