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Table Talk


Come one, come all to Circus City


By Cathey Heddlesten


It’s all in the family for restaurant owners Spencer Cooke and his parents, Angie and Randy. Photos by Hayley Leatherwood


WATCH! Photo by Cathey Heddlesten


Daily lunch specials and fi lling favorites like all-you-can-eat catfi sh keep patrons coming back.


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T


here aren’t a lot of restaurant owners who can boast of having an authentic pair of clown shoes hanging on the wall, but the folks at Angie’s Circus City Diner can point you to a well-worn pair of over- sized clodhoppers proudly displayed near their salad bar. A favorite of locals who regularly enjoy the establishment’s down-home cooking and fun circus décor, Angie’s Diner is located in Hugo—the county seat of Oklahoma’s Choctaw County and headquarters of Choctaw Electric Cooperative. The circus-themed diner is owned and operated by the Cooke family—head cook Randy, his wife, Angie, and their 26-year-old son, Spencer. With all walls and every inch of available space adorned with circus posters, tickets, photos, fi gurines and other memorabilia, the restaurant pays homage to Hugo’s claim to fame as “Circus City, U.S.A.” Throughout the past seven decades, a total of 20 traveling shows have at one time or another wintered in the Choctaw County town, including the three—the Carson & Barnes Circus, the Kelly Miller Circus and the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus—that currently call Hugo home during the cold weather months when the traveling tent shows put down temporary roots. Spencer says the restaurant’s décor was inspired by and includes the exten- sive collection of circus posters and memorabilia collected by his grandfather (Angie’s dad), the late David Roebuck, who was a “huge circus fan.” “We started with a few posters and some memorabilia, then the circus per- formers started coming in and putting pictures of themselves up on the walls,” says Spencer, who was practically raised at the restaurant his parents estab- lished when he was 9 years old. “The collection has grown exponentially since then.”


One of Spencer’s favorites is an antique Tom Mix Circus and Wild West Show poster, which he says was left at the restaurant by a customer he didn’t even know. “This guy just came in and left it,” he says. “He said no one could see the poster where he had it so he just left it here for us.” Though locals enjoy soaking up the circus atmosphere at Angie’s, it is the home-style cooking that keeps them coming back. Spencer says the daily lunch special—one meat entree, three vegetables, coffee or tea, roll or cornbread and dessert for $8.49 (plus tax)—is what keeps the restaurant packed during the mid-day meal break. The entrée specials change every day and diners get to choose one of three meats offered daily. Monday’s regular special is meatloaf, Tuesday is chicken-fried steak day, the Wednesday feature is fried chicken or chicken and dressing, Thursday’s special is chicken and dumplings and Friday is the fried catfi sh. Of all meals served at the restaurant, Spencer says the two most popular, by far, are their chicken-fried steaks and fried catfi sh. The diner’s varied menu includes favorites like fried green tomatoes, pork chops, taco salad, shrimp and Frito chili pie, along with standards like burgers, steaks and chicken. The restaurant is not without its breakfast fans who routinely stop by for morning fare such as omelets, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, gravy, pancakes,


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