If you’ve never heard of Eischen’s Bar in Okarche, join the club. Or try to start one, I guess, because you won’t find many members. Billed as Oklahoma’s oldest bar, this state landmark has been packing in locals and non-locals alike with a menu that is bare-bones at best.
Finding the bar won't be much trouble, as Okarche's not a very big town. But if you get lost, look for parking lots overfilling with cars and you've probably found it. When you first walk in, it'll take a few seconds to adjust to very low lights. Tread past a little sawdust on the floor and then the real challenge begins — finding a table.
It's not a fancy place at all, but it is cozy, with plenty of booths on one side of the restaurant and long tables where you can belly up next to some new friends while you wait for your food to arrive.
So, if it's dark and crowded, what keeps the customers coming? The Famous Whole Fried Chicken, of course. At $11 a bird, the dish is just what it sounds like — eight pieces of fried chicken, served in a disposable tray with white bread, pickles and onions on the side.
If that doesn’t sound very special to you, then you haven’t tried the chicken. Succulent doesn’t begin to describe the moist, flavorful birds served at Eischen’s. It’s not health food, but that’s not what people are looking for at this bar.
Eischen’s cooks about 4,000 whole chickens a week and brings in customers from across the state and around the globe. In the gift shop, co-owner Ed Eischen keeps a world map with pins marking the bar’s worldwide appeal.
With so much interest and weekend crowds that push waiting times for food up to an hour and a half, Eischen said there have been plenty of offers to franchise, but he’s happy keeping the entire operation in Okarche.
“They’ve tried to get me to open up a second store in Oklahoma City plenty of times,” he said. “When they were building Remington Park, they wanted us in there. But we’re 30 minutes from anywhere and we have lines out the door — who is to say it would be the same with a second store, or even if we might lose customers here? Why mess with a good thing?”
Those who don’t like chicken can still find great food to fill them up. Eischen’s sells roast beef sandwiches and barbecue beef sandwiches ($5.50 a piece) as well as homemade chili and big baskets of fried okra ($5.50) — giving a little variety to customers.
Of course, there are some things you can’t get at Eischen’s. Don’t bother asking for iced tea or French fries — they don’t have them and they’re not planning on changing. Drink choices range from beer (on tap or in the bottle) and cans of soda. Styrofoam cups of water are also available, on request.
Started in 1896 by Peter Eischen, the bar has seen generations come through its doors because the workers do what they do well and they do it consistently. Why fix what ain’t broke?
10 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday
Closed on Sunday
Grill shuts off at 10 p.m.