Grateful Kaiser's Hasn't Bean Forgotten
When I moved to Oklahoma City in 1988, Kaiser’s ice cream was one of the first friends I made. With a location adjacent to the old AMC Theater east of Quail Springs Mall — where Red Robin, Cucina Brava and P.F. Chang’s now call home — it was the perfect post-movie stop.
But that spot was short-lived and the end was near for the longtime location at NW 10 and Walker, which closed in 1990. For a few more years, you could still find small cartons of Kaiser’s ice cream at the old Kamp’s Market and Crescent Market. Now Kaiser’s ice cream, which chef John Bennett once had flown to California to serve at the wedding of Julia Child’s niece, is just a memory.
Anthony J. Kaiser, who arrived in Oklahoma City in 1909 from a family of confectioners from Switzerland via Iowa, had a number of secret family recipes and formulas for ice cream and initially bought a bankrupt ice cream parlor a few blocks from what would become the permanent location on the roundabout. He eventually opened more locations, eventually even reaching south to Dallas. Tony retired in 1957 and his ice cream parlors continued on until 1990.
In 1994, a group of local attornies, including adoption attorney Pete Schaffer, purchased the building intending to open a cafe intended to provide hands-on training for people whose employment history was marginal at best but seeking a better life.
The idea first sprouted after attorney Mary Smith returned from Colorado in 1989 with a package of beans distributed by the Women’s Bean Project in Denver, which operated under a similar auspice.
The Grateful Bean was born in 1994, originally specializing in health foods and had an extensive vegetarian menu. However, to maintain a vigorous customer base, the menu evolved to offer hearty dishes. When extensive road work on the roundabout mucked up traffic in 2004, the cafe closed but returned in 2006.
The Bean now offers the old-time Kaiser’s experience plus a full breakfast and lunch menu.
You can still enjoy a freshly jerked soda, homemade ice cream, sundaes, malts and floats.
I recently dropped in with my mini-me’s, Luke and Kate.
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