The remnants of Oklahoma’s lost fried chicken empire can be seen on the walls of the last surviving Beverly’s restaurant in a strip mall on Northwest Expressway.
Chicken in the Rough, a dish invented by the late Oklahoma City restauranteur Beverly Osborne and wife Rubye in 1936, once had a reach that rivaled KFC. In 1950, the Osbornes were featured in Time magazine and the Chicken in the Rough brand was grossing nearly $2 million a year. The dish, composed of half a fried chicken, shoestring potatoes and a biscuit with honey, was sold at about 250 franchise outlets as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa. By 1950, licensed sellers of Chicken in the Rough had sold about 335 million orders of the dish.
“He was a marketing genius,” Micheal Rodriguez, Beverly’s general manager, said of Beverly Osborne. “When you ordered Chicken in the Rough, everything from to-go boxes to the napkins had the Chicken in the Rough logo on it.”
The logo, a cigar-smoking rooster brandishing a broken golf club, surrounds customers at Beverly’s Pancake House at 3315 Northwest Expressway. Everything from branded matchbooks to cups and china have been framed, and line the walls of the pancake house. The chicken dish is also one of the most popular items at the pancake house.
The restaurant moved to its current location after the building it had inhabited at Northwest Expressway and Pennsylvania since 1956 was sold and demolished in 2008 to make way for a new Talbot’s store.
“Customers were taking bricks and pieces of concrete from the building because it was just so full of memories,” said current Beverly’s owner Renee Masoudy, who purchased Beverly’s in 1988. “I was sitting in my car crying when they tore it down.”
Masoudy managed to save the top of the old neon sign from the building — a seven-foot-tall yellow disk emblazoned with the Chicken in the Rough logo. It now is in the front window of the restaurant — the rest of the sign was too rusted to save, she said.
The restaurant still attracts customers who have been coming to Beverly’s since their youth, including Duncan residents Wes and Shirley Hamilton, who eat at Beverly’s whenever they visit Oklahoma City.
“We come not just for old times’ sake, but because the food is good,” said 85-year-old Wes Hamilton, who first dined at Beverly’s when he was a teen.
According to the chain’s lore, Beverly and Rubye Osborne’s savings had been wiped out by the Great Depression and the couple were driving across the Oklahoma prairie in 1936 on their way to California when Chicken in the Rough was born. The Osbornes hit a bump in the road, which upset a picnic basket of fried chicken the couple had packed with them. Picking up the chicken, Rubye Osborne exclaimed, “this is really chicken in the rough.”
With that offhand remark, the Osbornes turned the car around and opened their first Beverly’s restaurant in Oklahoma City, after selling Rubye’s wedding ring. At one time, Oklahoma City was home to as many as eight Beverly’s restaurants. Bob Hope and Gene Autry were friends of the Osbornes, and customers at one time. A framed, undated black and white photograph on one of the walls at the restaurant shows Bob Hope celebrating his birthday with a cake at Beverly’s.
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This story is part of a series on Oklahoma’s forgotten retail chains.