If I squint, I can make out the long sign of the Rialto Theater that flanks the right of the sepia-toned photograph. If I scan my eyes across the photo, across 1900’s Tulsa Main Street, the “Ike’s Chili” sign is clearly visible. Cars, parked along both sides of the street attest to this busy corridor of Tulsa’s earlier days. Len Wade, partner with Ike’s Chili for five years, tells me that the date is somewhere around 1908. “Back then,” Len says, “people went to the Rialto to see a show, then ate at Ike’s – and spent about $1 for the entire evening.”
The location depicted on the old photograph hangs in Ike’s Chili’s current newest location at 1503 E 11th St. But the old photo does not depict the earliest Ike’s Chili Parlor which, according to Wade, was just an alley door off 2nd and Boston, where oilfield workers came to visit Ike and his nephew, Ivan Johnson, and enjoy a great bowl of chili. Since its beginning, Ike’s has transitioned with Tulsa from oil field days to Route 66 days to current days, where some contend that Tulsa’s best bowl of chili can still be found at Ike’s.
February 17, 2014, marked the move from the Admiral/Sheridan location to this current location that is appropriately located on Tulsa’s Route 66 corridor. Give him a chance and Wade will tell you some of his favorite stories about those who have stopped through Ike’s over the years. Ike’s guest list includes locals that dine weekly at their favorite table along with some Hollywood types, including actress Peggy Cass, actor Gary Busey and even Will Rogers who, according to some reports, was late to a speaking engagement at the Mayo Hotel because he opted to eat a bowl of Ike’s best before he made his way to the podium.
Today, Ike’s boasts specials 7 days a week that include all of the fares that have made Ike’s famous. On my recent visit, I enjoyed a relatively new dish, Chili Mac, which I enjoyed as much for the visual treat as the culinary one. Another newcomer to Ike’s menu: the Jalapeno Bacon Burger, features lettuce tomato, pickles, grilled onions, jalapeno, and your choice of mayo or mustard. One of the secrets of this delicious hamburger is soaking the bacon in jalapeno brine before cooking. Since I’m a big fan of jalapenos anyway, this hamburger stole my heart. Make it even better with some of Ike’s famous chili spread across.
Of course, Ike’s menu still includes favorites such as Three Way (chili, beans and spaghetti) and Ike’s Fries, hot dogs and chili Coney’s. Yet, Ike’s has evolved along with its updated new location to include Chicken Salad, a 4-ounce chicken salad with cranberries and pecan served on a bed of lettuce with tomato coleslaw. Other salads and chicken wraps fill out the menu along with a delightful chocolate cobbler which is made complete served ala mode.
Ike’s enjoys catering events and continues to be a steadfast contributor to the Tulsa food scene at its newest location at 1503 E 11th or as some call it, “the Route 66 corridor”.