Ann’s Chicken Fry House & Gift Shop: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Located on Route 66 in Oklahoma city, Ann’s Chicken Fry House & Gift Shop is touted on all of the “what to do on route 66” sites as one of the MUST-sees if you want to have that classic 66 experience, and the best Chicken Fried Steak in town. In retrospect, I was really annoyed to discover that the place only opened up in 1971 (i.e, barely a historic 66 restaurant, if at all), and I didn’t really enjoy my meal… NOT worth the calories.

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First, Let’s keep in mind, that I-44 was bypassing Route 66 in Oklahoma city as early as 1958, when it was first built to link it to Saint Lewis. In fact the interstate STARTED there, and then worked itself out sideways… That said, HISTORICALLY even though 66 hit its cultural hey-day in the early 1960’s, and wasn’t officially disbanded till 1985, by the late 1960’s/early 1970’s it had essentially been made irrelevant. By the late 1980’s, when I tried driving parts of it, it was sort of an impossible struggle  — and it’s revival as a scenic byway (the program officially began in 1991) really didn’t start till 1990. As such, I’m sorry, but for Ann’s place falls right into the years of 66 irrelevance as anything other than highways that people don’t even think of AS highways because of just how many paved roads there now were, and their function eclipse by the expressways. As such, for Ann’s to promote itself as an authentic route 66 business is kind of false advertising. I’m sorry but it is. That, and, to add insult to injury, it isn’t even considered one of Oklahoma city’s better restaurants by any of the locals (seriously, read Yelp, or any of those other sites) … i.e., it’s essentially a MAJOR tourist trap and nothing more.

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That said… Be warned, they are a CASH ONLY business… they do NOT accept credit cards. (The mind boggles)…. and they are closed on Sundays and Mondays… Their specialty is supposed to be the chicken fried steak… so that is what I ordered… but I didn’t take any photos of it (it looked like chicken fried steak, and there was nothing impressive about the plating)….

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that it was much better than the previous order of the stuff I’d had along the route — And I ate so much chicken fried steak over the few weeks I was doing 66 that when I got back to Chicago my liver numbers had once again spiked.

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Chicken Fried Steak is one of my very favorite dishes, so I HAD to try ever one of the places that was advertised as offering the best example of the stuff.

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One day someone should count up the number of Route 66 restaurants that tout their Chicken Fried Steak as the best in the city or the best in the state, or the best along the route …. the number of restaurants is probably very high…

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but, all said and done, 9 times out of 10 when I’ve eaten it at these places I’ve been seriously let down to discover it is still just a hamburger fried in chicken batter … and RARELY, is it the much tastier and more expensive pounded filet-of-steak — and personally I’m spoiled; I MUCH prefer it when it’s a piece of steak that’s been pounded —- I love how in republican states they will insist that somehow its NOT a hamburger, and will call it ground steak as though somehow that isn’t just hamburger without a bun. And I’m sorry but hamburgers, no matter how good, don’t taste like steak. So NO, I do not really suggest their Chicken Fried Steak.

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That said, I DO suggest finding an excuse to go inside the place as the interior is very kitschy and fun. Its one of those place where not only will they allow you to write on the walls…. they’ll even hand you the pen

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That and, according to the owner, her husband (R.I.P.) had been kind a huge Star Wars fan, hence all the high-priced paraphernalia of the sort I’ve always lusted over but would never purchase because … “where would I put it?” UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2023.jpg … well I guess if you own a kitschy tourist trap restaurant… you can legally deduct it as a business expense.

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A Story of Two Big Milk Bottles: The Milk Bottle Grocery on old Route 66 in Oklahoma City, in the USA vs. The Guaranteed Milk Company Bottle in Montreal Canada

Note: This post did not end as it started
Located at 2426 N. Classen, in Oklahoma City, on a street that USED to be part of the Route 66 network, but that is now no longer listed as such [No route 66 on Google maps, and no 66 signs on the building ???] is a tiny, one story, nondescript triangular-shaped brick building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the iconic Route 66 buildings… albeit one with NO 66 signage … what’s that about?

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Wedged onto a bit triangular island (the result of three streets coming together at odd angles), it was built in the 1930’s initially as a street car stop (which sort of makes sense if you look at it) — [and Wikipedia did NOT know about this!! I found in on the National Park service’s page!!] …  but within a short time the street cars were no more, and it was then known to locals as “The Triangle Grocery” (from 1940 until 1948) — for fairly obvious reasons. In 1948, when the then owner, as a way of getting route 66 traffic to notice that his store was even there, got the brilliant idea to put a large metal milk bottle on his roof, so that the local community renamed it, appropriately enough… the Milk Bottle Grocery… a name which has stuck to this day.

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Interestingly, according to the National Park Services’s web page, the Milk Bottle Grocery’s the bottle was never directly connected to the business upon which it sat, and has always been rented out like a normal billboard (but always to various dairy companies) as location to advertise their brands, and has been painted and repainted accordingly. (Kind of brilliant actually, as it supplemented the building’s income)

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Currently… the bottle advertises the 52 year old Bruam’s brand (i.e., didn’t exist when the building first went up), which is a well-known brand in this part of the country (I’d never heard of it till coming here). Braum’s headquarters is based in nearby Tuttle, Oklahoma (just at the edge of the expanding Oklahoma City region), and while they do sell their product in groceries, they are possibly better known for their about 300 drive through or dine-in outlets that are combination grocery stores and burger/ice-cream joints (with a few healthy options). These are scattered throughout the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas (kind of an overlap of lower midwestern states and western/southern states). I actually visited one while in town, but didn’t think to take any photos of it. That said, they are all very shiny and clean, and seem to be very popular with locals — it was STRONGLY suggested to me if I had not tried one I really should. That they are all GOOD.

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Returning to the building: the neighborhood it is located in is currently Oklahoma city’s China town area, so I was unsurprised to learn (via Wikipedia) that for 25 years (until 2014) the building had housed a Vietnamese bánh mì shop (the Vietnamese take on the submarine sandwich). When that business left the building’s owner, Elise Kilpatrick, who had inherited it from her father decided to take advantage of historic preservation tax credits in order return it to its original appearance — in keeping with the move towards revitalizing route 66’s historic attribute. At which point a boutique called Prairie Gothic had moved in, but only managed to stay in business for about a year.

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The Milk bottle building is now the offices of an architectural firm (??).

Post Script:

That said, I’ve seen what I’m pretty sure is a MUCH bigger milk bottle which seems to double as a water tank sitting on top of a very dilapidated building on the Island of Montreal, ⁨while I was up in ⁨Canada in July of 2017. This one is called the Guaranteed Pure Milk bottle, and also has its own Wikipedia page.

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According to the page, the bottle itself was ALSO (like the bottle above) built in the 1930’s but this one was renovated in 2009 by volunteers using privately raised funds, to the cost of $100K Canadian (WOW! Power to you guys!) … and that sum was for JUST fixing up the bottle. It stands 33 Feet tall (I have not been able to discover how tall the Oklahoma City bottle is, but I’m guessing it’s not more than 10 feet high) … ⁩BUT, that said…. considering the state of the building it is upon, and the fact that the area it is in seems to be in a mad rush of replacing all of its old buildings with shiny new ones, I’m not sure how long it’ll still be there…

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HOPEFULLY — and I hope someone out there is listening — the city of Montreal will have the good sense to either fund the renovation of the building rather than just knocking it down, at least …in this case… if that’s not feasible, PLEASE at least save the Milk bottle!!