January 19, 2017

Eischen's Bar in Okarche, Oklahoma

Eischen's bar exterior

photo by: Rolling Okie/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

Eischen's first opened in the small town of Okarche, OK in 1896.

Okarche, Oklahoma, is a small town, even by Oklahoma standards. With a population of 1,215 as of the 2010 census, you wouldn’t expect many stories from the former railroad town to go national. But perhaps nothing puts a small place on the map like a good watering hole, and that’s just the case with the self-proclaimed “Oldest in Oklahoma,” Eischen’s Bar.

First opened by Peter Eischen in 1896 (that’s 11 years before Oklahoma even became the 46th state), the place has had its share of ups and downs, like pretty much anything that lives for over a century. It closed for Prohibition, then reopened under Peter’s son, Nick, and grandson in the 1930s.

In the 1940s, Nick went on a hunting trip and (somehow) won a hand-made Spanish backbar from the early 1800s that quickly became a part of the joint’s identity, adding another meaning to the “Oldest in Oklahoma” refrain.

But in 1993, tragedy struck when a fire claimed the bar and the generations-old memorabilia that lined its walls. Unsurprisingly though, Nick’s grandson, Ed Eischen—yes, that’s four generations of Eischens for those of you scoring at home—opened back up in less than a year with a small part of the antique bar still intact. Since then, the legend has only grown.

Eischen's bar exterior

photo by: Jimmy Emerson DVM/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

A fire claimed the famous barback in 1993, but Eischen's was back up and running in less than a year.

But while some historic bars’ popularity is only a function of their age, Eischen’s keeps the locals and tourists alike pouring in with something else: fried chicken. Fourteen dollars gets you a whole bird (dressed, of course) with onions, pickles, and bread on the side, the same way as when they started serving it in the 1960s. They’ve been racking up awards for the golden-brown stuff ever since.

Between the history and the chicken, Eichsen’s is effectively a one-bar tourism department for Okarche, and it’s brought some pretty big names to the very small town. Country musicians like Henson Cargill, Toby Keith, and Amy Grant have stopped in, as have sports figures like Barry Switzer and even Governor George Nigh.

As for the drinks, well, when you’re over 100 you can do things the way you want. At Eischen’s that means no fuss: beer, wine coolers, or soft drinks. Apparently liquor just wasn’t worth the headache.

So if you’re a lover of fried chicken, cold beer, and stories from generations past, Eischen’s in Okarche might be the place for you.

Location: 109 S. 2nd St., Okarche, OK 73762

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.

You’re having: The fried chicken. Eight pieces for $14 with white bread, onions, and pickles on the side. Wash it down with a cold one.

Best Yelp Review: “They use some sort of magic combination of subtle spices, light breading and fryer oil that I would be willing to believe still has traces of grease from the 80’s… the 1880’s that is.”

By: Jared Foretek

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