TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) — The spot behind the server window and in front of the chili pots, Len Wade fills that all-important place now, serving from a menu that hasn’t changed for more than a century at Ike’s Chili.
“We’ve been in business since 1908,” he states. “Back then, it was chili, chili and beans, chili and spaghetti.”
Spaghetti, pinto beans, and chili on top.
The quick diner code is ‘three-way.’ ‘Spy-get’ is just chili and spaghetti. ‘Straight’ is just the chili.
Len insists, “It’s a real simple recipe, just meat and spices.”
Wade will add beans if customers ask, but don’t ask him to call it chili.
With beans, he argues, “Then it’s bean chowder.”
Ivan Johnson and his Uncle Ike bought themselves a chili parlor along a Tulsa alley in 1908.
They came up with a good, basic recipe and started slinging.
Len tried to do the math a few years back but could only come up with gross estimates.
“It was, like, 30 million bowls,” he says.
That original recipe is still a closely guarded secret. Only Len and his brother-in-law know it.
He smiles and says, “It’s written down somewhere but I can’t say where.”
But on cold, rainy days, loyal customers still flock in.
Will Rogers was a regular here. So was Bob Wills.
Longtime dishwasher Houston Burton knows these are the days for which chili was made.
“It’s a great, great day today,” he smiles.
Wade chuckles and adds, “You got your protein. You got your carbs. It’s just a good, wholesome, fill your belly, nap time type meal.”
Ike’s Chili pours it out by the ladle full.
The restaurant has changed locations several times over the past century plus.
You can find them now at the corner of 11th and Rockford on Route 66 in Tulsa.
‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.