PONCA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – The sign outside needs an arrow to point the way, down an alley, to a locked door where customers have to ring a bell to get inside.
Rick Hancock grew up with this old ‘speakeasy’ kind of entrance.
Now, as owner, he wouldn’t dare to change it.
“You can’t change too much,” states Hancock. “People in Ponca City say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t change.’ So, I have to do things subtly.”
Rick’s mom and stepdad took over the Rusty Barrell in 1976, shortly after it opened.
The place seated less than 25 back then and it really was a supper club in the classic sense.
There was a membership required, no ‘Liquor by the Drink’ at that time.
“Gentlemen would bring their own bottles,” he recalls.
But whatever it was about the atmosphere, the food, even the changing liquor laws, people in Ponca didn’t want this place to change.
They liked the doorbell.
They liked the Rusty Barrell staying rustic.
Hancock marvels, “Who would’ve thought that a place where you have to walk down an alley, then ring a doorbell behind a big wooden door to get in would last this long but it certainly has.”
When Rick came back to take over for his parents, he did make the place bigger, more tables and a pretty good size bar behind the dining room.
He says, “It took us about eight months, but we opened up in December.”
Rick tinkered with some new ideas, like specializing in a big selection of whiskeys and bourbons, even one with his name on the label.
“It’s been fun,” he says. “I really enjoy this.”
But it’s still the same rusty barrel that cooks steaks to order, still the same salad bar, the same alley entrance and still the same loyal customers who insist he keep to the basics that make this place the institution it has become.
Hancock confirms, “I’m still the caretaker of everything my folks built over the years.”
For more information on the Rusty Barrrel Supper Club go to their website, www.rustybarrellsupperclub.com.
You can also go to their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bestlittlesteakhouseinoklahoma.