Clanton’s Cafe ‘synonymous with Route 66’

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
06/15/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Clanton’s Cafe along Route 66 in Vinita has been a dining staple for generations. It has been serving dishes since 1927 when Grant Clanton opened the Busy Bee Cafe. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Customer favorites include chicken with dressing, chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak and calf fries, also known as Rocky Mountain oysters. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Coffee is poured in Clanton’s Café. The longtime eatery sits along Route 66 in Vinita. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Fried chicken, mash potatoes and gravy waits to be eaten at Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Pancakes cook on a griddle in Clanton’s Cafe located at 319 E. Illinois Ave., in Vinita. COURTESY
For generations, Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita has been a dining staple along Route 66 with a uniquely American menu.

“This is one of the places that everybody looks forward to stopping at,” co-owner and general manager Shaun Patrick said. “It’s good, family home cooking – true comfort food.”

Patrick is the son of Melissa Clanton-Patrick and Dennis Patrick, who purchased the cafe in the late 1990s. Located at 319 E. Illinois Ave., the cafe is the oldest continually owned family restaurant on Route 66 in Oklahoma, said the owners. The Clantons have been serving their neighbors since 1927 when Grant Clanton, also known as “Sweet Tator,” opened the Busy Bee Cafe.

“Sweet Tator was known for coming out and banging a pot with a spoon to announce to the town locals that lunch was ready,” a brief history at clantonscafe.com notes. “The local merchants would then close their books and head to the Busy Bee to dine.”

The first Clanton’s Cafe opened three years later. The Patricks took over in 1997 after they “were made an offer they could not refuse,” according to their website.

“Dennis and Melissa are known for being some of the town’s best ambassadors,” the cafe website states. “They greet travelers from all parts of the world. Clanton’s is featured in many tourism guides that are distributed across several countries. Clanton’s Cafe is synonymous with Route 66. Dinner at Clanton’s Cafe is a necessary part of the Route 66 experience.”

Clanton’s offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Customer favorites include chicken with dressing, chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak and calf fries, also known as Rocky Mountain oysters.

“The calf fries are veal testicles,” Patrick said. “We cut them down into little pieces and we batter them and deep-fry them. People just love them. It’s amazing how many people just go crazy over them.”

The cafe also serves pies. Lane Leou, of Omaha, Nebraska, described the coconut pie as “pure America.”

In October 2007, Clanton’s was featured on an episode of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri. The network noted that Fieri “couldn’t leave Clanton’s Cafe without sampling the 80-year-old recipe for the famous chicken-fried steak.”

“The ‘mac daddy’ steak has been called one of the best on Route 66, and, for a trip off the road, they’re dishing out tasty Rocky Mountain oysters, also known as the underside of the calf,” Food Network added.

The exposure prompted an uptick in business, Patrick said.

“When you get free advertising on a national platform like that, it’s just awesome,” he added.

Tentative hours of operation in July are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at least Monday through Friday.

“We’re doing the whole thing where staff wears the masks and the social distancing with every other table,” Patrick said. “We had been open on Saturdays, but as of now, we’re just doing through the weekdays until everything gets phased back in and all our employees are able to come back. I’m just trying to roll with the punches.”

The cafe was temporarily closed earlier this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. It reopened in May.

For information, call 918-256-9053 or visit clantonscafe.com.
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ...
chad-hunter@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...

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