Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Sapulpa soon will close after 41 years

The Hickory House Bar-B-Q restaurant in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, will close after serving residents and Route 66ers for 41 years.

The restaurant at 626 N. Mission St. (aka Route 66) soon will be put up for sale after it serves its final meals Saturday.

Co-owner Roberta Ortiz told the Sapulpa Times, which broke the story, that she and her husband Gibert had considered retiring just before the COVID-19 pandemic but kept the restaurant open for those who do not cook.

The Ortizes came to Sapulpa from Amarillo, Texas, with a Mr. Burger franchise in 1977. Hickory House Bar-B-Q, originally on East Dewey Avenue in the city, came up for sale shortly after that. They bought it.

Mr. Burger closed not long after that due to a corporate office decision, and the couple focused their energies on their newly acquired barbecue restaurant. They expanded its hours, which in turn expanded the restaurant’s popularity.

The Hickory House moved into a former gas station and liquor store on North Mission after its lease expired in 1986. It began offering live music, and the restaurant was expanded during the early 1990s.

The Hickory House survived a fire caused by a lightning strike in 2002 that closed it for a year. At the time, the Ortizes considered packing up and leaving for nearby Glenpool, Oklahoma:

“We thought, well, we can just build a whole new building and have more parking, too.” Thankfully, the city and its customers begged them not to leave. “And we really like the whole ‘Route 66’ thing, anyway,” Roberta said. “So we built back. And it’s been good to us. Route 66 is really good to us. We got a lot of travelers during the summertime, and we’ve always said that promoting Route 66 is a good thing, and people are finally starting to promote it more because now more people are getting out and traveling and doing stuff.” […]

Every day, Roberta is reminded of what she’ll be losing. “There’s a family that comes in from Chandler. And they came in the other day and we had to tell them the news and they were just devastated. She said, ‘you know, when we come over, we’re treated like family. That’s what we love about this place.’ And that’s how a lot of people feel. That’s going to be the hardest thing.”

The Hickory House not only struggled a bit during the pandemic, but during the current inflationary period that has affected prices and the taste of some food because a few items were hard to find.

Roberta said she isn’t sure how she’ll sell the restaurant. She said she and Gilbert will figure that out after they close their doors Saturday.

Many customers and former employees are posting memories of the restaurant on its Facebook page.

(Excerpted image from Google Street View of the Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Sapulpa, Oklahoma)

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