Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bishop's Restaurant

Back in the days when downtown Tulsa was The (only) Place To Be, there were plenty of cafes and diners for lunch and breakfast but not so many restaurants, especially one's that were open 24 hours.  And really there was only one place to go, to be seen and to see others.  I am talking about Bishop's Restaurant of course.  I posted this postcard on the THS Facebook page the other day, which was Bishop's Driv-Inn (not to be confused with the restaurant).  

Although many remembered this pretty, neon spot that was located on 10th and Boston, the memories and comments always drift back to the other Bishops.  THE Bishops that was located at 510 S. Main, in the hub of the city.  I thought I would share some of those memories, along with a little bit of history.

I couldn't find out much information on W.W Bishop other than he opened the first Bishop's in 1913 and it was located at 15 E Third St.  It was a counter-only cafe/diner back then.  That could very well be him on the far right, but I cannot verify that.

Sometime in the early 1920's he upgraded the place and enlarged it.  This ad was in a 1927 booklet.  

This photo, taken around the same time, shows the new signage in front.

WW. Bishop became partners with J.H. Powers and together they opened a bigger, better full-scale restaurant in a building on Main Street and 5th.  The year was 1930.  Customers in that era included the likes of William G. Skelly, Josh Cosden, Harry Sinclair and J.Paul Getty.  They also opened a Bishop's  in Oklahoma City.

Moving along into the next decade, social activities swirled around Bishops; first dates, anniversaries, special occasions or lunch -Bishop's catered to them all.  Everyone loved the infamous Brown Derby which came with french fries or onion rings, grilled onions and hot rolls so light they floated away- all for .65 cents in 1948.  A steak platter for two was featured for $1.85.  What better place to go before or after a movie.

A menu and some other memorabilia found at online auctions:

Counter seating or a booth?  The U-shaped counter was huge with red and chrome swivel chairs.  The floor was black and white checked. You were always served well by one of the many waitresses employed there. 
Wearing a starched cotton uniform, a ruffled apron, small cap and a handkerchief in a little breast pocket, they were always neat as a pin, some having been there many years.  For three decades there was no place equal to Bishops.  

When the restaurant went to 24-hour service, more than 70 waitresses were employed.  New signage out front included the famous Hereford cow's head when a remodel was done in the late 1940's.  

A back room now included a "buffeteria" offering.  The upstairs of the building was used as a storage area with cowboy and Indian artifacts.  Later it was rented out to a competitor, Mike's Restaurant, which in 1951 was the birth place of the Spotlight Club.

Memories shared by Tulsans were mostly about the food- from "best cheeseburgers and fries" to the "best waffles in the world" served on heavy white china that had a green rim on it.  The house salad dressing, rum cake and chicken pot pie were other favorites. And hash browns like no other. 
My neighbor, a Central grad, fondly remembers going there "with the gang" late one night after a school dance.  She said they all ended up dancing outside in the street.
Another memory was of a sign at the front register that read, "We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone" which at that time was a reference towards segregation and the unwelcomeness of the black population to eat there.  The other Bishop's Restaurant in Oklahoma City was eventually picketed by civil rights activists in 1963 who staged a sit-in. 

On Saturday, February 19, 1966 Bishop's Restaurant closed it's doors for good.  Plans were to tear down the building and put in one of the infamous parking lots.  The Saturday morning regulars along with two favorite waitresses drank a champagne toast to the end of a Tulsa institution.

Here are some recipes that have been passed along from Bishops:

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Mustard

Mix ingredients, adding broth last to give mixture the consistency of soupy meatloaf. Using 1 cup of the mixture for each portion, make thick patties and brown them in oil. Set aside.

1 can beef gravy
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. A1 Sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 cup catsup
1 Tbsp. Margarine

Boil ingredients together for 2 minutes. Drain the meat patties and put in a baking dish. Cover with Sauce Diablo. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees; longer if desired.

1 pint garlic-flavored salad oil 
1/2 cup honey 
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste) 
1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 

Put honey and salt in electric blender and blend until creamy. 
Add vinegar and lemon juice. On slow speed add salad oil very slowly. 
Blend until thick. (The secret is slow blending.) 
Garlic-flavored oil: put 3 cloves garlic in a pint of salad 
oil and let it stand overnight. 

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts 
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 C dark rum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch 
tube pan or a 12-cup Bundt pan. Chop nuts and sprinkle evenly 
over the bottom of the pan. 

Cream 1 cup of the butter and 2 cups of the white sugar together. 
Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each one.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and 
add alternately with the buttermilk to the egg mixture.
Stir in the vanilla and rum. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour. While cake is baking, prepare glaze.

1 C butter
1/4 cup water 
1 cup sugar 
1/2 cup dark rum 

Melt butter in a saucepan; add water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. 
Allow to cool and stir in rum. 
Remove cake from oven, poke holes in it with a fork and pour all of the Rum Butter glaze over cake while still warm. Leave cake in pan for 2 hours before turning over onto serving dish.  
Top with whipped cream, if desired. 


DrillerAA09 said...

Even though I grew up in Tulsa, and graduated high school the year prior to the closing of Bishop's, I honestly don't believe that I ever ate there.

Anonymous said...

As a child I remember walking by Bishops restaurant and I asked my mom why we never went in there to eat. Her reply was that they weren't very nice. I had no idea what she was talking about since we were white folks. Years later I discovered my mom was opposed to segregation but kept it to herself. M Terry

worker33 said...

Lady Tulsa Gal you are a gem. I've doing some mild research on Bishops for a story and you just filled in some serious blanks.

Nancy said...

M. Terry: Now you know why. My mother was the same way.

Worker33: I thank you for the complement!

Unknown said...

To it's credit the Tulsa Bishop's was not segregated by 1963. Consequently there were no sit-ins or picketing there in the spring of 1964 as there were in several other places in Tulsa before the demonstrations forced the city to pass a ordinance banning segregation of public places that summer.

Anonymous said...

Although I had only eaten at Bishop's three or four times from the ages of 12 to 16, I always ordered the Brown Derby. Moved from Tulsa to Huntington Beach in 1965 at age 17 but never forgot about the great Brown Derby. I was delighted to find the receipe here yesterday. Thank you,

Vince Mahar

Lisasews2 said...

Anybody remember the "Midnight Special" from Bishop's? I think it was creamed chicken on toast - I remember having it as a child in the early 60's.

LeAnna Cook said...

Love the comments on Bishop's! I don't think most people know that he also owned a large farm on the NW corner of 41st and Garnett Road, which is where Crossbow Shopping Center now is. I grew up there until I was in 3rd grade. My father worked for him, first in his restaurant, and then as his farm manager. His farm also included apartments, which he leased out, a main house, where we lived and another house for the farm hand. He raised almost everything he served at his restaurant on the property, which even included a processing area. In addition, Mr. Bishop raised horses and hunting dogs (his favorite was named Dottie). He was an avid hunter and fisherman and would take my dad on trips to Canada. We would visit his cabin in Arkansas frequently, which was a great get-away! I have home movies of us with him and his blue truck that he used for the restaurant and farm. He was a wonderful man and I never saw him treat anyone disrespectfully and was very generous to people. It was a great place to grow up!

Alene Davis said...

Well this is very exciting to find this!!!
I'm the granddaughter of William Bishop and the daughter of Bill Bishop! My dad passed away 2 weeks ago and am soooo thankful for the comments. My dad was very kind and a loving. Seeing these pictures and your writing about the restaurant was a wonderful gift. Looking forward to having this for the reception, I know the family will be proud and surprised to see this.
. Ironically I married into the Arby's family!!
Thank you!!
Alene Bishop Davis

Phyllis Brown Travel Agent said...

My FIRST date ever I went to dinner at Bishops and ate PAN FRIED STEAK WITH SHOESTRING FRIES. Served on a platter swimming with Au jus, then covered with the potatoes. OMGoodness, I can smell it now. Any recipe out there for that one!
Miss it still today. I remember the waiters had been there all their lives almost.
It was "THE PLACE TO GO" 24/7. I moved to Southern California in 1977 but come "home" once a year to smell the air, see my family, visit the family home,.....I do miss the sweet Spavinaw water, Bishop's and Penningtons!

Theresa Bishop said...

Tulsa Gal, thanks for sharing your interest and research of Bishop’s Restaurants in Tulsa and Oklahoma City (1912-1966). Although I never met him, I am the daughter-in-law of William Wallace Bishop. I married his only child, William W. Jr. in 1970. Bill had wonderful memories of growing up in his Dad’s restaurant, and working there as he grew up. His dad died in 1960, and shortly after, Bill was drafted into the Army to fight in Viet Nam. The restaurant was sold while he was overseas. Through the years, the history of Bishop’s has been a source of pride for Bill and his family. Stories of the restaurant, his dad, and the wonderful people who worked at Bishop’s became part of our memories and heritage.

Unknown said...

Hi Anna,
I am Mr. Bishop’s granddaughter. You may also know my father, Bill Bishop. Much of the history and info on this side of the family was lost with my father’s passing. I would love to connect with you and chat about your memories if you are available.

Phyllis Brown Travel Agent said...

Sure would love to visit. Was in Tulsa just last week. I have wonderful memories and with we could bring some of those great foods back to downtown Tulsa.

Phyllis Brown Travel Agent said...

Hello Mr. Bishop's granddaughter, I am Phyllis Brown one of the "Bishops" great admirers from the past, I will share my memories also. Great food and "the place to go after hours". I loved the Pan fried steak with shoestring potatoes. Pan Fried Steak for two, lots of steak juices on the platter but crispy thin shoestring fries all over the top. TOTAL YUMMY.

Spent my first anniversary eating there after our "date" that night in March 1964. I also remember that our waiters were all much older men who had been there for so so so many years.

Your Grand Dad must have been a really good man to keep people working with him for so many years. Kudos to your family, a great legacy indeed.

Unknown said...

Hi Phyllis, thanks for the comments! I love hearing about any memories others have of my grandfather I never got to meet him. Bishop’s sounds like it was a great place. I appreciate your input.

Thanks again,
Cyndie Bishop Cunningham

pat Cremin said...

The guy in the picture is an early Bishop's partner, a man I always called Gram-pa Byard. Cannot recall his first name, but he was an early Tulsa cafe guy. His son married by Aunt and his grandstands were my favorite cousins. I have a picture of him at my Aunt's Wedding at Holy Family and compared it to the one here. That is who it is.

Unknown said...

Thank you! Yes, we knew that was not a picture of W.W.Bishop, but we did not know who he was. Amazing to learn new info about people/ artifacts from long ago.

Marylu said...

my sister worked at the bishops in okc about 1960. she was going to beauty school. now i know where her recipe for rum cake came from. lol...she always brought one to holiday dinners. mystery solved.

Jerry Singletary said...

I Know this is a long shot, but there may be folks here who can help solve a very old family mystery. My Grandfathers younger sister, Vivian Albina Singletary born Sept 22, 1904, ran away from home at a young age and was never heard from again. There were rumors that she had perished in a hotel fire in Atlanta, drowned in a ship wreck off the coast of California and even a story that she died in an earthquake in Alaska. All my life she was often the subject of discussions and speculation at almost every family gathering. About 6 or 7 years ago I stumbled upon her name during genealogy research in the Social Security death Index and she died in Oklahoma City in Apr 1997. In spite of the unusual name with the same date of birth I remained skeptical, so I ordered a copy of her application for a SS card. It reflected birth location and parents name, so it was her, after all these years. She spent most of her life in Oklahoma City working as a waitress, even at Bishops. Below is what I have found thus far and would greatly appreciate any information anyone may have.

Warm Regards,
Jerry Singletary
229-four one five-2359 Cell (Voice & Text)

1910-Fed Census-Miller County Ga, Age 6 in HH of her Father
1923-City Directory, Jacksonville Fl, Cashier Woolworths
1924-City Directory, Jacksonville Fl, Cashier Woolworths
1925-City Directory, Jacksonville Fl, Book Keeper Woolworths
1926-City Directory, Louisville Ky, Living with sister, sewing at Enro Shirt Factory
1930-Fed Census-Jacksonville Fl, Age 25, Waitress
1936-Married Floyd G. Russell, Houston Tx
1938-Divorced Floyd G. Russell, OK City
1941-City Directory OK City, 105 S. Harvey Ave, Waiter Southland Cafe
¬1942-City Directory OK City, Waiter Elmo’s CafĂ©
1949-City Directory OK City, 923 N. Robinson Ave, Waitress
1952-City Directory OK City, 135 ½ NW 17th
1957-City Directory OK City, 103 NW 9th Apt 3, Hostess Bishops Restaurant
1997-Apr, Death OK City