Lost restaurants of Tulsa: Pennington's Drive-In

Pennington’s Drive-In 4235 S. Peoria Ave.

Restaurants might come and go in Tulsa, but many have made their mark on our city’s history for their food, service, owners and atmosphere. Here’s one serving of Tulsa’s gastronomic history from "Lost Restaurants of Tulsa."


Archie and Lola Pennington entered the restaurant business in the mid-1930s with a small diner in Broken Arrow. By 1951, the rise of the automobile led them to open their most popular venture: Pennington’s Drive-In.

Along with partner Waller C. Miller, the Penningtons ran Tulsa’s most happening spot on the "Restless Ribbon" of South Peoria Avenue for decades. Over 60 stalls were perpetually full while people enjoyed shrimp baskets, burgers and the restaurant’s famous Black Bottom Pie. Its revolutionary Order-Matic speaker system would later be adopted by another famous Oklahoma car-hop stop: Sonic Drive-In.

Kids simply called Archie’s place "‘Tons" and cruised the Restless Ribbon, driving slowly and crowding the lots. Several businesses along the Ribbon employed the services of off-duty law enforcement to help manage traffic. Officer Jake Biggs was a fixture at Pennington’s, often seen walking the lot to make sure rowdy teenagers behaved themselves. It also wasn’t uncommon to see famous locals like musician Leon Russell stop in for dinner.

Over half of the restaurant burned in a 1973 fire, but it was quickly rebuilt. The drive-in remained popular until fast food chains took over the landscape. It closed for good in 1987.

 

Rhys Martin is a photographer and author from Tulsa. He also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. Facebook: Cloudless Lens

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