Dolores Restaurant Print
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Sunday, 07 February 2010 18:51

Dolores Restaurant, 33 NE 23 - a legendary Oklahoma City Route 66 restraurant.

(Rendering from Boulevard Cafeteria collection) 

For Oklahoma City, Dolores Restaurant is just a memory – another great restaurant that faded away after being a local favorite for decades. But for Los Angeles, the legend continues.

Confused?

This story starts back when drive-through restaurants were brand new - an innovation prompted by the sudden explosion of cross country automobile travel.

 

It was in the early 1920s that Ralph Stephens took his first shot at the restaurant business, opening first at NW 4 and Olie, and then later at Main and Broadway where competition and a lot of debt led him to flee in 1923 with his wife, Amanda, sons Vince and Bob, and daughter Dolores.

The family made its first stop in Dallas, where Stephens later said he saw “a pig stand with what looked like a thousand cars around it.” Indeed Dallas was where the very first pig stand (forerunners to drive-through restaurants), Kirby’s, had opened in 1921.

Stephens was hired by one of the Dallas pig stand chains and learned the operation in Dallas before setting out to open a stand in Little Rock. Before going to his post, Stephens took his family to his wife’s family house in Hannibal, Mo. And it was there that Stephens, visiting with his father-in-law, a carpenter, decided it made more sense to open their own business rather than work for someone else.

The family “slept in the stand” while it was being built, and in June 1925, Goody-Goody Barbeque opened for business. Business initially boomed. But the crowds disappeared once cold weather settled in.

Once again, Stephens was a failed restaurateur.

“We closed, and being sort of soldiers in fortune, we took off for Florida,” Stephens explained in a 1968 interview. “The land boom was on then and we went to Tampa and opened one restaurant, then another. They had told us there were no rooms in Tampa so we bought a tent and slept under that until we almost flooded out.”

The crash of 1929 once again killed Stephens’ short-lived success story. The family returned to Oklahoma City with Stephens determined to settle his debts and prove he could be a successful restaurant operator.

And this time, he was coming with a secret weapon. While in Hannibal, Amanda Stephens obtained a recipe for “comeback” sauce from a barbeque stand in nearby Quincy, Ill. And what a comeback it would be.

Dolores Restaurant - an early Oklahoma City Route 66 attraction.

(Oklahoma Historical Society photo)

Dolores Restaurant, named after Stephens’ daughter, opened at 33 NE 23 on April 15, 1930.

“The Depression hadn’t hit Oklahoma yet and the first year our volume was $52,000,” Stephens said. “We never closed our doors when the Depression hit, but we were selling hamburgers and malts for a dime each to stay open."

dolores early dining room

 

(Above and below photos from the Oklahoma Historical Society) 

The Stephens continued to add their own touches, even inventing “Susi-Q potatoes” in 1938. They wowed customers with their black-bottom pie and salad dressings. And Stephens also continued the idea of "drive-in" service, establishing parking stalls behind the restaurant, which at the time was located along the heavily-traveled Route 66.

dolores drive in entrance

dolores drive in stalls

Duncan Hines was a popular national author and expert on restaurants in the 1930s through the 1950s.

By the 1940s Dolores was becoming a top pick for Route 66 guidebooks. Duncan Hines recommended the restaurant in his 1941 book “Adventures in Good Cooking,” saying “I enjoy eating here, especially their steaks and Susi-Q potatoes and barbequed ribs. They have the best biscuits I have found anywhere in America, made by Neal, a colored woman, who does not use a recipe, but has a remarkable sense of feel, which tells here when the mixture is right – served twice a week (I suggest you wire ahead requesting these remarkable biscuits). Their menu provides a variety of good salads and other things, and I hope you are fortunate enough to find Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Stephens there, so you may meet them personally.”Adventures in Eating - the book that made Duncan Hines, and Dolores - famous.

Dolores Restraurant was booming enough without the high praise from Mr. Hines - that winter Stephens shut the restaurant for a couple of weeks, expanded the dining area and engaged in a bit of rare advertising (Only after selling the restaurant to investors were advertisements seen again in the early 1970s)

 

Stephens’ brother-in-law, Bob Ogle, became manager of the restaurant (“Ogle’s Special” referred to a root beer float he perfected) and in 1945, Ralph and Amanda Stephens moved to California. They opened a Dolores Drive-In on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and followed up by opening three more restaurants.

Stephens eventually sold all but the Beverly Hills drive-in, which he turned over to his son Bob in 1961. His second son, Vince, meanwhile, was building up a legend of his own back in Oklahoma City.

Maybe you’ve heard of it – the Split T.

dolores kitchen

dolores exterior

(Photo from the Oklahoma Historical Society)

In 1966 Amanda Stephens died. Ralph Stephens quickly remarried, and in 1968 he bought The Pub at 6418 N Western. A year later he sold Dolores Restaurant to a group of investors, who closed it for good in 1974. After eight years of standing vacant, The Catering Co. announced plans to reopen the restaurant, but if it did reopen (there is no further record of the restaurant), the venture was short-lived. The building was razed a few years later.

The Dolores name, meanwhile, endures in Los Angeles with the Stephens established a chain of their eateries.

Dolores Restaurant - the legend lives on in Los Angeles (photo from LA Time Machine)

(Photo from www.latimemachine.com)

The following history is provided by Dolores Restaurant at www.doloresrestaurant.com:

Dolores was founded by Amanda and Ralph Stevens, who after owning various restaurants in different states moved to Los Angeles in 1944 and opened the Dolores drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.

There were many drive-in restaurants in Los Angeles during the mid 1940's and Dolores fit right in. Then, in 1956 the Stevens' son Robert and his wife Lucille moved to Los Angeles to help manage the newly leased Dolores Restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. and La Cienega in Beverly Hills. The restaurant was a hit with the local teenagers in the 40's and 50's with its carhops, Suzie Q's and JJ Burgers became a staple in the community for the next thirty years.

These "good times" would soon end when in 1981 Dolores drive-in was forced to close down to make room for a high rise office building. The last of the remaining Dolores Restaurants is the one you see today located at 11407 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Los Angeles where the food and service are like they have never been before

In 2008 Dolores Restaurant was put under new management. With a fresh new vision, a passion for taste and quality food and a true concern to support local growers, new owner, Kourosh Izadpanahi, brings a new take to this classic diner. The new Dolores Restaurant meets today's customers' needs for taste and health conscious food.

dolores pie

(Photo from the Oklahoma Historical Society)

BONUS RECIPE: 

Dolores Restaurant was famous for its Black Bottom Pie and the recipe was published in a Ford Times Cookbook, Volume 6:

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 cups scalded milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 (9 inch) gingersnap piecrust, baked

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

4 tablespoons cold water

4 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons rum

1 cup whipping cream

1 square bitter chocolate

In top of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks and scalded milk. Combine 1/2-cup sugar and 1 1/4-tablespoons cornstarch and stir into mixture. Cook over hot water for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens and generously coats the spoon.

Remove from heat and take out 1 cup of the custard. Add melted chocolate to the 1 cup custard and beat well. When this mixture cools, stir in vanilla. Pour into piecrust.

In small dish, blend gelatin with cold water and add to remaining hot custard. Let cool but not thicken.

Beat egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar and cream of tartar until stiff. Add rum and mix well. Fold into cooled plain custard. As soon as chocolate custard has set, pour this mixture over it. Chill again until set. Whip the cream and spread on top of pie. Shave bitter chocolate over pie and serve.

 

Note: This dish contains uncooked egg whites.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 February 2010 22:23