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How the West was yum


4U Cafe
Credit: Shannon Cornman

There’s good reason for that. Since 1910, the icon of Stockyards City has been feeding hungry cowboys and ranchers, from the real-life variety to those who just like boots and cowboy hats.

But listen up, cowpokes. There’s room in town for more than one eatery that stokes the Okie stereotype.

The Blue Belle Saloon, 224 W. Harrison in Guthrie, reopened last September, but its history dates back to the Land Run of 1889. Housed inside one of the magnificent corner buildings in downtown Guthrie, it got its start as a tent that eventually became a brick-and-mortar structure in 1893.

For history buffs and lovers of architecture, the building itself is reason enough to visit the Blue Belle Saloon.

What’s now a family-style restaurant hasn’t always been so tame. It started as a smoke shop and later became a bar. From 1907 through 1959, it hosted various shops until it was converted back into a bar. The saloon closed its doors in 2009.

Starry-eyed buckaroo
Wyatt Earp is rumored to have visited the Blue Belle a time or two to see his friend Tom Mix, a legendary silent film star who had tended bar there from 1902 to 1904.

Humphrey Bogart is said to have patronized the saloon as well, and modern-day actors visited when a scene from Rain Man was shot there in 1988.

The Blue Belle was also reportedly home to a brothel.

Cindy McGhee, the saloon’s current manager, said a madam known as Miss Lizzie “kept her girls upstairs where the original rooms still stand today.”

In the basement, there is still evidence of a long-ago sealed tunnel that supposedly led from the former state Capitol building to Miss Lizzie’s bordello. The current owners are restoring the upstairs with period décor and have plans to open the former brothel as a bed and breakfast sometime this year.

The building features its original hardwood floors, a bar dating back to the early 1900s, and a slug and bullet holes that remain visible to restaurant patrons.

Today, the only bullets that customers will be dodging are of the imaginary variety The restaurant stages gunfights and skits on Saturday afternoons. And replacing the brothel’s well-endowed women are the Blue Belle Saloon’s Miss Lizzie’s Breast Bites. Chicken breasts, of course.

The menu features fried chicken, catfish, chicken-fried steak, pulled pork, homemade soups and salads. Sunday brunch features a waffle station, an omelet station, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruit and desserts. The only alcohol served is beer.

Visitors can crack open a sarsaparilla and play a game of chess, checkers, cards or Go Fish. There are also boas and cowboy hats to entertain children.

“It’s incredibly awesome to have a restaurant here and listen to the people come in and tell stories about things that happened long ago,” said McGhee. “You can just picture somebody sitting up at the bar back in the Old West days. It kind of reminds you of Gunsmoke.”

Pistols firing
Modern-day gunslingers can satisfy their taste buds at 4U Cafe. Located inside H&H Shooting Sports Complex, 400 S. Vermont — formerly known as H&H Gun Range — 4U Cafe offers a full menu and catering services.

“I like to eat,” said Miles Hall, founder and president of H&H. “Most gun ranges have a place to park [and a vending] machine. But we tend to take things and go to the extreme in Oklahoma.”

The 72,000-square-foot H&H complex features a gun range, an archery range, a gunsmith, safety training, a reloading department and a store. But it’s not just the H&H patrons who are keeping the restaurant busy.

“An amazing number of people show up to eat only,” said Hall.

4U Cafe has become so popular, in fact, it has expanded twice in the last five years.

“This isn’t a snack bar,” said Yvonne Cagle, 4U Cafe manager. “Everything is made from scratch. We go through 200 pounds of onions per week to make our onion burgers and rings.”

In addition, the cafe features an assortment of sandwiches, including the wild turkey caprice and much-lauded tropical chicken salad. Daily specials include such favorites as the chicken-fried steak and open-faced roast beef.

“It’s Southern comfort food,” said Cagle. “That’s what makes this work.”

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