After leaving Dan McGuinness in Edmond, Kelly and I knew we were heading north, but we didn’t really have a set plan. She suggested that I call Nancy at Cordero Farms. An answering machine greeted me, so we decided to just head north on I-35. Our other option was Alva, OK. By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided we needed to find a place to spend the night. Earlier in the day when Kelly mentioned we might go to Alva, I decided to call a sorority sister who lived there. I only mentioned that we might be going that direction and that I would call her if we decided to take that route. I added that I didn’t want her to hear that I’d been there and her be upset with me if I hadn’t called. I laughed; she simply said that she’d know if I showed up. Hmmm. It turns out she was not kidding. Kelly called the bed and breakfast that she’d heard so much about, and got us a room. One room…the only one available. After she made sure it was okay with me that we had to share a room AND a bed after only meeting a few hours earlier we committed to the reservation. I mean, we were in the middle of nowhere by this time. I could also tell from Kelly’s end of the conversation that we were being invited to the local restaurant for a late dinner.
An easy redirect on my iPhone and we were on our way to the Vintage House Restaurant in Burlington, Oklahoma, population 156. We missed our turn but found our destination by the number of cars parked around the home that now served as one of the finest restaurants in the area. It was way past my bedtime, but I was getting my second wind just looking at this place.
A group of about twenty people were being seated as we walked in, but we were treated no less importantly. We got settled, and prepared to enjoy a five-course meal where every single item was homemade. I was especially pleased that we would be dining on blue and white Currier and Ives dinnerware, the exact pattern I have been collecting for over twenty years. In the middle of dinner I was surprised once again by my college friend, Brenda and her husband, Mike. Lori Craft, the owner who had seated us as we walked in, quickly helped us move to another table so that the four of us could talk more comfortably. As it turns out, Brenda was right. She “would have known we were coming.” She was actually at the bed and breakfast when Kelly called to make our reservation. The surprises didn’t stop there. We were lucky enough to hear Kevin and Lori sing!
If you make a point of eating at the Vintage House Restaurant in Burlington, Oklahoma, don’t be surprised if you feel right at home. Don’t be surprised if your cheeks hurt from smiling all night. Most of all, don’t be surprised if you leave there with two, three, or four new friends. Some of the best surprises come in small(town) packages.
Kelly’s take on things…
Knowing we might end up in either the Days Inn or Hampton Inn Suites in Woodward, Oklahoma, Julie and I headed north with no plans whatsoever. The Cordero Farms Julie mentioned was owned by someone who had occasionally checked in with comments to the Red Dirt Chronicles, and when they called later (after we’d decided to go to Alva) Julie enjoyed saying hello to her on the phone. We need to get over to Tryon, OK soon because Nancy Osborn, aka “Nanc”, said they have two baby sheep with unusual black and white mixed markings. We stayed in contact with Nanc after that one phone call, and a couple weeks later she’s now planning on adding a “Red Dirt Dives” post to the RDC about once a month. You never know just what one phone call with a stranger might lead to, eh? I would also encourage you to check out her blog…it’s like a daily farm education program on the internet. I really love it, and I appreciate her relaxed writing style.
So there we were, see, headed toward Burlington, Oklahoma with Julie’s iPhone guiding the way and only the stars and our headlamps for light. I’m still amazed at the absence of light pollution on the Oklahoma prairie…truly a treat in itself. I only had a ¼ tank of gas by the time we hit NE Enid and thought maybe we should stop to fill up, having really no idea how far we were going to be driving. A dimly lit quick stop with bars on the windows turned out to be a really friendly oasis. We filled up, and continued on our way.
Nash, Jet and Cherokee, Oklahoma were towns on our route, but we’ll have to see them another day because we were traveling well after sunset. In stark contrast, however, the Vintage House Restaurant was warmly lit with Christmas lights, several headlights of cars or trucks pulling up at the same time as we arrived, and the lights coming through the windows – beaconing the arriving diners: “This way to the warm, fuzzy place with the great food!”
Julie covered most of what I would have said about the meal, so I’m going to talk a little about Lori Kraft and Sherri Garroutte, the sisters who own the Vintage Inn Bed and Breakfast (our next entry). Lori and her husband, Kevin, own the Restaurant. When we sat down to our first table, Lori came over to introduce herself and greet us. I noticed she laid her hand on Julie’s shoulder and straightened her collar in a matronly, compassionate gesture of caring while she talked. She leaned down to speak to us at eye level, and check on us a couple of times during our dinner. These are physical communication signals of, “I’m right here with you – we have your back.” Nice.
The next thing I noticed was that when she and her sister were talking to us about their dreams being realized regarding their business ventures, they were holding hands. I once read a book about Victorian letter writing and recall terms of endearment close friends or sisters used for each other when they wrote. These words and phrases came to my mind as I observed the two telling their stories. The women looked tired, satisfied and hopeful. It was the end of a long day, and they were going to start another the next morning. They recalled that over the Thanksgiving to Christmas season, they had done almost six weeks of business straight through – every day – no breaks. I was almost hesitant to ask for a song, but decided that if Lori and her husband sang, I wanted to hear them.
With the sparkling Christmas lights, the floor to ceiling Victorian-style Christmas decorations, and each table listening intently to the couple singing Elvis’ “Fools Rush In,” I then concluded that particular moment was one of those types mentioned in the Bible…you know, where Mary “kept all these things in her heart”? It really was a great way to end a long day on the road.
After they finished and joined us for a bit, I asked them: What have other magazines or media coverage NOT shared about your establishments (both the restaurant and the Inn, collectively) that you’d like people to know? They answered in two or three different ways, but the bottom line was that they wanted people to know they would genuinely be appreciated and loved if they visited there. They spoke about uniquely touching the lives of their patrons, and of people coming back because of the quiet and the disconnect to normal chaos of their every day hub-bub back in suburbia. It seems their mission is to provide sort of a safe haven to their patrons, so that each has a uniquely “attended to, and acknowledged” moment of quiet conversation over a meal. Or a laugh, or a cry. Basically, whatever that person needed – that’s what they want them to realize.
I’d like to enter a quick note about Kevin, Lori’s husband as well. The man is true-blue and quite a natural story teller. I think on another night, I would do what I could to get him out of the kitchen, pay extra and just listen to him talk. Good conversation is hard to come by, and Kevin excels at this skill.
The food is very good. The meals and selections are truly prepared with love and care. But I think what will take me back, and what may get you there the first time, is that there is an ingredient not usually provided in restaurants. It’s like a fourth dimension, of sorts. I believe that the Vintage Restaurant provides a place to eat, food for your table, a relaxing atmosphere…AND, a spiritual filling up for those who’s souls are running a bit on the empty side.
If I could have filled up our gas tank with that, I would have. We probably wouldn’t refill the tank for a good long time if that had been the case. My hope for the owners is that their own personal “gas tank” gets replenished from time to time, so they can continue what is obviously a very good thing for the N-NW area of our great state. Bottom line: Go there. Kelly recommends. And, I’m filing this post in my “Favorite Things” section because that’s how much I mean it.
P.S. It was a cold night, and when we walked outside and down the steps to leave, we saw two kitty’s from the area taking solace on the front porch bench. Here they are…
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