Clanton's doesn't look like a Route 66 landmark because it was gutted by fire in 1999 and totally rebuilt, but it was one of the first restaurants to open along the Oklahoma stretch of "America's Main Street."
When Sweet Tater Clanton opened his restaurant in 1927, most of the new road was not yet paved, and it said that to attract customers Mr. Clanton used to walk out the front door and bang a pot and pan together when he spied someone about to drive past. Today Sweet Tater's great granddaughter Melissa and her husband Dennis Patrick run the place as a town cafe where locals gather and sightseers along the old Mother Road are welcome.
Lunch specials include ham & beans on Wednesday and catfish every Friday, and the every day menu lists pot roast, calf fries and grilled pork chops as "customer favorites." We were wowed by the chicken fried steak.
Clanton's chicken fried steak starts with what the Patricks call an "extra tenderized" cube steak they get from Tulsa. The beef patty is dipped in a mixture of egg and buttermilk, then dredged once in seasoned flour. "If you double-dip," Patrick says, referring to a common practice of repeating this process a second time, "you will get a steak that looks bigger. But it takes you farther away from the flavor of the beef." The steak is cooked on a flat griddle in vegetable oil until the blood starts rising up through the flour, then flipped and finished. The edge of a fork effortlessly will sever it into a bite-size triangle with beefy, crisp-crusted luxury that is ineffably amplified when it's pushed through mashed potatoes and peppery cream gravy.
"A Clanton kitchen specialty for decades, chicken and dressing includes large hunks of white and dark meat and a dressing that has the Thanksgiving flavor of sage."
"Dennis Patrick said that his chicken fried steak is "actually more of a country fried steak," because it is griddle cooked, rather than deep fried, in oil. It is served with genuine mashed potatoes and gently peppered gravy, and here shares plate space with cole slaw and apple sauce."
"This picture cannot tell you how elegant and fragile is the crust on this excellent coconut pie. Melissa Patrick said that the essential ingredient for a great pie crust is icy cold water."
"Clanton's has been the town cafe for nearly 80 years. Vinita was named for Vinnie Ream, who in 1866 became the first woman and youngest artist ever to receive a commission from the U.S. Government for a statue. She was 18 years old when Congress selected her to create the lifesize marble statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the U.S. Capitol rotunda."