Back when it was around, I never got a chance to go to Coit’s.
I lived not too far from the one at NW 39th and Penn growing up, but it was just never on my family’s radar. And even when I got my own car and started exploring the vastness of the Big Town by myself, it was still someplace that never crossed my mind and, when it did, their lot was full of Christmas trees and it was just too much trouble for a hot dog and some root beer.
But, the way you people continue to go on about it years later, apparently I missed out on some darn good hot dogs and root beer.
Yes, even years after their city-wide closure, aging fans of the old-school drive-in will still reminisce wildly for hours about their classic food, classic cars and, of course, classic root beer, which makes me feel left out because, darn it, I sure do enjoy a good hand-crafted frankfurter and home-made sasparilly as much as the next 1950s teenager.
Sadly, I have long resigned myself to the fact that, like many Oklahoma City culinary landmarks long gone, Coit’s was a thing of the past never to return and never to touch these well-coiffed tastebuds. Or is it?
Coit’s is back, kind of. Much like the way that drive-ins were the dining fad of the 1950s, the rights-holders to the Coit’s legacy have decided to jump on this generation’s current eating trend, the food truck, and are currently selling their refurbished wares all across town on four wheels and the truth. More power to ‘em.
While I know that it’ll never be the same, at least it’ll be a reasonable facsimile that’ll allow me in on the big to-do. At least I’ll have an idea of what the previous generation had access to that I didn’t. Following their whereabouts on Twitter (top that, baby boomers!), I planned according for their most recent stop, the day before Thanksgiving in front of Gil’s in Nichols Hills to appease the more well-to-do lunch crowd, I suppose.
First off, let me say that I’m mostly surprised that Gil’s Clothing & “Denim Bar” is still open—if you’re in my age range, you probably remember how they really tapped into that cool acid-washed Bishop McGuinness demographic in the 90s that was most normally suited for Directions in Furniture commercials. Good on them for surviving. Save a Wakeland CD for me.
Bravely entering Nichols Hills airspace with a Caucasian friend in tow (don’t leave home without one!), the food truck had already started to form a line, with plenty of Joe Lunchboxes and Susie Homemakers carrying two or three jugs of homemade root beer at a time back to their car, probably to impress their Thanksgiving guests the next day. And all I served was Best Choice Root Beer like a sucker!
As the stunning female shop-keeps who work in the shopping center ordered their hot dogs and drinks, the air was dancing with the sweet mixture of boiling tubed meats and candy sweet body-sprays; it was an alluring atmosphere to read over the menu in, which contained seven very standard variations of hot dog combos, at $4.00 each.
Deciding on two number ones—mustard, chili and onions served on a Schwab’s red-cased frank—and a large cup of Coit’s Old Fashioned Home Made Root Beer (also $4.00), we were immediately served and moved to the makeshift picnic area to indulge. Unwrapping the wiener from its paper sheath, the bulbously plump dog proudly shone through each end of the bun, layers of toppings compacted tightly. And, after a moment or two of displaced admiring, wondering how close this experience was to one that a patron might have had twenty or so years ago…I bit in and…it was good.
Yeah, it was a good hot dog. The toppings were fine, the chili was a little cold, but the hot dog itself was…good. It was a solid, sturdy food truck hot dog. Did it rattle my very foundations? No, but it definitely satisfied me for a quick lunch.
But the root beer…good Lord that was a tasty concoction. Have you ever been to one of those old-school A&W’s with the draft fountain? Well, imagine that taste but with far more of a crisper bite. It’s got a flat, hard sweetness that’s a syrupy stab to your blood sugar; an ice-cold concoction that I can see why you’d want to take numerous jugs home with you. It’s everything that root beer should be and should still be.
O.K., so there you have it. The hot dogs are alright, the root beer amazing. I’m really interested in what people who were regulars to the old school Coit’s think about this new incarnation. I’ve heard about their legendary burgers and breakfasts and so on so maybe the hot dogs is just kind of a cheap reintroduction to bigger and better things. Or, like Thomas Wolfe posthumously wrote, maybe you can’t go home again.
Louis Fowler will probably review the hospital food when he has his next heart attack. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisFowler.