Skip to Content
Everything Else

Let’s all get sad about the Boulevard Cafeteria closing…

10:10 AM EST on December 14, 2015


Pour a little green bean juice out for your homie.

Last Friday, the Boulevard Cafeteria in Midtown closed. Even though it was more known for its prized Midtown parking lot than its actual food, I guess we're all supposed to feel sad about it because it marks the end of the cafeteria era in Oklahoma City.

Via a Dave Cathey article in The Oklahoman:

When the xylophone at the end of the chow line at Boulevard Cafeteria sounded for the last time Friday, Oklahoma City's 96-year cafeteria craze officially ended.

Oklahoma City once had more cafeterias per capita than any city in America, making it the national standard-bearer for cafeteria operation, earning the title: Cafeteria Capital of the World.

“The food was so good in cafeterias in those days,” said Charlotte Dodson, former co-owner of Dodson's Cafeterias, in a 2011 interview. “We all were close-knit families. It was a glorious time. We all had such loyal customers.”

The Oklahoma History Center estimates the city supported 37 independently owned cafeterias at the height of their popularity in the 1950s and 60s.

There you go Millennials. The next time you're at the Mule eating a Macaroni Pony complaining about how there's nothing to do in Oklahoma City, remember that we were once known as the "Cafeteria Capital of the World" and go choke on a cheese curd. Granted, that's not as bad as the Fast Food Capital of the World badge we currently wear, but it gives you an idea of what this city was like from the 1940s through 1980s.

Also, The Boulevard had a xylophone player? Why am I just now hearing about this? He replaces the Chesapeake Beekeeper as the saddest job layoff of this decade. I doubt he'll have a tough time finding new work:

"So... Leonard... in addition to playing the xylophone, what other job skills do you have?"

"Well, I guess you can say I'm good at helping old ladies carry trays to their table."

"You're hired! Welcome to the Braum's family!"

Actually, I have an idea. Let's talk the RJ Lounge into hiring the xylophone player and having a cafeteria style lunch on Monday's or something. They'll be down with it.

In his column, Dave Cathey provided his own little oral history of the Oklahoma City cafeteria era. Reading it was about as boring as waiting in line at Dodson's, which as a southside kid was my grandparent's favorite cafeteria of choice. My other grandparents lived around NW 16th and Villa. They'd always go to the Furr's at Shepherd Mall, or if they were in a really bad mood, some weird grocery store cafeteria thing called Stones.

Dave finished his article on a low, melancholy note:

Stewart Schroer, the Boulevard's final operator, said the final day was a somber affair. Plenty of hugs, handshakes and tears were exchanged.

As the Cajun tilapia ran low, and the last cup of decaf was poured, a group of eight seniors sang a funereal rendition of "Happy Birthday" to their buddy Dave over the furious clinking of flatware being replenished.

"Where we gonna go for lunch now?" one of the long-timers asked the group rhetorically.

After a pause, someone said, "Dave's house!" which lightened the mood before they dug into their German chocolate cake.

As the tan and blue banquettes emptied, a husband finishing his meal said to his wife, "I don't think you'll need to cook tonight."

"No," she answered.

But today, they'll have to find a new place for lunch.

That's sad and everything, but fortunately for these seniors there are still plenty of Western Sizzlins and Mackie McNears around town for them to grab their 4:00 o'clock dinner before playing bridge at Dave's house.

Anyway, I guess the question now is what's going to happen to the prime piece of Midtown real estate. I'd suggest they use it to tear down the Boulevard and build a parking garage, but of course, that's only because I think it's funny when Steve Lackmeyer gets hives. Whatever it is, I'm sure the Millennial hipster kids will love it. Maybe it will be a bar called Xylophone.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter