Lost Tulsa Classics find A New Home

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coney Beach is dishing up Rex's chicken and favorites from Pennington's Drive-In.

Bite-size chunks of Rex's chicken and fried shrimp made famous by Pen- nington's Drive-In are returning to tempt Tulsans.

Those nostalgic tastes, long missing from the local market, are part of an expanded menu at Coney Beach, a relatively new restaurant concept operated by Beautiful Brands International, the franchise company that also developed Camille's Sidewalk Cafe and FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe.

Coney Beach opened last summer at 11089 S. Memorial Drive, ofering gourmet hot dogs, black Angus hamburgers, Polish sausages, loaded french fries, bottled sodas, cold beer, ice cream floats and milkshakes.

David Rutkauskas, founder and CEO of Tulsa-based Beauti- ful Brands, later decided that more choices were needed.

Rutkauskas said the idea to pursue the well-known menu items began when his wife, Ca- mille Rutkauskas, suggested that Coney Beach add fried chicken and shrimp.

"I'm a native Tulsan, so I have a tremendous fondness for Rex's chicken," David Rutkauskas said. "We have spent weeks and weeks fine-tuning it, so we are right there with that same Rex's taste and shape and flavor." While pondering the shrimp idea, Rutkauskas said he thought of his childhood trips to Pen- nington's.

"I remember being in the back of my mom and dad's car driving to Pennington's Drive-In, and they'd order a basket of their fried shrimp," he said.

Tulsa World archives show that Pennington's filed for Chap- ter 11 bankruptcy in 1989. The drive-in, formerly at 4235 S. Peo- ria Ave., was razed and replaced with a Kentucky Fried Chicken that same year.

Rex's Chicken was founded in 1975 and had nine locations before closing in 1999 after the owner sold the chain.

After some investigating, Beautiful Brands formed two new entities, Pennington's Drive-In Inc. and Rex's Chicken Inc., under which the company owns the names, rights and reci- pes associated with the brands.

The Coney Beach menu now features Rex's chicken chunks, grilled chicken sandwiches and chicken salads, he said.

Rutkauskas said he is still examining another well-known Rex's Chicken specialty, its fry bread. The bun-shaped bread, served hot with honey avail- able at the table, is remembered fondly by many Rex's fans.

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