This Week in Sapulpa History: A history of Freddie’s B-B-Q and Steak House

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week in Sapulpa history, we remember the history of the family, friends, and followers of the restaurant and its owners. The following is a timeline of some highlights of the beloved business:

Related: Freddie’s to close by the end of the year.

2022: The 60th Anniversary of the Lebanese restaurant known as Freddie’s B-B-Q and Steak House in Sapulpa was celebrated and honored for their accomplishments. The legacy of Edmond “Tex” Slyman will be remembered, “for his involvement in the community and consistent support [of] many organizations.” Slyman passed away earlier this year.

Related: Freddie’s owner Tex Slyman remembered fondly.

Slyman, his family, and the employees have been very involved with the community over the decades; bringing in joy, festivities, hard-work, culture, and delight to all. The Freddie’s B-B-Q and Steak House family’s dedication to their community branches far and wide, expanding statewide and nationwide. Many visitors, locals, celebrities, and politicians have made their way to the restaurant.

2012: Visitors are greeted at the restaurant by the staff. The staff of Freddie’s have hosted many events, catered for many outside events, and have thousands of visitors walk through those doors. Guests arrive hungry and leave full, but craving more of the delicious food for later.

The hard-working folks of the restaurant do not go unnoticed. Many local and out-of-towners know the staff by name for their jobs-well-done. The restaurant, its owners, and its staff have received many awards over the years. One such award came in November 2012. “Sapulpa’s Lana Morrison came home from the Oklahoma Restaurant Association Banquet with top honors: Best Hirst Hospitality Distinguished Service Award of 2012.” By 2012, she was the “second member of his staff to earn the distinction. Chief Cook Dennis Lee was awarded the Hirst prize in 2007.”

2002: The restaurant had many changes over the years. One change came in 2002 when laws changed public areas in the state. “In June, the State Health Department and Gov. Frank Keating approved non-smoking laws for all public restaurants in the state. The smoking rules required restaurants with no-smoking sections and seating capacities of 50 or more to enclose and ventilate areas where smoking is allowed.

“Alleging the regulations exceeded the health department’s authority, Ed Slyman, owner of Freddie’s Steak House, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1320, both in Sapulpa filed a lawsuit against the state. In response, Creek County District Judge Donald D. Thompson ordered a block of the rules’ enforcement. More lawsuits since have been filed, and some lawmakers are calling for a statewide referendum on the issue.”

Happy Holidays, Sapulpa Herald, December 19, 2003

1999: “It came in the middle of the night on May 4, and most Sapulpans will never forget the tornado that caused an estimated $10 million dollars in damage. Fortunately, no one was killed nor even seriously injured in the area.”

Red Cross and FEMA branched out across the city and state, aiding those in need; strangers aiding strangers. Homeowners began going through the wreckage left behind the strong storm; neighbors helping neighbors. Business owners contacted employees and insurance agents to inspect damages. “Edmond ‘Tex’ Slyman, owner of Freddie’s, was not so fortunate. The storm caused an estimated $250,000 in damage to the restaurant, ripping off much of the room in one portion of the restaurant and knocking out most of the air-conditioning units.”

A Freddie’s Yuletide Greetings, Sapulpa Herald, December 24, 2001

1993: The business increased and its popularity and recognition of Freddie’s expanded worldwide. Visitors came flocking to the restaurant. Businesses and organizations needed more social event areas to gather large groups. “In 1993, it increasingly became apparent to the Slymans that there was a lack of banquet and meeting facilities. Edmond and Sherian invested their money and catered to Sapulpa’s needs, and created a 9,000-square-foot catering center next to their restaurant to accommodate the growing demand.

“Whether they are catering for 25 people in an intimate setting in a personal home or a picnic for 2,000 at a favorite park, they do it all. The Catering Center, under the guiding hand of Sherian Slyman, served for holiday parties, weddings, business meetings, bridal or baby showers, or any social gathering. What began as a 65-seat restaurant has expanded to a beautiful 250-seat facility with the same traditional Lebanese hors d’oeuvres, steak, and barbecue.”

1985: The history of allowing or discouraging liquor in the state of Oklahoma is a long standing on-off again relationship. However, public restaurants and sellers needed a liquor license or certificate for selling alcohol. “A request from Ed Slyman, owner of Freddie’s B-B-Q and Steak House, for a certificate needed for a mixed beverage license.

Open Sunday Hours During December, Sapulpa Herald, December 12, 1982

“The certificate would declare that the restaurant is properly zoned for serving mixed beverages, and is required by the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission before it will consider an application for a license to sell liquor by the drink.”

1979: In June of 1978, the then Drumright Freddie’s restaurant, burnt to the ground. Ed Slyman, purchaser of the restaurant just a few years earlier, knew he needed to reopen the doors. “‘We have built quite a reputation over the years and we hope to continue it in Sapulpa. One of the reasons for making the move to Sapulpa is the growth in the area and the accessibility from Sand Springs, Tulsa, and other areas.’”

“Dennis Lee, head chief of Freddie’s for the past six years, said the kitchen will have the latest equipment. The menu will feature barbeque, steaks, lobster, and Lebanese hors d’oeuvre.” The restaurant had become a huge part of Creek County for the past 17 years in Drumright would relocate to Sapulpa. The Sapulpa location had its opening day on December 17, 1979.

Freddie’s Move to Sapulpa, Sapulpa Herald, May 25, 1979

1971: The owner of the Drumright restaurant Freddie’s, Fred Joseph, decided to retire. Edmond Slyman, his nephew, bought the business from his uncle. “Together with his wife, Sherian, Slyman ventured out and expanded the food, restaurant, and catering world, with the same high quality, friendly, family dining that they have experienced in all the years the restaurant has been open.

Slyman graduated in 1961 from Bristow High School. “Slyman completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Central State University. He has been a charter teacher in English and Physical Education, as well as a counselor and taught at Byrd Junior High in Tulsa.”

1962: In 1955, Fred Joseph opened a grocery store in Drumright. In the back area of the store, he sold barbeque. “Joseph closed the grocery store and remodeled it into a small restaurant because the demand for his barbeque sandwiches became so great.”

“He ran [it] out of the back of his oil field grocery store in Drumright. The original Freddie’s grew from fifty-six lunch seats for oil patch workers to a restaurant seating more than 150.” For the next decade, Joseph ran the restaurant until his retirement.

It all began decades ago. “Slyman traced his Oklahoma roots back to 1889 when his great-uncle came from Lebanon to settle in Bristow. [Their] deep roots in Creek County have striven to maintain a tradition that has been popular in the area.” Freddie’s B-B-Q began with Fred Joseph in Drumright. Slyman was the nephew of Fred Joseph, “the original ‘Freddie’.” The doors of Freddie’s restaurant may be closing, but the honor and privilege to have the memories of Slyman family, Joseph family, and the Freddie’s Restaurant and its employees will forever be cherished and remembered.

Citations: Sapulpa Herald, May 25, 1979, December 12, 1982, June 9, 1985, May 3, 2000, December 24, 2001, December 12, 2002, December 31, 2002, December 19, 2003, August 26, 2004, December 9, 2012; Oklahoma Today, June 2022; Sapulpa Times, August 1, 2022; Tulsa World, October 31, 2022