Soda Ranch, Shake Shop and Roadside Attraction
660 W. Highway 66
Arcadia, OK 73007
If you ever find yourself anywhere near Oklahoma City, check out Pops, a combination gas-station, cafe, shake shop and “soda ranch.”
Just a short 30-minute drive from Oklahoma City, this roadside oddity shrugs-off the historic Rt. 66 dust and beckons tourists with a gleaming steel and glass building. A 66-foot-tall soda bottle sculpture (illuminated at night with LED lights) stands post out front — a monument to the store’s offering — a selection of more than 600 types of soda pop.
Glass shelves lined with sodas (firmly glued in place) climb the sloping walls. Cafe booths line both the sides of the space, and a soda cooler takes up the back wall. Sodas are organized by flavor — cola, root beer, birch beer, sassafras, high caffeine — then by color — orange, green, blue, red — then a few stragglers like cherry and chocolate. Side coolers and shelves take up the slack.
Sodas can be purchased by the bottle or slipped into a cardboard carrier for a build-your-own six-pack experience. Even at $2.19 a pop (pun intended), six-packs were flying out the door. Really, who doesn’t want to try a Cookie Dough Bites Fudge Brownie soda, a jasmine nutmeg orange, or a orange-lemon Dog Drool?
Before visiting, we saw the words “best burger” attributed to the 1/3-pounders at Pops. As always, we viewed this claim with a mixture of challenge and hopeful wish.
During the Saturday lunch rush, the atmosphere was zoo-like. Road-worn bikers crushed together in the aisles with bubbly, soda-hungry children and drivers from a local truck-driver training school (learning to park a big rig at a restaurant, I imagine). Admiring the towering soda-art shelves and navigating the crush ate up a 25-minute wait-time for the cafe.
They serve a standard variety of Middle-American food: soups, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and chicken-fried steak. They also have breakfast on the weekends.
For burgers, they have a regular burger, and a few specialties (like their version of an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger), and a weekend bison burger special. We tried The Mother Road, one of Pops’ burgers topped with pulled pork, horseradish cheddar, and a fried onion ring, served on a cornbread bun. A sweet hot bbq sauce was served on the side. As good as the burger sounds, the best we can give it is a “meh.”
The base burger was nothing special, and the toppings melded together in a bland mass. The pulled pork was dry. The cheese was scant. The onion ring might as well have been just for looks. The biggest disappointment was the cornbread bun — aka thick, tough dry toast. I did see corn meal in the mix, but it was scant. It was plain out an insult to cornbread.
Our other items were a bit better than the burger. The order of (shoestring-style) fries was enough to share, and easily passed fry muster. The club-type salad came festooned with chopped egg and fresh, crumbled bacon,and the tomato-y chili was an adequate for a rainy day, but the slices of onion would have been better chopped.
Though the establishment is a monument to soda, the drink selection seemed to be limited to the standards — with the exception of Pops’ own house brew, Round Barn Root Beer. If grabbing one of the varieties from the cooler was an option, the server didn’t mention it.
- Oklahoma oil billionaire, Aubrey McClendon, founded Pops in 2007.
- Pops’ steel soda sculpture weighs four tons.
- McClendon has an ownership stake in the NBA franchise, Oklahoma City Thunder.
- List of Pops Soda Ranch Flavors
The burger wasn’t anywhere near a “best,” despite what sugar-addled soda junkies may think. As someone said on Yelp, Pops has “good food for a tourist trap.” However, Pops intrigued us enough to write home about it. Maybe it had something to do with the general quirkiness and tourist frenzy of the place. The architecture was interesting, especially in contrast to the gentle Oklahoma hills around Arcadia. We recommend a stop here, and maybe a cold bottle of Dog Drool.