Published May 2023
By Emily Soreghan | 6 min read
While far western Oklahoma has its own kind of charm, road warriors seeking sustenance other than steak or McDonald’s often are left bereft. Luckily, there’s a culinary oasis in Elk City where a fresh lunch is served with a side of elegance and a smile.
The Country Dove Gift & Tea Room sits on Route 66 in a modest Victorian farmhouse. Crossing the threshold feels like stepping into another time. A cooing voice welcomes visitors, while a piano version of “On Eagle’s Wings” plays softly from unseen speakers. Lace curtains hang motionless from large windows as the traffic noise fades.
Glenna Hollis and Kay Farmer founded the Country Dove forty years ago, when the former was looking to open a small gift shop.
“I didn’t have this in mind at all,” Hollis says. “I was visiting with the person installing my shutters, and she said, ‘Well you need to look at the house on Third Street!’”
Glenna Hollis, left, and Kay Farmer are happy to share a meal with Country Dove visitors. Photo by Brent Fuchs
She phoned her friend Kay, and they toured the house. Their business partnership began that night over pizza.
Three years later in 1986, a couple from Amarillo stopped by their shop, which at the time just sold gifts and home décor. These strangers owned a restaurant and saw potential for a tearoom at the Country Dove. Hollis and Farmer admitted that they liked the idea but didn’t have an inkling of where to start. So the couple invited them to see their place in Amarillo, Texas.
“They took us back in the kitchen and showed us this fifty-pound drum of flour—it scared us to pieces,” Hollis says.
The couple relayed their story of hard times and how their church offered help starting their restaurant.
“She said, ‘We can’t ever pay those people back. So we’d like to pay it forward,’” Hollis says. “She showed us how to set up the dishes in the kitchen, how to make it flow . . . She even gave us some of our recipes. They get the credit for getting us rolling.”
Though the Country Dove menu is limited, it’s sure to satisfy regulars and road warriors alike. Photo by Brent Fuchs
And merrily the pair rolls along these four decades later. Farmer cooks, and Hollis hosts alongside a small, loyal staff, most of whom have worked at Country Dove for more than a decade—except for Hollis’ grandson, who worked there one summer washing dishes.
“Only women—we’ve never had a man work here,” Hollis says. “It’s just too tight.”
She isn’t being metaphorical: The owners somehow managed to turn an antiquated galley into a commercial kitchen. Each morning, Farmer bakes the famous heart-shaped bran muffins, pies, and casseroles in the tiny oven.
The menu is simple and unchanging. The signature dish is the avocado and chicken croissant, which is served with a choice of peach or iced tea, lemonade, or Coke products; a square of lemon-pear gelatin dessert; potato soup; and finally, French silk pie with a crumbly pecan crust. But it’s not just the culinary traditions Country Dove fans can’t get enough of.
“It’s kind of like going to your grandmother’s house,” Hollis says. “We know most of these folks by their first names. People come in that were here fifteen years ago and say, ‘Oh! It tastes just the same!’ We’ve had people here for four generations, so it’s become a family tradition.”
The Country Dove staff especially loves their youngest customers, so they get the VIP treatment every time they come in. Every child gets their drink—be it Dr. Pepper or lemonade—in a teapot with a cup, saucer, doily, and cherry.
“So when their folks ask, ‘Where do you want to eat?’ Well, they say the Country Dove, because they get to have a tea party,” Hollis says.
And no matter your age, a birthday at the Country Dove means a slice of pie with a candle.
Since Country Dove is featured in Oklahoma’s Route 66 Passport, folks come from far and wide to get a stamp. Hollis herself has multiple guest books full of messages from clientele across the globe to prove it.
“And Glenna makes sure to visit with each one,” Kay says.
“Love is the same in any language.” Glenna adds. “It just doesn’t take much. God opened the door for us. We’ve just kept walking.”
The tearoom is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.