As you scroll through Tripadvisor’s recently published list of emerging world destinations, you’ll be surprised to find that Tulsa is the only U.S. listing – unless you’ve spent time in the state’s second largest city, Sooner. Then you already know that this Art Deco gem, about 90 minutes east of Oklahoma City, is full of activity and great places to stay.
The city’s Native American, African-American, and European-American communities have shaped Tulsa over the years, and their history and culture have infused the city’s food scene. If you’re discovering Tulsa’s new energy, these fantastic restaurants offer the best flavors in T-Town.
1. Antoinette Baking Co.
From flaky croissants to macarons in all colors of the rainbow, Antoinette Baking Co. is the perfect place for pastry lovers, coffee lovers and those with a sweet tooth. If you’re in a hurry to see Tulsa’s sights, grab a take-away coffee and pastry item. When you have time to linger, sit down and enjoy a wide variety of French-inspired breakfast and brunch items. Egg lovers will enjoy the quiche, the fluffy eggs baked in a butter crust, or the herb gougere, an oversized, hearty cream puff filled with cheesy scrambled eggs and pieces of bacon. For a little more filling, try the Croque Antoinette, a grilled ham and cheese on brioche bread topped with bechamel sauce, a fried egg with the sunny side up and grated parmesan.
2. Chimera Cafe
Directly across N. Main St. from Antoinette Baking Co., guests can enjoy all day breakfast and tacos at Chimera Cafe. If you’re traveling with a food allergy or a restrictive diet, Chimera has a variety of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, including pumpkin and oat muffin, Daydream Nation scrambled tofu, Kool Thing taco, and Monsieur Fromage sandwich.
3. Wanda J’s
This soul food restaurant is located on N. Greenwood Ave. in the Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street. Despite the segregation-suppression laws in place at the time, Greenwood was one of the most affluent African-American communities in the country until it was burned down by an angry mob in one of the worst racial riots in US history in 1921.
A century after smoking is removed, a more mindful nation visits the Greenwood District to learn about the chapters in history that were often overlooked at school. While I was enjoying the best fried chicken in Tulsa with collard greens and mashed potatoes in sauce, a local film crew came over and worked on a documentary as the Tulsa race riot celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Pro tip: While the portions at Wanda J’s are incredibly generous, be sure to save space for peach cobblers!
4. Elote Cafe and Catering
Enjoy fresh, locally sourced ingredients at this innovative Mexican restaurant on the edge of Tulsa’s Art Deco District. Elote Cafe is known for its puffy dough. So be sure to try it wrapped around thick avocado slices and with cream fresca in the fried avocado starter. For a main course, you’ll find puffy tacos with standard meat fillings, including shredded beef and free-range chicken. You can also try them with more daring flavors like salmon with coriander and lime glaze, blackened jackfruit, and the vegan-friendly Beyond Beef.
While most of the country’s green cities are on the coasts, Tulsa stands out in the Plains state. So it’s no wonder Elote Cafe is committed to sustainable practices such as on-site shopping, recycling and composting.
5. Mother Street Market
This food hall just south of old Route 66 brings together nearly 20 local restaurants and breweries under one roof, making it the perfect place to sample a variety of Tulsa’s food scenes. From rice bowls to ramen, pizza to pastries and burgers to beer, you are sure to find plenty of delicious options at the Mother Road Market.
Pro tip: Get your Mother Road Market order to enjoy your outdoor dining in Tulsa. You can also dine al fresco by packing a picnic lunch with fresh ingredients from The Fresh Market or a delicious selection of European-inspired meats and cheeses from EuroMart.
6. Jane’s Delicatessen
Another great restaurant and bar on historic Route 66 is Jane’s Delicatessen. The menu takes inspiration from classic Jewish, German, and French-Canadian dishes and offers a variety of options. If you’re visiting Jane’s for weekend brunch, order a bagel salmon or a salmon board with thinly sliced salmon, cream cheese, red onions, and capers. For something really unique, try the babka bites, pieces of sweet buttery yeast bread with cinnamon ribbons wrapped in bacon and fried in pancake batter. Or try the breakfast routine that adds bacon, sausage, and two eggs to the traditional Canadian dish.
Combine a classic Reuben sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss rye bread with a German-style beer for lunch or dinner. Or travel to Bavaria with Wiener Schnitzel, which is served with spaetzle and a rich brown sauce.
Pro tip: Located in Jane’s Delicatessen, the Campbell Hotel is great boutique Tulsa accommodation.
7. Tallys Good Food Cafe
For classic American fare turned into a long-time local favorite, head to Tally’s Good Food Cafe along Route 66. This eatery features the heyday of Mother Road with checkerboard floors, red-laid tables, and neon signs. With more than 100 dishes on Tally’s extensive menu, it can be difficult to decide which one to order. If it’s a burger you crave, Tally’s has everything from classic to exotic. Keep things simple with an original burger topped with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and cheese, or go big with the Elvis burger topped with pepper jack, avocado, and jalapeno, or the chilli burger, the is doused with beef and bean chili. If you’re into onion rings, you’ll love Tally’s hand-whipped deep-fried rings as a side dish.
Another great choice is the tender, hand-breaded chicken steak, which is touted as the best on Route 66. It has two sides (I recommend mashed potatoes and green beans) and a freshly baked bun. And when you talk about buns, whether you order them for breakfast or dessert, don’t leave Tally’s without a homemade cinnamon roll.
8. The tavern
For brunch, lunch or dinner, The Tavern in the Tulsa Art District offers a fresh take on classic pub favorites. On the rainy day I last went, the Angry Mac and Cheese with smoked Gouda and breadcrumbs was just the comfort food I needed to wipe the clouds away. Another delicious option is the tavern burger. It features a beef patty with Stilton cheese and a mushroom, cognac and cream sauce. If you’re looking to pair your meal with a cocktail, consider the bacon-infused Old Fashioned, which is made with bacon infused bourbon and pure maple syrup.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a change of scenery, Tulsa Remote is offering remote workers $ 10,000 to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a year.
With a menu that changes with the seasons, Juniper is a delicious, farm-to-table upscale restaurant in Tulsa’s Blue Dome District. See the tasting menu to sample a wide variety of dishes from Chef Justin Thompson. This 5-course Prix Fixe option usually features a seasonal starter, salad, fish, starter and dessert and can be enjoyed with (or without) wine pairing.
Pro tip: Colorful murals will strike you as you explore Tulsa’s Blue Dome District. Discover the best murals in Tulsa with this guide.
10. Candy and cream
Round off your Tulsa culinary adventure with a sweet treat made from candy and cream. This historic Route 66 gem is a homemade ice cream sandwich experience where you can choose your biscuit or brownie bread and then fill it with rich Hiland ice cream. Choose from classic cookie flavors such as chocolate chips and peanut butter or go a little more unconventional with lemon, snickerdoodle or red velvet. As for the inside of the ice cream, keep things simple with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, or go more exotic with flavors like candy bar crunch or whitehouse cherry.
Bonus: local microbreweries
If beer is your thing, enjoy Tulsa’s craft scene by visiting local microbreweries. The Prairie Brewpub is located in a former Ford showroom and offers delicious pub food as well as locally brewed beer. Try the 1/2 liter jalapeno cream cheese burger in the shade for 27 days. Beer lovers should also check out American Solera, Marshall Brewing Company, and Welltown Brewing to top off their boomtown beer adventures.