A round-up of Tulsa eating places and ideas that opened and closed in 2019 in The Voice
Let’s take a moment to see just how dynamic the dining world of Tulsa is. We’ve won tons of noodles, caught national media attention, and have a vibrant roster of restaurants slated to open in the coming year. Here are the restaurants and concepts that debuted and stole our hearts, some that left and broken our hearts, and some new places that are sure to delight you. Cheers to the next delicious decade in T-Town!
Mother street market
Howdy burgers at Mother Road Market 1124 S. Lewis Ave.
Tulsa’s first full-fledged food hall opened its doors in November 2018, but it peaked in 2019. The super-flavorful Nashville Hot Chicken suppliers at Chicken & The Wolf were pioneers in the field, but many other players have been added to the line-up this year. Howdy Burger is a McNellie concept that was added this year to the list that features old-style burgers made with locally sourced Wagyu beef. More new concepts will go online in 2020 – Akira Sushi & Ramen will add some raw energy, while Da Yolk will throw away some moist brunch foods.
Mother Road will say goodbye to Bakeshop, who was there from the start. We also said goodbye to Chef Seth Smith too early when he died. Smith was a popular local chef and the genius behind Mother Road’s modern Mediterranean restaurant concept, Radish.
Next The Ristorante is in 1550 E. 15th St.
Lots of pasta
Tulsa loves to scribble over a large plate of pasta, and in 2019 two big league restaurants came to our rescue. Prossimo is an authentic Italian restaurant experience made by pizza juggernauts at Andolini’s. The menu offers more than just pasta, of course, but the Alfredo table adds a serious sizzle to the experience. Lowood is based in the East Village and is supported by the dream team behind Hodge’s Bend. A mix of tradition and avant-garde sensibility, the modern American restaurant “with a suspiciously large pasta menu” is possibly one of the best new restaurants in Tulsa this year.
Arroz con pollo in the Cuban Mangos Cafe, 317 S. Trenton Ave., Suite A.
Take you to church
The historic Church Studio – the sacred ground of Tulsa Sound – is getting a makeover, and the small neighborhood that surrounds it is following suit. This year we have gained some new faces in the region. Swamp House is a Louisiana influenced experience with Creole cuisine and a rustic feel. High Dive is a concept by Foolish Biscuit & Bar that offers a Korean street food fusion menu and cocktails in a brightly toned room. Right next door, Mangos serves Cuban flair with food and coffee in a sunny, airy café.
Lamb of Vista in the boathouse on the grounds of Gathering Place
The Chamber at the Tulsa Club Hotel serves delicious desserts.
A couple of new additions this year are restaurants within existing attractions. Gathering Place, Tulsa’s very own Disneyland, is now offering a dining experience with The Boathouse. So if you want to skip your PB&J picnic for a fillet, Vista at The Boathouse has sweeping park views and a delicious menu. The opening of the Tulsa Club Hotel was one of the most anticipated of the year. The sumptuous hotel has a decadent cocktail lounge, and The Chamber restaurant is an upscale, but not sophisticated, break.
Tulsa favorites light up
It seems that 2019 was the year many restaurants decided to “do a little work”. McNellie’s Group gave The Tavern and McNellie’s a little facelift that both their customers and employees will appreciate. Justin Thompson Group’s steakhouse concept, PRHYME, also made some changes to its place in the Arts District, while Tucci’s on Cherry Street not only received some renovations but also acquired a new owner. The sexy new spot from DoubleShot Coffee, called The Rookery, is an architectural dream ship, a two-story space with a terrace that is a cheerful new meeting place for business and leisure travelers. And historic Bill & Ruth’s on 15th Street and Lewis Avenue has a new location a little further down and a new look that everyone loves. But fewer people are so excited about the QuikTrip, which will take its old location in the traffic cone swamp on 15th Street and Lewis Avenue.
One of the most intriguing property renovations and reorganizations involves a Tulsa icon, the Celebrity Restaurant. This historic restaurant is now owned by Three Sirens, the owners of Bramble Breakfast & Bar and Bird & Bottle. The renovations have kept the charm while allowing for delayed maintenance, and diners can still find favorites like the Caesar at the table and fried chicken on the menu.
Grub gas station
Tulsans are obsessed with QuikTrip because not only does it provide fuel for your car, it also provides exotic meals known as “snackles”. But they get a run for their money from another gas station. Reeders Auto & Tire Service on 21st Street and Lewis Avenue is one of the few places that still offers full-service gas stations. Now they are filled with local dishes. You’ll find sushi from In the Raw, vegan snacks from Jane’s Delicatessen, sandwiches and allspice cheese from Antoinette, boutique sodas, Topeca coffee and an ever-changing selection of locally made delicacies. Oh, and they have amazing deals on tires too. Your move, QT.
Tulsa cuisine is national
Tulsa food was in the national spotlight this year and it finally got the attention it deserves. The Boston Globe described Tulsa as “in the midst of a food renaissance” and complimented Oren, Stonehorse Cafe, Juniper, Bird & Bottle and Amelia’s. Amelia’s also received a glowing summary in Food & Wine Magazine. Even Forbes Magazine noted Tulsa as the home of “Bites and Brews” like Lone Wolf Bahn Mi, Heirloom Rustic Ales, and Burn Co. BBQ.
A surprising twist for our carnivorous city has been named one of the best cities in the country for vegans by PETA. Incredible Tulsans should know that our town is home to some excellent restaurants that specialize in their vegan options and pride themselves on them. Libby Billings was the avant-garde to remove the stigma of the vegan lifestyle in their three restaurants, Elote, The Vault and Roppongi, while PURE Food & Juice was also known for its premium raw and vegan cuisine. This year’s newcomer to the Deco District, The Local Bison, produces some outstanding vegan and vegetarian dishes in addition to its big ass burgers. Naysayers can’t help but notice that more and more options are available for their herbivorous counterparts on menus across town.
We were sad to see New York style pizza place, Mario’s, close its doors, but there are others to take over. First, we have Dino’s Pizza Pies, a humble but powerful, traditional New York style restaurant located on 17th Street and Utica Avenue. Also available soon is an export from Oklahoma City, Empire Slice House. Their approach to New York style pizza is like “Frank Sinatra and David Bowie had a pizza baby”. The versatile newcomer will settle in the old Yeti room near the Soundpony Bar. Read more here:
The Tulsa native brings OKC-based pizza joint Empire Slice House to Tulsa
Downtown residents have watched the Vast Bank skyscraper take shape. The building will be home to a new In the Raw location, along with a new iteration of The French Hen.
The Living Kitchen is best known for their quaint and leisurely farm-to-table dinners hosted on their farm in Depew, OK. Before long, however, they’ll be demonstrating their unique approach to food by taking over the old Vintage Wine Bar area on 18th Street and Boston Avenue.
Amelia’s has also taken a space that was previously Hey Mambo and converted it into Amelia’s Market & Brasserie, which is slated to open in December. The concept will be part of the market filled with sandwiches, takeaway options and other delicacies, and part of the French brasserie that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with Amelia’s flair.
This year we said goodbye to the food truck and the beer garden wonderland Fuel 66. The Cosmo Café also closed its doors, leaving hordes of fans to mourn their roasted tomato soup and the ridiculously large Bloody Mary’s. Coffee House Blues was a short-lived but pretty outpost down Studio Row, and Mario’s white pizza will always have a place in our hearts.