Tulsa Dining Category

Mod's Coffee & Crepes coffee sleeve

This coming Saturday, December 16, 2017, Mod's Coffee and Crepes will close its doors after seven years in business.

SX043668-Mods_Philcade_Lobby.JPGYesterday was the last chance to enjoy one of the things we love about Mod's -- gluten-free crepes available on Tuesdays. A week ago Tuesday we gathered there to celebrate one child's victory in a speech contest (she won first place in the local competition and will go on to district) and the other's successful cello jury. We had our favorite crepes (the kids like the club, I'm partial to the smoked salmon, cream cheese, and dill crepe) and enjoyed them under the Art Deco splendor of the Philcade lobby. After dinner we went back to the counter to get some gelato, which we enjoyed as we perused the Tulsa Art Deco Museum exhibits of stylized clothing, building ornamentation, and household appliances in the arcade's display windows. We came back again this Tuesday, had dinner and gelato again, and ordered a pan of the stuff (mixed berry, 5.5L for $45) to pick up later in the week.

Mod's was a favorite place to go after downtown music lessons or after a concert at the PC. Sometimes I'd hang out there during lessons to drink coffee and use the wifi. I appreciate the choice of coffees (roasted by Nordaggio's) which almost always included an exotic, flavorful single-origin from Ethiopia, Tanzania, or Sumatra, plus their "Nox Atra" (Latin for "really, really dark night") dark roast blend. Some Thursday evenings after music, I'd take my youngest son to Mod's, we'd sit in the back alcove (near the outlets, and a bit quieter than the Philcade lobby), eat crepes, critique his essay for that week, and then top it off with gelato, taking some home for the rest of the family.

There are some awkward aspects to the space. In the evenings the arcade entrances are closed, and you can only get in through the cafe itself. Restrooms are in the old Amoco building next door, down a long corridor and past a security guard. Parking can be an issue too, especially as downtown improvements have eliminated some nearby street-side spaces. I don't mind walking around the block for a treat, as we did tonight, but I suppose others might be put off.

From the building directory, it appears that IBM is the sole occupant of the Philcade above the first floor. If the building is full of employees who show up at 8, leave at 5, and sit in front of a computer all day (my speculation), it wouldn't generate much foot traffic for the retailers on the first floor.

Contrast that with the 1932 building directory in a historical display about the Philcade in the corridor off the main lobby -- dozens of small oil-industry companies, railroad offices, and professional offices, which would have employees, clients, customers, business associates, and couriers coming and going throughout the day. In the Philcade shopping arcade, you could buy a ticket on the Frisco railroad, fill a prescription, buy cigars, send a Western Union telegram, get a haircut and a shoe shine.

In 1957, the first floor of the Pan American Building (as it was then known, after the Pan Am Petroleum Corp. that occupied its top two floors) was home to Bob Evans Drugs, Nan Pendelton Shop (women's clothes), American Airlines, Continental Airlines, the Pan Am Cigar Stand, Daniel, Daniel, Ennis & Co accountants, Pan Am Barber Shop, Margo's Gift Shop, Donovan & Warren optometrists, Johnson's Travel Service, DeShane's Tailors, and Braniff International Airways. The upper floors housed Tuloma Gas Products, Diamond Drilling, Indiana Oil Purchasing Co, Oklahoma Log Exchange (oil well log libraries), Fred Phillips Oil Co, geologist Howard Clark, oil operator William D. Phillips, Frisbie Drilling, Noble Drilling, Goff Leeper Drilling, Falcon Seaboard Drilling, Union Wire Rope, Kobe Inc (oil field equipment), Dr. Wilkie Hoover, dentist Paul H. Ramsey, lawyers Steven Smith and Stanley D. Campbell, Williams & Morgan Insurance, consultant Ralph Dieter, and the Red Crown Credit Union. The three-story building just to the south, now attached to the Philcade with no street entrance, had the Tulsa Book Shop, the Tulsa Record Shop, Carson Attractions (for many years, the source for tickets for Tulsa events), and the Catholic Information Center.

I suspect that as the Deco District (which Mod's helped establish) has become more popular, rent has increased. Food prices have risen sharply over the last seven years. Looking back over Mod's Facebook timeline, I notice that they put their food truck up for sale in October of this year and announced the decision to focus on the Philcade store.


Seven years is a very good run for a small eatery. It suggests that the idea was a solid concept and that the restaurant was well managed. In 2010, owner Rusty Rowe won two Tulsey awards -- entrepreneur of the year and restaurateur of the year.

Surely some smart restaurateur could save this unique dining experience, even if it means we customers have to pay a little more. The farewell note indicates that the owners are open to inquiries about "keeping the concept alive."

Mod's will be open until 10 pm the remainder of this week. Stop by and enjoy it while you can. All the best to Rusty, Colleen, and family and the Mod's team in their future endeavors.

UPDATE 2017/12/16: Tulsa Business and Legal News covered Mod's last day in business:

The owner of Mod's Coffee and Crepes cites recent oil and gas layoffs as probably the biggest reason he's closing his downtown eatery.

"The oil and gas layoffs hurt us really bad," Rusty Rowe said. "As the price per barrel dropped, so did the number of regulars we had coming in."...

Some of the impetus for closing is personal, Rowe said. His wife, who has a full-time job, is also going to law school, and the couple have two young children.

But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Rowe said Mod's revenue fell 20 percent from 2015 to 2016 and another 20 percent from 2016 to 2017.

"Forty percent of our sales is gelato," he said. "That's a hard sell in winter when it's too cold for people to be out walking around."

The idea is to break even in the winter, "and then summer pulls us out of the hole," Rowe said.

For the past two years, that hasn't happened.

Rowe brings up a negative side effect of downtown redevelopment: the novelty factor, new businesses drawing customers away from old favorites, a problem made worse by the state's economic downturn.

With a new business opening every month, he said, customers are less likely to patronize the places that are more established.

"If you like something in the Deco District, go support it, he said. "I'm not the only one having a hard time right now.

Jane Dunlap Maxey posted this on the Facebook group "North Tulsa 50's 60's & 70's - The Real Outsiders." It's a menu from Shakey's Pizza, labeled summer 1967. I thought it deserved reposting in a more permanently accessible location.


Shakey's Pizza
Spicy - Supreme - Robust - Exotic
... From the giant 750° ovens in the window ...

Public House Special (pepperoni and chopped green pepper)
Smoked Oyster (with olive oil)
Shakey's Famous Italian Sausage (spicy Italian)
Italian Sausage & Black Olive
Italian Salami
Lean Beef & Chopped Onions
Louisiana Shrimp
Spiced Pepperoni
Portugese Linguica (like Canadian bacon with garlic)
Imported Anchovies (from Lisbon) recommended only for anchovie lovers
Canadian Bacon
White Mushrooms (cooked in butter)
Italian Black Olive
Idiot's Delight (pimento & green pepper)
Plain (tomato - spices & exotic cheeses)
Portland Supreme (salami & green pepper)
Right Hander's Special (Friday or Lent) shrimp, mushroom & olive
Eastern Polish Sausage
Imported Sardine
Shakey's Special (Combination without anchovie)
Big Ed Special (Combination without olive)

Pizza to take home ... 10¢ extra


Shakey's Pizza is prepared with exotic blends of imported herbs, spices, and delicacies.

It was a highlight of going to Shakey's (or Shotgun Sam's) to get to look through the window at the pizza dough being tossed and the pies being slid into the ovens.

Some mysteries... perhaps you can solve them:

  • What exotic cheeses were used in the plain pizza? And doesn't that undermine the notion of "plain"?
  • What was it about the combination of pimento & green pepper that especially delighted idiots?
  • If the Shakey's Special = ( Combination - Anchovies ) and Big Ed Special = ( Combination - Olive ), what else was in the Combination besides anchovies and olives?
  • Why do they call a pizza compliant with Catholic dietary restrictions of the time (no meat on Fridays or in Lent) a Right-Hander's Special?
  • Portland was a thing in 1967?

According to my copy of the 1966 Tulsa telephone book, Shakey's Pizza had two locations: 3647 S. Peoria (TEmple 5-1529) and 9124 E. Admiral (RIverside 7-1331).

Other advertisers in the "Pizza" section of the Yellow Pages that year:

Irish Mike Clancy's Pizza Village Inn, 1060-B S. Mingo Rd.
Johnny Reb's Pizza Parlor, 5651 W. Skelly Dr.
Ken's Pizza Parlor, 3024 E. 11th St, 1515 S. Sheridan
Lea's Italian Pizzeria, 1605 E. 15th St., 4207 S. Peoria, 3632 N. Peoria, 4631 E. 31st. St., 3945 E. Admiral Pl. (Midtown, Southside, Northside, Eastside, and Northeast, respectively)
The Pizza House, 6545 E. 11th St.
Pizza Hut, 5951 E. 31st St., 5303 E. 11th, 4201 S. Peoria
Pizza Inn, 7737 E. 21st St.
Sussy's Pizza, 2918 E. 11th St.
Tulsa Maiden Drive-In, 1204 S. Peoria
Tulsa Pizza Co., 912 W. Admiral
The Villa, 1546 S. Sheridan Rd.

Johnny Reb's ad invited the reader to

BRING THE FAMILY Old German Style Dark Beer 20 Varieties of Pizza Dine In or Pizza To Go Close To Motels

The Villa boasted "delicious Pizza Baked on Bricks" and "Black Beer." Ken's had "light and dark tap beer" and assured the reader that their pizza was "Made Fresh When Ordered." Pizza Inn offered "an environment for the whole family, light & dark beer, poor boy sandwiches, salads" for dine in or carry out.

MORE: Here's a montage of photos, ads and menus from Shakey's, set to banjo music. Unfortunately, Shakey's classic jingle -- "Shakey's is shakin' up... pizza, people!" -- has yet to make it to the internet.

Tonight, December 14, 2012, at 6 p.m., the Barthelmes Conservatory will hold its semi-annual open concert at The Church at Midtown at 38th and Lewis. The conservatory's talented and hardworking students, mainly high school and middle school students, will perform short solo and ensemble pieces from the classical repertoire for violin, viola, cello, piano, and flute.


The conservatory's flagship program is its Music School. Children ages 7 - 13 are selected for musical aptitude, regardless of prior musical training, and enter into a rigorous program of private lessons, ensemble instruction, and classes in music theory, history, and literature, laying a foundation for a lifetime in music. You'll have the chance to hear the results of their efforts this evening.

thephoenix-logo-flag.pngAfter the concert, drive a few miles north to 6th and Peoria for a drink and a bite to eat at The Phoenix, Blake Ewing's newest venture.
It's a library-themed coffee house offering fresh baked bagels, coffee drinks, and a full bar, now open to the public. In keeping with the theme, a selection of books from Gardner's, lining the walls of the library room, are available for sale. The Phoenix offers an assortment of seating options, and the west window has a spectacular view of the downtown Tulsa skyline. The cafe's hours are 6:30 am to 2:00 am Monday through Saturday, and 6:30 am to midnight Sunday.

Cheri Asher, owner of the Coffee House on Cherry Street, has won the 2012 Tulsey award for restaurateur. The Tulsey Awards honor entrepreneurs in a variety of categories.

I sent in a nomination for Cheri, a little summary of her accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

Cheri Asher has created and sustained a thriving community gathering place for nearly six years. I was an early regular, and I've watched CHoCS evolve under Cheri's direction. She is ever watchful for any aspect of the business that isn't working as well as it should. Cheri has mastered the delicate art of making adjustments that fix the problem without damaging the core qualities that make CHoCS a favorite place for her customers.

It's most obvious in the physical layout as over the years she has added and replaced furniture, shifted partitions and tables, rearranged the entrance, built a small stage -- all to create a variety of spaces to meet customer needs and maintain good flow. Less apparent but equally important are the adjustments Cheri makes to staff and menu.

Cheri deserves recognition not only for creating the kind of place that makes Tulsa cool, but also as a model entrepreneur, building and sustaining a thriving customer-oriented business in challenging times.

Rereading this, I feel I downplayed the importance of Cheri's staff. She has a great team behind the counter and in the kitchen. She has found reliable workers who can keep the place running right whether she's there or not. That is not an easy thing to do, and it's yet another credit to her that she finds good people and is able to keep them.

I look for locally owned coffeehouses everywhere I travel, and I've never found any place quite as "just right" as Coffee House on Cherry Street.

A word of praise for Joe Momma's Pizza:

The actors in Encore! Theatre Company's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a two-hour break between the end of the Saturday matinee and call for the evening performance. Proximity, pizza, and video games made Joe Momma's the obvious place to get a bite to eat and hang out until the kids were allowed back into the PAC. My wife called ahead to give them warning, and they set aside the back room for our group of 40 or so.

One waitress, a thoroughly tattooed young woman, took all the orders and kept them all straight. There was an above-and-beyond moment, too. My in-laws avoid wheat gluten as much as they can, so they ordered a 10" pizza with a gluten-free crust. A few minutes after the order the waitress came back to tell them that the alfredo sauce had gluten as well, and asked if they'd like to order a pizza with red sauce instead.

So not only did Joe Momma's offer gluten-free pizza, the staff was alert enough to catch an inconsistency between crust and topping and brought the issue to the customer to resolve it to the customer's satisfaction, rather than bring out a pizza that wouldn't have met the customer's requirements. Well done to the waitress and kitchen staff.

And now a complaint for the Tulsa Parking Authority and their operator for the Williams Center South garage, Central Parking System:

When we came to see the final performance of Charlie, I opted to park in the underground garage right next to the PAC, rather than leave the car out in the hot sun. Saturday and Sunday parking costs only $4, not the usual $8, or so said the ticket.

When I reached the pay machine at the exit, the machine, which seemed to be shiny and new, failed in three separate ways:

"Please pay with a credit card or cash."

[ iInsert credit card.]

"Credit cards are not accepted. Please pay with a credit card or cash."

[Grumbling, I Insert $20 bill. Machine returns $11 in dollar coins. Receipt shows $8 charge for parking, despite ticket and signs to the contrary.]

So the machine wouldn't take a credit card, despite saying it would, the machine charged me the weekday rate, twice the rate I should have been charged, and the machine short-changed me. I'm out five bucks.

An attendant was in the booth, but she couldn't help me. She could see what was wrong, but she didn't have the authority or the means to correct the problem. She told me her name and wrote the Central Parking System number on the back of my receipt. So I get to decide whether to waste at least $5 of my time to get my $5 back. (Since the machine wouldn't take a credit card, they won't be able to credit my account, so I'll wind up with a check that will be sent through the mail and that I'll need to deposit.)

This is not the sort of parking experience we should be providing for downtown visitors.

The gastronomic empire of prolific Tulsa restaurateur and publican Elliot Nelson, owner of McNellie's, El Guapo (loud automatic music warning), Yokozuna, Dilly Deli, Fassler Hall, the Dust Bowl Lounge and Lanes, Brady Tavern, and The Colony, was profiled Sunday on MSNBC. There doesn't seem to be a way to embed the five-minute video, so you'll have to follow this link to the MSNBC story, which deals with the unique opportunities and challenges that come with owning so many venues in close proximity to one another, all but two of them in the Blue Dome District.

Each venue is unique, so they avoid competing with themselves, but the restaurants operate in the same way, use the same point of sale system. Being close together makes it possible to share resources. The common system makes it easy to move staff around from one restaurant to another, and to use veteran McNellie's Group staff to help establish a new property. On the downside: McNellie's Group's success has potential competitors looking at the area, and rents are going up.

There's also the need to "grow the pie," to draw people to downtown who haven't yet made it their go-to place for dining and entertainment. From that need comes a new concept: the Dust Bowl Lounge and Lanes.

Many people try to credit Vision 2025 and the BOK Center for the Blue Dome District's success, but that credit belongs to the building owners like Michael Sager who kept the old buildings standing and the dreamers like Elliot Nelson who turned those old buildings into pubs, clubs, restaurants, and retail.

In 2000, eight years before the BOK Center opened its doors, Donal Cosgrave moved Arnie's Bar into the old Blue Dome Service Station at 2nd and Elgin. News stories as early as 2001 were calling attention to the new businesses opening in the district. A 2002 news story referred to the district as a "thriving commercial hot spot."

McNellie's was announced in March 2003, and originally planned to open that June, long before Vision 2025 went to a vote of the people, although its opening was delayed until 2004. Tsunami Sushi opened in 2003. In one news story, the head of the Tulsa Metro Chamber and the head of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited were waxing enthusiastic about the growing critical mass of businesses in the district.

By the summer of 2003, the Blue Dome was well known enough that my wife and I made a point of going to have a look around, and I suggested that Elgin, anchored by the Blue Dome at the north end and bordered by the proposed East Village, could serve as a replacement Main Street. (I made a few more observations when I drove back through the area again the following oppressively hot and humid Saturday night, trying to help my almost-three-year-old daughter get to sleep -- our block was without power from storms the night before.)

By the time Vision 2025 passed, there was already enough happening in Blue Dome to lead some to suggest building the arena nearby (e.g., on the then-vacant city-owned lot that's now home to ONEOK Field, or on the parking lot east of Elgin between 1st and 2nd). Ed Sharrer, now a city planner, wrote,

There are restaurants, dance clubs, pubs, an art gallery, and an art movie house within a few blocks of Second Street and Elgin Avenue. Dinner before the game? Dancing after a concert? All within walking distance -- the day the arena opens. Building the arena on the east side of downtown would turn an emerging scene into an instant entertainment destination. These businesses already exist, so there's no need for a "build it and they will come" approach. Let's build the arena where people are already going!

By 2004, Tulsa Police were increasing their presence in the area to deal with growing crowds.

By 2006 (two years before the BOK Center opened), a couple of young, female, hipster Los Angeles Times travel bloggers on a road trip around the western U. S. thought that the Blue Dome (specifically McNellie's, the May Rooms Gallery, and Dwelling Spaces) was worth writing home about. (Their blog entry is no longer on the LATimes site, but someone else captured it here.)

By 2008, before the BOK Center opened, the Blue Dome District had already achieved critical mass, and had hosted events like DFest, the Tulsa Tough cycling race, and the Blue Dome Arts Festival. (I wrote a column that May about a day wandering around a bustling Blue Dome District in the midst of the Arts Festival.)

There was some public investment involved -- a TIF district captured sales tax dollars to pay for streetscaping and lighting improvements -- but the Blue Dome reflects private investment, including a good deal of sweat equity. The best thing the city did for the Blue Dome District was to ignore it during the urban renewal orgy of the '60s and '70s.

So let's give credit where due, to Elliot Nelson and others like him, for their role in making the Blue Dome District what it is and filling it with good things to eat and drink.

DON'T FORGET: The 2011 Blue Dome Arts Festival runs this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Keeping kosher in Tulsa

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In case you missed it, Joseph Hamilton, restaurant reviewer for Urban Tulsa Weekly had a cover story last week that at least partly answered a question I've long pondered: how would one go about keeping kosher in Tulsa?

I'm a brother of Zeta Beta Tau, which was founded as a Jewish fraternity in 1898, but became non-sectarian in 1954. During my years at MIT, about a third of our chapter's brothers were Jewish. It was interesting to notice the various levels of observance, particularly regarding dietary laws. Several brothers had a kosher kitchen set up in the basement, and they took turns cooking for each other. Just a few blocks from our house, on Harvard Street in Brookline, you could find a variety of shops offering kosher food. A number of brothers who came from less observant homes started to keep kosher and to adopt a more observant way of life while in college. But many of the Jewish brothers ate the same food as the rest of us; alternative entrees were available when pork was the main dish.

Hamilton's story does a good job of explaining that keeping kosher goes beyond avoiding pork and shellfish. It affects the appliances and utensils you use in cooking, your dishes, and the way in which meat is prepared. It is a challenging and complex way of life and requires careful thought and planning.

It also requires nearby merchants who can provide kosher ingredients. So are there kosher butchers and kosher delis in Tulsa? Is it practical to keep kosher in Tulsa?

But Rabbi [Marc] Fitzerman of B'nai Emunah said no one should have trouble finding kosher foods.

"Kosher-supervised goods are widely available in every part of the country," he said. "This is a fast-growing part of the economy; with many people who are not Jewish themselves seeking out kosher goods on the assumption that supervision insures greater quality. The challenge is almost always kosher meat.

"Many markets in Tulsa carry it, and the Synagogue always stocks products for the sake of convenience. But like many smaller communities, we don't have a local kosher butcher who can supply fresh goods. I hope that the Synagogue will eventually be able to remedy that problem, but it's a work in progress."

Rabbi Charles Sherman of Temple Israel said that because of the almost total lack of kosher restaurants and a decided lack of a Jewish neighborhood and temples within walking distance, Orthodox Jews simply don't move to Tulsa. Keeping an Orthodox and kosher lifestyle is an almost unachievable goal in anything other than the most austere of circumstances.

Others in the Jewish community echo his sentiments by saying without hesitation that there are no places in Tulsa that accommodate the kosher community well and no kosher-only meat markets at all. Even travelers passing through Tulsa planning to stick with a kosher diet have to pack their bags with a few of their own foods. The Tulsa International Airport only offers retail packaged items that are certified kosher.

I was pleased to see that Hamilton spoke to Rabbi Yehuda Weg of the Chabad House, home to Tulsa's often-overlooked third synagogue, Beth Torah. Temple Israel, a Reform congregation, and B'nai Emunah of the Conservative denomination have been around for 96 and 94 years respectively. Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism, has only been in Tulsa since 1988, the first Orthodox presence in the city since B'nai Emunah moved into the Conservative fold some decades ago. Unlike the two older congregations, Beth Torah doesn't have a large and elaborate physical plant; they are based in a 1940s farmhouse on a couple of acres, tucked back in a neighborhood. It would have been interesting to read Rabbi Weg's advice to those seeking to keep kosher in Tulsa.

MORE about Jewish history in Tulsa and Oklahoma:

Wikipedia's list of synagogues in Oklahoma, including inactive synagogues in Ardmore, Enid, Chickasha, and Hartshorne.

"Jews" article in Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture: The Jewish population in Oklahoma peaked at 7,500 in the 1920s, was about 5,000 at the 2000 census.

Part 1 of Tulsa's Jewish Pioneers, which notes that in the 1910s, there were two kosher butchers -- one at Main, Boulder, and Haskell, and one on 9th between Cincinnati and Detroit.

Meats 2 U: A shop at B'nai Emunah offering kosher meat.

Wikipedia article on Jewish religious movements, explaining the differences between Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and other movements

Grease is the word

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PICT0065Photo by mollyeh11 on Flickr

Three times this year (twice in Tulsa, once in Wichita), I've walked into a locally-owned restaurant, enjoyed a delicious meal, and walked out smelling like a fryolator in need of an oil change. I haven't been back to any of them.

One of the restaurants is a venerable midtown Tulsa institution. The other is a new place: good food, friendly service, cool music and decor, free wifi, and, evidently, a malfunctioning vent hood. I assume it was malfunctioning, although I suppose they may have been going after a retro greasy-spoon ambiance.

After leaving each place, I stunk, maybe not badly enough that people around me noticed, but I noticed, and it bugged me until I could shower off the stink and put on clean clothes. It reminded me (and not at all in a pleasant way) of how I smelled each evening after a shift cooking Quarter Pounders five on the turn at the Catoosa McDonald's back in 1984.

I thought about going back to one of the restaurants today -- an item on their menu sounded really appealing -- but I took a pass. I didn't want to spend the rest of the day smelling like a rancid hushpuppy.

Restaurateurs, check your ventilation system. Greasy vapor shouldn't be wafting its way into the seating area. It's bad for your furnishings and bad for the customers, too.

Last Sunday, as an early birthday lunch, my parents took us out to eat downtown at a new place that's been around for a while.

Escargot's is a catering establishment at 8th and Main, in the old Harrington's / KOME building. The dining room has long been used for special events, but only recently has the owner opened up for one and all for an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch.

When Mom asked me where I'd like to eat, I had just read Katherine Kelly's review of Escargot's brunch in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly, and I thought it would be worth a try. I was impressed at the owner seeing a way he could extend his successful business to meet the opportunity presented by several of Tulsa's largest churches within a few blocks of his front door and few available dining options nearby.

The food and service were as good as advertised. The younger kids were very happy with their food choices. (One buffet is devoted to kid favorites like chicken drumsticks, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, and corn dogs.) The salad was especially good -- not the usual bland iceberg. The food was hearty and fresh. My older son enthused over the fried okra. I especially liked the biscuits and gravy.

Prices were on par with most Sunday sit-down dining options. $12.50 for adults includes your drink, tax, and tip. It's $6 for ages 5-10. That's less than we'd spend at Delta Cafe for entrees alone (plus tax and tip), but at Escargot's the price covers drinks and desserts, the kids get to eat what they like, and there's no waiting to eat.

Escargot's is open for Sunday brunch from 10:30 to 2:30. Off-street parking is available north of the building, and there's plenty of street parking nearby (free on Sundays).

Tulsa Restaurant Deals

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David Christopher has started a Tulsa website making innovative use of blog software to provide information to the public. It's called Tulsa Restaurant Deals, and the site's home page announces the lofty ambition to "cover every restaurant discount deal and cheap food and drink special in Tulsa, Oklahoma":

Discover what's cheap in Tulsa tonight by browsing the list on the left - the gateway to our continually updated database of restaurant deals. You can't get this information anywhere else because we do all of the research ourselves. Whether it's breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, at a cafe, diner, pub or steakhouse, we'll get you fed for less.

The site uses tags to allow you to find deals by day of the week, by meal and time of day (e.g. happy hour and early bird deals on Wednesdays), by neighborhood, by type of food, by price, and by restaurant. There's even a category for deals exclusive to Tulsa Restaurant Deals -- right now they're featuring an exclusive deal from Joyner's Home Cooked Food.

Check it out: Tulsa Restaurant Deals at TulsaRestaurantDeals.com.

Links from bloggers and websites in Tulsa and around Oklahoma:

MeeCiteeWurkor looks at a traffic fatality that killed a bicyclist. The trail led to the Sinclair refinery parking lot and the question: Does Sinclair Hire Illegal Aliens?

An 1829 letter from President Andrew Jackson, informing leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations that they would have to leave the southern states, has been found. (Via Blair Humphreys.)

Yogi gives a panhandler his lunch and ponders whether shelters and soup kitchens are enablers rather than true helps: Yogi's Den: A Homeless Guy, Leviticus 23:22, and my Lunch

Tasha suggests several more ways to get to know Tulsa, including Twitter and parenthood.

Emily was given a lovely 1946 linen postcard of Tulsa's Webster High School.

Stephen and Elizabeth Thompson spent a week touring famed diners and dives around Oklahoma and Kansas, and recorded the results in their blog Foodies Gone Wild: Oklahoma & Kansas edition.

The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane has a new costumed mascot, replacing old mascot Huffy the Hurricane, Powdered Toast Man's doppelganger.

aRdent Voice wants you to see his wife Lori Sears' portrait drawings

Freedom of Information Oklahoma has some interesting stories:

Remember Marc Sherman, who was a midday talk show host on KRMG? He has a blog: Marc's True News

Jason Kearney considers the case of a Tulsa youth pastor on "The Biggest Loser" and asks Is It a Sin To Be Fat? (And congrats to Jason on his third blogiversary.)

TulsaGal has the story (with photos) of Tate Brady, namesake of Tulsa's Brady Street, and some wonderful photos and information on the Akdar Theatre, which later became Leon McAuliffe's Cimarron Ballroom.

Irritated Tulsan's guest poster bestandworstofokc offers 10 ways to annoy your coworkers.

Stan Geiger thinks high-speed trains might work in the Los Angeles / Las Vegas corridor but has reasons to doubt their utility in connecting Tulsa to Oklahoma City.

Bill Yates, who blogs about neuroscience research, has a surprising post about children, video games, and attention.

Jack Lewis remembers the way the basketball coach pushed his own son to excel and draws a lesson from that about God's love for His childrenCatoosa's Coach Commisky and God's love

Claim your steak

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oksteaklogo.gifTomorrow, Saturday, September 26, 2009, is the Oklahoma Championship Steak Cookoff, to be held on the grounds of Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The meat hits the grill at 12:30. 1st place wins $2,500. Beyond the contest steaks, there will be steaks for the spectators, too:

Join the fun on Saturday afternoon to watch the grilling competition as teams prepare and cook 16oz Certified Angus Beef ribeye steaks. After each team cooks a steak for judging, they will then grill steaks to be served to those persons lucky enough to have a ticket. Dinner will start at 5pm. The $20 ticket includes a dinner of a 16oz steak, salad, baked potato and bread. Live music will fill the air as diners enjoy their meal in the area surrounding Trinity Episcopal Church.

Musical acts include Shelby Eicher and Mark Bruner, DuoSonics, Timothy O'Brian's Celtic Cheer, and Matt Jewett-Williams.

There's also a celebrity steak cookoff. For a schedule of events, information, and tickets, visit the Oklahoma Championship Steak Cookoff website. The event will raise money for Trinity Episcopal Church's outreaches: Iron Gate food ministry, Habitat for Humanity, and New Hope ministry to children of incarcerated parents.

For more ways to gorge and entertain yourself this weekend in Tulsa, check out Tasha Does Tulsa's weekly roundup.

Links of interest from around Tulsa and nearby:

Jim Hartz went exploring around the old KOME studios at 8th and Main and took some photos. KOME 1300 was one of Tulsa's five AM stations back in the '50s, and in 1958 it was the station that sent Rocky Frisco, then known as Rocky Curtiss, on a bike ride to Ft. Hood, Texas, to interview Elvis Presley, who was going through Army basic training at the time.

Speaking of Rocky Frisco, he is a candidate for Tulsa City Council District 4 and in September will be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Here's a very interesting biographical interview with Rocky -- a bit of music, a bit of local history, a bit of politics.)

Natasha Ball went to the Ottawa County Fair and has written a letter of complaint.

Tyson and Jeane Wynn are moving their business, Wynn-Wynn Media, from Claremore back to their hometown of Welch, in Craig County. They've located in a storefront on Main Street. The relocation allows them to be closer to Jeane's parents. It's made possible by the spread of high-speed internet to rural America, so they can pursue their line of work (working with Christian authors) as well from Welch as from anywhere else. (Some of my ancestors -- the Newmans -- spent some time in the vicinity of Welch, and my great-grandparents, Carl Everett and Icy Newman Bates, are buried in the cemetery west of town.)

Tulsa Food Blog visited Shiloh's and loved it. (That bottle of red stuff -- strawberry-rhubarb jam -- try it on your homemade rolls.) Here's Shiloh's website.

Jeff Shaw has pulled ahead of me in the race to retroblog our vacations. He's up to day four in San Antonio. (I'm still stuck at 5 pm on day 3.)

Tulsa TV veteran Lee Woodward has some of his artwork available for view on Flickr.

NMcruiserchick worked for the Peaches Records and Tapes store at 52nd and Sheridan back in 1979-1982, and she has lots of photos to prove it.

David Schuttler notes a survey showing that many airports are concerning themselves with their impact on areas beyond the 65 dB noise level zone. Is Tulsa, he wonders? And David has some beautiful lightning pictures from last week.

Steven Roemerman has some new lyrics with which to scratch the cognitive itch (aka "earworm") known as "Girl from Ipanema."

Be sure to visit Historic Tulsa for more photos and stories of our city's wonderful collection historic buildings.

You've got just six more days to respond to the PLANiTULSA "Which Way, Tulsa?" survey -- to express your opinion on the way Tulsa should grow over the next 25 years. Whether you prefer the Main Streets approach (Scenario B), "New Centers" (Scenario C), or "Centered City" (Scenario D), or whether, like the Owasso real estate agent quoted in a Sunday newspaper story, you'd like most of the region's growth to happen outside of Tulsa's city limits (Scenario A), take a few minutes to express your opinion.

In addition to the multiple choice questions, there are several questions at the end that allow free-form responses:

7. The scenario survey asks about a few major components of the comprehensive plan, such as housing and transportation strategies.
  • Are there any significant issues that you would like to see given more attention?
  • Is there anything about the specific growth scenarios, that doesn't fall under the previous questions that you would like to tell us?

8. If you could focus the comprehensive plan on just one part of the city, which area would it be?
(Be as general or as specific as you like)

9. What policies or strategies would you like to see the City of Tulsa pursue?

10. Please use the space below to provide any other comments that you would like the PLANiTULSA team to receive.

Another opportunity to express your opinion comes in the form of Urban Tulsa Weekly's Absolute Best of Tulsa runoff ballot. Deadline is June 25 at 5 pm. Multiple choice this time, in about 70 categories, mostly food and drink, but you can also vote for Best City Councilor (only three choices, though) and Biggest Ego.

UTW is also sponsoring an expanded music awards program this year -- the Absolute Best Music Awards. Voting is now open and will continue until July 17. You can listen to music samples for each nominated artist, so it's a great way to get to know the Tulsa music scene.

A few tasty treats I've enjoyed around Tulsa the last few weeks:

Chicken and noodles at Alisee Momo's Hornet Cafe, Admiral and Lewis. Alisee Momo launched as a coffee house, but recently added soul food to the menu, everything made from scratch. Very tasty.

Avocado, hummus, and muenster cheese sandwich at the Blue Jackalope, 3rd (Charles Page Blvd.) and Phoenix in Crosbie Heights. Delicious. It costs the same as a Roastburger at Arby's, but it's far tastier and healthier, and it's sold in an old-fashioned neighborhood grocery.

"Hippie" sandwich at Coffee House on Cherry Street, 15th & Rockford. Spinach, tomato, onion, cucumbers, green peppers, onion, and a cream cheese pesto spread. Great Topeca coffee and amazing cream cheese brownies, too. (I've heard they'll have their fabled meatloaf sandwiches tomorrow.) Open until 11 pm Monday through Wednesday; open until 12 midnight Thursday through Sunday.

Salmon tostadas at Eloté, 514 S. Boston downtown. Delicious fresh Mex cuisine, including great homemade chips and salsa. Open until 10 or later most nights for dinner.

Chicken with green curry at Cookie's Thai Cafe, 1421 E Kenosha, Broken Arrow (71st St, just west of the BA Expressway). This homemade Thai food is the real deal.

We're all trying to spend less these days. Instead of settling for expensive mediocrity, why not find the best food you can for the money, encourage small business owners who sell a high-quality product, and keep money circulating in the community?

I had a little time downtown early this evening and decided to wander around to 1st and Elgin to check on the progress at the downtown location of Joe Momma's Pizza, which has been about a year in the making. There seemed to be people inside eating, so I wandered in, and was seated.

They weren't officially open -- it was a dress rehearsal, a chance for the waitstaff and pizza chefs to practice before they start serving paying customers in the next day or two (after all the final inspections).

I tried the fried mushroom appetizer and a Natalie Portman pizza. Named in honor of the vegetarian actress, it features several types of peppers, roma tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. The mushrooms and the pizza were both delicious, and my server was friendly, attentive, and efficient.

While waiting for my meal, I successfully used the free wifi and enjoyed a Boulevard Wheat. Joe Momma's serves Pepsi products and offers several beers on tap and in the bottle. I noticed Shiner Bock and Red Stripe on display.

I didn't have time to get a complete look around the restaurant, but I couldn't miss the TV screens, including one of the largest in the city on the back wall of the main dining room. They've got a jukebox and pinball too.

Owner Blake Ewing came by to say hello, toting his son. Looking around, I saw families with young children. While kids are certainly welcome at other Blue Dome District restaurants, I get the sense that Joe Momma's will be even more family-friendly while still catering to the grown-up palate.

The opening of the downtown Joe Momma's is the culmination of a longtime dream for Blake, who began almost four years ago to try to create a great downtown pizza restaurant. It looks like he's succeeded. I'm thrilled for him. I'm thrilled for Tulsa, too, that dreams like his can still come true here.

P. S. The website is still under development, but the welcome page is very cool and easy to navigate. Click through and check it out.

Friday night, with the two older kids at sleepovers, we went out to eat with just the two-year-old along.

For quite some time, I'd noticed a place advertising a soul food buffet in a tiny storefront on the north side of 21st, east of Memorial. It's only open Thursday through Sunday, but the timing finally worked for us to give it a try: Joyner's Home Cooked Food Restaurant.

It's a small place, neatly turned out in black and white with red accents. The stereo played solo piano covers of favorite big band tunes and pop standards from the '40s and '50s -- "April in Paris," "I Only Have Eyes for You." We were greeted by owner Jesse Joyner, who visited with us and the other customers and was a pleasure to talk with.

You can order a la carte or from the buffet. The buffet works like this: You order two meats, which are prepared fresh. When your meat is ready, you go to the buffet of side items and pick out three to start with, plus a bread. You can get as many refills on side items as you like. The buffet also includes dessert.

I had two ribs and a rotisserie chicken leg quarter, with greens, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, and cornbread. My wife had the catfish, chopped brisket, blackeyed peas with okra, greens, and macaroni and cheese, which had more flavor to it than you'd normally expect from mac and cheese. For dessert I had chocolate cake and my wife had a slice of strawberry bundt cake with a lemon glaze. (Sadly, they had already run out of the peach cobbler and the pecan pie.) Everything was delicious and very obviously homemade. The two-year-old enjoyed his kid's basket -- two big chicken tenders, with french fries, a roll.

Joyner's, at 8151 C2 E 21st St., is open Thursday and Friday evenings from 5 to 9 pm, Saturday from noon to 9 pm, and Sunday from 1:30 to 7:30 pm. On Sundays they put meat on the buffet along with the sides, so you simply go through the line as soon as you arrive. On the flyer for Sunday buffet, it says, "We promise to get you in and out." The phone number is 918-622-5003.

Here is the menu for Joyner's Home Cooked Food Restaurant as of June 20, 2008.

Here's a link to Katherine Kelly's Urban Tulsa Weekly review of Joyner's from March 2007. Last August, the Tulsa World's Scott Cherry included Joyner's on a comprehensive list of great locally owned "hidden gems". (That's worth bookmarking.)


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A week ago Saturday afternoon about 3:30, I had just finished attending the Oklahoma Republican State Convention at the Renaissance Hotel. I was hungry, parched, and in need of wi-fi. Cosmo Cafe, on the west side of Memorial at 68th Street, came to mind as a place nearby where I could get a cold beer, good food, and an Internet connection. While I love our Tulsa coffeehouses, I'm not always in a coffee mood.

It took a good 15 minutes to travel the two and half miles down 71st Street, but it was worth it.

At the bar, Angela greeted me with a friendly smile and asked for my name and drink order. A pint of Harp, the Asian chicken salad, and Angela's choice of music -- Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra -- made Cosmo an oasis of cool on a hot day. (She even played a few Jim Morrison ballads. When The Doors' frontman wasn't howling, he was a pretty good baritone crooner.) An LCD screen at the bar showed scenes from Monty Python's And Now for Something Completely Different. (It was muted with closed captions, but I could supply the audio track from memory.) I posted a blog entry and checked e-mail. While I don't enjoy fighting the traffic in that part of town, I made a note to stop in the next time I was nearby.

Be aware that Cosmo is a place of multiple personalities. After about 10 at night the lights are turned low and the music gets loud as Cosmo switches from café mode to bar mode. Beyond that, the music varies with tastes of the bartender. Also, although Cosmo advertises a 2 am closing time seven days a week, they'll close earlier if business is slow. (If you really need wi-fi at that hour, I'm told the Denny's across the street has it.)

The combination of good beer, good food, free wi-fi, smoke-free, and late hours isn't as common as it should be in Tulsa, but Cosmo has set a solid standard for others to follow.

A deferred dream is finally being realized. Blake Ewing set out about three years ago with an idea to open a great pizza restaurant downtown. It made better sense to take some baby steps first, so he took over an existing Simple Simon's Pizza place at 61st and US 169 and turned it into Joe Momma's Pizza.

Last fall he announced he was ready to pursue a downtown Joe Momma's, and the new place is nearing completion. It will be in the Blue Dome District downtown on Elgin, between El Guapo's, which is on 1st St., and Dirty's Tavern, which is on 2nd. On the mommaiscoming.com website, he says that the new place will serve brick-oven pizza and healthier choices, along with beer and wine. It will be open late "so the boozers can sober up before driving home." They'll have free wi-fi (the 61st St location already has it), "old-school arcade and pinball games," big screen TVs, and live music. The aim is to be open by D-Fest, in July.

Blake has found a niche that needs filling downtown. I'm looking forward to hanging out there.

Starbucks shut

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Starbucks is closing all of its 7,100 company-owned stores in the US at 5:30 local time tonight in order to train employees in the "Art of Espresso":

"Our unprecedented level of commitment to and investment in our people will provide them with the tools and resources they need to exceed the expectations of our customers," Howard Schultz, chairman, president and ceo said. "We believe that this is a bold demonstration of our commitment to our core and a reaffirmation of our coffee leadership."

The comprehensive educational curriculum for all U.S. store partners will provide a renewed focus on espresso standards that will help ensure the exceptional quality of every beverage. As a result, baristas will be better prepared to share their passion and knowledge with customers. Customers will be able to truly enjoy the art of espresso as Starbucks baristas demonstrate their passion to pull the perfect shot, steam milk to order, and customize their favorite beverage.

This unique in-store education event signals the company's focus on transforming the Starbucks Experience for both customers and partners. Starbucks hopes any customers inconvenienced by the early closures will see this as an investment that will have long term benefits. For their part, Starbucks partners will have an opportunity to connect and deepen their passion for coffee with the ultimate goal of transforming the customer experience.

There's no need for Tulsa coffee aficionados to be deprived of an excellent cup of coffee this evening. In fact, this is a great opportunity for habitual Starbucks customers to discover Tulsa's wealth of locally-owned coffee houses. Not only will you find great coffee, tasty food, and free Wi-Fi, you'll be keeping money in our community. Here are just a few, with my favorite two first on the list:

Coffee House on Cherry Street, 15th & Rockford (open 'til 11 pm)
Shades of Brown, 33rd & Peoria (open 'til midnight)
DoubleShot Coffee Company, 18th & Boston (open 'til 5 pm)
Kaffe Böna, 81st east of Memorial (open 'til 11 pm), 91st west of Yale (open 'til midnight)
Cafe de El Salvador, 5th west of Cheyenne in the Mayo Hotel (open 'til 6 pm)
Nordaggio's, Jenks Riverwalk, 81st & Lewis

Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. Once you try some of these local coffee houses, you'll never be satisfied with Starbucks again.

MORE: Although DoubleShot closes at 5 pm, there's a special event for the store's Coffee Illuminati tonight. Brian Franklin, the roastmaster general, will be talking about his recent trip to the coffee plantations of Guatemala. You have to be a member of the Coffee Illuminati to attend, but the good news is it only costs a dollar, and you can sign up online. (No dancing naked in front of a burning human effigy required.)

Right after we were married, way back in 1989 and the early '90s, my wife and I lived in the Marella Apartments on Riverside Drive. About the time we moved in there, a few blocks east, on the southeast corner of 39th and Peoria, there was a little commercial building, and a brightly painted red-white-and-blue cafe in a very narrow space. A fellow from Pennsylvania named George Van Wyck thought Tulsa needed a source for authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, so he opened Steak Stuffers USA. The place got a four and a half star rating from the Tribune, upgraded to five stars when the store expanded -- the close quarters was the only knock against the place. George ran (and still runs) a clean store; I remember seeing health inspection scores in the upper 90s. He was always shooting for 100%. We visited frequently.

I think Steak Stuffers USA was the first place in town to serve corn fritters as a side item (sometimes called corn poppers or corn dodgers).

The restaurant was successful, and eventually he expanded into the space next door, but his time on Brookside came to an end in 1992, when Albertson's bought the building and knocked it down to make room for their parking lot. George found a new home for Steak Stuffers USA in an old Braum's location on 51st Street between Utica and Lewis. At some point in the '90s, he also expanded to 81st and 145th in Broken Arrow, but he had trouble finding enough reliable workers to keep both locations operating to his high standards.

I'm rehearsing all this history to tell you that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is going to be at Steak Stuffers USA, 1932 E 51st St, tomorrow (Friday) at 3:15 p.m. for a brief appearance. (He'll be at the Summit Club for a paying reception at 4.)

There are things I like and dislike about Rudy Giuliani, but I'm very happy that his campaign is giving George Van Wyck and Steak Stuffers USA a moment in the spotlight.

Just remember, Rudy: Use the fork to push down the meat, mushrooms, and cheese and wrap the roll around for full flavor.

UPDATE: David Schuttler has photos of Rudy getting stuffed.

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