You’ve always had choice in Oklahoma, but it used to be what cut of beef or which pieces of chicken. In addition to the more mundane state bird, tree, and flower, Oklahoma legislators designated a “state meal.” It brings new meaning to the term “bloated government.” It consists of fried okra, squash, corn, black-eyed peas, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, barbecued pork, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie, and strawberries. You can still find a good chicken-fried steak in town, and grilled steaks and prime rib will never go out of style. Barbecue—well, that goes without saying. But you’ll find so much more variety in Tulsa’s cuisine these days.
Innovative chefs are taking old favorites and giving them a new spin—like macaroni and cheese made with cheddar, Gruyère, and Danish fontina cheeses (Daily Grill) or a salmon tamale made with stone-ground jalapeño cheese grits (Polo Grill). And there are plenty of restaurants featuring international cuisines—Italian, French, Mexican, German, Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese, and on and on—and fusions, variations, and permutations of many of them. A surprisingly high percent of Tulsa’s chefs trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. It’s a nice credential but some of the finest food comes from chefs who’ve learned on the job. And Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee is turning out some super chefs. There’s a level of culinary sophistication in Tulsa that would stand up anywhere—at a portion of the price you’d pay in bigger cities.
Times have changed in Tulsa dress-wise, too. Even restaurants that once required jackets and ties have left the dress codes behind. It’s just good manners to dress up a bit for dinner, but nice slacks and a collared shirt for men and a Sunday dress or pants suit will be fine for the most upscale places.
Areas like Brookside and Cherry Street have clusters of restaurants. And there are the usual national chains strung along major streets. The chains have been left out of the listings—they’re pretty much the same from place to place. Part of the adventure of travel is trying things you don’t have at home. Other places are scattered from one end of town to the other. Fortunately, nothing’s too much of a drive in Tulsa, so go adventuring.
Restaurants are divided into sections by cuisine or specialties but, as in other sections of the book, you’ll find a lot of crossover.
For example, la Villa, the excellent restaurant at the Philbrook Museum of Art, is listed under American Traditional and Contemporary Cuisine but is open only for lunch. It’s not listed with other lunch places because the menu tends more to the elegant than the usual sandwich shop. Likewise, a steak place may list a variety of other entrees. Only a couple of restaurants are cross-listed—places like Savoy, outstanding for breakfast and just the place you’ll want when you miss mom and need some comfort food. Otherwise, the descriptions should give you an idea of the extent of the offerings.
You can assume that all the restaurants are nonsmoking unless otherwise indicated and parking is mentioned only if it is an issue. Almost all of the restaurants take all credit cards and are wheelchair accessible.