Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Le Toute Tulsa

Posted By on December 28, 2008

Slow food comes to Tulsa. In a good way.

Slow food comes to Tulsa. In a good way.

On my first few cross-country drives, I consulted the venerable Roadfood for dining recommendations. But after a while ribs, rib-sticking bbq, and pie started to wear thin. Or, rather, heavy. Plus, after a drive of such epic proportions, one wants a cocktail, and rib-joints rarely offer such sophisticated sipping. That’s when I started to get canny with my research. This trip, I’m asking for advice from the regional slow-food convivium, if any, and adding “local and sustainable” to my googling. When it came to Tulsa, I e-mailed Slow Food Tulsa, and Andrew replied right away. “Don’t miss the Stonehorse Cafe,” he said. Okey-dokey.

The moronic GPS is on better form tonight, as we leave Stella with ten toys and watching the Animal Channel, and head out into the Oklahoma night. (But, since I google-mapped the route in anticipation of GPS failure, it hardly matters.) The Stonehorse is in a very natty part of Tulsa, Utica Square, where the recession hasn’t hit and the clientele that is virtually packing the joint is of the fur-vested and immaculate, fur-tufted boot variety. These are boots that have never seen dirt. Or met a horse, stone or otherwise.

We share the bar with a couple of nattering, bejeweled, and tipsy cowgirls who are in from Dallas for a spell. They’re celebrating an awesome shopping day and the possibly-related fact that their husbands are elsewhere for the night. They are also watching college football, as is possibly every inhabitant of Texas and Oklahoma at this very instant. But the bartender is a good one, and the menu looks promising. Mind you, such a civilized spot would not be out of place in NY or LA, but in Tulsa, it’s a little bit of home, like finding an icy cocktail shaker filled with a margarita containing only fresh lime juice—ie, none that liquid anathema, sour-mix—on a table at a Motel 6. And indeed our bartender is willing to hand-squeeze a lime for us. This is a smart chef/owner (Mike Inman), because there is a retail shop around the back that sells prepared dinners, thus he uses the kitchen for two purposes and two income streams. He also serves a really excellent, thick, chunky, meaty pork chop, that was finished in a wood oven. Okey-dokey is right. My Greek pizza, also wood-oven kissed, bears an estimable crust, puffy and charred and possessed of an ethereal lightness. But the hand doing the topping was a little heavy, and the large pieces of artichoke heart are tough to balance on their way to my mouth. As the author of a pizza book, I have learned that less is more and crust is king. With such a simple assembly, you’ve gotta get both of these paradigms right, because there’s not room for much else.

Too much topping, in Tulsa.

Too much topping, in Tulsa.

When I mention to Mr ‘tender that I once almost opened a gastro-pub in upstate NY (luckily, escaping at the last moment and thus avoiding catastrophic participation in the “current unpleasantness”), our ‘tender tells an interesting tale: Ben Ford, son of Harrison and estimable LA restaurateur of Culver City’s Ford’s Filling Station fame, opened an FFS, to much fanfare, here in Tulsa. It seems his college room-mate, or buddy, lives in Tulsa, and they thought it would be a jolly idea to try out the concept in the provinces. Sadly, it failed. “Why?” I ask this savvy guy, because he’s a restaurant dude from waay back, and I’m betting he has an opinion. He does: Location (not as glittering as Utica Square), size (too big to be cozy), and prices (a $15 hamburger).

Well don’t that beat all. Pretty much page 1 through 100 of every “How to Open a Restaurant” book ever published.


One Response to “Le Toute Tulsa”

  1. Larry says:

    If your still in Tulsa, try to not miss the Center of the Universe. And there is a little Indian joint that is pretty good.

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