The up-and-coming scene in this Great Plains metropolis is one surprise after another
A popular local chef spins off to open a tiny ramen joint underneath a parking garage. Weekly food truck rallies draw crowds to a downtown square. Snout-to-tail pig roasts at a local farm are drawing sell-out crowds. Breweries are producing some of the most talked-about beer in the country. A top coffee roaster dispatches teams of baristas to pull expert-level shots in not one, but two local hotels each morning. Where are we—the Pacific Northwest, perhaps?
Not even close—try smack in the middle of the country: Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spending much of its life as an oil boomtown, traditionally buttoned-up Tulsa was never really a stranger to the finer things, to eating well; lately, however, it's like the next generation staged a coup, changing all the rules. Tulsa, these days, is letting its hair down, and having a damn good time doing it. Curious? There's lots to see (and eat and drink)—start with these five top spots.
The Parish at Hodges Bend
One of Tulsa's best all-day cafes—and one of its top destinations for good cocktails—is home to some of the city's best food, as well. Ignore the fact that Chef Ian Van Anglen is working out of a food truck parked next door; The Parish has one of the most ambitious menus we've seen coming out of a mobile kitchen in a while—delicate dishes like a pear salad with spicy greens and goat cheese mix it up with chill-beating bar food classics like a poutine with house-smoked bacon, mushroom gravy and Oklahoma cheese curds.
Burn Company BBQ
A longtime salesman for Tulsa's own Hasty-Bake charcoal smokers teamed up with a childhood pal to create what's become Tulsa's most popular barbecue joint—no small feat in a town that has been overheard referring to itself as one of the world's barbecue capitals. There are two locations now, but the original one on South Boston Avenue has the most character; this one also doubles as a butcher shop. Start with a mess of ribs, and a bit of the housemade sausage.
American Solera Brewery
Only a few years after putting Tulsa on the beer map with Prairie Artisan Ales, brewmaster Chase Healey's even more daring side project has further cemented the city's status as a must-roadtrip for craft brew fanatics. Focusing on barrel-aged wilds and sours and not in any kind of hurry to rush product to market, it's best to keep an open mind when visiting the brewery's two intown tap rooms—not only is this far from your typical six-IPAs-and-maybe-a-stout kind of a place, it feels like there's always something new to try.
Beginning life as one of Tulsa's favorite food trucks, this feisty and fun spot for banh mi, rice bowls and kimchi fries has not only done exceedingly well as a brick-and-mortar restaurant, it's done well enough to branch out—they're about to open another location downtown, around the corner from the Woody Guthrie Center. Banh mi purists might be taken aback just a little by the freewheeling menu, but the city, not exactly suffering a shortage on the Vietnamese food front, is loving all of it.
Tulsa was hardly begging for new coffee shops—the city already had a relatively outsized scene, including a couple of local roasters (Topeca, DoubleShot). Demonstrating, however, that if you're really good at what you do, no market is ever really too crowded, this smart and cool—but also unabashedly geeky—roaster-café heads into its second year not only as a gathering place for the city's up-and-coming Pearl district, but also as a firm, citywide favorite.