West Tulsan reopens family-favorite diner
BY SCOTT CHERRY
Thursday, January 08, 2009
1/08/09 at 2:26 AM
Tracy Norris remembers when the area around 23rd Street and Southwest Boulevard was a thriving, vibrant business district with places such as Otasco, Gingham Girl restaurant, Burgess Hardware and Hamburger King.
He remembers playing around a big pond on land that housed one of the oil refineries near his home and the pride of being part of a neighborhood of honest, hard-working Tulsans.
He also recalls when his parents, Deanie and Chester Norris, opened the Riverview Restaurant in 1989 on the short stretch of 23rd Street between the Arkansas River and Southwest Boulevard.
"When I was born, we lived just around the corner from here," Norris said. "We moved to Berryhill for my middle school and high school years, but I always felt I was part of this area. My grandfather worked for Burgess Hardware for probably 20 years."
His parents owned the Riverview for about nine years. It then went through several owners and a name change. It was Uncle Freddy's when it shut down about a year ago.
"I live near Cherry Street and my parents still are in Berryhill, so I still drive down 23rd Street a lot," Tracy said. "One day I noticed the old restaurant was empty and for lease, and my wife and I started talking about the possibility of bringing it back into the family."
Tracy said he and wife Kristi talked to the owner of the strip center in June but put plans on hold until after a daughter's wedding in September.
"It was still for lease after the wedding," he said, "so we went ahead and made a deal for it the first of November."
They took a month to repair and replace equipment, clean and redecorate. They changed the name to Route 66 Diner and opened for business on Dec. 1.
Norris said the restaurant still draws a hard-working crowd, and entrees such as the cardiac burger (double meat, Swiss cheese, bacon, ham, grilled onions, ranch dressing), meatloaf and chicken-fried steak, and sandwiches such as the Philly cheesesteak and fried bologna all are popular items.
"You'd be surprised how many customers like the fried bologna sandwich," Norris said. "You get two half-inch slices of bologna and grilled onions on Texas toast, served with chips or fries, for $5.95, and it will really fill you up. I've seen this sandwich in the deep South, and it is catching on here."
We went for two of the more traditional items: chicken-fried steak ($7.99) and meatloaf ($7.50), served with mashed potatoes, green beans, a dinner salad and roll.
The platter-size chicken-fried steak was well-battered, cooked to a dark-golden brown, crispy but not too hard and fork-tender in all but a couple of spots. Good cream gravy was ladled over the top of the steak and spilled over onto the mound of chunky mashed potatoes.
The meatloaf was topped with a bit of brown gravy, had a nice texture and a green pepper flavor, like meat removed from a stuffed green pepper. A few of the green beans were so fibrous we couldn't eat them, but the tender ones had a good flavor, as though they had been enhanced with a bit of bacon grease.
Route 66 Diner also serves traditional breakfasts, including three-egg omelets, French toast with powdered sugar, pancakes, hash browns, ham, sausage and biscuits and gravy. Breakfast prices run $2.99 to $7.50.
The owners are big OU football fans, and the diner reflects that with red-and-white vinyl tablecloths, some with the Sooner logo, and bright red walls to go with some Route 66 decorations and teal-colored booths. The front counter has six seats next to a big-screen television.
The diner serves breakfast 6-11 a.m. and lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. It accepts all major credit cards.
"We have a great community right here," Norris said, "and we want to be part of bringing it back."
Norris' mother still is in the restaurant business, too. She operates Mansion House Cafe near downtown Tulsa.
ROUTE 66 DINER
728 W. 23rd St.
Big slices of meatloaf,a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans is one of the man-sized meals served at Route 66 Diner. Tulsa World