Looking over the restaurant reviews of any particular
year is always a double-edged sword: It’s fun to
remember our experiences at the restaurants and
sort them into categories, but it is gut-wrenching to rate
them against one another.
The end of 2011 marks 12 years on the restaurant beat, and it is the 10th anniversary of offering year-end ratings. None has been any more difficult than this year.
We saw a number of upscale restaurants with skilled chefs open this past year, we saw several rebirths of old faves, we met some new and talented restaurateurs and, bowing to the cyclical nature of the business, we saw some iconic places close their doors.
The restaurants in the following ratings opened in 2011 or late 2010, and all were reviewed over the past 12 months. These ratings are not necessarily to be taken as a "best" list and might not reflect the number of stars I awarded in the reviews, but only my opinion at this moment as I look back over the year.
This requires a lot of list-making, and with Weekend sections and notepads scattered about my work room at home, I missed having my old dog sleeping on my feet to keep me anchored and focused; however, my two elderly cats did a fine job napping on my stacks of papers and keeping them in order.
In my top 10 list, I think any of the first five would make a worthy No. 1, and the next five could fall in any order. The top 10 are not included in the remainder of the ratings. As stated in previous years, I don't believe in ties, so here goes:
THE TOP 10
1. Ridge Grill. Mir and Mehdi Khezri, who also own Ti Amo Ristorante Italiano, bring fine dining to far south Tulsa. Chef David Dean brings in co-workers from the old Atlantic Sea Grill, and the result is a thrilling menu of steaks and seafood.
2. Waterfront Grill, Jenks. Jim Blacketer and son Jimmy also branch out with a fine-dining sister to their Los Cabos restaurants. Far-flung menu and great patio on the west bank of the Arkansas River.
3. Juniper. Justin Thompson, former executive chef at Brasserie and Sonoma Bistro, among others, opens his own place, featuring local products and stunning weekly themed specials in a refurbished building downtown.
4. Brady Tavern. Downtown restaurant mogul Elliot Nelson takes a shot at fine dining in the old Bowery/Lola's space, and guess what? It works.
5. Gemma's Woodfire Grill. Cozy Brookside spot has new chef, new sous chef and new menu and probably will get a second look in '12. It was smashing when it opened.
6. Smoke on Cherry Street. Grilled and smoked meats, full bar, cigar lounge and wood-and-brick interior is a manly sight, but Smoke has enough frills to please the ladies, too.
7. Tropical. Asian-inspired and vegetarian-friendly sister restaurant to Lanna Thai pretties up the space that formerly held Flyin' Roll.
8. Go West Restaurant & Saloon. Listen up, partner: If you want upscale cowboy cookin' on the edge of Sapulpa, look no further. It's in the newest old Avalon Steakhouse building.
9. Main Street Tavern, Broken Arrow. Right in the middle of downtown BA comes a modern-looking restaurant/pub with interesting beer flights - samplings of its wide selections of brews - and a menu with some flair.
10. Duke's Southern Kitchen, Bixby. Sister restaurant to Brasserie/Sonoma Bistro specializes in fried chicken and other comfort foods - with a gourmet twist.
I can't recall a year with so many new barbecue joints, or a year so difficult in which to rate them.
1. Burn Co.
"What Burn Co. lacks in frills we soon learned it more than makes up for with knock-your-socks-off smoked meats and interesting sides. Which really wasn't surprising.
"Adam Myers, a 12-year employee of Hasty-Bake who conducted that company's cooking classes and demos, and Myers' cousin, Robby Corcoran, who has worked in a variety of restaurants, opened BurnCo. near the first of the year.
"Myers produces baby-back ribs, sausages, pulled pork, chicken legs, pork loin, chopped beef and even hot potato salad from two Hasty-Bake grills in a trailer outside the back of the restaurant."
2. Big Anthony's BBQ
3. Watts BBQ
4. Back Alley Blues & BBQ
5. Treehouse BBQ
6. Dickey's Barbecue Pit
7. JC's Ribs & Things
That part about not believing in ties - I lied. Each of these has something terrific and different to offer, and in the cases of Blue Rose Cafe and Charlie Mitchell's Modern Pub, old favorites brought to life again.
Blue Rose Cafe. River view and great music.
Charlie Mitchell's Modern Pub. Fish and chips, and much more.
Cork Wine Cafe. Elegant surroundings, interesting food. Formerly Il Bacio.
George's, Jenks. Casual setting and better-than-bar food.
Ike's Downtown Pub & Eatery, Okmulgee. Food, old downtown ambience worth the drive.
1. Casa Frida
"Nancy and Emmanuel Montes are both bilingual, and both are natives of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, but they didn't meet until they came to Tulsa. Emmanuel and his mother run the kitchen, while Nancy takes care of the front of the house.
"A number of items looked inviting on the menu, but what caught my eye was epipianadas, a cross between an enchilada and a pipianada. This featured two cheese enchiladas served over a pool of pipian sauce, a creamy mixture of pumpkin seeds, peanuts and sesame seeds. The sauce had a spicy edge and a mellow flavor."
2. Tres Amigos
3. Mi Cocina
4. Fiesta Mambo, Broken Arrow
5. Jose's Mexican Grill
6. Mamasota's In & Out
7. Letty's Tamales & Mexican Food, Broken Arrow
8. Maria's Mexican Grill
9. Freebirds World Burrito
1. Asian Cuisine
"The market price for a whole salt-and-pepper lobster the night we visited was $26.95, and we figured that was too good a bargain to pass up. This was a sizable lobster, head and all, taken from a fish tank at the front of the restaurant. It had been chopped into pieces, breaded and fried ... and I discovered a good amount of sweet, tasty meat in the head.
"The menu includes everything from beef, chicken, duck, noodle and pork dishes to a variety of seafood, vegetarian and hot pot entrees."
2. Sushi Place
3. Bamboo Thai Bistro
4. HuHot Mongolian Grill
1. Sage Rage Melt Bar. Melted cheese sandwich shop opened in Brookside but now is located in Sage Culinary Studio in south Tulsa.
"Customers may put together their own sandwich from four breads, six cheeses, four meats, four veggies, fresh basil and three condiments (sage walnut pesto, basil pesto and rosemary aioli), or select one of the signature sandwiches.
"The 'Sage Rage' paired gouda with turkey, ham and sage walnut pesto on toasted sourdough. Sage dominated the flavor in this one, and I thought it also might be interesting to try it with chevre or gruyere."
2. Sandwiches & More
3. Scoops & Grinds, Collinsville
4. Route 66 Subs & Burgers
5. Java 'N Juice
1. Faye's Casual Cafe
"I ordered the daily special, a pulled pork wrap, and it was a doozy. Pepperjack cheese, Rotel, garlic and tender pulled pork had been rolled in a tortilla, then the wrap was scrunched together in a closed U-shape on the plate and topped with crispy tortilla strips and salsa.
"To balance the spiciness of the wrap, it came with a side of corn casserole that looked like a square of cornbread, was filled with corn kernels and had a sweet flavor."
2. Chicken Palace
3. Brunch at Sarah's
1. Gusano's Chicago-Style Pizzeria
"Gusano's is more than just a pizza place. It also has a wide variety of sandwiches, wraps, salads and appetizers to go with traditional and Chicago-style pizzas.
"The Leaf Erikson Chicago-style deep-dish had the standard tall edge on the crust and was filled about a third of the way up with ingredients.
"This pie was put together in the traditional Chicago style, meaning the crust first was topped with cheese, then meats and veggies (in this case chicken, black olives and mushrooms), then topped with tomatoes and tomato sauce.
"This was a flavorful, oregano-driven pizza with a sturdy, crisp crust."
2. Pizza Depot
3. Hoops Pizza & Wings
1. Taj – The Flavor
"A shopping mall food court in Oklahoma is not the first place I would look for East Indian cuisine. But there it was: Taj – The Flavor in Tulsa Promenade food court.
"This restaurant is a combination of fast food from the cafeteria-style line and dishes cooked to order off the menu. We did a little of both on a recent visit.
"From the fast-food section we chose one of the most common East Indian dishes, chicken tikka masala, with rice, fried spinach, naan (flat bread cooked in a tandoor oven) and mango pudding."
2. Biryani House
NONE OF THE ABOVE
Lori's Sweet Sinsations. Tea-room ambience in Sapulpa.
Dog House. Formerly carts only, now has quirky and fun building on edge of downtown.
Foundations. Student-operated restaurant at Platt College Culinary Institute; best bargain for gourmet food in town.
Yolotti Frozen Yogurt.
Best new “froyo” spot of
Pedicab Dining Tour. Choose your tour of downtown dining stops with personal pedaler.
We hardly knew ya
Woodrow's in Skiatook, Sushi California and the McBirney Mansion Sunday brunches all closed before the end of the year. Each would have had top 10 consideration.
Leon's in Broken Arrow, Top That! Pizza in Broken Arrow, Perry's Food Store, First Watch and Andolini's all opened second locations.
French Hen and Ripe Tomato got new owners and never skipped a beat.
A number of well-known restaurants closed their doors in 2011. Among the most notable were Rick's Cafe Americain, Cedar's Deli, Green Onion, Garlic Rose, LXI, D'Novo Lean Gourmet, Casa Bonita, Jake's Place BBQ in Bixby, Tin Star, Joyner's Home Cooked Food, Pana Empanada, Ella's Good Food and Flying Burrito.
We start off in full gait the first week of January with reviews of three newcomers, Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, Edward Delk's Restaurant and Bar, and SushiHana Japanese Fusion. Others coming next year include La Madeleine Country French Cafe and revivals of S&J Oyster Bar and Phat Philly's. Rib Crib and Albert G's will bring well-known barbecue names to downtown.
Original Print Headline: Clean Plate
4710 E. 51st St.
Bamboo Thai Bistro
5079 S. Yale Ave.
Back Alley Blue & BBQ
116 S. Elgin Ave.
Big Anthony's BBQ
8151 E. 21st St.
2606 S. Sheridan Road
Blue Rose Cafe
1924 Riverside Drive
201 W. Main St.
Brunch at Sarah's
8036 S. Yale Ave.
3208 E. 11th St.
5239 S. Peoria Ave.
Charlie Mitchell's Modern Pub
4848 S. Yale Ave.
728 W. 23rd St.
Cork Wine Cafe
8922 S. Memorial Drive
Dickey's Barbecue Pit
6044 S. Yale Ave.
1101 S. Detroit Ave.
Duke's Southern Kitchen
10441 S. Regal Blvd., Bixby
Faye's Casual Cafe
4417 S. Mingo Road
820 N. Aspen Ave., Broken Arrow
Foundations at Platt College
3801 S. Sheridan Road
Freebirds World Burrito
7547 S. Olympia Ave.
108 N. First St., Jenks
Gemma's Woodfire Gril l
3410 S. Peoria Ave.
Go West Restaurant & Saloon
6205 New Sapulpa Road
Gusano's Chicago-Style Pizza
9999 S. Mingo Road
Hoops Pizza & Wings
10309 E. 61st St.
HuHot Mongolian Grill
6746 S. Memorial Drive
Ike's Downtown Pub & Eatery
104 S. Morton Ave., Okmulgee
Java 'N Juice
4821 E. 11th St.
JC's Ribs & Things
2115 N. Cincinnati Ave.
Jose's Mexican Grill
914 W. 36th St. North
324 E. Third St.
Letty's Tamales & Mexican Food
1421 E. Kenosha St., Broken Arrow
Lori's Sweet Sinsations
808 E. Taft Ave., Sapulpa
Main Street Tavern
202 S. Main St., Broken Arrow
Mamasota's In & Out
7990 E. 41st St.
Maria's Mexican Kitchen
6122 S. Garnett Road
1342 E. 15th St.
7240 E. Pine St.
Pedicab Dining Tour
9624 E. 61st St.
9999 S. Mingo Road
Route 66 Subs & Burgers
2627 E. 11th St.
Sage Rage Melt Bar
10425 E. 82nd St., Bixby
Sandwiches & More
1715 Southwest Blvd.
Scoops & Grinds
1038 W. Main St., Collinsville
Smoke on Cherry Street
1542 E. 15th St.
115 W. Third St.
4107 S. Yale Ave.
1738 S. Boston Ave.
8144 S. Lewis Ave.
8125 E. 49th St.
120 Aquarium Drive, Jenks
Trailer, 31st Street and Sheridan Road
Yolotti Frozen Yogurt
9918 Riverside Parkway, 918-296-7477
3346 S. Peoria Ave., 918-430-3811