Peppers Grill: Peppers restaurants undergo remodeling
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, January 03, 2013
3/28/13 at 7:50 AM
A granddaughter's reaction to the remodel of Peppers Grill in Utica Square was remindful of one of Art's lines in the "Christmas Vacation" movie: "The little lights ... they aren't twinkling."
"The cowboy boots are gone," she said, looking around the room.
The cowboy boot collection went the way of the Old West when owners Rick McFeely and Rik Helmerich remodeled both of their Peppers Grill locations, at Utica Square and at 91st Street and Delaware Avenue, last year.
"The Utica restaurant opened in 1991 and the south restaurant in '99, so they were overdue for a remodel," McFeely said. "At Utica we knocked out a wall to expand the bar, put in new furniture, recovered the booths, put in new brick, new pictures on the walls, a new tile roof and had a new logo carved into new log posts outside."
One thing didn't change.
"We wouldn't touch the gym floors," he said.
McFeely said when he and three other now-gone partners (Helmerich arrived in the early '80s) opened their first Peppers Grill at 61st Street and Sheridan Road in 1978, the space needed flooring, and they found a man who had used gymnasium flooring stored away.
"We were going to sand it and paint it, but once it was installed we thought it looked unique, so we kept it," McFeely said. "When we opened Utica Square we found some more for it."
He said the south restaurant doesn't have gym flooring because it originally opened as a Finns Chop & Chowder House, and it would not be practical to change the floors there.
He said Richard Carver of Little Mountain Productions designed the remodels.
Once there were five Peppers Grill restaurants, but the original and ones in Claremore and Broken Arrow closed at various times. The original was closed in 2005.
Some think of Peppers Grill as a Mexican restaurant, but the menu is almost evenly divided between Mexican and American.
On a recent visit we had the Taos combo ($12.29), beef chimichanga half dinner with spicy Spanish fries ($8.69), beef enchilada dinner ($8.49), broiled chicken salad ($8.29), turkey melt ($8.29) and breaded chicken strip appetizer ($7.29).
Our server, Megan, kept the complimentary tortilla chips and salsa flowing while we waited on our entrees. The habit-forming salsa was developed by one of the original partners, Nick Samara, of the Celebrity Restaurant.
"Never changed it," McFeely said.
All of our dishes were tasty, but I was partial to my Taos combo that included a mound of pork adovado (shredded, tender pork marinated in chili pepper sauce and slow-baked), two soft, warm tortillas wrapped in foil, a cheese enchilada and crispy beef taco. It came with rice and a choice of refried or fiesta beans.
It wasn't on the menu, but the plate also had a side of pico de gallo, so what I did was mix portions of pork, rice, fiesta beans and pico on the warm tortillas and ate it out of hand.
Peppers has full bar service, including pick-six beer buckets (6-point beers, $15; 3.2-point, $11).
McFeely said the south restaurant, which has more seating and bar space, offers live music 8:30-11:30 Friday-Saturday.
"Pete Marriott, who once toured with Joe Cocker, and his wife, Jennifer, are booking the music," McFeely said. "I call it music for seasoned listeners - bluesy, jazzy."
He said both restaurants have many longtime employees. General manager Tasha Barley has been with Peppers some 18 years.
1950 Utica Square
2809 E. 91st St.
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday,
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (11:30 south restaurant)
Friday-Saturday; accepts all
major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: New on the menu
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
A 16-ounce ribeye steak and fried shrimp represent the American half of the Peppers Grill menu. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World