REVIEW: The Alley
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Scene Writer
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
On our first visit to The Alley, it felt a bit nostalgic to sit in one of the two high-backed wooden booths that replicate the booths in the old St. Michael’s Alley.
However, resemblances to the old coffee house-restaurant pretty much end there and with the white chili, The Alley’s take on a St. Mike’s favorite.
“We wanted to be modern with a nod to St. Michael’s Alley,” said The Alley owner Brian Biehl.
St. Michael’s operated in this space off and on from 1960 to 2008 in a cozy corner on the back side of Ranch Acres Shopping Center.
The Alley, which opened in mid-December, is a gastropub (high-end pub food) with a terrific selection of beers, specialty cocktails and a rambling, somewhat pricey wine list.
A special entree the night we were there was venison ($27), and this was a dish that could mingle with the upper crust. The plate held four sizable slices of venison, cooked near rare, that were as tender and flavorful as one could hope for.
It came with a side of wilted spinach in a potato puree.
That order went to a longtime friend of ours, a captain in the Tulsa Fire Department, who said, “I’ll take that” as soon as our server, Miranda, got the word venison out of her mouth. A decisive decision, and what a great choice.
It took us a little longer to settle on braised short rib ($18) and fish and chips ($16), both of which had come highly recommended.
The meaty short rib also was tender and picked up significant flavor from a topping of shallot jam and port wine reduction.
The three large pieces of fish had a fresh flavor and had been lightly battered and fried, and the fries were fine, if not particularly memorable.
We shared a couple of appetizers, the Scotch egg ($5) and the poutine ($7).
The Scotch egg was just enough for three of us to have a bite and included two egg halves with housemade sausage that had been breaded and fried and served with a mustard cream sauce. They were a little dry but tasty.
The poutine is The Alley’s version of cheese fries, taking the routine pub dish to another level with curd cheese, braised short rib gravy and shallot jam.
Among sides, a Caesar salad seemed to be mostly lettuce and was a little bland, and a corn chowder with potatoes and thyme got a bit of spiciness from roasted garlic oil.
We were told desserts were made inhouse and may change daily, so even though we had plenty of food, we caved and ordered a chocolate mousse and a chocolate bread pudding ($6 each). The mousse was light and fluffy, and the pudding thick and rich with dark chocolate.
The Alley has 10 beers on tap and about 40 others in bottles or cans, mostly imports or American craft beers, and most reasonably priced. I had a Belgium beer I never had tasted before for $5.
One can see how well The Alley copied the old St. Mike’s booths in a photo in a hallway on the way to the bathrooms. Both dining rooms have been remodeled, with the front room holding a large, semicircular bar.
A centrally located fireplace serves both rooms, and the walls hold a mix of modern art and old landscapes.
Executive chef Mitch Neely will start serving a special brunch menu this Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bar manager is Roger Byers.
Find more restaurant reviews in Thursday's Weekend Magazine. And find all of Scott Cherry's reviews at tulsaworld.com/cherrypicks.
3324 E. 31st St.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. kitchen, bar midnight to 2 a.m. depending on crowd, seven days a week (weekday lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., happy-hour menu 2-5 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m., weekend brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.); accepts all major credit cards.
An Alley Burger and french fries at The Alley near 31st and Harvard in Tulsa. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
The Braised Short Rib at The Alley near 31st and Harvard in Tulsa. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World