Phoenix Cafe: Brooklyn-style bagels and more served up amid thousands of books
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, January 31, 2013
3/28/13 at 7:46 AM
It was time to book it to the new Phoenix Cafe, the anchor business in the resurgence of the Pearl District, and guess what we found? Books. Books everywhere.
Shelves in the library room are filled floor to ceiling with books. Stacks of books form the base for the counters in the bar and main dining room. Columns are made out of books, and a few college students even had some real books next to their computers.
"I went to college to be an English teacher, and I love books. I like having them around," owner Blake Ewing said. "I got a lot of these from an antique store that went out of business, and we have a relationship with Gardner's Used Books to fill the shelves in the library room. You can read them while you are here, and you can buy them if you want."
Behind all of the books were baskets of bagels in a variety of flavors, a kitchen where sandwiches and salads are made, and a bar area where espresso and other coffee drinks are prepared, as well as cocktails, beer and wine.
I have peeked into Phoenix Cafe in the morning, afternoon and night, and it always seems to be crowded to near capacity. We went by on a recent evening after catching a movie at Circle Cinema, and luckily we caught a young lady leaving just as we were looking for a table.
Our table fronted a wooden church pew at a big window overlooking Sixth Street in the main dining area. The routine is to order at the counter, pick up a number and have the food brought to your table.
We had The Giving Tree sandwich ($7.99) and a build-your-own sandwich ($6.99), along with a bowl of three-meat chili ($4.50) and sides of tabouli ($1) and hummus with bagel chips ($1.95).
The Giving Tree was filled with turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, sliced Granny Smith apples and ranch dressing on a croissant, and the combination was delicious.
Our build-your-own included chicken breast meat, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, avocado (50 cents extra) and mayo on sourdough bread. It was fine, though a little thin on the mayo, so we asked for more.
The tabouli was a simple mix of tomato, cracked wheat and parsley. It had a good flavor but was a little dry and needed some extra olive oil. The smooth hummus with house-made bagel chips had a nice chickpea flavor.
We ordered the chili because we knew the shredded beef, sausage and hot links it is made with come from one of Ewing's other restaurants, Back Alley Blues & BBQ. The thick, meaty chili also had white and black beans and was spicy hot.
"Phoenix eventually will do the baking for Back Alley and Joe Momma's Pizza, and Back Alley will provide smoked meats to the other restaurants," Ewing said.
Phoenix makes 23 flavors of Brooklyn-style water bagels made by boiling then finishing them in an oven "as big as a Volkswagen," according to Ewing. It has 21 selections of spreads, cream cheeses and sauces to pair with the bagels.
Bagels range from $1.25 to $1.75, and spreads 50 cents to $1.
We noticed a few diners taking advantage of two special offerings - s'mores cooked on a table-top grill and fondue items dipped in table-top fondue pots.
A menu for ages 11 and younger includes grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, and French bread pizza, each with fruit and animal crackers, for $3.99.
The furniture in the library room, bar and main dining room is a mishmash of tables, wooden chairs, wingback chairs and sofas. Midcentury modern lamps in many styles hang from the open rafters, some swag and some regular lamps suspended upside-down. The bar area even has a stadium-style bench.
Phoenix Cafe is located on the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Peoria Avenue.
1302 E. Sixth St.
Service: order at counter
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-
Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to
midnight Sunday; accepts
all major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: Readers' paradise
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
Hardback books form a column near the bagel counter at Phoenix Cafe. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Owner Blake Ewing relaxes with a book in the library room of the Phoenix Cafe. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Sparks fly as Kazmira Lowry makes the fiery Phoenix signature winter cocktail. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World