The past 10 years have seen the Tulsa restaurant scene take off like a runaway freight train, and as the dawn of a new decade unfolds, it doesn’t seem to be slowing at all.
The Tulsa Health Department inspects somewhere in the vicinity of 4,000 food service establishments a year. Not all are restaurants. The list includes schools, hospitals, company cafeterias, etc., but that still leaves a significant number of restaurants, not to mention the growing food scenes in surrounding communities.
Tulsa has never shown more diversity in restaurant ownership and cuisines. Food from all over the world can be found in local eateries, and a surge of talented, trained chefs is taking American cuisine to new levels of sophistication and delicious dining. By all accounts, it is an impressive showing for a city the size of Tulsa.
Philip Phillips and wife Danielle have been riding the crest of those culinary changes over the past 10 years. They owned what arguably was the most popular food truck, Lone Wolf Banh Mi, and now operate two Lone Wolf Banh Mi brick-and-mortar restaurants and Chicken and the Wolf in Mother Road Market.
“We’ve come so far in the last 10 years with what our local restaurants are creating, and I only see it getting bigger,” Phillips said. “I see the year 2020 as the year local food completely dominates what Tulsans are consuming. Local fast food, local health food, local farms. There is nothing we can’t accomplish here in Tulsa.”
Joel Bein is another food truck pioneer and still covers the town with his RUB food truck. This year, he is partnering with Amanda Simcoe, aka The Cheese Wench, to open a midtown brick-and-mortar retail store to be called The Meat and Cheese Show. The pair also recently launched a food menu at Glacier Bean to Bar.
“This is an exciting time for the Tulsa food scene,” he said. “There are some great new restaurants that have just opened or getting ready to open, and food truck folks are doing new brick-and-mortar things.
“With the new private dining-catering direction I’ve taken with The Cheese Wench and RUB bookings filling the 2020 calendar year, I feel really good about what a busy season it looks like for all of us.”
Advancements behind the scenes have been changing the way restaurants operate, too, from point of sales equipment and food ordering programs to more efficient equipment, to name a few.
“Restaurant technology has come a long way in the past few years, and it’s getting a little easier to access necessary reports remotely,” said Libby Billings, owner of Elote Café, Roppongi and The Vault and generally considered the force behind the resurgence of the Deco District downtown.
“I’m looking forward to 2020 and spending less time in the office and more time working on the floor and in the kitchen serving great food to happy customers because, after all, that’s why we do what we do.”
Polo Grill owner Robert Merrifield, who has two downtown projects under way, including an Italian market and a Latin grill, maybe said it best:
“Tulsa has become an oil boomtown again! Cooking oils, from avocado oil to peanut oil to olive oil, and Tulsa is hot and cooking again.”