When Anita and Samih Saiymeh learned the property where they had operated their Bill & Ruth’s for 22 years had been sold to QuikTrip, it did not take long for them to chart a new course.
They turned the business over to their daughter, Ayschia, and her husband, Jeff Kuykendall, and started construction of a new building about a half mile east of their old spot at 15th Street and Lewis Avenue.
“The sale of that land caught my parents by surprise in 2017, and they had to figure out what to do,” Ayschia said on a sunny afternoon in the shiny new building at 15th Street and Columbia Avenue. “We knew we would take on the business one day, so we were ready.”
Ayschia had grown up in Bill & Ruth’s, and Jeff had been a key figure in the BurnCo BBQ restaurant on the Riverwalk in Jenks.
“At some point we knew it was coming,” Jeff said. “A cool thing for me is I grew up just a few blocks from this location. We used to ride our bicycles and run all over this neighborhood. It’s like home.”
Samih still is a familiar figure in the store, as well, and greets old customers who find their way to the new location.
“Dad still comes in and chops the tabouli and makes soups, and we’ve kept the menu the same,” Ayschia said.
We went a little beserk on a recent visit, ordering this and that off the menu board, enough for two dinners. Then I had a muscle twitch at the checkout counter and picked up a carryout container of off-menu cabbage and potatoes ($5.99). It was all good.
Our main items were large cold sandwiches ($7.99 each). One was a traditional roast beef and provolone cheese and the other chicken salad. Both were served on sub rolls with mayo, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce, and both were loaded with beef and chicken.
A highlight was the egg salad salad ($7.99), which had a pretty presentation to boot. Nothing was fussy about the egg salad, mostly egg and mayo. It was centered on a plate surrounded by sport peppers, sliced carrots, provolone cheese, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, pickles, green and yellow peppers, cucumber and grape tomatoes. We ordered a creamy ranch dressing to go with it.
A person I met recently who works for a food-service company told me he frequently goes out of his way to get the tabouli ($3.29) from this Bill & Ruth’s. I learned why. It had a pleasing balance of parsley and bulgur and a lemony flavor. I also liked the smooth hummus ($3.29), which we devoured with soft pita bread.
We also shared a 12-ounce bowl of potato soup ($3.99), which was thick and smooth, more like a mashed potato soup. Other soup choices include chicken tortilla, chicken and wild rice, vegetable and lentil.
Somehow, I managed to leave without any cookies or baklava, a definite oversight.
A children’s menu offers a choice of sub with one meat, cheese pizza, or spaghetti and meatballs for $2.99 each. A 12-ounce children’s drink is 99 cents.
Among the decorations are a neon light fixture and the exterior sign from the old location. Vases of small succulents sit on a ledge along a lengthy bank of windows that face north. Facing south is a nice-sized covered patio.
For those who might wonder, Bill & Ruth’s is a Tulsa-area enterprise. Ayschia said Bill and Ruth Meredith started it, likely in the 1970s.
“My parents bought into the franchise about 1980 with one at Pine (Street) and Peoria (Avenue),” she said. “There were several other stores at the time. Later, Bill and Ruth left the business, and the current store owners went together and bought the name and took ownership of the whole thing.
“We are all independent, so we are not a true franchise. My parents were seen as leaders, and if people wanted to open a Bill & Ruth’s over the years, they went through my parents. An advantage is we can negotiate with vendors as a group.”
Ayschia said another advantage is this time they own the building and the property.
“We wanted to stay as close to the old location as we could, and the neighborhood has been incredibly supportive,” she said.