The first thing that crossed my mind when I noticed Ike’s Famous Plate Lunches had opened in downtown Tulsa was NOT that it was an extension of the town’s oldest restaurant, Ike’s Chili House, for a couple of reasons.
One, I am confident the folks at Ike’s Chili House would have informed me if they were opening a second restaurant.
Two, I was hooked on a feeling it had something to do with the guys from Okmulgee — Dwight Beard and Justin Pollard.
And by golly, I was correct.
Beard and/or Pollard have owned several restaurants in downtown Okmulgee, including Rochester’s Dining Palace, 7th Street Grill, Ike’s Downtown Pub & Eatery and 102 Ristorante, not to mention Stampede’s (steaks) and Ike’s Bait Shop (fish) near Lake Tenkiller.
I had given a highly favorable review of Ike’s Downtown Pub & Eatery in 2011, and it was that Ike’s that was sticking in my head. (Dwight Beard and his brother David were named after President Eisenhower, which accounts for the Ike’s name.)
“We often had 20 to 30 employees, and it was getting to the point it just wasn’t fun anymore,” Beard said. “We had met (Tulsa developer) John Snyder, and we asked him if he had anything small in downtown Tulsa, and he said he had one space that probably would go fast. We took it.”
It was the former Teri’s Coneys spot on Fifth Street. They acquired an additional partner, Kristen Branham, a studio artist and former downtown neighbor in Okmulgee. Bobby Rubison works in the kitchen. That’s about it for the staff.
“We all do everything,” Beard said. “We all bus tables, take orders, plate dishes, prep food, wash dishes, clean floors. We’ve gone back to our early roots, and coming to work has become fun again.”
As the name implies, Ike’s Famous Plate Lunches is a lunch-only restaurant. The menu offers 13 entrees, plus a couple of daily specials.
Everything was tempting, but I was most curious about the chicken and slicks. Slicks is an old-fashioned term for flat dumplings. They were served with a generous amount of tender chunks of chicken in a thick broth and were delicious.
“I come in every morning and roll out the slicks,” Beard said. “By the time I’m done, I look like a geisha with the flour all over me.”
A smoked meat combo plate ($13.99) included four stubby, meaty hickory-smoked ribs with a bourbon glaze and a smoked sausage, served with ranch beans. The juicy sausage, cut into bite-size pieces, had a mild, smoky flavor.
The jumbo potato ($9.99) was jumbo all right and covered in a choice of meat (we ordered chicken), butter, shredded cheddar jack cheese, sour cream and chives. It easily was enough for two lunches.
We ordered chili as a side dish, and it was delish. It featured crumbled ground beef cooked with roasted tomatoes, onions, mild peppers and beans. Also good were fried cabbage, baked potato salad and parsley rice with red beans.
The kitchen was out of its Baltimore beef sandwich ($9.99) and open-faced sliced beef plate ($11.99), and I plan to return for those.
“The Baltimore beef is like a poor man’s prime rib,” Pollard said. “It’s finished in the smoker and is very good.”
One daily special always is two chili cheese coneys with a side and drink for $7.99. The coneys are long, and two are filling.
The dining room decorations are among the most eclectic and interesting I’ve seen in a while. They include elk heads, water buffalo, a wooden Indian, a large horse made out of tree limbs, two Cherokee Indian paintings, an old map of the world, a Liz’s Bar-B-Q sign, and “Deadline” and “Red River Renegades” movie posters featuring 1940s B-western star Sunset Carson.
“Don’t you know? Sunset Carson was from Gracemont, Oklahoma,” said Beard, who was born in Germany and has lived in Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma. “I’m proud of the Liz’s sign. She was known as Mama Liz in Muskogee in the early ’50s. I have some other stuff I’m going to bring, such as a menu from the Mayo Hotel when President Eisenhower visited.”
The owners said they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received.
“Miranda (Kaiser) came in and offered us stuff from Cosmo Café, which she had just closed, so some of our furniture came from there,” Beard said. “(Developer) Stuart Price and people from Price Family Properties have come in and been super nice.
“Libby (Billings) at Elote Café reached out to us, and now we love puffy taco nights at Elote. We love the New Orleans place (Lassalle’s New Orleans Deli), too, and we are looking to try some of the other places around here.
“We already have a passion for downtown and this little restaurant. Every morning, we come to work and say how lucky we are.”
Gallery: Check out Ike’s Famous Plate Lunches in downtown Tulsa