Janet McKinney had been gone from Tulsa for almost three decades before returning home to pursue a new career.
McKinney said she had lived in Miami, Florida, for 25 years and was a contract worker in Kuwait before returning to Tulsa to study at Spartan College of Aeronautics & Technology.
She enrolled to earn a degree in nondestructive testing, a field that uses sophisticated technology to examine an object or material in a manner that does not compromise its future usefulness, according the Spartan website.
After being back home for a while, she said she realized what she really wanted to do was open a fresh meat and seafood market in north Tulsa.
“I realized how hard it was for some folks in this part of town to have to drive halfway across town to find fresh seafood and meats,” McKinney said.
She said she was on her way to visit her mother when she noticed a building for lease at 46th Street North and Lewis Avenue.
“I just heard a spirit that said to go take a look at it,” McKinney said.
She said the building, which held a few other restaurants in the past, already had the equipment she needed to open a meat and seafood market.
“When the restaurant space presented itself, I decided to go with the restaurant, too,” McKinney said. “My son always said I should open a restaurant, but I just thought it was because he liked my food. I knew I could cook, so maybe there was something to it.”
The daily menu is limited and pretty basic — deli sandwiches, a couple of po’ boys, fish baskets, chicken baskets, sides and desserts.
Before deciding when to dine at Janet’s, it would be a good idea to check out the menu on its Facebook page (with all the prices, too) or cut out the next paragraph to see what is offered as daily specials.
They include a baked chicken dinner, Sunday; red beans and rice, and two-piece fried chicken with two-piece fried fish, Tuesday; two pork chops with sides, Wednesday; chicken alfredo, shrimp etouffee, shrimp and crawfish entrees, Thursday; steaks, lobster tail, grilled salmon, chicken kebabs and jumbo shrimp, Friday; and smoked ribs, pulled pork, chopped beef, chicken, hot links and sausage, Saturday.
That’s not to mention chalkboard specials that may include fried frog legs and oxtail over rice with butter beans.
It also has a late-night menu, served 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. That menu includes chicken and waffles, fish basket, chicken basket, shrimp basket and frog leg basket with fries for $9 to $12.95.
We thought each day at Janet’s held intriguing specials. We ended up visiting on a Friday night for no particular reason other than it worked out best for our schedule.
We ordered the steak and lobster tail ($26.98) and a special that night — chicken alfredo ($14.49) — along with a garden salad ($2), peach cobbler ($4.50) and a piece of sweet potato pie ($4.50).
I would taste additional items from Janet’s, as well, and the steak and lobster tail was the only disappointment. The steak was tough and the modest-sized tail was brushed and served with butter that had been mixed with what tasted like a citrus juice and, for me, took away from the flavor of the lobster meat.
Everything else, and I mean everything else, came up aces.
The platter of chicken alfredo was humongous and came with a thick piece of garlic toast. The noodles, chunks of chicken and mellow alfredo sauce were topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a garnish of parsley.
All along, I assumed the chicken baskets held chicken strips or chicken tenders. As I was checking out, I saw a plate of fried chicken on the bone and a mound of fries go by and realized I always should ask, not assume. I wound up taking home a four-piece fried chicken dinner ($8.50) with seasoned fries, and it was terrific. It had crispy, lightly seasoned crust over tender, well-cooked chicken.
The peaches were canned in the cobbler, but the pastry crust was quite good. The sweet potato pie was worthy of the Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
At our photo shoot, I also tasted a thick and flavorful shrimp etouffee, Jamaican smoked oxtail over rice with butter beans and fried frog legs served with a slightly spicy house-made remoulade. Each was worth a trip back when they show up as a daily special.
A children’s menu includes mac and cheese, hamburger, chicken strips, and ham and cheese sub for $4.99 each ages 6-11. Ages 5 and younger are free.
Among the many items in the fresh meat and seafood cases were snow crab legs, frog legs, catfish nuggets, alligator, swai, sirloin tip steak, boneless sirloin tip roast, beef oxtail, smoked pork ham hock, boneless pork chops, hardwood-smoked bacon, chuck patties and bone-in pork butt roast.
Janet’s has soft drinks, iced sweet tea, hot tea and coffee. It has no alcoholic beverages.
Chairs are covered in black cloth with wide white ribbon tied around the backs, like one might see at a wedding reception. Tables have white paper cloths over black linen, and hanging white and red fixtures light the room.
Lakesha Jackson is manager. McKinney’s 82-year-old mother, Lisa McKinney Cato, and Cato’s church friend, Rose Reed, also are on the staff.
“They come in every day and give 100 percent,” Janet McKinney said. “They have the wisdom, and I have the wisdom to listen to them.”