Jason Smith has become patient about the growth of his Phat Philly’s restaurant. Real patient.

He and his family opened the original Phat Philly’s in 2005 in a tiny building at 11th Street and Detroit Avenue. He closed it in 2010 figuring it wouldn’t be long before a new location in the old Strings West guitar shop at 13th Street and Peoria Avenue would be renovated.

The renovation took two years.

“Probably because we did a lot of the work ourselves,” Smith said.

Meantime, he decided he needed some partners to expand Phat Philly’s around the Tulsa area. Enter Thomas Regan, Steve Santee and Rick Eby, all high school acquaintances of Smith’s.

“I always thought I would get some partners, and we would open a bunch of Phat Philly’s,” Smith said. “Once we got that store going, they said they weren’t ready to open another one yet.”

A mere six years later, they were ready, Smith said. They acquired a building a little off the Broken Arrow Expressway on Elm Place. It originally held a Wendy’s and has been several restaurants since. It had sat empty for three years and was in rough shape.

“We looked south and east, and we liked this building and location,” Smith said. “We thought we could save some stuff, but we kept taking things out one by one, and before long, we had a shell.

“Steve headed the build-out, which took more than a year, but we weren’t in a big hurry. We wanted to take time to do things right.”

Based on a recent visit, they did things right. The inside and the exterior are all shined up, and the cheesesteak sandwiches are as delicious as ever.

We met a daughter and son-in-law for lunch and ordered two Phat Philly cheesesteaks (7-inch Phat $8.79, 12-inch Phatter $11.29), a grilled steak salad ($8.99) and a grilled chicken salad ($8.79). Among the guys and gals, guess who ordered the more sensible salads?

We guys make no apologies for ordering the sandwiches, which were loaded with grilled skirt steak and just the right amount of grilled onions, bell peppers and melted Cheez Whiz on a soft hoagie. They came wrapped in white butcher paper and were predictably messy.

All of the ingredients in the salads had a fresh look and flavor. The steak salad included the same steak served on the sandwiches, red onions, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and romaine lettuce.

The chicken salad included grilled chicken (fried is available, too), red onions, tomatoes, bacon and shredded cheddar cheese on romaine. Both diners ordered house-made ranch dressing, which had a pleasant flavor.

Before it was all done, we also shared an order of buffalo wings ($11.99), which featured a pound of meaty wings smothered in Frank’s spicy wing sauce. They normally are served with a side of blue cheese or ranch, but we chose the zingy, horseradish-based Phat sauce.

In addition to several Philly-style sandwiches and salads, Phat Philly’s also offers chicken tenders, tater tots and waffle fries.

Any of the items can be customized with such choices as blue cheese crumbles, provolone cheese, white American cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, jalapenos, black olives, mushrooms, egg, bacon and sausage.

Customers order at the counter, and food is brought to the tables. Though the restaurant does not have table service, per se, Lyndsay was working the room to refill drinks and take care of customers’ needs.

The soft drink and ice tea station is self-serve. Beer will be offered when proper licenses are acquired.

Walls are bright yellow, and some customers have left messages or drawings on the walls. A large painting of a lion is just inside the entrance. Televisions had not been installed yet the day we were there.

“We probably are looking south for the next Phat Philly’s, but it might be a little while before we take on another project,” Smith said.

Might be.

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Scott Cherry



Twitter: @ScottCherryTW

Scene Writer

Scott is in his second tour of duty with the Tulsa World. He was a sports writer during his first stop. Since returning to the World in 1992, he has been the food writer and now restaurant critic and wine columnist. Phone: 918-581-8463