Rib Crib got it right with Society.
The 26-year-old Tulsa-based barbecue chain decided a year ago to launch a new hamburger restaurant. It had acquired a former Quiznos space on Cherry Street next to Hideaway Pizza and hired Garrett Mills to oversee the project.
For Mills, a former Jenks High School, University of Tulsa and National Football League player, it was his first job in the restaurant business. He came from Goldman Sachs in Dallas.
“About 14 months ago, Rib Crib owner Bret Chandler wanted to do a burger concept, and the president, Marc Chastain, talked to me about leading the team,” Mills said recently. “I had people with 25 years’ experience to work with me on design, layout and menu, and everyone was very patient to guide me along.
“This is the result. Society is what we thought a burger place on Cherry Street should look like.”
Looked good to me, from the screened-in patio to the Tulsa-centric dining room and 16-tap bar. The menu was modern but not pretentious. Local brews, specialty cocktails and “boozy” shakes were reasonably priced.
I knew the place had some soul to it when I saw a server take a dog dish of water to the patio for a canine visitor, a sweetheart named Carla.
With a couple of television channels tuned to baseball games and one to a history of University of Oklahoma football, we settled back for what turned out to be a pleasant evening on an otherwise steaming-hot day.
With apologies to our internist, Dr. Maxwell, we ordered the bacon cheese fries appetizer ($7.50). A sizable platter of hand-cut fries was topped with melted cheddar cheese, smoked Gouda cheese, a creamy cheese sauce and sprinklings of bacon and green onion. It came with a terrific ranch dipping sauce.
To balance the cheese fries, we ordered the chopped salad ($10.50). It was large, too, and included bites of seared chicken (not deli chicken), sweet orange and yellow tomato slices, hard-boiled egg, avocado slices, feta cheese crumbles, cashews and bacon.
My wife wanted more of the ranch, so we substituted it for honey-bacon Dijon. The menu said it also included haystack onions, but we saw none and didn’t miss them one bit. The salad seemed simple enough, but it tasted well above average.
From the burger section, I chose the Cubano ($9). The ground beef patty was thin but somehow didn’t seem to be too overdone. It was paired with a slice of ham, Swiss cheese, house-made pickle slices, spicy mustard and Dijon mustard on a local Pancho Anaya Bakery bun. The combination was delicious.
A side of jalapeno cheddar tots ($4) was a perfect partner to a cold beer, and the “seasonal” side of the day was a cool pasta salad ($3.50) dotted with corn, green pepper, tomato and cucumber.
The 16 bar taps hold beers from five Tulsa breweries and one from Stillwater, and much of the rest of the beer menu is local or regional. Wines are not exceptional, except for those available by the bottle only. They all have Oklahoma ties and include 32 Winds, Darms Lane, Zinke Wines and Girouard Vines, all for $35 to $95 a bottle.
Our server, Veronica, was accommodating and friendly, and the manager on duty, Jessica, dropped by every so often to make sure things were going well.
The dining room is decorated with enlarged photos of familiar Tulsa scenes and a mural by local artist Daniel Gulick, who also designed the bar taps. The patio has misters and heaters, and Mills said a permanent, adjustable enclosure is being considered.
Barstools are stationed on the dining room side and the patio side of the bar. Garage doors can close off the bar from the patio if needed.
I noticed on our to-go boxes — we always have to-go boxes — that they are made of compostable plant fiber.
Food and drink providers for Society include Walke Brothers Meat Co. (Claremore), Rose Rock Creamery, Pancho Anaya Bakery, Frontier Produce, Iron Monk Brewing Co. (Stillwater), Renaissance Brewing, Prairie Artisan Ales, Cabin Boys Brewery, Marshall Brewing Co. and Dead Armadillo.
Limited parking is available behind the restaurant, and Society shares a gated lot to the east with Hideaway Pizza. It also offers valet parking after 5:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
“We wanted to fit in with the other restaurants and what they have done for the area, ones like Kilkenny’s, Hideaway and Smoke,” Mills said.
“We are happy to be part of some great company on Cherry Street.”