The much-anticipated Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. has been open almost two weeks in the Blue Dome District. Its owner, Kevin Nashan, is the most celebrated chef on a national level ever to personally open a restaurant in Tulsa. The question begs: Does it live up to the hype?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, yes, yes.
Peacemaker has a fabulous vibe, much like being in a lobster and crab shack on the East Coast. The fish and seafood is flown in daily from Maine and Boston, and the preparations on the limited menu are creative and flavorful.
Prices are moderate, and in some cases a bargain, considering what one gets in return.
Nashan, who owns the long-running Sydney Street Café and the original Peacemaker in St. Louis, was named Best Chef: Midwest last year by the James Beard Foundation. The James Beard awards are the most prestigious in the culinary industry.
The Tulsa Peacemaker is his first outside of St. Louis, and though he has a chef de cuisine stationed here for the day-to-day operation, Nashan is a hands-on kind of owner who plans to spend a lot of time in Tulsa. He and wife Mina have rented a downtown apartment.
Just to back up my impressions of Peacemaker, I consulted a world traveler with an excellent palate and a couple of chefs who own restaurants outside of downtown. They all agreed that Peacemaker, for what it presents to be, probably is as good as it gets, especially in a landlocked city.
As we recount some of the dishes we tasted, remember that all of the lobster and crab items are market priced and could change daily.
At the high end of the price structure, we ordered the blue crab boil ($39) that included three whole crabs sitting atop a mix of red potatoes, andouille sausage and corn with a big buttermilk biscuit on the side.
Servers, dressed in gray T-shirts and white aprons, showed us the proper way to crack open one of the crabs, and the other two were left to our own devices. It’s a little bit of work to crack open the crab and dig out the sweet meat, but in the end, it’s kind of fun and worth the effort. The slightly spicy sausage and potatoes were perfect.
Possibly our favorites were the lobster rolls ($22) — with a choice of Connecticut style, warm with butter, or Maine style, cold with mayo. We tended to prefer the Maine style, but both were amazing and loaded with lobster. The texture and size of the bread were just right, too.
We ran into a friend whose wife just had been served a catfish poorboy ($8). I would not normally have considered the catfish, but this looked so tempting I couldn’t resist.
The catfish was lightly breaded and fried, then layered with lettuce, bright-red tomato slices, sweet pickle slices and a tasty remoulade. When I could get everything in one bite, which wasn’t easy, it was delicious. It came with crispy house-made Cajun chips and was worth every dime.
Though the atmosphere is casual, Peacemaker does some things found only in high-end restaurants. For instance, we ordered a side of boiled red potatoes ($2.50). Six good-sized potatoes came in their own serving dish, and our fine server, Amanda, brought small metal containers of salt and pepper with tiny spoons and a container of melted butter.
On the true bargain side was the peel-and-eat shrimp ($14). It included 1½ pounds of sizable cold, fresh shrimp — our order had 12 — with a cocktail sauce, which had a citrusy edge that I loved. The shrimp had no fishy taste at all. A metal bucket was provided for the shells.
I also had an opportunity to sample the clam chowder and gumbo ($5 each), served in tin cups. Both were a bit spicy but not so much as to detract from the flavors.
We saw one couple who came in late, and each ordered the chowder or gumbo with a glass of wine, then left. Not a bad idea.
A raw bar features a variety of oysters that will have to wait for another visit. Ditto with the desserts — pies, ice cream, snow cones and “whoopee” pie.
Peacemaker has full bar service. Water and some of the cocktails are served in blue Ball jars.
Brick walls in the old Tallgrass Prairie Table space have been painted a cream color. A wall banquet, the raw bar and ceiling were constructed from repurposed barn wood found in the Missouri Amish country.
Mina Nashan pointed out that the oversized photos of fishermen and fisherwomen displayed on the walls are of people who actually catch the seafood for the restaurant.
Kevin Nashan said he was looking at locations in Denver before building owner Jeff Scott enticed him to take a look at Tulsa.
“I had only driven through Tulsa before, but Mina’s dad is from Bartlesville, and Jeff is from Bartlesville, so I decided to give him a call,” he said. “I came to Tulsa and Jeff was showing me some properties, and when I walked in here, I said, ‘This is Peacemaker.’ This building has a lot of soul.”
That it does.