An opportunity to put a restaurant in downtown Tulsa came out of the blue for Momodou Ceesay.

He and his wife, Mamie, had operated Mamadou’s Restaurant in Glenpool for about 18 years when he was approached by longtime customer Lee Levinson.

Levinson was an investor in the Aloft Hotel, which occupies most of the old City Hall building in front of the Cox Business Center.

“He asked me if the hotel built a restaurant space would I put a Mamadou’s in there,” Ceesay said. “I said I would be glad to. Then the partners and their wives came to the Glenpool restaurant for dinner, and they loved it. They are an awesome group of people to work with.”

Due to construction on Fifth Street and at the Central Library, it has taken almost two years to get Mamadou’s Restaurant & Sports Bar up and running.

“We were afraid nobody could find us in all the construction,” Ceesay said. “Now Fifth Street is done, and the library is getting close, so it should be OK.”

The restaurant is located in space that formerly held the City Hall cafeteria. The room has been totally remodeled with a long, handsome bar, 15 big-screen televisions, all turned to sports channels when we visited, and a modern mix of long communal tables, oval banquettes and standard four-top tables.

Aloft Hotel parking is free for those dining at Mamadou’s, and we landed a spot near the restaurant entrance and just down the sidewalk from the hotel entrance.

The menu offers a variety of mostly traditional American cuisine, and we opened our dinner with stuffed mushrooms ($10.99) and the restaurant’s signature French onion soup ($4.99 small, $7.99 large). Both items were temperature hot, and we had to let them cool for a moment.

The six plump mushrooms were stuffed with melted provolone cheese and bits of crab meat, a tasty combination. The soup was filled with onions caramelized in butter then simmered in a dark beef broth and topped with croutons and melted provolone cheese. It had a cheesy flavor and wasn’t too salty.

Mamadou’s is known for its prime rib, and we had the 16-ounce dinner ($26.99), along with the shrimp dinner ($26.99).

The thick slice of prime rib was cooked just past rare and was juicy and tender. It came with a good horseradish sauce and sides of mashed potatoes with cream gravy and green beans.

The shrimp was fine but less impressive than the prime rib. The dinner included two skewers of medium-sized grilled shrimp and a nice cocktail sauce.

We were stuffed, but our friendly server, Danielle, talked us into taking home a dessert. We chose the French silk pie ($6.99). It had a light crust, something of a dark chocolate flavor and whipped cream topping.

Most of the soups, burgers and sandwiches are in the $8 to $12 range, and the majority of entrees fall in the mid teens. A menu for ages 12 and younger includes nine items for $4.99 to $8.99.

Mamadou’s has full bar service, including 20 beers on tap and craft cocktails.

Ceesay said a banquet room that holds up to 300 guests is located on the floor above that formerly held City Council space. He said events are booked through the hotel, and Mamadou’s provides the food.

Ceesay said his first name, Momodou, is spelled differently than the restaurant name because he and Mamie thought Mamadou’s would be easier for Americans to recognize.

He said Mamie will continue to operate the Glenpool restaurant, which celebrates its 20th year in November, and he will concentrate on the Tulsa restaurant for now.

“We also will be hosting the coaches’ show for University of Tulsa football this season,” said Ceesay, who has one of the friendliest and most positive personalities in the restaurant business. “That should be fun when they broadcast those shows from here.”

Scott Cherry 918-581-8463

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