The city of Tulsa exudes an atmosphere charged with anticipation. From its early days through its peak as an oil-boom town and up to the present, Tulsa has always been a city striving to move forward. This momentum enabled the town to grow beyond dependency on oil money to become a thriving crossroads for business ventures, all while maintaining a laid-back Southern charm. Visitors to the city will find a mixture of grand new developments and reminders of the past, all bearing the common threads of high hopes and great expectations.
Tulsa's downtown is set near the river, so rather than being the geographical center of town, it is located in the north central section. This area serves as the focal point of many downtown events, such as Mayfest , and features decorative waterways and sitting-places, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes. Many of the older buildings downtown are ornate remnants of the extravagant oil boom days. The Hotel Ambassador , a Tulsa landmark, actually began as a temporary housing facility for oil tycoons who were building their mansions. While the city has had to take steps toward revitalizing certain aspects of the area, one part of downtown nightlife, the fine arts, has never needed attention. Of particular note is the Performing Arts Center , which hosts a multitude of cultural events through the fall, winter and spring.
The west central portion of Tulsa, known as midtown, begins just south of the downtown area. This part of the city is home to some of Tulsa's oldest and most popular business establishments and neighborhoods. There are some mansions in the area, especially near the Arkansas River, where old-money families lived and, in some cases, still live. This upscale history survives today at Utica Square , which is still known as Tulsa's chic place to shop. Woodward Park, the Philbrook Museum of Art and other landmarks only add to the district's character.
Several of Tulsa's most popular neighborhoods are found in midtown. Brookside, Cherry Street and Expo Square are the three most worth mentioning. The area known as Brookside contains a variety of shopping delights, fabulous restaurants and a bustling nightlife. The atmosphere is chic and eclectic, appealing to a younger, more progressive set. Scenic Riverside Drive, which parallels the east bank of the river, and River Parks , are also popular sections of Brookside. The Cherry Street District is set near downtown in the northern midtown area. Visitors to this neighborhood find great shopping, particularly antiques and collectibles, a variety of local eateries, as well as some fabulous old homes in the surrounding residential areas. The Expo Square complex encompasses the huge Expo Center and Pavilion, Big Splash Water Park , Bell's Amusement Park, Drillers Stadium (home of the Tulsa Drillers baseball team) and more. This one area has more things to do per square foot than anywhere else in town, especially during the summer months. There is almost always some sort of exhibit or show going on, and the Tulsa State Fair makes its home here every autumn.
The main highlights of north Tulsa are the Tulsa International Airport and the massive Mohawk Park , which includes the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum and other outdoor activities. Also found near the airport is the Tulsa Air and Space Museum , which is a great educational, hands-on museum for kids and adults.
This part of town is where Tulsa's new growth is. The Oral Roberts University complex is in this neighborhood, as well as the highly popular Mabee Center arena and the CityPlex Towers (the tallest building in Tulsa). In the eastern sector is Woodland Hills Mall , and mile after mile of shopping centers. This has become one of the busiest and most popular areas of Tulsa in recent years.
Much of Tulsa's major industry can be found here, such as the huge electric plant along the river's west bank, and other manufacturing companies around the railroad tracks and old Route 66. The hills in the northwest corner of this district hold the Gilcrease Museum complex, one of the finest donation-only museums around. Just west of town is Sand Springs and its famous Discoveryland outdoor amphitheater. This part of town isn't always as pretty as the more trendy neighborhoods, but those looking for a true sense of Tulsa's history will find it here.
The culinary atmosphere in Tulsa reflects a desire for sophistication, but Tulsan taste also embraces the city's history as a booming frontier oil town. Chefs strive to give their hearty dishes a decadent touch—just the kind of flair that a moneyed baron would appreciate. Each of Tulsa's many neighborhoods has its own distinct character, each holding a wealth of dining choices designed to suit even the most discerning palate. When you come to visit Tulsa, be sure to bring a hardy, healthy appetite—your taste buds will thank you!
Downtown eateries have a special character to them, with many sharing one trait in particular: music. Cattleman's Steakhouse in the Embassy Suites Hotel treats its guest to smooth jazz stylings, but that isn't all it is famous for. The menu of choice beef cuts includes a 24-ounce prime rib, which is a feast all in itself. If you crave fine Italian, then check out Pomodori's. Seafood is also on display in central Tulsa, with only the best fresh specimens on the menu at Bodean Seafood Restaurant .
The midtown area is Tulsa's other dining hot spot. Country cooking can be found here as well, but a more contemporary attitude permeates the environment. Japanese cuisine, already wildly popular in other areas of the country, is now making an appearance in Tulsa. This is best evidenced at a local Japanese restaurant, in the raw . The atmosphere is refined and understated at this sushi bar, which is as trendy as its lowercased name. T2 Global Cuisine takes a similarly bold approach in both taste and decor. Fusion is the word here, with dishes made even more entertaining by their whimsical names. Jazmo'z Bourbon Street Cafe takes diners on a different type of journey, transporting them to the Big Easy with its wild Cajun cooking. Authentic Italian is well represented in midtown, where you can select from the upscale Biga or Tucci's .
Midtown doesn't lack well-established classics, either. The Polo Grill is another one of the city's more exclusive eateries. In addition to the gourmet fare served, this restaurant organizes special events throughout the year for its patrons, typically highbrow gatherings for wine tasting and the like. Jamil's Steakhouse provides diners with everything you would expect from a steakhouse, like great cuts of hickory-grilled beef, chicken and lobster tails, but enhanced by a Lebanese flavor. Finally, the Wild Fork blends time-honored dishes with a funky interior design, providing a place for a fun lunch or a business dinner with an edge.
The south side of T-town is packed with dining possibilities. While having the greatest concentration of eateries, it is not the most diverse area. The district is dominated by steak houses, but does have some ethnic enclaves. Silver Flame Steakhouse and Seafood distinguishes itself by offering Middle Eastern side dishes with its fine entrees. This, along with live music to accompany evening meals, makes the establishment popular for a business dinner or a more formal occasion. Fountains Restaurant is similarly sophisticated, with refined dining and signature items like Roast Duck a l'Orange and Bananas Foster making this place a Tulsa tradition for more than a quarter-century.
If you crave down-home goodness without a large price tag, look no further than Ron's Hamburgers and Chili . The city favorite dishes out huge portions for a fair price in a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere. Oklahoma culture has a distinct Southwestern flavor, and with that influence comes an abundance of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. Such spicy fare can be found at Monterey's Tex Mex Cafe , Arizona Mexican Restaurant or Pepper's Grill, and the city's Casa Laredo even makes its delicious Mexican dishes from scratch. Asian aficionados can choose from Emperor's Super Buffet and Royal Dragon . For more specialized types of world cuisine, diners have several options, including European delicacies at Paddy's Irish Restaurant & Pub and savory Indian food at India Gate.
East and West Tulsa
The east and west ends of Tulsa are not as heavily populated with restaurants, but the eateries in these areas are noteworthy. East Tulsa's contribution to the city's dining culture is Molly's Landing . This Route 66 mainstay combines an old-fashioned frontier setting and exterior with modern dishes of choice beef, wild game and seafood. The trend of hearty Oklahoma food continues in the west district at Ollie's Station Restaurant . As can be gathered from its name, the restaurant employs a train station theme, drawing from the city's history as a railroad town. Red meat is the standard, but the menu is sprinkled with some southern seafood dishes as well. West Tulsa also has the Avalon Steakhouse , an upscale establishment that complements its dishes with an ample wine selection.
Outside the Tulsa Metro
The area just outside the city holds yet more celebrated establishments. The newest addition to the dining scene is Bad Brad's Barbecue Joint . This Owasso diner is fast becoming popular for its vast all-barbecue menu and relaxed atmosphere. On I-75, in the Tulsa suburb of Ramona, is the Inn at Jarrett Farm. If you are unable to stay in one of this bed-and-breakfast's posh suites while visiting Tulsa, you can still enjoy a meal at the Jarrett House Restaurant. Diners are treated to a full-course gourmet experience. Reservations are required. Fancy fare like this doesn't come cheap, but every penny spent here is well worth it.