Date Night, Hip Mom Style
By Jill VanTrease
How are you weathering this abomination called summer in Oklahoma, fellow mummies? I spend July and August sweltering with my kids in the family room, fielding fights and trying to think of things to do early in the morning before roasting in the afternoon.
Clearly we mommies need an occasional light at the end of these long, sweaty, thankless dog days: DATE NIGHT. But, not that boring drudgery, dinner and a movie. You need a quick fix, you need to have fun, and you need it fast.
If you go the traditional dinner-and-a-movie route, you may find, like my husband PVT and I, that you sit too long, eat too much, spend too much, and inevitably end up talking about work or your kids - what dreadfully somnolent topics. No, this would be date night à la Hip Mom. It is speedy - about two hours and it’s fun — PVT and I actually feel like we have friends when we do this (because despite our fabulous good looks and lively, intelligent conversational skills, we have five kids. And, my gawsh, it is hard to make friends when people pause and consider what their house would look like after they invited us over.).
So, what is this magical date night? Yes, it’s having dinner at a nice restaurant bar! Now, you don’t have to love your wine-o like me to enjoy some time at the bar. Even teetotalers and pregnant chicks can enjoy this: just order a virgin drink. But here’s the fun — you get to sit up higher than everyone else, usually, and people watch. The service is faster and inevitably friendlier. And, if there are other people at the bar, you can chat a bit with them too — it’s so much more jovial than sitting face to face at a table with just your spouse, talking about your kids’ orthodontia or the perils of potty training. I am pretty sure you would feel like a real dork talking about those topics at the bar.
No, instead you will talk about your neighbor’s sudden workout fanaticism with her smoldering personal trainer. You will talk about those hot older people next to you (what is up with the hot old people out at restaurants lately? I can only hope I look that good in my 60s!). You will talk about Bradley Cooper’s stunning jaw (OK, maybe not – that’s girls’ night.) And perhaps – I hope – you will flirt, laugh, and talk about your hopes and dreams for you, for your kids, for your future.
And then you will run home happy to relieve your sitter and see your dear children again. Down here in South Tulsa, we have a few spots we love. One of my favorite bars is Red Rock Canyon Grill — not only are the margaritas perfect (you must ask for extra olives; the olives are sublime) and the food spicy (you can easily cobble together a delicious buffet from the sides and hors d’oeuvres offerings), it has a teeming rectangle bar area full of attractive people. How entertaining is that? And then there is the convivial applause led by the waiters at sunset – hooray! PVT and I always like to pretend we’re at an exclusive party amongst all our lithe, gorgeous, wealthy friends. Yes, that’s weird, but again, you have to be imaginative when you don’t go to REAL parties.
We also just ventured across the river to the new Waterfront Grill in Jenks. This place is breathtaking, you all. The view from the light, airy bar is stunning: sitting overlooking the river, if I squinted, I thought perhaps the glimpse of the bridge was not the Jenks Bridge, but the Brooklyn Bridge and I was at the River Café. OK, that may have been the Jalapeño Margarita** distorting my vision, but you get the idea. Everything we tried was exceptional – my Firecracker Sushi Roll was definitely explosive, laced with Habanero sauce. Woo! You also could sit on the terrace, which offers a limited menu and is so inviting-looking, but come on – we live in Oklahoma – it’s either too hot or too windy.
Due east is the new Duke’s Southern Kitchen. Duke’s has a spectacular two-story space in the new-ish Spirit Events Center. And yes, the bar area is great! Elevated, wood-paneled, friendly. The food strikes me, a Northerner, as so decadent and exotic. I devoured the spicy Shrimp and Grits and the Fried Okra, and washed this deliciousness down with a cup of unoaked Cupcake Chardonnay. (Yes, you read that right — Cupcake Vineyards – a winery that markets to chick types like me who get giddy at the word “cupcake,” but actually puts out a bona fide potable wine.) There was quite an impressive selection of wines by the glass, even a few whites from a favorite Oregon vineyard of ours, Sokol Blosser. PVT, however, found his Biscuit Burger entirely dry and lacking in adequate gravy-ness. The service was a bit spotty, and my postprandial coffee was refrigerator-cold. But assuming these little issues are tweaked, you will leave Duke’s with a bouncier step.
Then I head north to Utica Square. The Stonehorse Café has a very masculine, mahogany-trimmed bar with attentive and competent bartenders. The latent foodie in me – latent because my foodie-ism has been reduced to being very thankful for any meal NOT cooked by me – is delighted when the “garlic croutons” in my salad are actually whole roasted cloves of garlic. Wowiee! The bar so reminds me of youthful days in Manhattan, I decide to get crazy and forego my usual glass of wine for a “75 Days in Maui,” which is a concoction of lemon, strawberry essence, basil, gin and Champagne. Eeeiiiieee, you all – I felt transported to a balcony overlooking swaying palm tree during my stay in “Maui.”
Finally, I end up all the way on Cherry Street at the White Owl. People, this is the kind of place you ought to bring those visitors who deem Oklahoma to be strictly fly-over country. The White Owl would be right at home in any cosmopolitan town, from Portland, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts. The atmosphere is just so…refreshing. PVT and I sank into its dark, cool, clubby innards on a scorching June day, and immediately felt revived. My husband, who developed a bit of beer snobbery during his stint in the Northwest, was impressed with the selection on tap. And I was so happy, as I slurped my fried zucchini, that I was not at a chain, not shoveling in Red-Robinesque fare, and not fielding requests for crayons and sugar packets.
Then I finished my Pinot Noir and ran home, thrilled to see my fighting sons, cranky daughter and screaming baby.
OK, girls, get out there and have some fun. I know I was a bit exhausted after all this running around town eating and tippling. So next month we will have to focus on a bit of relaxation.
Before school starts, that is.
* Some babysitters may have suffered permanent psychological damage at the hands of my 8-month-old while this article was being “researched.”
**These may be lethal. Not that I would know anything about that.