No Longer Fly-Over Country:
36 Hip Hours in Tulsa for the Uninformed
Do you know what the great tragedy of my life has been since becoming an Okie way back in 2006? The only people who have visited me here are the people who HAVE to visit me due to the whole blood relation thing: my parents and my two sisters. Nary a one of my friends from Seattle, LA, San Francisco, Portland or New York have visited me. I don’t know if that’s because they just don’t love me enough to buy the plane ticket, or if they’re put off by my army of children, but one reason I know to be true is this — they just don’t think Oklahoma is worth their time! I try to paint a picture for them: “But….we have museums! Parks! We have a snazzy downtown with great restaurants! We have Whole Foods! We have barre classes! We have vegans! The people are astoundingly friendly! And, dangit, I have a big pool!” My beloved friends look at me quizzically as if I’m been brainwashed by a bunch of half-witted farmers and ask when I’m coming to visit THEM.
Well, with summer upon us, maybe you’ve actually been successful in luring some friends and family here. If so, what will you do with them so they don’t feel sorry for you for living here? Well, I’m sure you have many ideas, but I’ve dreamed up a 24-36 hour itinerary for you to try.
If your friends are not staying with you, or you don’t WANT them staying with you, of course they must stay at The Mayo downtown. Great location, perfect rooms, fabulous views, a spectacular lobby — and that rooftop bar! I’ve spent many hours sipping things up there, incredulous that I’ve been living in a beautiful real-life cosmopolitan city all this time. Just around the corner, you’ll find Topeca coffee – their “seed to cup” coffee brings premium El Salvadoran coffee straight from the farm to Tulsa, and will impress any die-hard coffee snob. The baristas have that urban je ne sais quoi — maybe they’re all from Brooklyn! For those who are more impressed with baked confections, head to Dilly Diner for cinnamon rolls as big as your head. Next up – Gathering Place, of course! Heralded as a “free Disneyland,” humans of any age will find something enchanting here. Adults will love meandering on the paths ogling the marvel of a boathouse; kids, of course, flip out over the stunning Adventure Playground. I’ve had success here with a wide age-range of kids: The little ones frolic on the playground, while big boys with phones (so I can track them!) buzz around the park and skateboard area. Then have lunch on the patio at the Williams Lodge — or, head over to Brookside for lunch at Café Olé or Cosmo Cafe, and do some shopping at Lululemon and Ida Red! Girls of all ages should stop at the paradise of cosmetics and skin care, Blue Mercury. And then it’s time for a stop at a world-class museum: Gilcrease or Philbrook, or both – depending on your guests!
Hanging out at Gathering Place
And dinner? Steak aficionados will love Bull in the Alley, with its dark, swanky, mob-like atmosphere. For cosmopolitan foodie types there are so many options! Amelia’s, Juniper, The French Hen, Stonehorse Cafe, Oren, Pure Food and Juice for vigilant vegans. Kids would love either Los Cabos location or Torchy’s Tacos in Brookside. If you’ve got hipsters who can still stay awake after 10 p.m., oh the drinks! Cabin Boys Brewery, Marshall, Dead Armadillo, Prairie Artisan Ales – there is no shortage of beer here! Or Hodges Bend or Valkyrie for cocktails. Voila!
But If you really want to immerse your guests in true Okie life — guests who will appreciate inventive, gourmet farm-to-table cuisine, drive into the sunset (literally!) just an hour on I-44 to little Depew, Oklahoma, where Linda Ford and Lisa Becklund have transformed 400 acres into a working farm where they host weekly nine-course dinners in a rustic, charming farmhouse. My friend, Kelly, a bona fide foodie, and I make the easy drive and meander around the gardens — the grandeur of the Oklahoma countryside is breathtaking! We head to the farmhouse, where we’re warmly greeted and seated at long picnic tables with about 35 other guests. At first it seems awkward to be eating among strangers, but by the end of dinner, I have new best friends: a big family from Oklahoma City, a visitor from Minneapolis, and a Tulsan, native to India, who is obsessed with their sourdough bread. The theme for the dinner is “Emerge” – it’s early spring – and looking down the gauntlet of nine courses, I’m worried that I’ll run out of tummy real estate. But no! Each course is perfectly light and delightful: a traditional “Smorrebrod” – that’s an open faced sandwich – with egg salad; a bisque of herbs and spinach; an ambrosial slice of sourdough with “Jerusalem artichoke ferment” – each course is painstakingly executed and explained to us lay people by the chef.
Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy
Now, if I brought PVT, he might groan at the celery sorbet (an unexpected delight!), but he would be just dandy with the barbeque pork and ground brisket steamed in leaves of chard. Dessert is heavenly: buckwheat pound cake, juniper cream, pine meringue, buttermilk grapefruit sherbet — beats me what all that means, but it’s divine! It’s possible a big man might need to make a quick Run for the Border on the way home, but I am perfectly satisfied. Now, if your visitors are kids, Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy might not be your best bet: “Older children and teens are welcome but please understand this can be a grueling and uncomfortable experience for a youngster who is not used to dining for several hours, not to mention grueling and uncomfortable for the person sitting next to them.” But jaded coastal types will swoon over this bucolic setting, the hautest of cuisines, and the genuine warmth, passion and hospitality of Lisa and Linda.
Food preparation at Living Kitchen
If you have more time the next day, you must take fit visitors to any of the million and seven hip workout spots: SALT Yoga, Pure Barre, Press Cafe and Yoga, Revved, Orangetheory, Studio POP, Balance Yoga Barre – seriously, Tulsans are a fit and gorgeous bunch – I don’t know who collects those obesity statistics. And then brunch for the bunch! Waterfront Grill with their eye-popping Bloody Mary bar? Mother Road Market with their panoply of delicacies? Or head to Utica Square: Queenie’s followed by seriously sophisticated shopping.
So there you go — a dreamy little itinerary for your visitors! But how do you get them here in the first place? Bribery? A seat on your private jet? Perhaps a cheap non-stop flight (can we work on more of those?) Threats? Guilt? I don’t know, friends. If you figure that part out, let me know!