The Hip Mom Hits the Mother Road
Back in November, I visited the Mother Road Market right when it opened and was awestruck by the innovative concept. Not just a mere food market, it’s a food emporium/test kitchen/party venue/experimentation lab. I loved that it’s like an indoor square where you can bring the kids, get everyone something they like, and then sit with a glass of wine while the rugrats play mini golf or dork around in the darling play grocery store. And you can bring home local produce, meats and cheeses — and OK Cookie Momster’s cookies!
But it’s not just a great place for moms and kids, or working professionals, to wander around, eat and shop. It’s also a great place for budding food entrepreneurs. Kitchen 66 is a “kickstart kitchen,” where people dabbling with a restaurant concept can test out their ideas and learn the nitty gritty of owning and operating a restaurant without the huge upfront financial burden. Here, you can test your idea for, say, artisan sourdough and vegan soups, trot it out for a bunch of eager test bunnies, and see what works before you launch a full-scale restaurant. Mother Road Market also features a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes, indoor and outdoor seating areas with lovely views of downtown, and rentable event spaces. Plus, there’s a small 320- square-foot model shop — The Vault — where entrepreneurs can test their retail ideas. In short: it’s a great place for moms, entrepreneurs and mompreneurs!
But I haven’t been there for a few months, so with warmer weather approaching, I decide to visit to see if the Mother Road is still as hot and hip as when it opened. When I walk in on a random rainy Friday afternoon at 1:30 to meet my good friend Kappa Kappa Karen, it’s positively thrumming with people. Ashley Van Horne, director of communications, notes that the Market has just topped $3 million in sales — exceeding their projections! And, she notes, “All of our customers and tenants are happy!” Well, yay!
Kappa Kappa Karen and I start with a glass of wine in the WEL bar, where there’s a plethora of local beers on tap, along with wines and signature cocktails. And then we meander around the hall — it’s a busy souk teeming with life. We stop by the Route 66 general store, full of local farmers’ market finds – from goat’s milk to garlic – and other Tulsa and Okie swag. We buy some ambrosial baked goods from the Bakeshop — I get homemade powerballs and Kappa Kappa Karen gets chocolate croissants. The Bakeshop is famous for its sourdough, and is a graduate of the Kitchen 66 launch program, proof that Mother Road’s launch concept is succeeding. There are no vacancies in the Mother Road now. In fact, there’s a wait list for prospective merchants — surely a good forecast.
Because we’re trying to be good Catholics on a Lenten Friday, we have to pass up a few of the mouth-watering options like OK Joe’s BBQ and Chicken and the Wolf, but Nice Guy’s Shrimp Shack seduces us with fried shrimp and avocado. Everything is fried to order (and heavenly). But there’s more to try. Radish features a menu of “mindfully sourced meats, wraps and sandwiches, as well as healthy gourmet salads and sides.” Umami Fries uses fries that are fried twice with housemade batter, and topped with bulgogi beef, chicken or kimchi. My fry-loving daughter would love this! Metropolis serves street food from cities all over the world. And if you’re there with kids, there’s Andolini’s, & Tacos, and Big Dipper Creamery. Everyone will find something to devour here.
Nice Guys Shrimp Shack
Mother Road’s calendar of events is full-to-brimming. Every Wednesday is “flight night,” where you can buy special treats from each vendor for a mere $3. There’s “Crafting and Cocktails,” where you can take a watercolor class or make a candle whilst sipping wine. Every Saturday, Tulsa’s Farmer’s Market visits with farm-to-table produce and other offerings. Seeking Sitters offers a weekly craft to do with kids, varying from making spring bouquets to paper plate animals. There are parent workshops on topics such as family frugalness and keeping your house clean amidst chaos, also sponsored by Seeking Sitters. Youth Entrepreneurs World Market Day is another practical and inspired event where students set up a one-day pop-up shop and sell food or a product to their classmates or community. What a great way for students to learn practical skills (my mom would be thrilled; she always bemoans the dearth of home economics classes!).
There are food and wine-pairing classes in the demonstration kitchen sponsored by the OSUIT Culinary School; there’s story time in the kids’ play area; there’s yoga on the patio sponsored by Everyone Yoga School for a mere $5. Pure Barre sponsors a patio class, too! There are kids’ cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen. There’s live music on the patio. And, here’s one I might even be able to drag PVT to, a sommelier series!
Next up is an introduction to the Grand Crus of Germany, hosted by Chef Tim Fitzgerald. He pairs several flights of these wines (some 17 generations in the making) with ‘haute’ Asian cuisine — what a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! There are gardening and herb classes sponsored by Tulsa Master Gardeners. In short, if you’re a human being with an interest in pretty much anything, you’ll find something you’re dying to attend at the Mother Road Market.
The Vault is a rotating retail space and hosts a menagerie of different local retailers (no Rodan and Fields or Scentsy here, please!). You’ll find Three Sands Clothing, OK Homegrown, Piece Process Art, Somatic Hemp, Mary and Hazel…endlessly unique shopping opportunities if you’re sick of big boxes and the ‘zon. Plus, new in April is a Leche Lounge. While mothers are free to breastfeed anywhere in the Market, the Leche Lounge is a private room for nursing and pumping.
So check out the Mother Road events calendar, or just head on down for lunch or dinner. What better time than spring and summer to kindle some new interests, and spend time on the patio with friends?