The Hip Mom Hits the Tulsa Arts District
In particular, the Archer Building
Friends, I need to start this little bit with a strange, unsettling, horrible, wonderful and downright weird thing that happened to me a few weeks ago: For the first time in 16 years, there are three days per week when, during school hours, I have no children at home. It’s the oddest thing. The first day I held up for about eight minutes in the car, and then I started crying big snotty tears. But, ha! I started to get used to it a bit. I started to actually revel in the glorious moments in a quiet house where I can think my own thoughts and read Vogue for 12 minutes. But now I’m getting restless: I can only clean this pigsty so much without going bonkers. What am I supposed to be doing? I took a pilates class, I took a barre class, but I’m just too lazy to look like a geriatric Tracy Anderson. What else? Do I adopt a baby? Get a job? Launch something like Goop? (Ha! Ha!) But it’s not a ton of extra time. I start to do normal things: I fit in an extra mass; I meet dear friends for coffee and lunch…it’s all bizarre and decadent and wholly odd.
So, one very early Saturday morning I’m wandering around downtown waiting for my son to finish up his endless cross country team run, and I find myself circling this building. Huh? Where am I? Hip store after hip restaurant after hip…guitar museum? Where am I? And then it hits me: Tulsa is sort of…cool! I think even natives will agree that the hipness factor has increased almost exponentially in the decade I’ve lived here. A little encapsulation of all this chic seems to be housed in just one building — the Archer building in the Tulsa Arts District I decide to devote a few of my free hours to exploring this little corner of downtown.
I launch my mission with a hot vinyasa class at Press Cafe and Yoga, a hot yoga studio with an adjoining cafe and bar. In typical moi fashion, I arrive late (I couldn’t find a parking space – you might need a few extra minutes on weekdays!), stumble in to the studio with shoes on and no mat, realize my faux pas, re-enter, and squeeze myself into the remaining corner by the teacher. Surely I’ve ruined everyone’s chakras – gah! And then the teacher gently points out I’m facing the wrong way. Ah, well. But once I’m settled, I really enjoy the class – it’s like taking yoga outside in Oklahoma in August – you will sweat! Thankfully, I sweat less than the guy behind me, who seems to have a waterfall spilling onto his mat. The class can be as difficult as you like — there are modifications for all the positions, which is good for someone with the flexibility of a bison, like me. Afterwards, the teacher warmly greets me and signs me up for the introductory deal – $7 for 7 days! Yay.
I grab an iced coffee and head down to Made Tulsa, the retail space for an “Indie Emporium.” This is Tulsa’s first Indie craft show, and it’s a gem, full of handmade and vintage goods made by a variety of local artisans. I fall in love with some air plants (so hard to kill!), and some handmade cards with definitions of words that make me weep: Wabisabi, for example, is “The discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of life and death.” Sheesh! They also hold workshops like embroidery and other crafting classes like calligraphy and lettering. If you’re curious about indulging your creative side, or maybe you’re so creative you have baubles you could sell yourself here – check out Made!
Then of course I have to go next door to Glacier Confection. If you haven’t had their achingly beautiful, handcrafted chocolates, you have not lived. This is one of two locations — the other is in Utica Square. There’s also a cafe here with a selection of coffees; they stay open late on the weekends for passers by on First Friday.
And then, because I can go to a lunch venue where the menu extends beyond grilled cheese and waffle fries, I try Lone Wolf Banh Mi. I’m out of the loop, friends: Food truck fare is way too sexy for the preschool set. But Lone Wolf started as a food truck in 2012 and found instant success. Bahn Mi is a spicy Vietnamese sandwich filled with delicious notes like English cucumber, jalapeno, pickled daikon and carrot slaw. I decide to try the kimchi fries (probably because I’ve been reading about the health benefits of fermented foods, I don’t know!) and am wowed by the delicious array of unfamiliar spices. Topped with a portobello mushroom, it’s as exciting a lunch as I’ve had in a very long time.
Right next door I’m surprised to find Que Gusto, a company I’ve known almost from its inception. Carla and Fernando moved here from Ecuador in 2012, and their son played soccer with mine, so I first tasted their delightful empanadas at a soccer party. Their empanadas and homemade yucca fries were such a hit they launched a catering business and now have a storefront. Their Latin flavors – coconut smoothies, ceviches, plantains, arepas, and dulce de leche cakes – are so unexpected. If you want a unique catering experience for your next soiree, Que Gusto will be sure to wow your guests, and you’ll get accolades for being au courant!
Of course there’s that magical place, Magic City Books, the home for Booksmart Tulsa, which continues to wow the city with the caliber of authors coming to town: Ian Frazier of the New Yorker, James Frey (he caused a bit of a brouhaha with A Million Little Pieces), Mary Gabriel — it’s a bona fide literary salon here. The Magic City Books employees can help you find the perfect book for your particular tastes.
There’s more. The Guitar House of Tulsa, full of vintage and rare guitars – I know less than zero about guitars – would be heaven for the guitar aficionado. And then there’s this new little venue called Shuffles: board games, video games and food! It’s a family friendly spot with a great menu and an impressive library of board games — about 800. There’s a full coffee bar, and a brunch and dinner menu with “haute” pub food. I can’t wait to bring my bigger kids here to defeat them solidly at Scrabble.
So, friends, do check out this little block of cosmopolitan delight. Even a jaded New Yorker might find something interesting here. If you find a disheveled mom walking around here in a cloud of post-traumatic school drop-off syndrome, that’s just me.