The 9 Best Restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma
There are plenty of places to enjoy a classic hamburger in Nashville | Courtesy of Hank’s Hamburgers
A green patch amid Oklahoma’s dusty plains, Tulsa has been a wealthy oil hub since the 1920s and is filled with exceptional museums and Art Deco architecture. Its dining scene reflects this blend of all-American traditions and stylish sophistication. Here are the best places to get a taste of Tulsa.
Restaurant, American, Fast Food
For over 100 years, Ike’s Chili has been making hearty chili using its secret family recipe. A favorite of actor Will Rogers and TV star Martha Stewart, Ike’s Chili is believed to be Tulsa’s oldest operating restaurant. It has moved to several different locations over the years, and has recently set up shop at 1503 East 11th St. Inside, the low-key decor features photos of the restaurant’s long, and often interesting, history. The chili comes topped with red peppers, onions, jalapenos, saltines and cheddar cheese, and you can order it ‘straight’ or served over spaghetti, Fritos or a hotdog. The most popular dish is the Three-Way Chili, which is slathered over spaghetti and beans. Burgers, smothered fries, hot wings and Frito burritos are also available.
Tally’s Good Food Café
Cafe, American, Fusion, European, Fast Food
Tally’s Good Food Café is famous for its chicken-fried steak, Oklahoma’s most classic comfort food ubiquitously found at roadside diners along the famous Route 66. To prepare the dish the chicken is tenderized, breaded in seasonings, fried, and finally topped with a generous helping of cream gravy. At Tally’s this dish is served in a retro, 1950s-style ambience, alongside stomach-stretching portions of other unpretentious, down-home recipes. In addition to the iconic chicken-fried steak, Tally’s is also known for its breakfasts, including the French scrambled sandwich: a croissant packed with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, cheese and hash browns. The restaurant offers daily specials, including steak and cabbage rolls on Mondays, meatloaf on Tuesdays, smoked brisket on Wednesdays, smoked chicken on Thursdays and grilled tilapia on Fridays.
Cafe, Restaurant, Asian, American, Fusion, Vegetarian, Seafood, $$$
Palace Café’s chef-owner James Shrader is a bit of a hero in Tulsa. Over a decade ago, he took a run-down antique store and transformed it into one of Tulsa’s most sophisticated restaurants. Located on historic Cherry Street, Palace Café serves a modern Asian-American fusion menu with an emphasis on fresh ingredients sourced from local suppliers. The menu features dishes like home-made lobster ravioli with fresh basil and fennel, and smoked pork tenderloin with grilled pineapple. The restaurant also offers a unique ‘bento’ menu of tiny pre-appetizers, and a special menu is available for vegetarians. Palace Café’s contemporary interior features rough slate walls, exposed brick and sleek grey accents. It’s one of the best restaurants in town to get a feel for Tulsa’s fine-dining scene.
Restaurant, American, Fast Food
A Tulsa landmark since 1949, Hank’s serves old-fashioned hamburgers with onions grilled right into the meat. In this close-quartered restaurant, it’s easy to watch your burger’s creation, from first contact on the griddle to the final dash of Hank’s secret seasonings. The Big Okie, a massive one-pound burger composed of four beef patties, four slices of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, is a local favorite. Burgers also come in single, double or triple patties, as well as Hank’s Special: a single half-pound patty. Side options include corndogs, onion rings, tater tots and french fries, which can be served plain, with cheese or with chili cheese. Cap off the meal with a milkshake or chocolate-covered peanut butter balls.
Mahogany Prime Steakhouse
Restaurant, Steakhouse, American, $$$
With its history of cowboys and cattle ranchers, no trip to Tulsa is complete without a perfectly grilled steak. In a city with plenty of steakhouses to choose from, locals almost unanimously claim that Mahogany is the best. Mahogany’s steaks are USDA prime, a meat that is known for its exceptional marbling, texture and flavor. The steaks are broiled at 900F (482C) to lock in the juicy flavours, and then served on heated plates to keep them hot throughout the meal. Set in an elegant interior furnished with leather chairs, Persian rugs and warm wood paneling, Mahogany also offers a delicious selection of appetizers, including bacon-wrapped scallops and crab cakes. Big eaters have the option of adding one of the restaurant’s generously portioned side dishes, such as creamed spinach topped with melted cheese or au gratin potatoes. The service is friendly and knowledgeable, and the wine list is nothing to be scoffed at.
Restaurant, American, Contemporary, Soul Food, $$$
Soul food is an essential part of Tulsa’s culinary heritage, and thanks to its out-of-the-way location near Tulsa International Airport, Evelyn’s continues to be one of Tulsa’s best little-known soul food establishments. The restaurant’s most popular dish is fried chicken, which is lightly breaded and perfectly crispy. Evelyn’s also serves up other Southern comfort food classics, like baked turkey, grilled chicken breasts, fried catfish and meatloaf. There’s an excellent selection of sides, including candied yams, mac and cheese, and smothered cabbage. The dishes are surprisingly fresh and light, yet always hearty and filling (as Southern food should be), and all is prepared by the manager, Wanda J Armstrong, who learned to cook from her mom, Evelyn, for whom the restaurant is named.
El Rancho Grande
Restaurant, Mexican, American, Fast Food, $$$
Oklahoma is renowned for its fantastic Mexican cuisine, and El Rancho Grande serves some of the city’s best. Set in a bright dining room, decorated with colorful tables and star-shaped Mexican lanterns, the restaurant’s cheery atmosphere is half the fun. El Rancho Grande’s claim to fame is the Night Hawk Special, which was named one of America’s five greatest Mexican meals in the book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (2012). The Night Hawk Special consists of two cheese and onion enchiladas covered in chili con carne and cheese, along with a cheddar cheese taco dosed in chili con queso. Aside from this famous dish, El Rancho offers an extensive menu of Mexican classics, including enchiladas, tacos, burritos and tostadas. The restaurant also claims to serve Tulsa’s best margarita.
Restaurant, BBQ, American
The perfect place to try genuine Oklahoma pit barbecue, Elmer’s BBQ serves up real hickory-smoked meats cooked over a seasoned firepit. All meats are cooked fresh and rubbed with Elmer’s signature spices, which are said to enhance the meat’s fantastic flavors without overwhelming them. Elmer’s most famous dish is the Badwich, a bun filled with rib meat, chopped beef, smoked bologna and sausage. Any two meals can be grouped into a combo, so you can choose your own mixture of ribs, pulled pork, sausages, chicken or beef. The restaurant’s home-style food is complemented by its casual decor, which includes kitschy music memorabilia.
White River Fish Market and Restaurant
Market, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
Nestled in a strip mall in landlocked Tulsa, White River Fish Market & Restaurant is often met with much skepticism. However, the hearty portions of family recipes will quickly remove any doubt, reaffirming the restaurant’s long-standing status as a Tulsa institution. Opened in 1932, this simple restaurant prides itself on serving fish as high-quality as any coastal eatery. While seaside restaurants tend to focus on regional catches, centrally located White River Fish imports fresh seafood from both North and South America, making the restaurant’s distance from the coast the key to the diversity of its menu. Diners choose their seafood from the massive display case in front of the restaurant and then have it prepared however they like: grilled, smoked, broiled or fried. The restaurant also offers tasty seafood salads, fish sandwiches and raw oysters.
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These recommendations were updated on May 21, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.