This week we’ll be out and about looking for those great Indie places in the Tulsa area. If you know of any you would like to recommend, just give me a shout. Mom and Pop stores abound in the area and we want to see them continue to thrive.
Anyone who’s known me very long knows how much I love circular plotlines, so it delights me to announce that nearly a year after leaving Tulsa to take a job in Missouri, I am finally handing the reins of this blog to the most appropriate of all possible drivers: Melodie Reader of Melodie’s Musings, who grew up helping her mom and dad, Bill and Kathey Sivadon, at the late, great Country Store on 11th Street (better known as Route 66) in Tulsa.
I met Melodie a few years ago, when I wrote a Tulsa World article about the 50th anniversary of the Country Store. When the store closed, I posted something about it on my personal blog, where Melodie popped in to comment. We’ve been friends ever since, and when she posted this essay about her love for mom-and-pop businesses, it occurred to me that she was probably more qualified than anybody else on the planet to take over a blog whose existence was inspired, at least in part, by the incomparable customer service I received at the Country Store.
Melodie might be the only person alive who fully understands why I cannot drive past an indie feed, hardware or grocery store without stopping. She’s one of the few people I know who doesn’t give me the side-eye when I say the best Valentine I ever received was a load of rabbit manure to use as compost starter. And she loves indie businesses as passionately as I do.
Indie Tulsa is in very good hands.
P.S.: A few of you contacted me last year to offer help. I got back to some of you, but between the move and a hard-drive crash, I may have lost some of your emails. If you’re still game, please post a comment here so Melodie can touch base with you about contributing reviews, photos, etc. Comments are held in moderation, so if you don’t want your email address broadcast to the world, just let us know in your comment so we can delete it after we contact you rather than approving it for publication.
OK, so here’s the deal: I’ve moved to Cape Girardeau, Mo., which is about 450 miles from Tulsa. Obviously I won’t be in town very often to check out businesses or review them (not that I was doing a great job of that in recent years anyway, but I had some ideas up my sleeve right before I moved).
If y’all would like to see this thing continue, somebody is going to have to take it over. Any volunteers? I’m willing to maintain the site, pick up the tab for the domain name that redirects here, help moderate comments, and offer some editing and basic support if someone else wants to take over the responsibility for posting new reviews. I still get some traffic and the occasional comment, so I know people are still using the information that’s here; the site just needs to be updated and maybe have a new review added every week or two to keep it really useful to the average Tulsan.
If anybody is interested in keeping this going, either comment here or e-mail me at redforkhippie (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll be happy to provide more details. To do this right, you’ll probably need to spend about 1 to 2 hours a week visiting interesting little businesses and taking notes and photos, and another 1 to 2 hours a week (depending on how fast you write and how fast you edit photos) writing up reviews. One review a week would be extremely helpful; two a month would probably be sufficient to make the site fairly useful to the average person.
I had some good intentions about knuckling down and adding some reviews, but then I got a job offer I just couldn’t turn down, in a town much closer to my family, so those good intentions went right out the window. If somebody in or near Tulsa would like to pick up this project, I’d be delighted. There are a lot of cool new businesses I haven’t reviewed yet, and it would be awesome if somebody could add them. Hodges Bend, the Vault, and some of the little shops on Third Street and in the Pearl District come to mind. There’s also a new coffeehouse that should be opening soon on 11th, if it hasn’t already, and the Phoenix Cafe really deserves a post now that it’s up and running. Capp’s BBQ also needs some attention, and I’m sure there are plenty of others I’ve forgotten. (If anybody likes to eat, this would be an awesome project for you….)
We don’t watch TV, so I have no idea how long this monstrosity has been out, but Wyndham Hotels has released a Microtel commercial attacking a mom-and-pop business on Route 66. It’s not in Tulsa, but it’s an indie business, it’s an important piece of American history, and it deserves better than to be attacked by a multinational corporation with a kazillion-dollar advertising budget.
In the commercial, an announcer makes some snarky comment about how “with some hotels, you never know what you’ll get” while images of mom-and-pop motels run in the background. I wasn’t able to identify the first property shown in the commercial, but the second was so iconic it was impossible to miss: the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Holbrook, Ariz.
Got that? A multinational corporation which by its own admission has over 7,000 properties apparently feels so threatened by one tiny mom-and-pop motel that it has to attack it on national TV.
Wyndham is right about one thing: You never know what you’ll get with mom-and-pop motels — and that’s the point. I travel to faraway places to have experiences I can’t have at home.
I like to sleep in concrete tepees. I like to cool off in a Texas-shaped pool. I like to bask in the soft blue glow of neon swallows under the high desert air. I like to listen to the quiet whir of a box fan in the window of an asphalt-shingled cabin in the Pennsylvania mountains. I like to unwind in vintage travel trailers. I like to listen to trains clatter past in the Arizona night as I fall asleep imagining the ghosts of long-ago Harvey Girls whispering in the corridors outside my room. I like to imagine Clark Gable’s bare feet touching the same honeycomb tile I stand on as I shower. And when personal tragedy forces me onto the road unexpectedly, I like to draw comfort from the compassionate hug that greets me at the door of a favorite haunt as the owner assures me that I am not alone, but that I travel with her thoughts and prayers.
I like all those things, and I regard all those places and their owners as friends.
I don’t take kindly to bullies picking on my friends. I’m guessing my readers don’t, either, which is why I am asking all of you for a favor: Watch the commercial, if you haven’t seen it yet, and then take a few minutes to write Wyndham a little note explaining that you will not be staying in any of its affiliate hotels — Wyndham, Tryp, Wingate, Hawthorn, Microtel, Dream, Planet Hollywood, Ramada, Baymont, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn, or Night Hotel New York — until it withdraws this unethical and dishonest ad and replaces it with a nationally televised commercial promoting the Wigwams and formally apologizing for its lapse of ethics in falsely implying that they are undesirable. If that motel shown at the beginning of the commercial is still going, Wyndham owes it an apology and some free advertising, too. (Anybody recognize it? I’m dying to throw it a little business.)
Click here for Wyndham’s e-mail contact form. If you’d rather send snail mail, you can send it to Wyndham Hotel Group, P.O. Box 5090, Aberdeen, SD 57401. Or, if you prefer, you can simply call Wyndham at (800) 468-8737 or (605) 229-8737.
When you finish, please share this with anyone else who might be willing to do the same.
Thanks in advance for your support. This really has me hopping mad.
For several months, Ron and I have been eagerly — one might even say obsessively — driving through the Pearl District to check the progress of the work being done to a former garage at the intersection of Sixth and Peoria.
Last year, we got word that the building, which takes up most of the block, was the future home of city councilor and local mover and shaker Blake Ewing’s newest project: the Phoenix Cafe, a combination coffeehouse, bar and used bookstore named for the mythical bird that is consumed by fire but resurrects itself from its own ashes to live again. The name, of course, is symbolic of the once-vibrant Pearl District, which fell on hard times but appears to be on the cusp of a rebirth similar to that of downtown Tulsa.
Ewing had me at coffee, but it was the bookstore bit that absolutely thrilled my English-major soul, while Ron — who is not a coffee drinker — loved the idea of being able to have a beer while I enjoy my espresso.
The long months of waiting are nearly over. The still-unfinished Phoenix held an open house this weekend, during which general manager David Fell gave us a tour of the building and told us about the plans for the business, which include late hours (and I mean late, not just late-by-Tulsa-coffeehouse-standards — we’re talking 2 a.m. here), a mural painted across the library’s barrel ceiling, and prepacked picnics to go, suitable for taking advantage of pretty afternoons at nearby Centennial Park.
If it’s anything like Ewing’s other projects — which include Back Alley Blues & BBQ, Joe Momma’s Pizza, and The Max Retropub — the Phoenix should be a first-class operation. Ron and I have often compared Ewing to Joe Edwards of University City, Mo., the entrepreneur who has spent the past 40 years turning a formerly run-down stretch of Delmar Boulevard into one of the most popular hipster hangouts in St. Louis County.
Fell said the Phoenix should have its soft opening sometime in mid-August. Can. Not. Wait.
Having recently gone vegan, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for restaurants with good vegetarian options, and Dena’s is one of the best.
Formerly known as Halim and Mimi’s, this little storefront restaurant on 11th Street just a few blocks west of TU has been a Tulsa institution since the 1970s. It changed hands — and names — a few years ago when the original owners retired, but the recipes and the decor stayed with the business.
I’m fond of the falafel platter, which consists of several small falafel patties on a bed of rice, doused generously with tahini dressing and served with a side of hummus and pita bread.
If you’re not familiar with Lebanese cuisine, some definitions are in order. Falafel is a sort of high-protein hush puppy made from ground chickpeas that have been seasoned with Middle Eastern spices, formed into small patties, and deep-fried until the outsides are brown and crispy. Hummus is a dip made of pureed chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste — like all-natural peanut butter, only made from sesame seeds), and lemon juice, usually seasoned with garlic and paprika and served with pita wedges for dipping. If you haven’t tried it, do yourself a favor and stop by Dena’s next time you’re in midtown.
Ron, a confirmed omnivore, prefers kibbee, which is basically a Middle Eastern meatloaf variant. It’s good stuff, and when I’m not vegging, I usually steal a bite or two from Ron.
Dena’s isn’t fancy, but there’s a certain charm in its dark-paneled walls, glass-covered tables decorated with picture postcards, and backlit plastic menu board full of exotic-sounding dishes that you may or may not be able to pronounce correctly.
There’s also this irresistible tribute to America:
How can you not love that? It’s like something out of an indie movie.
Last, but certainly not least, Dena’s serves the kind of crushed ice we used to get at little mom-and-pop diners all the time when I was a kid — that soft, finely crushed ice that makes an ordinary soda taste like some glorious hybrid of snow-cone and slushie. It’s lovely stuff.
Prices are very reasonable — you can absolutely stuff yourself for under eight bucks — and the hours, while not as convenient as I’d like, are reasonable, too: Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and dinner is served from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Highly, highly recommended.
Dena’s is located at 2615 E. 11th (a.k.a. Historic Route 66 — travelers, take note!). For more information, call (918) 599-9623.
NOTE: Indie Tulsa is not affiliated with any of the businesses listed here. If you have specific questions about a particular business, please contact that business directly. Posting questions in the comments will not get answers, as owners may not even be aware that their businesses have been listed here.
Apologies for the extended drought. Seven months is a ridiculous gap between posts. I do, however, have an excuse. Several of them, in fact.
After much soul-searching, I decided it was time to step away from the classroom, so I opted not to renew my contract at the end of the school year. The day after graduation, Ron and I took off on a much-needed vacation that involved a lot of Route 66, a little Pacific Coast Highway, and too many cool indie businesses to list.
We made it back into town the evening of June 5, and I started a new job at The Campbell Hotel on June 6. I’m doing social media, blogging, taking pictures, designing marketing materials, and just generally promoting the hotel, Route 66, Tulsa, and indie businesses to anybody who’ll listen. It’s a pretty good gig.
Because I work there, it isn’t really fair to review the Campbell here, but I’d planned to post a review last year, and I just never got a hand free to do it. Rather than give a formal review of my own workplace, I will just note that the Campbell is located in a huge 1927 building on Route 66, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and I basically just walked in and asked for a job so I’d have an excuse to hang out there.
I also have to give mad props to the girls at Spa Maxx, which is the Campbell’s on-site luxury spa. Audra repaired a disastrous haircut I’d gotten at another salon (which will remain nameless), and Aleah gave me a shellac manicure yesterday afternoon. I am now completely sold on the shellac thing, as my nails are still short and natural-looking, but they’re much less likely to bend, break, or tear while I’m stacking firewood or climbing into extinct volcanoes or whatever. (I actually did that on vacation. It was pretty awesome.) They also do massages, facials, and that sort of thing. Go check it out. And tell ‘em I sent you.
Now that I have a normal job that doesn’t eat every single minute of my life, I should be able to keep up this blog a little better. In the works: a roundup of all the businesses that have closed since this blog began; reviews of an absolutely terrific Lebanese restaurant, a great little T-shirt shop, and several great coffeehouses; and a new project that will result in either an expansion of this site or the creation of a new one.
Stay tuned, and thanks for checking in.