Dena’s Lebanese Ethnic Cuisine
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.
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