On the Move

•September 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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.

Meet the new boss

•March 16, 2014 • 1 Comment

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.

Stay tuned.


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.

Anybody want a site?

•May 24, 2013 • 2 Comments

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….)


Action alert

•July 13, 2012 • 3 Comments

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.


Coming soon: The Phoenix Cafe

•July 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

General Manager David Fell shows where the bar will be.

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.

It’s still a work in progress, but the Phoenix is finally taking shape.

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.

Soon — very soon — the smells of lumber and drywall dust will be replaced by the rich smell of espresso. The Phoenix is rising.

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.

Dena’s Lebanese Ethnic Cuisine

•July 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Dena’s falafel platter is the best in the business.

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 prefers the kibbee platter.

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.

Updates forthcoming

•July 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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.

Fat Guy’s Burger Bar

•January 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

My favorite thing in the Greenwood District is OneOK Field. My second-favorite thing in the Greenwood District is Fat Guy’s Burger Bar, which is located at 140 N. Greenwood, just a baseball’s throw away from left field.

Some burgers sacrifice taste in the name of size, but Fat Guy's bacon cheeseburger manages to be ginormous and awesome at the same time.

Fat Guy’s burgers are good — thick, juicy, and cooked to order — but in a town full of spectacular hamburger joints (Hank’s, Bill’s, Claud’s, Weber’s, Arnold’s, Burger House, Ralph’s Fish and Burger Shack, etc., etc., etc.), it’s the toppings that make Fat Guy’s stand out. Ron and I fell in love with the green chile cheeseburgers at Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, so I was delighted to see green chiles on the menu at Fat Guy’s. I like to order the bacon cheeseburger with green chiles, tomatoes, pickles, and Srirancha — a brilliant combination of Sriracha sauce and ranch dressing.

The Dodge Style Dog is somewhere between Chicago and Mexico. You know -- kind of like Tulsa.

Ron is also fond of the Dodge Style Dog, which has all the chutzpah of a Chicago-style hot dog, but with a distinctly Southwestern flair: mayo, jalapeno relish, and crumbled bacon, among other toppings.

Vegetarians will be pleased to find a very respectable veggie burger on the menu, and the seasoned fries — which come with your choice of about umpteen different dipping sauces, including my personal favorite, the chipotle aioli — are to die for.

Judging from the memorabilia on the walls, Fat Guy's attracts a few in-shape guys, too.

Living up to its slogan, “Fat tastes better than skinny feels,” Fat Guy’s is generous with the portion sizes (the small order of fries is more than enough for two people), and most of the burger toppings are free. Visitors who have spent altogether too much time watching Man vs. Food may be interested in the Fat Guy’s challenge: Diners who eat the Fat Burger (two pounds of beef, a pound of bacon, two hot dogs, eight slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and condiment on a one-pound bun) and a pound of fries in an hour or less get their meal for free and earn a place on the “Wall of Fat.”

Service is generally very quick and friendly, although you may have to wait for a table on nights when the Drillers are playing in town.

Fat Guy’s is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call (918) 794-7782 or visit www.fatguysburgers.com. Great place. Highly recommended.

NOTE: Indie Tulsa is not affiliated with any of the businesses listed here. You are welcome to post comments about your experiences, but questions or complaints about specific businesses should be directed to the businesses themselves.

The Vinyl Countdown

•January 16, 2012 • 2 Comments

This is what a 21st-century record store looks like.

The Vinyl Countdown, 322 E. 11th St., is like the New Beetle of record stores: evocative of the past, comfortable here in the present, and likely to become outrageously popular with the kind of hipsters who like to wear vintage cateye glasses, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon in fashionably square bowling alleys, and download Johnny Cash ringtones to their Androids.


As its name suggests, Vinyl Countdown’s focus is on LPs — but this is definitely not your mama’s record store. You won’t find any scratched-up estate-sale castoffs here. All the records I found were brand-new, still in their shrinkwrap, and more often than not, the work of current artists (although I did linger over a reissue of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and consider a brand-new copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited before finding myself irresistibly drawn to Amy Winehouse’s Lioness: Hidden Treasures).

Ron had to have one of these.

If you’ve been conditioned to associate vinyl records with cardboard boxes tucked into the corners of thrift shops with signs on them saying “$1.50 each or five for $5,” you may find the current retail price of new records — usually between $18 and $25 — a little steep, but keep in mind that new records are rare as hens’ teeth, and the quality of modern vinyl far exceeds that of the stuff you’re used to picking up for a quarter at thrift stores.

On the left: A deck of cards that looks like a mixtape. You know you want it.

In addition to vinyl, the shop offers a small selection of T-shirts, handmade Shrinky-Dink jewelry created by the owner’s wife, and a few decorative items and gifts, mostly of the sleek-faux-retro-minimalist variety. (They know their audience.)






Pretty sure my little brother is getting this for Christmas. Also pretty sure I'm going to play with it before I give it to him.

Service is great, special orders are welcomed, and the location — a block south of Route 66, where Elgin dead-ends at 11th — is convenient, with plenty of angle parking right in front of the store.

People my age will appreciate the angle parking in front of the store, because we pretty much suck at parallel parking.

Vinyl Countdown pretty much epitomizes what I love most about indie businesses: the notion that with a little creativity and determination, ordinary people can find a way to turn hobbies into livelihoods.

This is what the mom-and-pop movement is all about, kids. Go take a look at it. And pick up that new Amy Winehouse album while you’re there. Girlfriend sounds incredible on vinyl.

The Vinyl Countdown is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, call (918) 592-5477, like them on Facebook, or visit www.countdownvinyl.com.

NOTE: Indie Tulsa is not affiliated with any of the businesses listed here. You are welcome to post comments about your experiences, but questions or complaints about specific businesses should be directed to the businesses themselves.

Andolini’s Pizza

•January 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

The 1889 Margherita of Savoy.

Located in a beautifully preserved Cherry Street building that has housed everything from a grocery store to a dry-cleaning business, Andolini’s, 1552 E. 15th St., is not your typical pizzeria.

Pizzas are a little more expensive than the typical chain fare (prices run from around $15 to $27), but the cost is justified by the ingredients, which are of the sort foodies like to ogle in gourmet grocery stores and back issues of Saveur: Fresh house-made mozzarella, pistachio pesto, portobello mushrooms, kalamata olives, gorgonzola cheese, and a host of other similarly upscale ingredients.

On our first visit to Andolini’s, Ron and I ordered the 1889 Margherita of Savoy, billed as a “Purple Label Luxury Pizza” and topped with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, basil and red rock salt. Service was quick and friendly, and the food was excellent. Neither of us was particularly hungry when we went, and we figured we’d end up with leftovers at the end of our meal, but the Margherita proved to be surprisingly light, and we found ourselves comfortably full but not overstuffed after splitting the entire 15-inch pizza.

I like the sense of history that comes with the pressed-tin ceiling and the old photographs of Cherry Street that hang on the back wall.

On our second visit, we ordered the 14-inch wild mushroom pizza, which came with seasonal mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, garlic butter, and red rock salt. It was good but a little oily for our tastes — a problem somewhat ameliorated by dipping the crusts in a cup of marinara sauce to finish off the meal. Service was acceptable but a little less impressive the second time around, as the staff seemed a little distracted when we came in, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we were the only customers there. Andolini’s tends to be crowded most of the time, so I suspect we’d just caught them off-guard while they were taking a much-needed break during a rare lull. Once they noticed us, they snapped to attention and provided acceptable service.

I think my favorite thing about Andolini’s is the diversity of the menu. In addition to traditional pizzas such as the Margherita, the Andolini’s Combination, and the Clemenza, the menu includes more innovative offerings, such as the Maccheroni (a sort of mac-and-cheese pizza topped with pasta and cream sauce) and the New Haven Pie (clams, garlic butter, basil, Pecorino, and basil-infused olive oil), along with a range of strombolis, calzones, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.

Some of my best high-school memories begin with something that sounds like the setup to an incredibly offensive joke: “A Muslim, a Jew, and a vegan walk into a pizzeria.” Unfortunately, some of my most frustrating memories also begin that way, as waitresses in 1993 didn’t always understand what my friends and I wanted when we asked them to hold the cheese on half of our pizza — so I really appreciate the fact that Andolini’s offers at least three vegan options, including the Pizza Genco, which involves eggplant, roasted red peppers, portobello mushroom, artichoke hearts, and roasted garlic.

Andolini’s opens at 11 a.m. daily. Evening hours vary but are later on weekends. For more information, call (918) 728-6111 or visit http://www.andopizza.com.

Product: A
Service: A-
Atmosphere: A
Value: A
Overall: A

NOTE: Indie Tulsa is not affiliated with any of the businesses listed here. You are welcome to post comments about your experiences, but questions or complaints about specific businesses should be directed to the businesses themselves.