Blue Dome Diner

Posted in American food, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on December 28, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

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Located at 313 E. 2nd St. in Tulsa’s historic Blue Dome district on the east side of downtown, the Blue Dome Diner offers an upscale spin on old-fashioned diner fare.

Catering to a decidedly eclectic crowd, the diner serves such specialties as quiche, French toast, and grilled cheese sandwiches made with real cheese (not “pasteurized process cheese food”) stacked between thick slices of homemade bread.

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Even a simple bowl of oatmeal becomes a gourmet affair at the Blue Dome Diner, where the cereal is cooked gently, with enough water to moisten it, but not enough to make it mushy; each individual oat remains separate and distinct, sweetened with plenty of brown sugar and big, fat raisins. The oats are a meal unto themselves, but they come with a side dish: toast, fluffy biscuits with thick cream gravy, or the diner’s to-die-for French toast.

The decor features exposed brick walls and poster-sized enlargements of postcards and photographs from Tulsa’s past. The diner sits catty-cornered — and takes its name — from the historic Blue Dome building, an Art Deco structure that once housed a gas station on the original alignment of Route 66.

The staff is friendly, helpful, and supportive of Tulsa’s indie business scene (a Blue Dome waitress clued us in to the existence of Under the Mooch while she was ringing up our order one morning last winter), and the prices — while a bit higher than most diners — are pretty reasonable, considering the quality and quantity of food being served.

Bring quarters to feed the parking meter if you go during the week, as the Blue Dome Diner, like the rest of downtown, suffers from a dearth of free parking. Still, you can usually find a meter fairly close by, and if you aren’t in the mood to walk, there’s a fairly inexpensive ($2 or so) pay lot right next door.

The Blue Dome Diner is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.Saturday and Sunday; and 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Grades:
Value: A-
Product: A
Service: A-
Overall: A-

Midpoint Cafe

Posted in American food, Diners, Pie, Texas restaurants on December 27, 2007 by redforkhippie

The Midpoint Cafe on Route 66 in Adrian, Texas, has terrific bacon, great omelets, good sandwiches, and a spectacular gift shop, but all of that is really beside the point.

The Midpoint’s raison d’etre, as far as I’m concerned, is the pie.

Apple pie, coconut cream pie, peanut butter pie, chocolate pie, banana cream pie … doesn’t really matter which kind of pie you order, because it’s all spectacular, and it all elevates this rather nondescript little building in the Texas Panhandle to an international tourist destination.

The Midpoint takes its name from the fact that Adrian is generally regarded as the halfway point of Route 66. (Your mileage may vary, but who needs accuracy when you’ve got a good claim to fame?)

In any case, the Midpoint Cafe’s friendly service, well-stocked gift shop, and decadent “ugly crust” pie (so named by the baker, who says she’s never quite matched her grandmother’s talent for making pretty pie crusts) make it well worth a stop. While you’re there, be sure to browse through the Midpoint’s scrapbooks, which include photos of well-known roadies and articles from local, national, and international publications whose reporters visited the place and found it worth mentioning.

Prices are a little higher than most diners, but the food is so good, you won’t regret spending a little extra for it.

The Midpoint Cafe is located on the south side of Route 66 at the west end of Adrian. For more information, call (806) 538-6379 or visit the Web site.

The Midpoint is open 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week from Nov. 1 to April 1, with extended hours during the summer.

Grades:
Product: A+
Service: A
Value: B
Route 66 spirit: A+
Overall: A

Hank’s Hamburgers

Posted in American food, Burgers, Oklahoma restaurants on December 26, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

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In Tulsa, the competition for “best mom-and-pop hamburger stand” is fierce (after living here for three and a half years, I’ve yet to find a less than satisfactory burger), but one contender stands out from the pack: Hank’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, located at 8933 E. Admiral Place — an old alignment of Route 66 on Tulsa’s north side.

Everything I’ve eaten at Hank’s has been good — the chili, the fries, the burgers — but two items stand out from the pack: the Big Okie and the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls. Even after consuming the former (a behemoth of a burger consisting of four, count ‘em, FOUR quarter-pound beef patties, layered with cheese, grilled onions, and all the trimmings), I manage to find a little room for the latter.

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A couple of years ago, during our first encounter with the peanut butter balls, Ron and I noticed a sign taped to the side of the Pepsi machine that read: “We hate to brag, but these are the best thing you have ever tried.”

It’s a bold assertion, but it comes close to the truth. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two desserts better than a peanut butter ball from Hank’s, and neither is available in Tulsa.*

When Waylon Jennings came through Tulsa, Hank’s was one of his favorite haunts — as evidenced by the autographed photographs of Jennings and his wife, Jessi Colter, hanging in the dining room.

When I stopped by for lunch one afternoon, a radio in the kitchen was playing a James Taylor tune, and the tantalizing smell of grilled onions and sizzling beef hung in the air. I got a single cheeseburger — cooked to order, with grilled onions, mustard, tomato, and pickles — for $2.84 and paid 75 cents apiece for a half-dozen peanut butter balls.

It took all the restraint I could muster to keep from eating the entire bag of rich, creamy, truffle-like creations on the way back to the office.

Roadfood.com did a terrific writeup on Hank’s a couple of years ago. The review includes a photograph of the Big Okie.

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Hank’s opened in 1949 and has been in its current location — a small yellow building on Tulsa’s oldest alignment of Route 66, between Mingo and Memorial — for more than 50 years. The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The dining room closes at 6:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.

Grades:
Value: A
Service: A+
Product: A+
Overall: A+

*The only two desserts I love more than Hank’s peanut butter balls are the Dutchman’s Delight concrete from Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard in St. Louis and the maple truffles from Funk’s Grove Maple Sirup in Shirley, Ill.

Cozy Dog Drive-In

Posted in American food, Burgers, Corn dogs, Diners on December 25, 2007 by redforkhippie

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If there were a Mount Rushmore of Route 66 restaurateurs, the late Ed Waldmire’s face would surely be on it.

While serving in the Air Force during the 1940s, Waldmire invented what he called a “crusty cur” — a wiener dipped in cornmeal batter, impaled on a skewer, and deep-fried. His wife, Virginia, later convinced him to change his creation’s name to “Cozy Dog.” According to the official Cozy Dog Web site, the Waldmires began selling the deep-fried delicacies at the Lake Springfield Beach House in 1946.

More than 60 years later, Waldmire’s grandchildren help their mother run the Cozy Dog Drive-In at 2935 S. Sixth Street in Springfield, Ill.

In addition to Waldmire’s world-famous, much-beloved corn dogs, the Cozy Dog offers skin-on French fries and some of the best cheeseburgers on the road, along with plush Cozy Dog souvenirs; batter mix; and gorgeous pen-and-ink artwork by Waldmire’s son Bob, an ethical vegetarian, itinerant artist and longtime hippie who inspired the character Fillmore in the movie Cars.

Below is a rat-terrier’s-eye view of a Cozy Dog just seconds before our faithful sidekick, Scout, swiped it right off the stick:

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(Scout offers her own account of our trip to the Cozy Dog on her Web site, Kidson66.com, where you can also download a free guidebook to kid-friendly attractions on Route 66.)

If you’re traveling through Springfield on Route 66, the Cozy Dog is not to be missed.

The Cozy Dog Drive-In is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and significant holidays. For more information, visit the Web site or call (217) 525-1992.

Grades:
Product: A+
Value: A+
Service: A
Route 66 Spirit: A+
Overall: A+

Beto’s Mexican Grill

Posted in Mexican food, Oklahoma restaurants on December 24, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

Dinner at Beto's

If your vision of heaven involves tortillas covered with meat, cilantro, and onions, then Beto’s Mexican Grill, 1709 Southwest Blvd. in Tulsa, is a little slice of paradise.

This is especially true if your concept of the perfect taco includes barbacoa, which I think is Spanish for “I’ll have three of those, please.” (OK, so I just made that up. Barbacoa is actually Mexican barbecue, and around here, it frequently involves goat, which is what beef wants to taste like when it grows up.)

Beto’s offers an extensive menu that includes terrific enchiladas, quesadillas, menudo, American-style tacos, and my personal favorite: traditional Mexican tacos, which consist of small, soft, gently fried corn tortillas topped with meat, cilantro, and finely chopped onions. Tacos are available with a variety of meats, including the usual steak, pork, and chicken, along with several more exotic options (we’re fond of goat and beef tongue). Dine-in orders are served with chips and fresh salsa made just the way I like it: with plenty of cilantro and a respectable kick.

On our last visit, Ron tried the fish tacos, which include grilled fish and fajita-style peppers and onions, while I had the barbacoa tacos and a bowl of menudo — a simple, brothy soup made from tripe, pork, and whatever else the cook feels like adding. Beto’s version is served in an enormous bowl, accompanied by a couple of lime wedges and several little dishes containing dried oregano, chopped jalapenos, and dried New Mexican chiles, all of which can be added to the bowl at the diner’s discretion.

Upon learning that this was my first encounter with menudo, the restaurant’s owner — an affable guy with a quick smile and a friendly manner — gave me a crash course in the finer points of making and seasoning this traditional Mexican dish. He suggested squeezing a lime wedge over the bowl and adding some Tabasco, which turned out to be good advice.

The prices are very reasonable (you can stuff yourself for under $10), and the service is friendly. On very hot days, it might be advisable to eat late or take dinner orders to go, as the orientation of the windows is such that the restaurant can get a little too warm just before sunset.
Beto’s is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It closes at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Dine-in, carryout and delivery are available. For more information, call (918) 599-9300.

You can read more about Beto’s in this Tulsa World story.

Grades:
Product: A+
Service: A
Value: A
Overall: A

Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store

Posted in Delis, Groceries, Kansas restaurants, Sandwiches on December 23, 2007 by redforkhippie

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Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store is one of the great classics of Route 66. According to its Web site, it has been in continuous operation since 1925 — a year before Route 66 was commissioned.

It would be noteworthy if it only served good sandwiches at cheap prices (less than five bucks will buy you a sandwich, chips and a bottle of root beer or sarsparilla from an old-fashioned Coke cooler). But what makes Eisler Bros. special is its ambience.

Situated right on Route 66 in a National Register-listed building at the west end of Riverton, Kansas, Eisler Bros. feels like a step back in time. Sandwiches are served from paper wrappers, not styrofoam boxes. Coke comes in eight-ounce bottles. During the summer, you can buy a big, juicy homegrown tomato to eat with your sandwich, and the big front doors are thrown open wide to let the breeze in while you sit at a table on the enclosed front porch and watch the world go by on Route 66.

In addition to the deli, Eisler Bros. has a few groceries, a few household items (on my last visit, I picked up a roll of electrical tape to cover up the light leaks in my Holga camera), and a stellar assortment of Route 66 souvenirs. The manager, Scott Nelson — nephew of owners Joe and Isabell Eisler — is a diehard roadie whose passion for the Mother Road is rivaled only by his passion for gardening, which is evident in the rack of seed packets next to the front door, the flats of seedlings in the wooden cart out front, and the brightly colored hanging baskets of petunias in the hoophouse next to the parking lot.

Add in the great selection in the deli, the assortment of old-fashioned candy near the cash register, and the fact that Scott knows the difference between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip, and you’re looking at a must-stop.

Eisler Bros. is located at 7109 S.E. Highway 66 in Riverton. For more information, visit www.eislerbros.com or call (620)848-3330.

Grades:
Product: A
Value: A
Service: A
Route 66 spirit: A+
Overall: A

Ollie’s Station Restaurant

Posted in American food, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on December 23, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

To my knowledge, Ollie’s Station Restaurant, 4070 Southwest Blvd. in Tulsa, is the only business in town that advertises itself with matchbooks that list its location as simply “Red Fork, Oklahoma.”

Tucked under an overpass next to the railroad tracks, directly across historic Route 66 from the remnants of downtown Red Fork — a little working-class community that was annexed into Tulsa well over half a century ago — Ollie’s is one of the best places in the area to take out-of-town guests or have lunch with a rugrat.

In addition to a terrific breakfast buffet, great fried chicken, and to-die-for cinnamon rolls, Ollie’s offers friendly service; a helpful, community-minded owner; and perhaps best of all, a collection of model trains that periodically race around the room on tiny tracks suspended from the ceiling.

One of my favorite memories of Ollie’s involves a toddler who was so delighted with the trains that he stretched out his arms and squealed with unbridled joy as he wobbled along beneath the track, chasing the tiny cars around the dining room.

Below are a couple of videos of the model trains running:

And here’s a clip of the restaurant’s miniature cable cars (the ski-lift kind) moving up and down in the dining room:

Everything I’ve had at Ollie’s was pretty good, but the weekend breakfast buffet — which offers thick slices of smoky bacon, three kinds of sausage, waffles, pancakes, French toast, biscuits, cream gravy, hash browns, home fries, and umpteen other goodies — is one of the few things that can coax me out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

Incidentally, Saturday morning is really the best time to go to Ollie’s, as classic car clubs frequently use it as a starting point for weekend Route 66 cruises, making it likely that you’ll find a few vintage Corvettes or ’57 Chevys on the lot if you get there early enough.

Service can be a little slow when it’s crowded, but you can expedite things by heading for the buffet instead of ordering off the menu.

Ollie’s is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information or to reserve a banquet room for a meeting or party, call 446-0524.

Grades:
Products: B+
Service: A-
Value: A
Convenience: A-
Overall: A-

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