Sometimes we all need a change of scenery, even when time is short. In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have two thriving cities just 100 miles apart, both with delicious and exciting food and drink options. Having lived in both cities, which happen to be along the famed Route 66 highway connecting Chicago to Santa Monica, I appreciate both. I find the old highway connecting them to be charming as well. Is it the slower-paced and nostalgic travel option, or perhaps my grandfather-inspired lifelong love of Nat King Cole? I'm not sure, but I've always been fascinated by the historic "Mother Road."
Though much of the storied road has faded into history, I do occasionally take an opportunity to skip modern highways in favor of some remaining stretches of Route 66. For this adventure, I enlisted Joel Bein, my Tulsa-based favorite "co-chef," to help me show off a few delicious, beautiful glimpses of my hometown. The next time you need a quick overnight or weekend getaway, check out some of these hot spots.
As you leave town, consider stopping in Arcadia at Pops 66 for a bite of breakfast. You can pick up sodas for the road from their selection of more than 700 different varieties. Pops66.com
Stop 1: Mother Road Market
Arriving in Tulsa, I met up with Joel for a visit to Mother Road Market at 11th and South Lewis. Opened by the Lobeck-Taylor Foundation in 2018, the Tulsa food hall named after the highway features 20-plus shops and restaurants. Some are independent concepts, and some are spin-off ideas from favorite local restaurant operators. In addition to several options for our lunch, the market features gift shops, The Farm Stand (a locally sourced stand run by the Tulsa Farmers Market), a bakery, an ice cream shop, a demo kitchen for classes and events, a full-service bar and a patio complete with a Route 66-themed putt-putt course. Putt-putt and a double scoop of ice cream from Big Dipper Creamery was the perfect end to our lunch stop. MotherRoadMarket.com
Stop 2: The Mayo Hotel
After lunch, we're off to The Mayo Hotel, a great place to stay the night while visiting Tulsa. First opened at 115 W. Main St. in 1925, it closed and sat vacant from 1981 until 2009. Following an extensive $42 million renovation, it once again shines with the vibrant downtown art deco feel that Tulsans have long known and loved.
After checking in, head up to The Penthouse Bar on the rooftop. Friendly bartenders serve beer, wine and cocktails in a swanky indoor setting, or for a drink with a view, step out on to one of two patio levels overlooking the city. TheMayoHotel.com
Stop 3: Prossima Bubbles & Libations
For dinner, we joined friends on Tulsa's historic Cherry Street for a taste of the city's newest Italian hot spot, which opened in July. On the east side of this split-room concept is Prossima Bubbles & Libations. The lovely prosecco bar is perfect for a snack or a glass of something sparkly while you wait for a table next door. Making your way into the main dining room at Prossimo Ristorante, you'll likely see tableside carts, where servers stand bringing culinary art to life.
Being The Cheese Wench, I have spent years teaching food lovers how to make mozzarella at home. I love seeing students understand firsthand why mozzarella will never taste as good as it does right after it is hand-stretched. Here, that first warm bite of warm cheese hand-stretched tableside and finished with olive oil and crunchy salt sets the tone for the rest of the meal. Everything is handmade and meticulously crafted.
As we sampled through the menu, the same thought came to mind course after course. No details are spared at Prossimo, from the wine service, gorgeous meat and seafood dishes, to the oversized crème brûlée for dessert. Speaking with the owners, brothers Mike and Jim Bausch, the pride for their Italian roots showed once again. Jim told us the story of the photo on the wall above our table, depicting family immigration papers from Italy dating back to 1901.
Anyone who knows me well can attest that the only food that rivals my love of cheese is fresh, handmade pasta. Most normal women don't own four sets of pasta rollers, so if I am going to go out for Italian, that's what I want. I must say that the three pasta dishes I sampled were worth the trip alone. The Pappardelle Bolognese and Paccheri alla Vodka were delicious. The most eye-catching and for some, enlightening, however, is the Tableside Il Vero Alfredo. Most people associate "Fettuccine Alfredo" with a thick, creamy, Americanized sauce, rather than the perfect and straightforward dish that originated in Italy.
Here, the only way to make this dish is the traditional way. A wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano (the real stuff, from Emelia Romagna, which weighs around 90 pounds) arrives at the table on a cart. Brandy is lit ablaze in the hollowed-out "bowl" of the wheel as the cook scrapes cheese into it from the sides. After a considerable amount of cheese has been collected, a runner shows up with a pan of freshly cooked and buttered handmade fettuccine. It is promptly tossed with the cheese scrapings right in the hollow of the Parmigiano and plated up tableside. If you can find me a better plate of traditional fettuccine outside of Italy, invite me to dinner, and I'll buy. ProssimaTulsa.com