In 2016, I started a journey back in time. I’d always heard about iconic places like Pennington’s Drive-In, the Italian Inn, and My Pi Pizza but I never got the chance to experience them. Thanks to many hours of research and interviews, I have an understanding of the eating places that defined Tulsa for the last few generations.
In 2018, that journey concludes. In the autumn of 2018, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa will be available on bookshelves! You can follow along on Facebook below, where I am posting occasional photos and updates regarding publication schedule:
Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe.
After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world.
Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa.
Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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56 thoughts on “Lost Restaurants of Tulsa”
Saratoga on 11th street across from the police station! They had the biggest and best biscuits.
Elmo’s Grill 15th/Yale
Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips
Little Lanny’s Submsrine Ssndwiches
Zeider Zee 27th/Memorial
villa venice was tops
Creech’s was a nice family restaurant on east 11th St, we often went there for a nice family dinner. There were two such restaurants in that area. Therewas a nice restaurant in the place called Western Village (SE corner of Admiral & Garnett – a fascinating old west style town with shops, a motel, golf course and landing strip ). I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, we didn’t go often. (Or, I didn’t! ) I remember it being dimly lit, candles on the tables and fancy napkins. Maybe someone else will recall, but you should do a wholesection on Western Village.
My favorite restaurant, though, was the Golden Drumstick. I loved the blue glass windows.
For a good hamburger, we liked Boots Drive-in near 26th & Sheridan, and Norman Angel’s at Admiral & Memorial – it was like the one in Happy Days. But my favorite place for a hamburger was a little place out east on 11th St, near the road to Harvey Young Airport (known as Hoover Street then). It was named The Friendly Cafe, but my mom called it the Greasy Spoon. I didn’t get it, but I sure liked their big burgers – and just 25c with fries.
Kodiak at Woodland Hills Mall. First place I ever went to that had alligator as an appetizer.
Joe’s Grill, 49th Place & Peoria (taken down to build the Camelot Inn).
Borden’s Cafeteria, 51st and Peoria in Brook Plaza Shopping Center.
The Louisiane, 118 E. 18th St.
Pennington’s Drive-In, Admiral and Harvard.
Shadow Mountain Inn, 61st and Sheridan.
My parents worked at the Louisiane when we first moved here from New Orleans about 31 years ago!
That’s great! I’ll definitely be writing about The Louisiane.
Ray’s, at 15th and Peoria, behind where the McDonald’s was built, across 15th from Crosstown Grill, was a classic small diner. It had 8 seats, if I recall correctly. Our parents took us there on payday nights in the 1960s. We walked up from our house at 14th and Owasso. We stood and waited for another diner to finish so we could sit at a stool. The beef stew was wonderful, as were their dinner rolls they baked every morning at 5. Many men still wore hats and hung them on the coat rack.
Bells, on 3rd street downtown.
Reblogged this on Rhys' Pieces and commented:
I am still researching for this project – please spread the word! I’m interested in stories, photos, and other details from any-and-all Tulsa restaurants that were beloved but are no longer around.
I remember Steven’s Hamburgers. It was on S. Yale right before where the BA expressway crosses. A small burger joint very much like a few other classic places that are still around such as Claud’s with one exception. Really good homemade pie. My mom used to take me there sometimes after school when I’d tell her the school lunch wasn’t so good. Great hamburgers and great pie.
Another place I liked a lot was called Lum’s. I remember they had hot dogs steamed in beer…..
Martin’s BBQ, used to be on Sheridan just south of Pine. It had a neon donkey on the front and his back legs kicked. Pretty cool for way back when. The building is still there last time I was by.
I know there was a place called Eastside chicken diner. At least that was the place that my grandpa called it. They used to get chicken fried steak and liver and onions there. Their onion rings were famous. I also remember going to the knotty pine quite a bit. I hear they changed into the naughty pig or something like that and that their barbecue is still the same, but is under a different name.
Thanks for this! I understand that the Freeway Cafe in Tulsa has the Onion Ring recipe from the old Eastside Cafe. They’re pretty good, I know that much.
Thank you. I’ll have to go try out the Freeway cafe and reminisce.
I used to work at Casa Bonita as a bus boy back in the early nineties. I remember the waiters and waitresses “acquiring” tacos and cheese enchiladas for us to snack on during downtime. I remember going and hanging out in the massive walk in cooler to cool down during the hot summers. It smelled of hot sauce. I remember the massive vats of refried beans big enough to be a hot tub. A hot tub of beanie goodness. I remember playing tag with the other bus boys after hours in the caves. I had many birthday dinners there, especially in the waterfall room and after eating we would go to the puppet show to watch Mr. E and the hand. Good times.
Those are wonderful details! Thank you very much for this. I spoke to someone else that spent a little time as Bananas the Monkey. It must’ve been quite the experience.
The Ranch House off of 3rd and Utica
The Pancake House at 11th and South Utica…Across the street from Rainbow Bread and Hillcrest Hospital
I found evidence of a location over by Southroads, too. Any specific memories of this place?
This was actually the Pancake Place. Pancake House was in the parking lot at Southroads Mall.
My Pi Pizza on S Lewis
Took my wife there on 1st date 1977
ITALIAN INN: The original Italian Inn was on Main St. about 17th (I think) in a white house. That would have been in the 1950’s. Before the original owner returned to Sicily, he sold the restaurant to Don Funston, Sr.
HUMPHREY’S DINNER HOUSE: Humphrey’s was on 11th St. just west of Yale on the south side of the street. It was owned by Herb and Pearl Clogston. That was in the 1950’s.
PHILTOWER GRILL: On the ground floor of the Philtower Building at 5th and Boston. It was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Dubin. My father was chef and manager. That was in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
NORMAN ANGEL’S AUTO CAFE: on the corner of Admiral and Memorial. That was also in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Norman Angel’s is one I’ll be featuring, though I don’t have a TON of information about it. This is the first I’ve heard of Philtower Grill, but I’d love to include it too! If you have any pictures or more info, email me at: email@example.com — I’ll see what I can find.
Shadow Mountain Inn at 61st and Sheridan.
I have a picture of my parents celebrating their 28th Wedding Anniversary at Shadow Mountain Inn 1969.
Powers restaurant 27th and Harvard, 1950’s and 60’s, got pictures for Rhys, Camelot restaurant menu’s I bought at liquidation, Casa Bonita menu’s and the pull flags for refills, post cards, Sambo’s matches, many other items
This is great! Just sent you an email sir.
Casa Laredo, Old Village Center, 41st and Peoria.
Sleepy Hollow, 6605 South Lewis
Ryan’s Grill , 31st & Sheridan. Best Coleslaw in Tulsa. Ate there weekly in mid 70s. Also Kay’s Restaurant around 31st & Harvard. Great Chicken Fried Steaks and Pies.
Kays was located on 31st Street where the Broken Arrow Expressway eastbound exit ramp for 31st/Yale intersects 31st Street (essentially due south of the signal at that intersection). There was a Kays Too Restaurant in the Spectrum shopping center at 69th and Lewis (southwest corner of the shopping center by where Crazy’s (arcade) was located).
Original Knotty Pine BBQ, 6161 S 33rd W Ave, lives in your memory forever.
Casa Monterrey, northeast corner of 41st Street and Peoria Avenue.
Peking Garden, 66th Street and Lewis Avenue – just south of the old Sleepy Hollow.
The Recovery Room – located on the first floor of the old Utica Square Medical Center. They served breakfast and lunch.
Charlie Mitchell’s Restaurant and Pub, three locations.
Miichelle’s, followed by Michael’s. Located at 81st Street and Harvard Avenue – Walnut Creek Shopping Center.
Darrell’s Food Shoppe, located in the Mayo Building, 5th and Main streets.
Was there ever a Burger Joint called Happy Burger In tulsa?
There’s a Happy Burger in Sapulpa that’s alive and well! I don’t know of a Tulsa location.
Coop’s “Whizz Burger” 5th & Lewis
Worked at both Admiral and S Peoria. Peoria in ‘55, “setting up trays”. Admiral as a carhop in ‘56. Great experiences and great stories! LOVED Archie-intimidated by Lola! (I was 15 first year-16 the second.) My two older sisters worked for Archie too-one as carhop (Peoria); other sister “ran the register” at both locations. All except basket meals were served on Stoneware. SS utensils, cloth napkins, glass s&p shakers, and iced glasses of water was put on each tray for each customer. THE BLACK-BOTTOM PIE WAS AWESOME.
What great memories! Thank you for sharing.
I have been trying to find out what happened to all the portraits of all the Miss Downtowner’s that were on the wall at The Louisiane restaurant back in the early 50’s. I was Miss Downtowner for July, 1955. I am 83 now and would like to find my portrait to give to my kids and grand-kids. If it is still around some where. Thank you,
That is a great question, Norma! I still have occasional contact with the Kallmeyer family and I’ll ask if they know.
Thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. Norma Haney
Norma, I so sorry it has taken so long but I just sent you an e-mail. Let me know if you got it!
We went west across the river on i44. There was ‘the Girly Pankcake House’
The sign said. The best because their stacked !
And the ‘chuck wagon’ on 11th st. it was made like a covered wagon and the fries were a brick of greasy goodness.
Was there a pizza place called Applegate’s in the 70’s ? It was near Memorial Baptist Church.
Applegate’s Landing was at 3233 S Yale (most recently an Arvest Bank). It was actually a concept from Pizza Hut and originated in Wichita! https://roadsideks.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/pa-applegate-has-left-the-building/
We are trying to remember a killer pizza place on 11th street—was it Hemi’s??
I can check my archives and see if I can find out! Do you know where about on 11th and/or what year(s) it was around?
yes,,,,,near TU…Hemis Pizza…..remember that place