I love discovering a restaurant that few people know about that it also amazingly delicious. Sometimes, these places are a little rough on the exterior. Sometimes, they don’t accept credit cards and I have to plan a trip to an ATM beforehand. But always, they deliver on taste and an authentic food experience.
Where can you find Tulsa’s Best Hole-in-the-Walls? Here:
#1: Viet Huong
7919 E 21st St.
Viet Huong is truly one of my favorite Asian restaurants in Tulsa. It’s my go-to spot for pho, and I crave their dumpling soup on almost any cold day. That right there (pictured above) is the BBQ Pork Wonton Soup. Don’t ask me to remember the “V+#” menu item, because I can’t, and their menu of course isn’t posted on a fancy website somewhere for
me to reference. But when you flip through their photo menu and see something listed like that pictured above, you’re going to want to order it. It comes with plenty of fresh vegetables that you can add to your soup, like bean sprouts, cilantro, and parsley. Yum!
My favorite appetizer at Viet Huong is the Spring Roll (pictured right). It’s filled with tons of deliciously fresh vegetables and served with a tangy peanut sauce.
When you visit Viet Huong, just walk in, grab an empty table (if they have one), and the nice Vietnamese waitresses will greet you and take your order. Make sure you bring cash; they are cash only! They’re also a great option for take out, and they supposedly have a drive thru, though I have never tried it.
#2: Linda-Mar Drive-In
1614 W. 51st Street and 5941 E. Admiral Place
The next time you’re craving a hamburger and fries, stop yourself before you head over to a staple drive-through like McDonald’s or Whataburger. Wouldn’t you rather support a local business, where the beef is fresh, and the food is cooked Oklahoma-style?
The original location in West Tulsa, which I visited on a snowy afternoon, has been open since the early 1970’s. I quickly realized that a drive-in is not quite the same as a drive-through. There was no place for me to drive my car through and place an order into a squawking box. However, I could easily park, go inside, and place my order for a delicious hamburger to go, or eat my meal inside the small restaurant while watching The Andy Griffith Show, which plays continually at both Linda-Mar locations.
Maybe it was the familiar whistling tune coming from the television that made me feel as though I had been transported back in time. I ordered the most signature item on the menu, the Westside Burger – double meat and cheese with grilled onion cooked into the burger, served on Texas toast. I also had a side of onion rings, which are available raw or grilled. I choose the less bad-breath-inducing option – grilled.
It makes sense that the Westside Burger received its name from the neighborhood where the original Linda-Mar is located, and fittingly, the new location boasts the location-centric name Eastside for its signature burger.
The exterior of the restaurant is intriguing – a cinderblock painted bright yellow and red. Inside, you’ll find NASCAR-themed décor with an image of Winston Cup champion Rusty Wallace’s Blue Deuce covering one wall of the dining room. Owner Mike McCutchen was at one time the owner of the Tulsa Speedway and used to sponsor a Sprint racecar team.
Burgers are the mainstay at Linda-Mar, but the menu also features several other items, including a boneless chicken basket (with a jalapeño option), a grilled chicken sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich, a hot link sandwich, a coney dog and Frito chili pie. Side options include fried okra, crinkle-cut fries, onion rings, tator tots, fried cheese balls and friend mushrooms.
#3: Tacos Don Francisco
4008 E 11th St.
As you probably know, there’s a vast difference between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex. I’m a huge fan of Tex-Mex, but there are times in life when you feel the need to eat a burrito from a menu whose contents are entirely in Spanish, and to order it from someone who tells you “gracias” after you complete your order.
When you need that sort of authentic Mexican food experience, head over to Tacos Don Francisco.
I first noticed TDF (as I affectionately like to call it) for the very first time a couple years ago on Christmas Eve around 11:30 p.m. My husband and I were driving around searching for any open venue that could satiate our late-night munchies. As the rest of the world was sleeping, awaiting the arrival of Santy Clause, the ONLY businesses open in all of Midtown were QuikTrip and TDF. So, did we confidently stride into TDF and eat some delicious tacos on Christmas Eve? No. Instead, like the pansy gringo/gringa that we are, we settled for some very un-authentic QuikTrip taquitos from the roller grill. #fail
It was only until recently that I discovered what a huge slipup that Christmas Eve decision was. On a recent weekday at lunchtime, mi amiga Beth and I strode confidently into TDF, knowing that we would likely be the only gringas in the establishment. We were greeted by a very friendly staff and the curious looks of some of the other diners (though I’m sure we would get that anywhere…we are pretty funny looking). Immediately, we looked to the sign above the cash register that displays the menu. We were pleasantly surprised to see that each menu item is displayed on “Hi, My Name Is…” stickers. Classy. But cute, and it made us laugh.
I carefully selected the Chicken Burrito Mojada, a huge burrito covered in red sauce, cheese, tomato and fresh avocado, complete with plastic silverware (as you can see in my photo at the top of this post). I was also delighted to see that TDF offers my favorite line of Mexican soft drinks: Jarritos. I plopped down in a booth with my Burrito Mojada and Fruit Punch Jarritos, and I was on Cloud Nueve.
Beth, fully aware that we were at a places with “Tacos” in the name, was wise enough to order a taco, a beef one filled with onions, cilantro, and some sort of yummy sauce. She also tried a chicken quesadilla (which we gringas pronounce as “k-sa-dill-a.” She described it as being “very cheesy, full of flavor, and juicy.” Oh, and both the taco and quesadilla were served with a ginormous pepper.
Our whole experience was very positive. The staff was great, the food was delicious, and the portions were huge for the amount we paid. We also left feeling like we had just been in Mexico, which is always fun.
#4: Wilson’s BBQ
1522 E. Apache St. and 3616 E. 11th St.
North Tulsa is full of great BBQ joints, and Wilson’s is my favorite. They’ve been family-owned since the 1960s and serve up great original recipes.
Some of the favorites on the menu include:
- Hickory smoked ribs served with baked beans, and coleslaw
- Sweet potato pie or buttermilk pie for dessert
- Hickory smoked brisket served with sliced or chopped pickles, onions, and bread.
- Polish or hot style pork sausage links
When I’m there, I like to order the Pulled Pork Sandwich with potato salad. So yummy!
#5: Eritrean & Ethiopian Café
6934 S. Lewis Ave.
When the Tulsa Places crew visited Tulsa’s most authentic African restaurant, we started out with a delicious appetizer – the Sambusa with Veggie. It’s a vegetable shell pastry filled with lentil, onions and jalapenos. It’s not as spicy as you might expect. It comes with a delicious dipping sauce, and you can also opt for Sambusa with Chicken.
Let’s start with the mega space our meals took up. The largest plates I’ve ever seen blanketed in a thin, almost-purple injera (a spongy flatbread that is about 18 inches in diameter), with SHIRO WOT steaming in a bowl in the middle. I’m a fan of chickpeas, and this dish’s main ingredient is chickpea flour. The spice of the dish comes from the Berbere sauce. It reminded me of curry but had elements I couldn’t quite place. The chili peppers in the berbere brought enough heat to give my sinuses a relief. The aroma was delectable.
The act of eating it made us question if we should have a demo on how to eat Ethiopian food. Using the injera as a vehicle, the yummy dish made it to my mouth. Luckily, my makeshift bib made it out clean.
I (Lindsay) tried the DERO TIBS – chicken breast with garlic, onions, green peppers and tomatoes. It reminded me a little of fajitas, actually! It was also served with a huge helping of injera.
We have to give the owners of Eritrean & Ethiopian Cafe props. They know their patrons are mostly Americans, proven as the tables filled up with Okie-accented guests. This cafe is eager to share Ethiopian cuisine and they have even noted which items on the menu Americans prefer, such as the Vege-Combo – seven veggies.
When you go to Eritrean and Ethiopian Cafe, have an open mind and a little time to spare. It’s worth taking the time to chat with the owners, take it all in, and enjoy.
Eritrean & Ethiopian Cafe is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It’s definitely an experience worth having in 2016!
What’s your favorite hole-in-the-wall in Tulsa?