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All my exes live at Hodges

But after five years, it’s still where I dearly love to be

Street corn chowder and creole-spiced pork rinds from The Parish at Hodges Bend

Greg Bollinger

On any given day or night at Hodges Bend, you’ll hear Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday, Nickel Creek, Leon Bridges, or The Beatles radio. Sometimes the music is a bit more obscure—during my last time there for Jazz Night (9 p.m.–12 a.m. every Monday), the tunes of Casablanca-based hip-hop/jazz and guitar artist Saib swept the room.

The bar’s dim. The right kind of dim, I’d argue—warm and glowy with the help of faux candles and unconventional light fixtures. Dim enough to prompt my father to ask about the menu when he’s there with me, “What’s that say?”

But the lighting is comfortable, cozy—sexy, even. It masks the one-too-many-Irish-coffees flush, and I’m always hopeful it’ll help me hide from dreaded dates of yore. And if you gather enough of those little candles, you can illuminate the menu just enough for those whose “eyes just aren’t what they used to be.”

What they used to be. Hodges Bend turns five years old this month, and though they’ve maintained the cool Prohibition-era style they’ve flaunted since the beginning, my, have they grown—and expanded. They’ve just opened a spot in St. Paul, Minn., which I had the pleasure of visiting for their grand opening at the end of January.

The vibe there is similar, though during the day it’s a little brighter, a bit more airy: Half the walls in the new place are made up of windows. But the subdued yellow booth benches remain, as well as the stamped-tin ceiling, the glass-bottle chandeliers, the extensive cocktail and spirit list. They brought Prairie Bomb!; they carried Tulsa to Minnesota. If only they’d taken my exes.

In May, I’ll have been back in Tulsa, my hometown, for five years. I’ve always sensed that Hodges and I share a special connection. They’ve been there with either Topeca espresso or various happy-hour red wines to get me through my grad school and work deadlines. And dates. Many dates—some I’ve attended, some I’ve spied on. I’m glad to watch Hodges grow.

Back to Jazz Night. Come nine o’clock, Saib radio morphed into the ever-alternating Mike Cameron Collective, on this night comprised of Jared Johnson on drums, Scott McQuade on keys, and Cameron on sax. Just as they started to roll, out came my food from The Parish, the Hodges food truck. My pal Heather and I crunched on a pile of Creole-spiced pork rinds and slurped their street corn chowder—some of the richest chowder I’ve ever tasted—and it wasn’t long before she said, “Oh. Oh. That’s how it’s done,” as she plunged the crisps into the soup.

She was right. The rinds and the chowder are delightful, filling, and distinctive, and they make a perfect couple. The latter almost has the creaminess, texture, and viscosity of queso (it’s really Elote crema with ancho chiles), so it only makes sense to treat it like a dip. Michael Craddock, bartender and barista for the night, recommended we pair the Sazerac and Irish coffee with the two food items. The light, herbal Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, complements the heavy chowder; the Irish coffee, sweet and creamy, harmonizes with the spiced cracklings.

The Sazerac and Irish coffee—as well as the infamous hurricane—will be on special Friday, Feb. 9. for Hodges Bend’s fifth birthday party, so Heather and I shared the hurricane for dessert (find a trusty recipe on pg. 15). Its tall, voluptuous glass was packed with ice “to make the drink less intense as it melts,” Craddock said. He explained that Tiki beverages are intentionally built this way—they are, after all, made for the beach. We sipped the tropical cocktail just as the band started in on “Summertime.” Suddenly we were in New Orleans, or maybe on the beach somewhere. We’d been trilled and trollied away.

Hodges is our Tulsa take on Prohibition-era New Orleans—and, happily, you can get a satisfying Fat Tuesday-friendly fix almost anytime from The Parish. If you have a sweet tooth (or if you simply want to celebrate Mardi Gras appropriately), try their bread pudding with bourbon hard sauce and pair it with an Americano. Served gargantuan and warm, it’s a fusion of crunchy and syrupy, and it makes a perfect end to an evening.

Hodges Bend fifth birthday party
Fri., Feb. 9
823 E. 3rd St.
4 p.m.–2 a.m.

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