Bars, burgers & basketball
Hey, NCAA fans, here’s what you should do in Tulsa
Tulsa is at the center of attention for many watching the NCAA first- and- second-round March MadnessTM games March 17-19. Madness sister cities include Greenville, Indianapolis, and Sacramento.
If you’re here visiting, welcome! We’ve designed a three-day itinerary to get you acquainted with Tulsa—eating great burgers and brunch, watching games in the best spots (unless, of course, you’ve got tickets), and what to do and see when the games aren’t on—all within walking distance, or a short ride(share) away.
Between St. Patrick’s Day, basketball mania, and necessary recovery, we’ll keep you busy and well-fed. Look at the end of this section for a list of bars and places to eat, organized by districts near downtown.
St. Patrick’s in the Blue Dome
Session One Game: 12 p.m., BOK Center
Session Two Game: 6 p.m., BOK Center
Whether you’re in from out of town to watch basketball or a local ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, start out your day proper with a Guinness at McNellie’s (409 E 1st St.) in the Blue Dome District from the Guinness Gig Rig—a semi-truck full of the fortifying nectar. McNellie’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration begins at 11 a.m., and a block over at 2nd and Elgin Arnie’s Bar will be hosting its own massive street party. Between the two celebrations there will be Irish dancers, live bands, and a corn hole tournament. If you find yourself wanting to hang out all day but not miss the games, McNellie’s will have an alleyway sports bar for just that reason.
For a full guide to St. Patrick’s Day events in Tulsa, click here.
For lunch, there are ample options for both burgers and barbecue. If you’re hanging in the Blue Dome and don’t mind lunching among the reveling crowd, Dilly Diner (402 E. 2nd St.) offers a double meat, double cheese diner-style burger and fries. Albert G’s Bar & Q (421 E. 1st St.) has the Fat Albert G’s, an unholy monster of a sandwich with all of the meat (seriously—literally all of the meats they offer are on this thing). Or, if you’re on your way to the games, stop by MixCo (3rd and Denver) across from the BOK Center for its Dad Burger—a beef patty served on a brioche bun with muenster cheese and mushrooms sautéed with garlic, green onions, and butter (this is the burger on our cover). Lastly, if you have a few extra minutes to go only slightly out of the way, check out Ron’s Hamburgers & Chili (1440 S. Denver Ave.) for a sausage cheeseburger. Trust us, this thing is crazy—half beef, half sausage, smashed together with onions fried into the meat.
If you’re not attending the game but plan to watch it on a screen, we recommend Elgin Park (325 E. M.B. Brady St.), which is walking-distance from the Blue Dome District’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Elgin Park brews beer on site and offers 50 televisions to ogle—not to mention their many excellent pizza and wings selections.
To bookend St. Pat’s, head to Soundpony bar (409 N. Main St.) in the Brady Arts District and watch members of local act Lizard Police pay tribute to Thin Lizzy, which the players say is “the Irish’s most important import besides Connemara single malt.”
If you wanna venture outside downtown but stay close enough for affordable transportation, Kilkenny’s Irish Pub (1413 E. 15th St.) will overtake Cherry Street with their own annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Hair of the dog, a nap, museums, and more basketball
If your obsession with soccer (or old age) precludes you from sleeping in on a Saturday, head over to Empire (1516 S. Peoria Ave.), Tulsa’s resident futbol bar, and nurse your hangover with hair of the dog as you watch soccer. Empire opens at 10 a.m.
After, treat yourself at The Bramble (311 E 2nd St.) in the Blue Dome District for a late breakfast and bloodies, or if you’d rather get a quick sugar rush, stop by the recently opened (and open 24/7!) Hurts Donuts (111 S. Detroit Ave.) for a decadent gourmet donut and coffee.
Satiated, but perhaps not stable, we recommend a nap. Guthrie Green is a lux grassy knoll perfect for strolling, people watching, or outdoors nap-taking. Off Archer and Boston in the heart of the Brady Arts District, there are plenty of other bars, restaurants, galleries, and shops within walking distance of the Green.
Since this might be your only full day to enjoy the many splendored facets of Tulsa, we suggest you follow your nap with some local culture: Philbrook Downtown (open 12-5 p.m., $9 admission) or the Woody Guthrie Center (open 10-6 p.m., $8 admission), both across the street from Guthrie Green. Philbrook hosts modern and contemporary art exhibitions, as well as the Philbrook’s Native American art collection, and the Woody Guthrie Center pays homage to one of our state’s most important figures
Satiated and perhaps more stable, head to Fassler Hall (304 S. Elgin Ave.) or Elgin Park (325 E. M.B. Brady St.)—or catch a rideshare and head to Bricktown Brewery (3301 S. Peoria Ave.) a few miles south of downtown—for the 2 p.m. tipoff of the Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder game. That is, assuming you’re not sick of basketball. (Blasphemy?) Later, the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Los Angeles Lakers at 7:30 p.m.
And finally, if you didn’t get enough St. Patrick’s Day celebrating out of your system, McNellie’s celebrations are running for a second day, all day Saturday.
Brunch, patios, and the Center of the Universe
Session Three Game: 6 p.m., BOK Center
Tulsa loves its Sunday brunch, and there are multiple establishments downtown that do it well. For a rustic, high-end brunch with cocktails and mimosas, The Tavern (201 N. Main St.) and Tallgrass (313 N. 2nd St.) don’t disappoint (reservations recommended), nor do the aforementioned restaurants MixCo and The Bramble. For something a little rowdier, Fassler Hall (304 S. Elgin St.) does a German spin on brunch, with house-made sausages, breakfast tacos and an ample selection of German beers (and a large outdoor biergarten). Chimera Café (212 N. Main St.) hosts Vinyl Brunch every Sunday, in which a different local vinyl nerd spins a curated playlist from his or her record collection. Chimera offers a fresh, local, health-conscious and vegan-friendly menu of brunch items, along with a full bar. Meanwhile, across the street, the magicians at Antoinette Baking Co. (207 N. Main St.) offer an elegant, delicious menu of classy comfort fare. Elsewhere, Yokozuna (309 E. 2nd St) features a pan-Asian spin on classic brunch dishes like Eggs Benedict, as well as a full menu of sushi and entrees.
After brunch, you might stumble over to Tulsa’s landmark “whisper chamber,” the Center of the Universe (20 E. Archer St.), an auditory phenomenon that amplifies any noise made while standing within a small, 30-inch circular perimeter (this is especially entertaining for children).
After, if you still have a few hours to kill before the 6 p.m. game, gather your friends and find a patio (weather permitting) for daydrinking. One of our favorites is at Saturn Room (209 N. Boulder Ave.), a tiki bar with some of the best bartenders in town and a killer view of the skyline.
Other great patio options: Prairie Brewpub (223 N. Main St) has a cozy alleyway patio perfect for enjoying one of their locally-crafted, critically acclaimed beers; Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant (111 N. Main St.), which serves a variety of exotic Mezze (small appetizers) perfect for absorbing the booze; Arnie’s Bar (318 E. 2nd St.), whose patio is walled in and shaded with greenery like a divey Chateau Marmont; Fat Guy’s Burger Bar (140 N. Greenwood Ave.), whose outdoor seating overlooks the Drillers baseball stadium (and who also serve a killer burger); Mexicali Border Café (14 W. M.B. Brady St.), a Tulsa oldie still kicking after decades; Boulder Grill at Holiday Inn (17 W. 7th St.), a classy, affordable spot with a large patio in the heart of downtown; Caz’s Chowhouse (18 E. M.B. Brady St.), serving comfort food on a breezy sidewalk patio; The Rusty Crain (109 N. Detroit Ave.), with ample al fresco seating to match its large menu; and El Guapo’s Cantina (332 E. 1st St.) whose rooftop patio and bar offers killer margaritas and an elevated view of the skyline.
If you’re in from out of town, we hope you enjoy your stay. This itinerary is not comprehensive by any means, and we encourage everyone to go exploring for yourself—there’s plenty to find. For help in getting to know Tulsa, and for a comprehensive list of bars, restaurants, and events, download the Root Tulsa app from iTunes (if you’re an Android user, visit RootTulsa.com).
Until next year!
A quick reference guide for food and drink options in and around downtown
BLUE DOME DISTRICT
Albert G’s Bar & Q – 421 E. 1st St.
Go for the barbecue, stay for the barrel-aged cocktails.
Arnie’s – 318 E. 2nd St.
A venerable Tulsa institution just near the Blue Dome. Don’t go for a fancy drink. Go for a shot of Jameson.
Fassler Hall – 304 S. Elgin
TVs. Cornhole and a a biergarten. Eight Euro/German beers on draft and a pork schnitzel sandwich that is stupid good.
McNellie’s – 409 E. 1st St.
This two-level Irish pub is a Tulsa institution, partially credited with the revival of downtown and the Blue Dome district. 350 beers offered and counting.
Tallgrass – 313 E. 2nd St.
Fine farm-to-table dining, craft cocktails. Not a spot for game watching, but an excellent break from bar food and beer guzzling.
White Flag – 116 S. Elgin Ave.
Burgers, hot melts, wings, brunch, daily specials and a large selection of craft beers and grown up milk shakes.
Woody’s Corner Bar – 325 E. 2nd St.
A large country bar with a loud juke box and multiple pool tables.
BRADY ARTS DISTRICT
Caz’s Chowhouse – 18 E. M.B. Brady St.
Bernie Sanders ate here. So should you. Comfort food and full bar.
Caz’s Pub – 21 E. M.B. Brady St.
Their tag line is “Caz’s...Helping ugly people have sex since 1995!” We’ll say no more.
Bar 46 – 107 N. Boulder Ave.
A spacious, comfortable bar with video games and pool tables.
Elgin Park – 325 E. M.B. Brady St.
Family-friendly sports bar on the eastern edge of downtown with beer brewed on site and over 50 TVs.
Downtown Lounge – 25 N. Cheyenne Ave.
Rock and roll bar with $6 beer-and-a-shot specials, one block away from the BOK Center.
Inner Circle Vodka Bar – 410 N. Main St.
Full bar with outdoor games; hosting the Tulsa Patio Music fest on Saturday, March 18, 2pm - 12am.
The Rusty Crane – 109 N. Detroit Ave.
Eight styles of wings (a dozen for $13) plus burgers, melts, nachos, cowboy queso, and a full bar. The patio is a sunny spot.
The Tavern – 201 N. Main St.
This upscale-casual restaurant offers its famous Tavern burger for half-price after 9 p.m.
Kilkenny’s Irish Pub – 1413 E. 15th St.
Everything about this place, from the food and drink to the décor, works to transport you to the Emerald Isle.
Phat Philly’s – 1305 S. Peoria Ave.
Just a few blocks off of Cherry Street. Specializing in cheesesteak sandwiches and wings—with beer. Open ’til 4 am Friday and Saturday.
Roosevelt’s – 1551 E. 15th St.
79 tap handles = 70 craft beers, 9 wines. A large patio and dining room mean you can take a big group.
The Chalkboard – 1324 S. Main Ave.
Classy restaurant inside the Ambassador Hotel. Start with a Classic Martini, then go for the 100% Angus beef burger (available at lunch only).
Orpha’s – 112 W. 4th St.
The diviest dive bar in Tulsa, very near the BOK Center. Best for smokers and those excited to mingle with the local natives. (And it opens at 7 a.m.)
Fat Guy’s Burger Bar – 140 N. Greenwood Ave.
Specialty burgers including the Fat & Juicy burger: two beef patties with butter and cheese melted between them. We won’t tell your doctor. Full bar.
Lefty’s on Greenwood – 10 N. Greenwood Ave.
Voted Tulsa’s best new bar in 2016. Eight TVs near the bar, 15 beers on tap, a strong top shelf of spirits, frozen margaritas, bar food.
Wanda J’s Next Generation – 111 N. Greenwood Ave.
This small café owned by six sisters (carrying on their grandmother’s name and legacy) offers affectionately made southern/soul food.
Brownie’s Hamburger Stand – 2130 S. Harvard Ave.
One of Tulsa’s oldest hamburger joints. Sit at the counter and be sure to have a homemade root beer and slice of pie.
Claud’s Hamburgers – 3834 S. Peoria Ave.
An iconic Tulsa eatery in its 63rd year of business. Try the hamburger steak.
Weber’s Superior Root Beer Drive-in – 3817 S. Peoria Ave.
Claud’s burger rival! The longest-running business in Brookside, Weber’s makes root beer, has a drive-in, and outside dining.
Lone Wolf Banh Mi – 3136 E. 11th St.
Thursday night is burger night. All other days they serve delicious sandwiches (banh mi) with meat (and without). Beer and a TV available.
Tally’s Good Food Cafe – 1102 S. Yale Ave.
Serves breakfast all day (including cinnamon rolls bigger than your head), Oklahoma’s favorite chicken fried steak sandwich, and 14 kinds of hamburgers, including a Lebanese burger and a “Fat Boy.” Full bar with TVs in the back.
Polo Grill – 2038 Utica Square
One of Tulsa’s most celebrated fine dining (and fine drinking) restaurants. The tenderloin burger in the bar is sublime, but so is everything else on the varied menu.