Munchies and magick at Tulsa’s humble watering holes
September Dawn Bottoms
Tulsa Voice readers are accustomed to finding stories about the hottest, newest restaurants to hit the scene—refined establishments with avant-garde menus, extensive wine lists and classically-trained chefs. For this story, however, your protagonists have traded white table cloths for ash trays, a wine list for “big ass beers,” and chefs for bartenders who might call you “sweetie” or might tell you to fuck off. For one afternoon, we sacrificed our stomachs and sobriety to uncover the best dive bar grub you can find in T-town.
Suture’s is a cherished dive bar located at 71st Street and Yale Avenue, near St. Francis Hospital. The name is homage to medical personnel who have populated the bar for 25 years, and the décor takes a jocular approach to the Hippocratic Oath. There’s medical-related ephemera sprinkled about the wood panel walls: various medical implements in shadow boxes, a drawing of a pinup-style nurse, and the infamous ‘gyno chair’ greets guests at the front door. Above the bar, fluorescent lights illuminate X-rays showcasing a variety of bones.
“There’s a dick up there somewhere,” says one of the regulars who has taken up her usual spot at the end of the bar. “And Jill’s boobs are over there,” she says as she directs our attention past the pool table and stripper pole to the chiaroscuro radiograph of “Jill’s” exemplary implants.
Taking heed of the wisdom that breakfast is a critical meal, we sidle up to the bar to start our Saturday morning correctly—with a beefed-up beverage to chase away the rabid dog attack of last night. We order up the McGriddle—a “breakfast shot” that pairs up Jameson whiskey and Buttershots with an OJ back—while we play the Where’s Waldo? of phallus finding.
Bartender Heather has worked here for seven years—a magick number. She happily lights a cig in solidarity with us as she shows off Suture’s features.
“This here is old perv row,” she says playfully as she points to a few of her longtime brunch regulars. “The gyno chair has to be the biggest piece at Suture’s,” she says. A proud Suture’s tradition involves treating birthday boys and girls to the gyno chair treatment, where a bartender will hop on top of them and pour a shot into
During the week, Suture’s opens bright and early at 7 a.m., serving breakfast and providing a well-deserved libation for third-shifters from the hospital. The menu switches gears in the afternoon to a bar-food frenzy, with the requisite loaded nachos, burgers and battered-and-fried fare.
On the weekends, they extend their breakfast menu until 3 p.m., and it’s filled with brekky go-tos, like the “Good Ole’ Eggs Platter” featuring eggs “scrambled-up” and jazzed up with a confetti of diced peppers, onions and shredded cheese. The “Bisquits & Gravy” is a heaping plate bulging with split biscuits doused in cream gravy. The biscuits have a spirited crunch that holds up to the deluge of gravy, and the breakfast sausage packs a nice wallop of heat.
Properly satiated and loaded, our crew of brave bon vivants heads to our next destination for a light lunch … or a “lit” lunch, if you will.
The Grandpappy of Dive Bars
Crawpappy’s has held sway over dive bar aficionados among all demographics for more than 25 years. Tucked away in a strip mall at 51st Street and Harvard Avenue, it is been the site of many liquid lunches, surreptitious cigarettes and one hell of a happy hour, and is revered for its smoke-friendly interior, booming jukebox and a flickering legion of televisions. It also happens to be home to some of the best shrimp and Cajun food in town.
Sourced from Bodean’s Seafood right next door, Crawpappy’s peel-n-eat shrimp are only $8 for a half-pound of plump, cherubic sea bugs. And because smoking is allowed inside Crawpappy’s, one can have their shrimp and smoke their cig, too. In fact, we discovered that with a little gumption, a person can do both, simultaneously. It isn’t recommended, however, because the shrimp are velvety with a bashful brininess, so you’ll want to let your taste buds breathe.
Though it prides itself on its etouffees and po’boys, the menu isn’t completely Cajun/seafood-centric.
Over-the-top options, like the Chicken Fry Stack, will get your heart pumpin’ with a tender, beautifully-breaded chicken fried steak, topped with a runny egg and cream gravy, precariously stacked atop a pile of crispy-fried taters.
Our group grazes on a bounty of wings, tater tots, hush puppies—honestly, it becomes a blur of sauces, wet naps, Big Ass Beers™ (24 oz domestic for $2.75!) and too many cigarettes. We bind our union with a bit of magick, egg yolk-soaked cigarettes, and sacrificial shrimp carcasses before we journey downtown.
Like Heather at Suture’s, our bartender Melissa has enjoyed a seven-year stay at Crawpappys. She looks like a version of P!nk that could kick even more of your ass, and attributes her tenure to the “family” vibe among her work staff and regulars.
“When a regular passes away, we put a plaque on their table,” she said.
One such plaque read “Dan Prickard,” duly emblazoned with his signature drink: a glass of cab with ice.
Follow the rabbit
Downtown Tulsa has its dive bars; but dive bars with food are woefully underrepresented. Lucky for us, we have Rabbit Hole Bar and Grill. Sure, you can’t smoke inside Rabbit Hole—there’s a dandy smoke hole out back—but this Blue Dome gem hits all the dive bar requisites. That they recently booked dominatrix metal act, Savage Master, and the proprietors are direct descendants of the Yeti Lounge secures the dive designation. That Chef J.V. pumps out top-notch food in the competitive Blue Dome warrants them a
serious nod in the food department.
We were served by former Yeti-Tender, Andrew, and true to the magick vibe of the day, were informed he’s worked at all of owner Jonathan Robinson’s concepts for seven years. Well, he said “six or seven years,” but magick ain’t a science.
Typical bar faves fill the menu, like chicken wings, ooey-gooey cheesesteak sammies, loaded cheese fries and Chef J.V.’s famous mac-and-cheese. But dishes like the spicy shrimp and grits and the primo prime rib served on Monday nights belie the dive vibe they cultivate.
While sipping on our craft beers, Chef J.V. treats us to a smorgasbord of delights. Golden-fried shrimp with a punchy cocktail sauce, creamy mac-and-cheese loaded up with bacon and grilled chicken, and glazed “psychedelic” purple, golden and orange carrots are served to us on a literal silver platter. Each the perfect nibble to accompany our beers, with enough heft to bolster us for whatever the evening held for us.