When returning to North Greenwood Avenue, I always recall the history of the area, a terrible period in Tulsa's history.
The Greenwood District is testimony to the great people of north Tulsa, some of whom still remember the devastating and unconscionable Race Riot of 1921 in the once thriving "Black Wall Street" of Tulsa. Before 1921, the African-American community had developed a booming "Little Africa" comprised not only of many professionals with advanced degrees, but also more than 400 businesses. The 1921 Race Riot changed all that.
Today, the Greenwood Business District is filled with revitalized businesses and continues to grow. One such place is Abears on Greenwood.
Herbert Tennyson and his wife Adele opened Abears in May 2007, and they are both very pleased with how business is going. "We have many people who visit us here," he said. He proceeded to give me a litany of Tulsa downtown offices whose employees frequent his place. He added that many people who pass through downtown from areas outside the city, such as Glenpool and Muskogee, also stop in for a good, hearty homecooked meal.
"This is our first shot at owning and operating a restaurant," Herbert said. "After selling cars for over 30 years, I always wanted to own my own restaurant."
Herbert recalled how he loved to cook when he was a child. He would prepare fried chicken, pork chops, and macaroni and cheese.
As an adult, he returned to his childhood passion and is proud to say, "There are no microwaves and no heat lamps here. All food is cooked fresh to order. I even make the cakes myself. Debbie is who cooks with me. We try to make everything the very best we can."
Abears' menu is simple, yet filled with comforting homecooked meals: burgers, baskets (catfish, shrimp, pork chops), fried chicken, sandwiches (grilled chicken, chicken salad, pork chops, fish, hot link, jumbo hot link, ribeye steak), salads (side, grilled chicken), sides (French fries, onion rings, okra, cole slaw), drinks and desserts (whatever Herbert bakes for the day). Prices are very reasonable, with the pork chop combo basket listed as the priciest item at $7.50.
I came for lunch one day and placed an order to-go to share with friends. I ordered a Double Char-Cheese Burger ($4.89), Catfish with Fries Basket ($7.25), Two Piece Chicken Dinner ($5.95), Jumbo Hot Link Sandwich ($4.75) and a slice of Herbert's homemade carrot cake.
As I sat and waited for my order, I admired the atmosphere of Abears. It is a small place with only countertop seating along the north and south walls. Historical newspaper accounts of the Greenwood District hung in large frames above the seating area.
Two gentlemen ate their lunches and chatted about politics. A television just above the entryway aired the daily news.
My meal was soon ready and I was on my way to meet my friends. After sampling each of the meals, I found the fried chicken to be the best. The two pieces of chicken were coated with a delicious medium-thick crust that so perfectly embodied my fried chicken desires. It was crispy but not burdensome to eat. Herbert said the chicken is coated with his special seasonings and then deep fried. Beyond the skin, the meat was hot, very tender and overall quite tasty. Debbie makes a great old-fashioned fried chicken. The dinner came with home-cut French Fries, Texas Toast and salad.
The Double Char Cheeseburger was equally as good. Basic fixings were on this burger: green leaf lettuce, red onion, freshly cut tomato, pickles and mustard. Delicious! A generous portion of cheese added to the goodness already on the patty, which was juicy, cooked to perfection and piping hot.
The Jumbo Hot Link Sandwich was one of the best-tasting sandwiches I've had in a long time. I was pleasantly surprised by the hot link's substantiality as the main ingredient. Herbert said he got this sandwich idea from his childhood days of eating these at Rex Theater, a venue now closed at 2545 E. Admiral Place. This sandwich is a simple build of hot link, bread, lettuce, tomato and red onion. It is a very interesting sandwich, though one bite enthusiastically leads to another and another.
The catfish came as a thin, lightly coated filet. It had a good taste, but definitely took a backseat to the other items I ordered for lunch. The carrot cake was moist and spicy, topped with a creamy cream cheese frosting.
Abears on Greenwood
111 N. Greenwood Ave.
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