As Tulsans continue to repopulate downtown, eateries are cropping up in a number of the area's nooks and crannies. And nestled within the Williams Center is, of course, the Williams Café.
The busy cafeteria, which opened last April, is a part of Guckenheimer Enterprises, Inc., whose restaurants are typically established at large corporations, particularly in the Dallas area, such as Nike, Travelocity, The Container Store, Texas Instruments et al. General Manager Tim Earley said the Williams Café (and other Guckenheimer establishments) is "totally committed to health, nutrition and the environment" for its customers.
The best way to get here is to take the First Street entrance and go down the escalator at the northeast corner.
Having recently had a hearty breakfast there of biscuits and gravy, over-easy eggs and bacon, I was surprised by Earley's statement. He said it is the lunch menu that is impressive and one that I should come back to try. A friend and I did just that.
We returned to Williams Café a few days later. It is quite large and spread out, not unlike large corporate cafeterias. But unlike the average cafeteria that serves heavy comfort foods that grandma would make, the cafe has a variety of stations that offer healthy foods of various sorts: Deli, Pizzarita, Exhibition Station, Grill, Tacoria, Panini Station, Health and Nutrition, and Market Bistro. Earley said the upscale salad bar is the favorite of the stations. Customers are charged for their salads by the ounce.
"We use a lot of grains ... such as the Health and Nutrition bar. People will find flax seed, wheatberry (in salads and mixed with fresh fruit), orzo pasta (also used in many salads) and barley. "All these grains can be roasted if people want them that way," he said.
My friend and I split up; I gravitated toward the Pizzarita while my friend moved toward the Panini Station. Orders are taken at each station, and the food is prepared.
After receiving the meal, we moved through the maze of stations and checked out other options, such as drinks, desserts and other healthy snacks. We found the journey easy and stress-free (once we decided what we wanted to eat), and the service at all stations was exceptionally friendly.
Earley said the personal-sized pizzas are a hit among customers. They are made with homemade dough and can be built to order in about five minutes. He said that recently more than 100 Margarita pizzas ($4.50) were prepared on one day. That was just what I wanted. The flatbread pizza (about eight or nine inches in diameter) is made with fresh basil and mozzarella with pesto and marinara sauces. It was a good choice for lunch: quick, tasty and relatively healthy.
I also sampled a small bowl of the Wheatberry salad ($1.85) from the Panini bar. The bowl of wheatberries was tossed around with fresh grapes and apples. I selected a Gold Peak Tea ($1.50) to go with my meal.
My friend's Panini ($5.95) was made with freshly roasted red and yellow bell peppers, red onions, zucchini and cheese, and then thoroughly heated. The warm, soft bread held all the veggies in place and light oils drizzled on top soaked up the flavors. My friend felt satisfied afterwards.
The dining facility is large (tables and booths) and sectioned off to allow for some privacy, television watching or a lunch meeting. The areas were clean and inviting. Prices are comparable other downtown dining establishments.
Williams Café is committed to a healthy dining experience and environmental stewardship. Earley said it is "a real exciting operation," given all the healthy foods they prepare each day. He pointed out some favorites: the fresh salsa, the orange pico de gallo and the stew, which is filled with "our own roasted beef fully seasoned with spices."
Meals are prepared using a variety of methods such as braising, grilling, broiling, poaching, roasting, sautéing, stir-frying and steaming. To ensure the food is humanely raised, sustainable and hormone-free, they use brands such as Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Beef, Range Grown Diestel Turkey, All Natural and Free-Range Chicken, Kansas Raised Bison and Buffalo, Cage-Free Eggs and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses. Additionally, they use a wide variety of non-meat protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, nuts and legumes.
Carry-out containers and utensils come from nature and return easily to nature-- biodegradable and biocombustible. For example, Earley said the to-go cups are made from corn and the spoons, knives and forks from potatoes.
Williams Café is a convenient place for a bite to eat during your lunch hour. Because of the diverse selection and quality products, picky eaters and health nuts will leave feeling satisfied.
7 E. 1st St.
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