Uh, what's up Doc? I know, I know. Corny, but I always wanted to use that line. Anyway, I bet I'm not the first person that's walked into Doc's Food and Wine on south Peoria and said that. The location has seen restaurants come and go over the years: most notably The Grapevine, which spent many years in that spot, and more recently the somewhat short-lived Oliver's Twist.
Doc's is a partnership and the brainchild of two local restaurant "parade horses," Darin Ross and Cody Stell. Both have been on the local scene for years. If you've ever eaten at In The Raw, you may have had the Cody Roll, named after Stell himself. He was a sushi chef there for years, and at Fuji before that, and has made countless meals for many Tulsans during that time. If you sat at the bar before dinner, then you probably had a cocktail made by Darin Ross, a long time barman for the Dunwell Sushi operation.
The word is, as we were told by an absolutely delightful young lady with enough personality for the whole place, that Doc's is a play on the initials of Darin Ross, or Dr., short for ... you guessed it! Doc's. True or not, it's the kind of great Dr. B.S. that makes an interesting talking point.
The menu is, for the most part, a homage to the great city of New Orleans, although at first blush it is a bit hard to figure out. Food items are boxed by group, with a Pantry, Fruits de Mer (fruits of the sea), Entrée, Shared Plates, which is essentially a Tapas section, and a huge Sweets section. And when I say huge, I mean that in the sense that even though there are only three items in that box, they are incredible, as I will talk about later.
Specialty cocktails fill out the rest of the real estate on oversized page, and after a minute, the layout begins to make sense. There are some great, historic cocktails available to choose from like a Ramos Gin Fizz, The White Lady (a Laurel and Hardy favorite), the Vieux Carre (named after the French Quarter), and a cocktail named for the famous Arnaud's in The Big Easy, plus some other great classics as well.
The flip side of the menu is a collection of wines from around the world as well as many from this country -- most notably Napa, Sonoma and Oregon -- that definitely demonstrate which side of the house Darin has spent the majority of his time in.
We started the night with baked oysters, a seasoned oyster served on a bed of rock salt. The salt not only keeps the oyster shell from rocking around (since nobody has invented Tommie Tippee oyster shells yet), but helps hold in the heat as well. They were good, but not as tasty as our server oversold them to be. Maybe a bit pricey at $11, but not bad. It was a difficult choice since I am a big mussel fan, and I found myself wishing I had ordered the Moules Frites (also at $11). Classically a Belgian dish, it combines mussels and fried potatoes, a bit of fresh herb and a touch of crème fraiche, but I opted for the roasted oysters instead.
The next course was a Creole Onion Soup w/Grand Cru Gruyere cheese, a Swiss cheese with a creamy flavor and a bit of a strong back-bite. It was good, and a bargain-sized bowl at $5, although not bubbly hot like you would expect.
My wife went for the Char Grilled Tomato Salad with Lump Crab and a very nice balsamic drizzle. The crab was awesome -- fresh and flavorful -- and the balsamic was like candy. None of that fake crab here. Overall, it was a successful dish even though the char on the tomatoes didn't come through. One expects to pay for good crab, and this was priced at $12 but came with a lot of it.
Other great-sounding items from the Pantry Section included a Corn and Crawfish Bisque at $5, and an Andouille, Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo for $8. Andouille is a native sausage, found everywhere in Louisiana and will definitely bite you back, but it has a great flavor, too.
For an entrée I chose a Pan Roasted Filet of Sole. This was a fabulous dish. Cody knows fish, and this was a perfectly cooked and very nicely put together dish. Dusted in seasoned flour and sautéed for only a couple of minutes, it was finished with wine, capers and tomato, and was really good. The accompanying asparagus was perfectly cooked as well. Unfortunately, the risotto was a bit gummy and not very appealing. At $18, it was priced right.
It was a difficult choice since the Bayou Sausage Etouffe, self-described as crawfish with lobster risotto sounded interesting, although not typically what I would think of as an etouffe. Essentially like a gumbo, an etouffe is usually made classically with a very dark roux, and often baked rather than cooked on the stovetop to keep it from burning, then served over steamed rice, another native product of the Louisiana lowlands. Rice has been grown in that area since the Arcadians matriculated down the U.S. coast from Canada centuries ago, dropping a contingent in what is now Charleston and then moving on to the Louisiana area. If you have ever been to Charleston you might have noticed the similarities between that great city and the "quarter." It's striking. Over the years Arcadian was sort of "slanged" into Arca'jian, and then made the transformation to just plain old Cajun. Anyway, enough history! At only $12, I was tempted to order the etouffe as a side dish.
If you haven't figured it out by now, my wife is a huge seafood lover, and shellfish rises to the top of that short list. So to round out her meal, she decided to have the crab cakes. Well, surprise surprise! They were beautifully cooked, hot and crabby, and had a wonderful New Orleans flavor. A spicy mayonnaise based sauce was drizzled over the top to compliment. They were a steal at $12.
The Shared Plate Section had some interesting items: everything from an Ahi Tuna Pizza (that and an Ahi sashimi on the dinner section were the two highest at $15), Lime Grilled Shrimp with 3 Pepper Chevre Grits for $13, and Carpaccio, a peppercorn crusted natural Oklahoma Angus beef dish. For $14, it sounded like a good price to us. Classically it is a raw, paper-thin sliced beef, often with an accompanying hint of vinaigrette to flavor it.
Service was good, with several rounding visits by the hostess and Darin, and our server was young but attentive. I did notice her stopping to look at her gratuity on every ticket after the customer left, and not just for a second or two. A definite "service foul," but typical of some younger servers. You wait till you get to the kitchen for things like that. I'm sure with time Darin and Cody will iron out those little details.
The restaurant itself is a split level set up, with a big bar upstairs as well as a dining room, and the downstairs area, which is at Peoria level, is inviting, comfortable and modern, with a fireplace in the corner that will inspire a bit of competition for the best table once winter gets here. There is patio seating outside, and as always it's fun to watch the vibrant hustle and bustle of the Restless Ribbon on a busy night. The music was a bit loud for easy conversation, but these boys both come from restaurants where that is pretty much the norm, so no surprise there. There were three families gathered at a large table with a huge banquet, with quite a few young children, and a lot of fun going on. The kids fit right in, and it is definitely a family friendly atmosphere. Some places you really "notice" little ones, but not here. Louisiana is definitely strong on family, so this was perfect. Another nice feature of the split-level layout is you don't have to expose your wee folks to the bar scene, yet it is there for those who want it.
All in all, it's a nice little neighborhood addition to the Brookside area, and has every reason to succeed. Hop across the street after a good dinner for some clubbing and make a night of it.
That's all folks!
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