These days, the odds are pretty good that if you eat at, or go to, an eatery or entertainment venue downtown, you are probably in an establishment owned by "Mr. Downtown", Elliot Nelson. (At his current rate of expansion he may well become Mr. Tulsa!) He is opening one successful operation after another, and I have yet to go to one that has not been very well-conceived, very well-run, and very well...well, popular. To name a few, he has McNellies Pub, (his flagship operation) Yokozuna, El Guapo's, the just opened Fassler Hall on Elgin, and the soon-to-open Brady Tavern in the old Lola's location, the near completion Dust Bowl -- a small old fashioned bowling alley, an artist colony in an old church in the Owen Park area and who knows (other than Elliot of course) what else?
And the Dilly Deli is no exception. Strategically placed at the corner of Elgin and 2nd, right down the street from Lee's Bicycles, in what was once the Route 66 Diner, (it has obviously taken over other real estate as well) it is a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or a place to attempt to assuage the pains of an angry hangover at any time of day.
This is a really fun place that doesn't take itself too seriously both in terms of décor and in terms of menu. No eggs over easy with ham type listings here. Oh they're there, but they're listed as a Fontaine. In the mood for a Cinnamon Roll as big as your head? That's called the Jed. Other breakfast specialties include quaint menu items like the Vince & Joel -- a half order of French toast, two eggs any style, and a side of meat of your choice. Choose from Yak, Caribou, Bison, Antelope and Elephant. OK maybe not, but now that I have your attention there's also the Verne, the Sager, the Laronda, the Petey Pie -- corned beef hash, two eggs, and a homemade biscuit, a Simon -- that's two Heath Bar, banana & caramel pancakes. Or the Beck, two M&M pancakes! And lest we forget, the Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes affectionately called the Sweet Caroline.
I have always thought one of the "funnest" jobs in the world would be to be the guy who writes all those crazy headlines in the Enquirer like, "Man gives birth to himself" or "Woman finds out tumor is really her son" or something like that. I think maybe the second funnest would be coming up with all the crazy menu item names on the Dilly Deli menu. I bet they went through a few bottles of Jager and a whole lot of laughs thinking those up!!!
Even if you arrive later in the day, I mean like late enough that you should be embarrassed to be seen eating breakfast, you can hide behind your Elton John sunglasses and your Carrot Top wig and order it anyway. They serve it till 4pm most days, just ask.
Or pick from a huge menu of carefully crafted sandwiches. All of these are named after somebody, although I can't figure out whom. Famous people like Glenn and Joan. Everybody knows Glen and Joan, and their namesake sandwich of corned beef, pastrami, muenster & swiss cheeses, served with spicy & yellow mustard on rye.
According to Mr. Dilly, you can double the meat, and double the cheese for double the fun. Oh and double the price too. That means most of the items from the "Big Boy Treats" section sport a POUND of meat and cheese.
Margie's got a Reuben, Dragoo's got a hot pastrami, Mondy's got a pad thai sandwich built with grilled chicken, peanut butter, bean sprouts, cilantro & chili sauce. There's a Philly cheese steak called the Vincent Carbone, and this great sounding surprise with seared ahi, ginger soy glaze, sprouts on focaccia bread called simply The Biz.
My wife opted for the Michael Roy - Grilled sliced and seasoned portabella, sun dried tomato aioli, lettuce, tomato & onion served with feta spread on focaccia... a really tasty and very hearty sandwich.
I picked the Meg consisting of a fried egg with sliced tomato and crisp lettuce, melted sharp cheddar cheese and thick bacon, all sandwiched between toasty slices of sourdough bread.
The whole place sits in a split level room, open and airy, with plenty of space between tables for a bit of privacy, whether you happen to be reading as we were, people-watching as many were, or listening to good tunes over the speaker system. Bookcases adorn part of the back wall and give it a very comfy feel.
A small deli counter sits in front near a glass display case of house baked goods with 4 or 5 stools, the ideal place for people-watching.
A floor to ceiling chalkboard (must have found the same salesman as Alan Fusco at the Blue Moon!) lists pretty much the whole menu. Fortunately for me there was a paper back-up at the table since short term memory seems to be an issue these days.
A nice paragraph on the menu gives credit to Ferrell Family Organic Breads, a long-time source in Tulsa for the finest breads. Tom Ferrell and his crew produce excellent breads in the old European Artisan style, adhering to a rigid schedule which yields a product that ferments overnight for maximum flavor, crumb, and quality. All their flour and ingredients are organic as well, producing a superior bread product. Check them out at farrellbread.com for more information.
At the Dilly Deli, the focus is on quality, not obscurity, so there's no ostrich, sparrow's wings, or camel's cheese. What you will find is all natural meats and condiments -- combined with outstanding breads and a relaxed atmosphere. The result is excellent quality sandwiches from start to finish. Having said that, you can build your own sandwich or salad from about nine thousand ingredients, a big enough list that it takes an entire page of the menu to cover them all.
A bakery case with LOTS of great looking desserts and cookies catches your eye as you enter, and we found ourselves trying to decide on what to take home with us after the meal. Instead we opted to try out a couple of their "big as a hubcap" cookies, and our sweet needs were satisfied enough at that point. Whole Pies ($20) and whole cakes ($40).
Homemade soup appears daily to round out a hearty lunch. The menu boasts homemade vegetable pesto soup or French onion, as well as tomato bruschetta, hummus, olive tapanade, thai peanut slaw, tabouli, and fresh cucumber and tomato salad.
A kids menu takes care of the little Dillys, (or whatever you call yours!) and it's an ultra casual atmosphere that will make families feel right at home.
Fresh squeezed OJ is available by the glass or the carafe, and the coffee is Topéca. If you're not familiar with them, they have a shop next to the Mayo Hotel downtown, and are the only seed to cup operation in the US. In other words they grow, harvest, ship, roast, and brew their own product. It's an excellent coffee, and you owe it to yourself, (and your local community) to try it out. Check 'em out at topecacoffee.com
So what are you waiting for? Drag your little self down to Dilly Deli and see what all the fuss is about!
The Dilly Deli
402 E. 2nd St.
918 938 6382
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Thursday 7AM - 8PM
Friday and Saturday 8AM - 10PM
Sunday 8AM - 4PM
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