The brainchild of Aila Heiskanen and Johnny Wimpy, Go West is a charming blend of upscale cuisine in a western setting. Terms like haute cowboy cuisine, upscale prairie grass dining and cowboy classy all come to mind.
Many of you may remember Aila from her years at the Gilcrease Museum's Rendezvous Restaurant, as well as being the owner of the Catering Kitchen -- a successful catering business in the Tulsa area with its home base at Camp Loughridge she runs with her husband and partner, Johnny.
"We feel that the influences of popular chefs such as Dean Fearing, Stephen Pyles, Grady Spears and Tim Love should be tasted right here in Oklahoma," Johnny said.
The menu is quite interesting, with nothing left untouched in terms of creativity and unique treatments. Such ambition can prove fatal, but Go West's menu is done very well. Aila, a native of Finland, is the driving force behind much of the creativity as the restaurant's executive chef.
Johnny's input and his long-simmering desire to open an upscale cowboy restaurant helped fuel the fires.
"I have been cooking, tasting and eating this cuisine all my life," said Johnny, who originally hails from right down the road in Texas.
Take for example the western pot stickers -- an artful blend of east and west. A classic pot sticker in theory, only Go West's version is filled with smoky barbecue brisket or barbecue scallops with creamy cheese grits and green chili broth.
Other items on the appetizer menu include everything from fried quail and pulled chicken tortilla soup, fried green tomatoes with Maytag blue cheese and crumbled bacon or calf fries with house-made ketchup. Appetizers range from $5 at the low end and top out at $11 for the scallops.
Our salad was crisp and fresh, served with sweet vinaigrette -- the house special dressing -- and was very enjoyable.
Let me reiterate: Aila and Johnny have taken what are in many cases old standards, and brought the presentations into the 21st century with great treatments, a culinary style they like to call "upscale chuck wagon."
The wood-fired trout, for example, was accompanied by a corn risotto and mango barbecue sauce. It was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Perfect crisscross marks from the wood-fired grill and well-thought-out plate presentation made it delicious before my wife, Katie, even took her first bite
My oak-roasted pork chop, highlighted as one of the house specials, was served with a perfect demi-glace, a rich, concentrated brown sauce, house-made apple butter, green chili macaroni, haricot vert -- baby green beans -- and baby carrots -- no, not those little things we put in our kids lunches. It was done perfectly and fork tender. At $16, both meals were well worth it.
The beef tenderloin ($28), a royal cut of meat in it's own right, is accompanied by wild mushroom enchiladas, goat cheese crema and house-made salsa.
Buffalo meat loaf with mushroom sauce ($16), iron-seared salmon with chipotle vinaigrette and mango slaw ($17), and a flat-iron steak with red chili butter and skillet potatoes ($18) were just a few of the reasons it took me so long to decide what to order.
Go West leaves no doubt that you are dining in a western, and more specifically, a cowboy-themed restaurant. From the ranch house feel to the western art and comfortable western décor, this is a decidedly upscale bunkhouse. A 60-seat dining room looks towards the display kitchen, where a brigade of cooks overseen by chef Aila are producing creative and delicious dishes.
The restaurant's outstanding website lists the following as items made by hand in house: bacon, salad dressings, soups and sauces. Additionally, all the beef -- from the gaucho rib eye to the flatiron steak and tenderloin -- is Oklahoma-raised.
Go West's chicken is locally sourced and breads, tortillas and pastries are all made in house. The menu also includes artisan goat cheese and hand-formed burgers -- there's one on the dinner menu and many on the lunch menu. Hand-cut fries, homemade ketchups and so on.
Our server was excellent, as were all the service professionals I watched. I would expect nothing less from Aila, she is extremely service and quality oriented and demands the same from her charges.
Our server was very attentive without being overbearing or obtrusive, and did an excellent job of explaining and answering any and all our questions. It was particularly remarkable when we later found out that it was actually his first night on a station by himself -- a testament to the restaurant's management and training. Our server's previous experience included a two-year stint at a Hilton in Orlando, Fla. Unfortunately, he is from Joplin, Mo., and may have had to return home to help family and friends recover from the devastating May tornado. Our best wishes go out to him and all those who suffered the recent devastation.
OK, let's talk dessert. I could do a whole article on the dessert menu at this place. Often times, desserts are an afterthought. Not so at Go West. Options are beautifully and creatively and playful crafted and prepared. There are 12 items on the desert menu, but when our young server brought the display tray to the table it was loaded with roughly 15 or 16. The sweet display been prominently displayed on one corner of the counter in front of the display kitchen, and we were led right by it, as is everyone else, while being seated. Very smart marketing on Aila and Johnny's part. We were thinking about dessert subconsciously throughout our entire meal.
My choice, the tres leches cake, was soaked in a sweet milk sauce and so incredibly rich and delicious that I can still taste it. Katie's choice, the fried apple pie, was sort of an apple chimichanga with cream and ice cream. Last but not least, the Mango-Coco Tacos, which were served in a crispy almond cookie shell.
All desserts are either $6 or $7 and you will feel like you robbed the stagecoach when you pay for it. They were huge and way beyond good, a true bargain.
Go West has private dining options, which includes seats at a hand-carved, rope-trimmed wooden chef's table. Reservations are a must for this.
Additionally, the restaurant's Will Rogers Room seats up to 45 and can be closed off for privacy. With Aila and Johnny's attention to detail and excellent service, the restaurant would be a great venue for rehearsal dinners, family reunions, birthday parties, business dinners and a whole lot more.
It's no further to "Go West," than it is to head to south Tulsa from Midtown, or downtown from out south, so don't be put off by the restaurant's location. A few minutes drive on Interstate 44 and you're there. I recommend you check out the website for directions -- it's a bit tricky once you get off I-44.
But do whatever it takes to check out Go West -- it's totally worth the effort.
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