Some restaurants are high visibility, upscale and cutting edge -- kind of like the latest movie star to grace the big screen.
Others are the long-term, dependable, consistent workhorses of the restaurant industry. These places aren't often in the bright spotlight, but they aren't falling star establishments that last a year or two before burning out on a final trajectory toward earth.
One such place has been a Tulsa landmark for more than 20 years now. You don't hear about it hosting a beaujolais nouveau dinner, or a mayoral luncheon -- although arguably no one may come to that these days -- and yet it's always there like an old friend, dependably waiting for the next time you give it attention.
The Green Onion, originally a Dave Ingram brainchild (Fountains, Melodies and Apple Mill, to name a few), and after a couple of intermediate owners, for the past eight years owned by Ayhan Ozaras and Max Doyle, who also owns the Chalkboard Restaurant and The Garlic Rose.
Way back in 1980, when I was a line cook at the Fountains Restaurant, guess who was a waiter on the other side of the hot line? Yup -- Ozaras.
In the interest of full disclosure: I also spent time working Sunday evenings at The Green Onion many, many years ago to relieve the chef on his day off. I do have history with Ozaras, but I'm confident I can be objective and fair.
Where the Green Onion really shines is Sunday brunch and private parties like luncheons. The brunch features more food than a human being should even be allowed to look at, including some of that great prime rib.
Live music, usually a combo, performs in the lounge area on Wednesday through Saturday nights and during Sunday brunch, providing good background music that doesn't inhibit your intimate conversations.
The dining room is nicely and comfortably done with black tablecloths and dark wood, but the Green Onion has plenty of light stucco walls to offset the darkness.
Once upon a time, a line cook at the Fountains invented a stuffed mushroom with sour cream, cream cheese, bacon, mayonnaise and a few other choice ingredients that would make a cardiologist blush, broiled it in an herb/garlic butter, and served it with a slice of French bread to "sop" up the goodies.
The item has been on the menu under various names for about 20 years. The presentation and preparation hasn't changed at all, but most importantly: the taste is the same. The mushrooms are still deadly good.
Katie ordered a raspberry and poached pear salad and I ordered a classic spinach salad to start. Fresh tender spring mix was served with a delicious raspberry vinaigrette, and topped with red wine poached pears, creamy mild goat's cheese and pan-toasted almonds. It was a very nice combination of the components that I feel should go in every salad: sweet, sour, salty, nutty and a dairy or protein. One negative, but not a biggie: the salads were served with the dressing on the side, which makes it hard for a diner to ensure that every ingredient is coated. Many customers request their salads be served this way, so just ask your server to toss it for you, and I am sure they will.
My salad consisted of fresh baby spinach (nobody pulls the stems off anymore), chopped bacon, chopped hard cooked eggs, sliced fresh mushrooms and grated mozzarella cheese. A creamy oil and vinaigrette was served alongside. A big basket of fresh warm baguette slices and a ramekin of whipped honey butter came along for the ride.
Our server, John, has been with the Green Onion for almost 20 years now. He did an outstanding job and was very smooth. After being there so long, he could probably go back to the kitchen and cook our dinners, too. Request him if you think of it -- John will take good care of you.
John and I both commented on the slowness of the evening's business, and he agreed it was a bit light for a Friday, but said that they have been a bit off because of all the construction both north and west of the restaurant.
Since it was Friday -- and prime rib is only offered on Friday and Saturday nights -- I went for it. I am such a sucker for a good piece of prime rib, or a rib eye steak, so I couldn't pass it up. What I got was a beautiful, medium rare, center-cut, 14-ounce slice of melt-in-your-mouth beef, a ramekin of a peppery horseradish and sour cream sauce and lots of au jus for moisture and flavor. The prime rib was served with another trademark Green Onion side dish -- the French baked potato. Essentially a peeled potato is steamed just until it's done, then cooled. When the order for the steak comes in the potato is dropped in oil and flash fried till it is crispy golden and hot throughout. The potato is then split and stuffed with a house herb butter.
As is with the mushrooms, it's the sum of the parts that make it so good. My only complaint about the meal was that the platter it was served on was almost impossible to eat from without making a complete mess on the table.
My lovely wife chose the seared ahi tuna, which was coated in black sesame seeds and served on a bed of excellent couscous and with a sort of balsamic reduction sauce that imparted a nice sweetness. Sauteed green beans accompanied both dishes. Unfortunately the tuna was bit dry, not very flavorful, and slightly overcooked. It was still pink and beautifully presented, but I am confident she would not order it again.
Overall the meal was very good, the service was excellent, and definitely worth the trip.
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