Just mentioning the name, The Spudder, and most Tulsans will have some sort of recollection of this restaurant. Known for its steaks and of course, the eclectic atmosphere, The Spudder Restaurant has been a Tulsa dinner destination since 1976. And current Owner Stephen Jeffery, who assumed operation less than one year ago, vows to continue its tradition. "I have not changed the menu at all. What I have changed is with the freshness and quality of the food," Jeffery said.
The Spudder dining experience begins when pulling onto the parking lot. A simple A-frame-shaped building doesn't catch the eye, but the oil rig next to the entrance does. The experience continues once you enter the restaurant into the dining room: all the walls are covered, top to bottom, with oil memorabilia. "All these signs take us back to Tulsa's roots as an oil town," said Jeffery. "Conoco, DX, Texaco, Sinclair and Gulf -- these signs are all over the walls. Gas pump tops are used as lamps around the place." The term "spudder" is a portable cable-tool drilling rig often mounted on a truck.
When my friend and I dined here, we sat next to a tall, narrow gas pump, complete with hose and nozzle. Our server, Ashley, did fine work keeping us going throughout the meal, but on a rushed pace, and it began as soon as we were at our table. As happens in most dining experiences, we were asked what we wanted to drink, even before we were settled into our seats. I mentioned to Ashley that we'd like a few minutes to consider a glass of wine from their wine list. She left, brought us water and hot rolls in old black dome lunch box, minus the thermos. Jeffery said he uses these pails to recall the way the roughnecks carried their lunches to work with them on the oil rigs. In addition, continuing the oil field theme, male waiters are dressed as roughnecks, sporting overalls, with a red bandana hanging out of their pockets.
The menu spills over with oil field jargon: Land Survey (appetizers); Roughnecks (beef, chops, chicken); Offshore Drilling (seafood); Junior Oilman's Additions (children's menu); and Roustabout Desserts.
We began with the Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.95) from the Land Survey section. These are described as stuffed with "cheeses and whatnot." A bit dubious of what the "whatnot" would be, we were willing to take the chance. They were quite flavorful. As best we could determine, these seven little mushroom caps were filled with bits of bacon, caramelized onions, and cream cheese and topped with grated cheddar cheese. These were small enough to pop the entire cap into the mouth. They were perfectly light, a good meal starter.
For our dinner, from the Roughneck section of the menu of beef, chops and chicken, my friend selected the 12-ounce Ribeye ($29.95), and I chose the 12-ounce K.C. Strip ($28.95). Other options include filet mignon, chopped sirloin, strip sirloin, loin back ribs, marinated chicken breast, lamb chops, pork chops, Porter House, gusher special -- prime rib steak and whole pork tenderloin.
The Roughneck selections are served with potato soup, Spudder salad and baked potato. Jeffery prides himself in the steaks he serves. "These are some of the best steaks in town," he said. "We buy high quality beef. We use only specially aged certified beef, and we cook it over live charcoal fire." He added that he "goes through tons of charcoal -- more than 160 pounds of [Kingsford] charcoal a day."
Soon upon placing our order, it was not long when cups of potato soup arrived. Cubed potatoes, chopped ham and chives and a thick broth make this soup. It was by no means bland; the ancillary ingredients added a reserved layer of taste. We thought a little cracked black pepper -- cooked into it -- would have been a fine addition to this.
Our salads were next. Very fresh salads, indeed -- not only was the lettuce freshly cut, but as Jeffery said, other parts of the salad are cut fresh daily -- he never uses prepared salads from bags. Shredded red cabbage and carrots, sliced boiled egg, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes and croutons make up this house salad. The dressings, Bleu Cheese, Ranch, Thousand Island, Raspberry Vinaigrette and Greek, are house-made, said Jeffery. We both chose the Bleu Cheese. The taste was fresh and creamy, a taste not out of a jar or container. Our potato was packed with butter, sour cream, chives and chopped bacon. It had a freshly-baked taste to it--which means it did not taste as if it were baked earlier in the day and had been setting around the kitchen.
The steaks were not far behind. They arrived -- a bit too soon before we had finished our salad and baked potato. They were beauties. My K.C. Strip stretched from one edge of the plate to the other; grilled to my specification: medium rare. It was about an inch thick and very succulent. It had a straightforward balanced taste of beef; the texture was firm. Each bite was moist and somewhat juicy. My friend's Ribeye melted in the mouth like butter. Not as tall and stately as the K.C., but it made up for its size with its flavor. Each bite was a rich, savory blend of the cracked peppercorn topping (for $1.50 extra) and the richness of the cut of beef.
A steak meal for two here can sub-total out at $79, with appetizer and one beverage each, yet it is worth the fine meal and the nostalgic look into Tulsa's past.
A trip to The Spudder should also entail a visit to Bishop's Alley, said Jeffery. This is the bar area in the restaurant named after the "notorious area in Seminole during the boom town days of the'10s, '20s and '30s. It was a place for bars and pool halls. Once Jeffery is more settled into The Spudder, he wants to restore the oil rig outside the restaurant, making parts of it work. In addition, he is determined to rearrange the interior just a bit to coordinate the memorabilia in a more orderly fashion to "tell some of Tulsa's history."
The Spudder Restaurant
6536 E. 50th St. | 918-665-1416
mon-fri, 11am-2pm; mon-thurs, 5-9pm: fri-sat, 5-10pm
Atmosphere **** Food **** Service ***
(Based on a Scale of 5 Stars)
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