Stutts House of Bar-B-Que
2021 E. Apache St.
Mon, 11am-7pm; Tues-Thurs, 11am-9pm; 1st & 3rd Sundays
Food ***1/2 Atmosphere *** Service ****
This is what I do all day," said Roxanna Becerra, the pitmaster at Stutts House of Bar-B-Que -- 2021 E. Apache St. She stirred an enormous pot full to the brim with homemade Bar-B-Q sauce. "I can't tell you the recipe."
The sauce recipe is about the only secret at Stutts, where openness and hospitality are the rule. In this all-local restaurant -- not to be confused with Austin's famous Stubb's -- situated in the heart of north Tulsa, the good food and quick turnaround make it a great place for lunch. And the price is right too. My lunch for one was $6.78 before tip.
I ate a links sandwich with baked beans and sweet tea. It came with a piece of store-bought white bread. The baked beans were sweet, good but nothing to write home about.
On the other hand, the links sandwich was delicious. It was drizzled with Stutts' secret Bar-B-Q sauce, which is ketchup based and spicy but not hot. The portions were just right for lunch, but not quite enough given how tasty the sauce was. I had to stop myself from ordering a second sandwich.
By far the best part of the meal was the buttermilk pie Renee Lowe Collins, my waitress, brought me after my usually impenetrable cover was blown and she realized I was a reviewer.
Stutts employees know their pies are good too. "This is the house that buttermilk pie built. And if you don't smile when you say pie, then it's no good!" Becerra said.
I left lunch happy, but not so stuffed that I had to take a nap. For a place that serves food not exactly known for its health, Stutts knows when to stop.
The food is also safe for many people with food allergies. Stutts buys the meat fresh and knows exactly what goes in to the Bar-B-Q sauce. There is definitely no peanut or dairy in the sauce. I was unable to confirm whether the ketchup the sauce is based on contains soy, but there are definitely no soy additives. If you come from a family like mine with severe food allergies, you can probably go to Stutts as long as you stick with the meat.
Stutts is located in a small building that used to be a Bible shop. It is a bit cramped. My table was next to the ladies' room; I had to scoot forward to let someone into the bathroom.
The atmosphere was jovial. Everyone in the restaurant -- customer and employee alike -- seemed to be in a good mood. It might have been the weather, but more likely it's the feel encouraged by Stutts' food and employees. Food came quickly; the restaurant was busy enough to keep Collins moving but not crowded.
The walls contain numerous tributes to African American history. One painting depicts a Black soldier returning from World War II or Korea with the caption: "Colored Man is No Slacker." A copy of "Ain't I a Woman," delivered by abolitionist Sojourner Truth at a women's rights conference in 1851, hangs in a frame by the front door.
Sliced is Nice. Smoked meat is the star attraction at Stutts House of Barb-B-Que.
The restaurant appeared to have a fair number of regulars. Most people kept to themselves, but everyone was friendly with Collins and Becerra. One lady struck up a conversation with me about the history of Stutts. An older man sat by himself and seemed to offer a running commentary of what was going on around him, but I couldn't quite understand what he was saying.
It was a delight to be there.
Recently, a local restaurant owner complained to me that Tulsans tend to go to fast food chains instead of locally owned restaurants. That conversation made me think that we really need local fast food.
Well, we have it already.
I was in and out of Stutts in 30 minutes, and that included the grand tour. They kept the meat cooking in the pit at all times and the Bar-B-Q sauce is made by the truckload so food is always at the ready. The longest time I spent waiting was deciding what to order; my food was brought to me in less than 10 minutes.
The staff is friendly and helpful. Both Collins and Becerra were outgoing and fun to chat with. They were ready to exchange jokes or insults with customers (or each other). Collins seemed to know the orders of regulars without asking.
Rather than always running back and forth in the small restaurant, Collins brought customers flutes or mason jars with drink refills. As a result, I never ran out of sweet tea.
Stutts will make 8-inch sweet potato or buttermilk pies on two hours' notice. "We make these all year round," Collins said.
The best way to describe the overall experience is to tell a story.
When Collins came to my table to make my order, she realized she had forgotten her pen. She patted herself down looking for something to write with and was about to go to her car to retrieve one.
I gave Collins the pen I was using to take notes. She took my order but walked off with my pen. I called after her that I needed my pen back, and heard Becerra yell something like, "Did you steal that journalist's pen?"
Collins sheepishly brought back my pen, begged me not to put it in the review (sorry, Renee), and we had a good laugh about it.
As I left, I didn't realize that I had forgotten this same pen. I began to pull my car out of the parking lot when I saw Collins rushing out of the restaurant brandishing my pen. She wanted to return it for a second time.
"Keep it!" I said.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It's a souvenir of my visit."
I drove off laughing heartily, remembering one heck of a good lunch. If you want good food and good conversation (or at least banter), go to Stutts.
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