Baxter's Interurban rill
717 S. Houston, 918-585-3134
Mon-Thurs., 11am-10pm; Friday, 11am-11pm
Food:4.5 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Craig Baxter, owner and manager of Baxter's Interurban Grill, just seems to go with the flow. Since 1981 he has been part of the Interurban restaurant family which opened in Norman in 1976. Baxter began as a cook at the Tulsa Interurban and through the years held a number of positions, even managing the Norman Interurban location. After restoring the Tulsa Interurban following a devastating 1999 fire, Baxter wanted to maintain the same name, but his friends told him "had a cool name and should use that name. Still, the Interurban name has a dear place in my heart, so I needed to keep part of the name." So, he settled on Baxter's Interurban Grill.
Baxter's not only continues the Interurban name, but also still reflects the atmosphere of a trolley station. "The tables and decoration inside still reflect the trolley theme," said Baxter. And so it does. My friend and I found that to be the case, for themed pictures accent the walls and little artifacts here and there give the space a casual and welcoming feel. The night my friend and I dined here, it was not too busy; customers were coming and going at a relatively easy pace.
We were served soon after being seated, ordered a few teas and began to scour the menu. There are a number of options in the categories of Appetizers, Southwest Specialties, Burgers, Sandwiches, Salads, Pastas, Classics and Entrées. Baxter said he strives to have a variety of items because although he has many Tulsa regulars, guests to the city from across the United States also dine there. Eleven appetizers begin the menu, items ranging from basics such as Chips and Ranch (homemade potato chips with Ranch dressing) and Fried Mozzarella to more sophisticated items such as Pesto Formaggio and Toasted Artichoke Hearts.
We selected the Pesto Formaggio ($7.99), a small bowl of melted cream cheese mixed with fresh basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. This was served, as the menu stated, with homemade toast points, but our serving also had thicker-sliced toasted French bread. The dip was excellent! The pesto and tomato were a bit disguised among the cheeses (cream cheese and grated parmesan on top), but the overall taste and airy (fluffy) texture, depth and flavor warmed the spirit.
In selecting the main course, it is not a bad idea to know what the owner would select, should he order a meal from the menu; without hesitation he "would have the Honey Pepper Bacon Burger," he said. "This is our most popular item." This burger has honey-cured pepper bacon and smoked cheddar cheese. And all of Baxter's burgers are 8-ounce choice patties. "We purchase our meat from Freedman in Dallas," he said. Freedman Meats, Inc., is a purveyor of choice and prime beef, pork, veal, lamb and poultry. "Our Angus Sirloin Steak is always good, so I continue to use their products."
And that is exactly what my friend chose for his meal, the Angus Sirloin Steak ($18.99) from the entrée menu. I, on the other hand, went with the Award Winning Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas ($9.49). While other selections toyed with my spirit (the MAC's Sizzling Urban Fajitas, the Reuben Sandwich, and even the Smoked Trout and Spiced Walnut Salad), I held firm with my selection.
The Enchiladas plate was simple, nothing too elegant, but the taste made up for what might have been lacking in the plate presentation. Simple, reserved, and delicious. Two chicken and cheese enchiladas topped with melted Jack cheese and green chile sauce stretched across the white plate; black beans also topped with melted Monterrey Jack cheese and lightly fluffed rice topped with scallions completed this dish. Each bite of the enchiladas excited the taste buds with the blending of a perfected recipe of chicken, cheesy and creamy and with complementary spices. The beans were solid and the rice accented the meal with its clean, earthy and slight tomato taste.
My friend's entrée came with a choice of soup or salad. His choice was a Caesar Salad, freshly made with large crunchy croutons and a plentiful amount of Parmesan cheese on top. The Romaine lettuce was very fresh and crispy. On a glass saucer, this was a perfect prelude to the Angus Sirloin Steak. The steak was an ample proportion, 10-ounces of certified Angus beef sirloin; it was served with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. My friend and I both reveled in the taste, texture and tenderness of the steak. This thick cut was charred perfectly on the outside, pink on the inside and perfectly flavorful. The potatoes were rustic, roughly mashed, and the green beans were a light gesture to the plate. They were not overcooked, just a nice, fresh and simple addition to the steak.
Baxter said his "menu is a blend of items from when he was affiliated with Bellini's Ristorante & Grill, Interurban and Tulsa Brewing Company and Restaurant." He added that all soups are made in house; as are most all of the desserts. "I like to tap into people's brains for new recipes and for improving on what we have," Baxter said. He highlighted the Carrot Cake as a specialty of the house on the dessert menu.
Baxter lauds the fact that he has a remarkable staff, beginning with Chef Leon Cole, and four employees who have been with him for more that 14 years. "I am proud of the people who work for me; I have a great group of people."
And the food? "All of our food is good," Baxter said. "There is nothing on the menu that I wouldn't serve to my grandmother."
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