POSTED ON NOVEMBER 26, 2008:
Take Me to the Moon
Longtime Cherry Street favorite celebrates two decades of patron loyalty
A chill is in the air these days, and our appetites change slightly as our stomachs begin to crave warm soup on an almost daily basis. Try your hand at a local favorite. The Full Moon Café, 1525 E. 15th St., has been serving up its "world famous" Tortilla Soup for 20 years now. For the Cherry Street hotspot's soup recipe, follow the instructions below:
First, boil half a gallon of chicken stock and half a teaspoon of white pepper. To thicken, make a roux: half a cup of butter and one and a half cups of flour. Melt butter and stir in flour. Cook over low heat. Stir roux into chicken stock. For soup, you'll need one cup of mixed Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese, one pint half-and-half, two teaspoons diced jalapenos, one 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes with chilies, and one cup cooked, diced chicken meat, which Full Moon marinates chicken in fajita seasonings.
First, add cheese to stock and stir until melted. Add remaining ingredients to stock and heat. Second, place soup in top of double boiler over hot water. Third, sprinkle individual servings with strips of deep fried flour tortillas. Garnish with a dollop of guacamole and mixed cheese.
Ha! You thought The Full Moon Cafe would actually release its secret recipe to the public? Not going to happen. Above is what Full Moon Café President Tony Henry referred to as the "public version." According to Henry, three ingredients are missing from the above mentioned recipe. Two of them are secrets, and Henry wants to keep it that way. The other ingredient, he said, is pure love. "Some of our employees have been making that soup for 10, 15, 20 years. There is a love that goes into it that makes the quality so good," he said. "They are so fast and so consistent...the soup drives a lot of the other items on the menu."
The Full Moon Café's menu has satisfied Tulsans for 20 years now, and the restaurant wants to celebrate its big anniversary Fri., Nov. 28 by throwing a party with drinks specials and live music. Diners, employees and former employees are encouraged to wear their vintage or new Full Moon Café or Full Moon Run t-shirts to the restaurant on Friday evening. Those who participate will be registered to win a variety of door prizes.
Tony Henry took ownership of Full Moon in December 1999. The restaurant was already a Cherry Street staple, so Henry didn't have to change much. "The restaurant wasn't broke or anything. They were doing a lot right," Henry said of the transaction. "We only changed about 10 percent of the menu. And then we made cosmetic changes, updates and renovations."
He attributed Full Moon's long-term success to three basics to any good restaurant: location, food and service. "And they are all equally important," he said.
Drawing a line along one of midtown's nicest neighborhoods, Cherry Street sees great traffic flow on a daily basis, the kind any business owner appreciates. "The area saw a nice transformation during the past three to four years. There are some really cool things going on around Cherry Street," Henry said. He added that these days all the businesses can feed off on each other, and that they all benefit from the "neighborhood feel" of Cherry Street. Full Moon diners can almost always count on seeing a familiar face, which is something the restaurant loves.
Full Moon's menu is nearly set in stone. With 20 years under its belt, the place knows what its customers want. "We've got it dialed in," Henry said. "We've been doing it for so long, so now we just focus on getting it done hot and fast.
"But the service is something we always focus on. People need to have a good experience from start to finish."
Like any good business owner, Henry never stops exploring ways to improve. While Full Moon has its backbone in tack, a rapidly changing market requires new sales strategies. On a business trip to Louisville, Kentucky, Henry discovered a fresh element to bring back to his 15th Street joint. "I was at this restaurant and saw this big guy with a funny beard playing the piano. I found out he traveled all over doing these dueling piano shows," he said. "So, I tracked this guy down and told him, 'Hey, why don't you move to Tulsa and play for us regularly?' And he agreed."
The big guy was Tom Brasler, and his original crew of Brian Lee and Jon Glazer jumped on board as well. Now, you can find a duo playing the keys every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. "The piano shows are great because they are unique and we invite all ages to come out and enjoy these guys," Henry said. From wedding anniversaries to bachelorette parties, Henry said the show draws everyone. The success of the dueling piano shows stems from how interactive and customer-driven this form of entertainment can be. No two evenings are alike. The musicians take requests and the bigger the tip, the sooner they'll play your song. As Brasler tells the crowd each night, "You tip $20 and we play your song now."
When asked whether the Full Moon is bound for an Oklahoma City location, Henry said he never rules out any options. "But we are pretty selective. The Full Moon could go almost anywhere. We have to find the right location." In fact, according to Henry, there once was a Full Moon in OKC, but it closed about ten years ago. In Tulsa, Creek Nation Casino (now known as River Spirit Casino) houses the second Full Moon Café restaurant.
But it's that gem down on Cherry Street where Tulsans go to appreciate good food, fun tunes and a great history. The addition of an outdoor patio in 2007 was Full Moon's last attempt at maximizing its space on Fifteenth. "The size is now perfect," Henry said. "All I could ask for is more parking." But it's that stroll up and down the store windows along Cherry Street that customers--and business owners--love and appreciate. It was no surprise that Full Moon was voted by readers as the best restaurant on Cherry Street in UTW's Absolute Best of Tulsa awards.
Full Moon Café is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Check out its ad in the pages of UTW or the Live Music section for more information on Full Moon's weekly schedule.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A25451