POSTED ON MAY 13, 2009:
Old-Fashioned Sing Along
Quaint Bixby café serves homestyle faves with a side of entertainment
Old Friends. Kari said some diners will notice a resemblance to the food served at the old Pennington's Drive-In, a popular '60s drive-in at 42nd & Peoria.
Three generations' worth of cooking and baking expertise plus common sense and ingenuity have brought success to KariOkie Café & Bakery, a little corner restaurant in Bixby. The café has been open almost one-and-a-half years.
Owners Kari and Bobby Brummett have established a quaint place for people to, as Kari said, "go back in time for a while with some good comfort food and not worry about anything."
Seventeen years teaching math at Bixby High School was plenty for Kari; she needed a change. She said that after a stint performing karaoke with local personality, Fred Anderson, "I thought I could open up my own restaurant and have karaoke entertainment right there."
So, Kari and her family opened KariOkie Café & Bakery to do just that. Kari, her mother (a graduate from OSU-Okmulgee's Culinary Arts program at 56 years old), her grandmother and husband all manage the rest.
KariOkie is a simple place that elicits a comfy, old-fashioned feel. Basic swag curtains adorn full windows, a karaoke machine sits in one corner, 11 booths and tables are organized throughout and a full array of pastries and sweets are on display. It was as if I had stepped back in time into a café in Mayberry... anticipating Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea and Opie to walk in at any time.
The cozy atmosphere complements the food. Kari designed the menu to reflect '50s music: The Temptations are appetizers, The Platters are daily specials and the Supremes represent the house specialties. Other menu selections include salads, sandwiches, breads, sides and a kids' menu.
We started with the Jalapeno Bottle Caps and the Onion Strings, each $3.99. The Bottle Caps consisted of sliced jalapenos lightly breaded and deep fried, served with a chipotle mayo dip. Kari said these are bought from a vendor and not made in-house, yet my friend and I enjoyed the kick from the peppers and the breading, which downplayed the spice. The dip had a light yet savory flavor with a hint of chipotle.
The Onion Strings was the better of the two: thin slivers were lightly battered and fried golden brown, served with barbeque sauce reminiscent of the "Restless Ribbon."
Kari said some diners will notice a resemblance to the food served at the old Pennington's Drive-In, a popular '60s drive-in at 42nd & Peoria. Her mother and grandmother carhopped and helped out in the kitchen. "These are like Pennington's used to make them," said Kari. While she was wise not to give away too many family secrets, she did say that each order is hand-breaded with a light flour mixture. While I never dined at Pennington's, these strings were irresistibly tasty.
I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak ($7.59) which came with a choice of two sides; I selected Cucumbers N Onions and Mashed Potatoes; my friend chose Wednesday's daily special, the Meatloaf Dinner ($7.59) with Harvard Beets and Fried Okra as sides. For drinks, no beer is served here (Kari said beer and karaoke do not mix), so tea, soda, coffee and milk are the options. I had Ol' Fashioned Sweet Tea, and my friend had the Unsweetened Tea (each $1.69).
My plate came with a large steak smothered in white gravy with mashed potatoes and more white gravy. The steak's texture was on the thick side and not as tender as I prefer. This Southern favorite, reminiscent of the Germans weiner schnitzel had a rich meaty taste with a heavy "panko" breading. (The Japanese word for bread crumbs, they are lighter and crispier than their Western counterpart.) It was excellent and didn't detract from the steak's flavor. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery, though they were undoubtedly instant because of the texture and taste. The Cucumbers N Onions really do "have a kick" as Kari said, for they are heavy on the vinegar. The cucumbers were a little soggy, as were the onions, but the flavors of each were intact.
Like most items here, the meatloaf is homemade and this particular recipe had a very tasty take on this classic comfort food. Topped with a tangy tomato sauce, the meat was tender inside and a little crispy on the edges. Chopped green peppers were scattered throughout the loaf yet were not overpowering. The rich taste of the meat indicated that high-quality beef was used in the preparation of this entree. The fried cut okra was ordinary but good. The Harvard beets (supposedly named because a Harvard student created them) were cooked in a sweet and sour sauce created from spices, sugar and vinegar. The texture of these beets was firm and the flavor addictive.
Other specialties at KariOkie are the Fried Shrimp Dinner ($10.99): large butterflied and breaded by hand, panko style, as well as Black Bottom Pie and many other pastries: fruit turnovers ($1.19), sticky buns ($1.49), brownies ($1.29), slice of fruit pie ($1.99), slice of cream pie ($2.09) and slice of Black Bottom pie ($2.89). Pennington's Drive-In fans will definitely want to sample the Fried Shrimp and the Black Bottom Pie, close renditions of the originals.
Service that evening was average; it seemed our waitress was not too interested in being there and less interested in servicing our table.
The word is out on Kari's cooking, for she has customers from as far away as Houston and as close as down the street. And while no one was swing dancing while we were there (although it has happened), Kari did perform a few songs that evening on the corner karaoke.
The best way to get to KariOkie Café and Bakery is taking a left (east) onto Breckenridge street from Memorial Avenue (a few blocks south of 151st Street south), go a few blocks and the Café is on the corner of Breckenridge and Armstrong. A note to remember: from 10-11am, only pastries and coffee are served; and the rest of the menu is available from 11am-9pm.
KariOkie Café & Bakery
4 North Armstrong, Bixby
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