POSTED ON NOVEMBER 18, 2009:
Not a School Lunch
Campus Grill widens its sights beyond the college crowd to the whole neighborhood
Campus life has changed volumes since I was a student at the University of Tulsa, but one thing remains constant: students have to eat.
Through all of the university changes, the commercial area around TU has also changed in many ways to not only attract the college crowd but also the neighborhood crowd.
Campus Grill is one of the newest places on the 11th Street strip to vie for the business. And, in many respects it is an old familiar face in the restaurant industry. The threesome owners of Brookside by Day--former TU football player Kyle Phillips, along with Ryan Harper and Greg Majors--purchased this space and have remodeled and reopened as Campus Grill.
Jared Stockard and Everett Estes are both long-time employees of BBD--Estes since around '93 and Stockard around '94--and now manage Campus Grill. Estes said that "we are associated with Brookside by Day, but we're kind of trying to get off on our own here. Many of the breakfast items are the same, but the dinner menu is new."
Campus Grill opened after Labor Day, and according to Estes, business has been steady so far. Admitting that they have yet to do any advertising, hoping their customers' word of mouth will bring in the customers.
I visited Campus Grill twice, once for dinner on a Friday evening and again Sunday mid-morning, and the business was steady, yet light.
My friend and I did not know what to expect for dinner. When we walked in, we were the only ones there besides the Campus Grill staff. Two dining rooms are divided by a walkway, so the space is quite roomy. We liked the feel of the place: one cinderblock wall was painted a very deep red while the other walls had exposed brick, giving the place a warm feel. A large bar-island juts out from the kitchen window area, so diners at the bar can observe the high-paced staff activity and view the action in the kitchen. Both times, I found the service very friendly and moderately attentive--it seemed for dinner, service waned after the meal was served and at breakfast, the same was true.
The lunch and dinner menu is similar to BBD, but there are definitely new items listed for dinner. Estes said a few of the signature dishes include the Pan Roasted Chicken Marsala and the Pan Seared Meatloaf (made of beef and sausage) with Mushroom Gravy, both $11.95. Chef Ron Harrison, formerly with Stonehorse Café, has "put a different spin and elegance to our dinner selections," Estes said. He adds "the dinner is not upscale but we do have a higher quality of good." And, it showed with our dinners.
My friend ordered the Southwest Cheeseburger with jalapeno, bacon guacamole and Jack Cheese ($8.25), and I ordered a chalkboard special, Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts ($12.95). Only beer is available now--unfortunately, no local brews (Choc or Marshall's), but very soon, Estes said, Campus Grill will have a license to serve wine and drinks.
Both meals arrived with very impressive presentations. Our expectations for "grill" dining were mixed, something casual, like diner food, but our meals were anything but. The Southwest Cheeseburger was served with a heaping mound of large onion rings stacked right on the open-faced burger. (The only complaint here was that the plate was significantly too small to accommodate comfortably the sandwich and the rings.) The large, richly flavored half-pound meat patty was prepared to order, medium rare. Bacon, with a smoked hickory flavor, fresh and crisp jalapeno peppers and guacamole were memorable parts of this burger.
The beer-battered fries were impressive; they were large-cut onion rings with a batter that was light and flaky. They were not greasy, but crispy.
My dinner was excellent. The dish presentation was something to be mentioned: two thin-cut grilled pork chops were angled against the Brussels sprouts and large mound of mashed potatoes. A mustard cream sauce covered the chops, which were crisply grilled on the edges. A creamy mound or real mashed potatoes blended well with the cream sauce. The Brussels sprouts were halved, then apparently grilled with bacon and onion. The caramelizing of these three had a rich depth of flavor, accenting a sometimes harsh taste of sprouts.
The lunch and dinner menu includes Salads and Appetizers, Sandwiches, Hot Sandwiches, Half-pound Burgers, Entrees and Sides. Entrees include Grilled Chicken Breast, Pan roasted Chicken Marsala, Beer Battered Fish'N'Chips, Pan Seared Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Fried Steak and 6-oz. Petite Ribeye. Estes said a popular Hot Sandwich is the Seasonal Steak Sandwich ($9.95), which is now the "Summer" sandwich--6-oz. grilled ribeye with crumbled blue cheese, mushrooms, onions and spinach.
While Estes admits not everything is made in-house just because many items are of better quality when purchased by a vendor, he does say the sauces, soups, gravy and mashed potatoes are some of the items made on location.
Campus Grill's breakfast menu reads very similar to BBD's at this point, Estes said. "We're using the tried and true recipes, such as the biscuits and gravy, omelets and pancakes and breads." Customers will notice that the Breakfast Burrito ($7.95) is the very popular Murrito at BBD's. For my breakfast, I had the 11th Street Special ($8.75) two eggs, choice of pork chop, burger patty or chicken fry--I chose the chicken fry. This also comes with Breakfast Potatoes and biscuit and gravy.
A very filling breakfast, my favorite was the chicken fry. Estes gave me an insight into why the steak was so tasty. The batter has a number of spices: onion and garlic powder, paprika, thyme and salt and pepper. The batter (same as is on the onion rings) was flaky and light. The steak was tender and a fresh flavor of beef.
The gravy accompanying the meal, Estes said is homemade, which is not the norm. It had pieces of sausage and was rich in flavor and had a homemade taste. The biscuit was OK. It was decent, but I prefer a buttermilk flaky biscuit; this one was soft, but with a more bread-like texture. I asked for the eggs over easy, but they were a little overcooked for my liking, and the edges of the eggs were crispy.
The Breakfast Potatoes are medium diced potatoes, baked and sprinkled with seasoned salt. This is a favorite brought over from BBD.
Estes said that right now the closing time is flexible. "When there are games at TU even during the week, we will stay open late, but if things slow down with little activity, we'll close around 9 or 10pm. We'll just have to see how it goes."
3148 E. 11th St.
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