Posted by Tasha on February 21st, 2011 in Restaurants
It’s not exactly top secret that I’m a big fan of the burger.
At Brady and Main, I found another to add to my list of Tulsa’s bests: The Tavern Burger.
It just goes to show that when you put a proprietary grind of short rib and brisket, Stilton and mushroom Cognac cream on a house-baked Challah bun, magical things happen. Sexy, magical things.
And the size? It’s enough to put you to sleep at your table.
Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying so that you’ll know to bring a pillow along when you try Brady Tavern. Falling asleep on a bare table is just bad manners, no matter how good the burger is.
I’ll admit, I had mixed feelings about this restaurant opening as it was happening, and it wasn’t because I had doubts about what it could become. It’s hard, after all, to argue with something that the McNellie’s Group gets behind – it’s pretty well documented in local lore that those people know a thing or two about food.
But the reason Brady Tavern opened where and when it did is because Lola’s at the Bowery shut its doors just weeks before the folks at McNellie’s flipped it. The fare went from Spanish-style tapas to gourmet, chef-driven pub food.
Here’s what I’ll say about Lola’s: I liked the food. It lacked consistency, but more often than not, I was happy. I especially enjoyed the cakes, which were made in-house by Lola (not her real name, but since everyone else does, let’s go with it). I’ll always remember the huge orange-chocolate ganache cake my pal Holly Wall and I once bought, split and ate until all that were left were crumbs in just a matter of a couple of days.
And then there was the miniature wedding cake Lola brought to my husband and I at our table when we were in celebrating the baby we knew we’d have the following week. We didn’t even order it; we told her what why we’d come in, and she brought it to us. I loved that.
But when I began to hear reports of slow and discourteous service, I worried. When I experienced it myself, I was downright sad.
If anyone could take that space and run with it, though, it’d be Elliot Nelson and his group. The folks in charge there have come a long way since they opened the doors to McNellie’s Public House, up the road in the Blue Dome District at 1st and Elgin. When I talked to Elliot late last year about how they drew up with the concept for Brady Tavern and the excitements and challenges of moving into the Brady Arts District, he mentioned that since they’d gone into the restaurant business, he and his partners had grown into their love for good food.
I like to think of it like this: It’s like McNellie’s grew up, had a couple of kids, bought an SUV and a membership at a local CSA. Which, in the time since the opening of McNellie’s in 2004 until now, is probably exactly what several of those folks did.
So, back to the burger. It’s good. It’s like the cousin of the burger at McNellie’s – the cousin that went to Harvard and would drink a $20 glass of Cabernet with a Hot Pocket.
And then there’s this.
Mac and cheese. Or, as I should say, mac cooked just al dente and a variety of classy cheeses. And perfectly toasted bread crumbs.
And, again, enough to eat and then pack a to-go box. And then eat again in the car with your fingers on the way home so that no one suspects that you could ever eat that much in a million years.
Which was the image I was trying to portray when I visited Brady Tavern with a group of guys just as classy as my mac and cheese. I’m really glad I played it safe, too, because as I found out later, someone was watching.
After all, it’s not every day the far left side of a girl’s face gets featured on the restaurant page in the Tulsa World. Or her appetite for chain restaurant roast beef just a few days later in the same paper.
I feel so famous. I mean, parts of my face feel famous. And my snow-day jonesin’ for paper-thin beef isn’t feeling too shabby, either.
Other things I’m digging about Brady Tavern:
- They kept the bar from Lola’s, which is original to the Fox Hotel building in which Brady Tavern is now housed, and the bartender came up with pre-prohibition era-inspired cocktails. Cool.
- Cooler: Brady Tavern offers seating at what’s called a chef’s table – basically, it’s a chance to sit smack dab in the center of the craziness of a restaurant kitchen. These are getting to be pretty common along the coasts and in the bigger cities here in the U.S., but this is the first I’ve heard of one in Tulsa. There are two at BT, and each sits 6-8. My friend Jenny had the pleasure of dining at one recently and had nothing but good things to say – which means a lot, coming from her.
- The chef at Brady Tavern is Grant Vespasian. I became a fan of his when he worked under James Shrader at Palace Cafe, another of my favorite Tulsa chefs. Plus, I like saying Vespasian. Vespasian, Vespasian, Vespasian. Yes.
- The folks at Brady Tavern bring bangers over from Fassler Hall to whip up some bangers and mash, with truffled potatoes and Irish whiskey gravy. I kid you not. And we all know that I’m a fan of Fassler Hall. I mean, it’s hard to argue with a good wiener.
- Brady Tavern now offers a brunch service on Sundays from 10am-2pm. And I know how much you Tulsans love your brunch. We’re a brunch-loving city if there ever was one.
- Bacon popcorn is on the appetizers menu. And then there’s a bacon-infused old-fashioned on the cocktails menu. It’s OK, I’ll wait while you mop your brains off your keyboards. My mind exploded when I realized this, too.
But you might not want to bother until you comb through these:
No reason to dirty up two towels, after all.
Have you been to Brady Tavern? What’d you have? What’d you like? What didn’t you like? If you had the burger, let me know if you think it deserves a spot on the list of Tulsa’s bests.
If you hated it, well, you can slide it on down the bar to me. As my grandma always said, a burger saved is a burger earned.
201 N. Main Street
Monday-Wednesday, 11am-12am; Thursday-Saturday, 11am-2am; Sunday, 11am-12am
(918) 949-9801 (reservations for dinner recommended)