Local Dining By BLAKE AUSTYN
ECLECTIC SPACE: Soul City, 1621 E. 11th St., is a restaurant and all-ages music venue located along historic Route 66. It also provides space for local artists to display their works.
BLAKE AUSTYN for GTR Newspapers
Soul City, 1621 E. 11th St., has created a music oasis along 11th Street near Utica Avenue, its eclectic, colorful building sitting among a number of other commercial ventures, some of them historic Tulsa staples like El Rancho Grande and Ike’s Chili along with many recent additions.
“This is really turning into a cool area,” says Amy Smith, who owns Soul City with her husband, Kevin.
Soul City began as Studio 818 at 3rd Street and Lansing Avenue six years ago as a working art studio, where Kevin and Amy got their feet wet providing food and beverage catering and, occasionally, live music.
Both Kevin and Amy have a background in booking musicians and organizing events.
After three years, “we outgrew that location,” says Amy. They soon found the right location on historic Route 66. “We wanted to find an old garage,” she continues. “And this is one of the first service stations on Route 66 in Tulsa.”
After they moved onto 11th Street, the Smiths began to focus on live music, providing a venue for local musicians, which served a two-fold purpose: creating an all-ages music venue, which is something sorely absent in Tulsa, and offering local musicians another performance venue.
“There are so many young kids taking music lessons, and they need to be inspired” and to be able to go and hear musicians play, Amy says.
As a long-time local artist, Amy also uses Soul City as a way to display and sell her vintage, rustic art as well as to display the work of other local artists.
Amy’s son John Heckman created the mural of J.J. Cale on the building’s west outside wall.
The Smiths added food to Soul City’s concept in March. The eclectic menu includes many French Cajun influences, due to Amy’s heritage and almost two years that she spent living in Jamaica.
“It’s a very different menu, not one that you’ll find anywhere else in Tulsa,” she says.
The Smiths are currently in the process of expanding Soul City’s kitchen, due to the restaurant’s popularity.
“This has blossomed into a really cool thing,” says Amy.
The Smiths created the restaurant with a laid-back atmosphere, “a place where people can hang out and not be rushed to leave so that servers can turn tables,” she says.
Patrons order at the bar, which greets them when they walk in the front door. Silverware, condiments and seating are all self-serve. The restaurant’s outdoor patio has a definite relaxed, backyard feel, filled with patio chairs and tables, hanging lights and a chiminea.
Because of the inviting setting and the sunny Saturday afternoon, that is where my group chose to sit.
Starting with an appetizer, we chose the Hummus Among Us, which is made fresh, in-house. It came with carrots and pita bread for dipping, accompanied with a side of Moon Drop grapes and baby kiwi, a wonderfully healthy dish and beautiful to look at. The hummus tasted bright and fresh.
For our entrees, we went with Ziggy’s Jerk Tacos, with chicken and mango salsa, and Prairie Tacos, made with beef, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes and chili crema: two popular items suggested by the bartendress.
I loved the freshness and the lightness of the chicken tacos with the homemade mango salsa, and I appreciated that they did not skimp on the chicken.
I was also drawn to the Prairie Tacos because of its cilantro and avocado ingredients.
Other menu items that we were tempted with but chose to forgo until the next visit were the Foo-Egg-O Sliders, with fire roasted chicken and pepper jack cheese topped with a fried egg and ghost chili mayonnaise, and the Ultimate Grilled Cheese with tomato basil bread and pesto and a side of cole slaw.
For dessert, we shared the chocolate mint gelato. Various gelato options are regularly available, including Texas salted caramel – a popular choice, says Smith – and fruit sorbets.
As I sipped my drink after finishing off the gelato, I couldn’t help but revel in the back area’s feel of ease and comfort, with tunes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing softly in the background and the sweet smell of pinion wood coming from the chiminea.
While the patio area was relaxed at that time, though, Amy assured me that it doesn’t stay that way on many evenings when musicians perform.
Live music is scheduled Tuesday through Sunday. Tuesday evening, 7 – 9 p.m., features Dustin Pittsley with special guests; Wednesday, 7 – 9 p.m., carries a New Orleans music theme and a Shrimp n’ Grits special; and Thursday night, 6 – 9 p.m., features singer-songwriters performing in 15-minute segments. “There’s currently a waiting list of musicians wanting to perform on that night,” says Amy.
A cover is charged on Friday and Saturday night – money that goes directly to the bands, she says. “It’s a way for the musicians to get paid.” Sometimes the bands are local, but sometimes they’re national bands who are traveling through Tulsa.
Brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday.
Hours are Tuesday-Thursday 5 – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – midnight, Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.