Breakfast is the New Business Lunch

Just because today’s financial headlines aren’t exactly relaxing to read over a morning cup of joe doesn’t mean breakfast isn’t still the meal of champions.
While so many are adjusting to more brown-bag lunches and dinners at home, we don’t seem shy about forking over a few bucks for bacon and eggs – as long as they’re flipped and fried by someone else.
To know where in town to line up to start the day with something a little more substantial than a bowl of Wheaties, we asked Tulsa’s up-and-comers where they’ve been taking colleagues and clients to start their schmoozing early.
We polled more than 40 young professionals for their favorite breakfast joints, and one thing is for sure: up-and-comers love their local breakfast diners.
Their top choices for that first and, as our mothers have always told us, most important meal of the day are Brookside By Day, Blue Dome Diner, Tally’s Good Food Cafe and Savoy Restaurant.
That even the quickest climbers of Tulsa’s corporate ladders are looking for deals at diners rather than hitting the ladies’ brunches follows a wider trend cited by the National Restaurant Association, which found that 27 percent of adults pay more attention to coupons and value specials when choosing a restaurant than they did two years ago.
“I love going to Tally’s because the environment is so fun, and they give you so much good food for such reasonable prices,” said Brooke Eddington, managing editor and account manager at Xposure Inc, 507 S. Main St.
Tally’s Good Food Cafe, on Route 66 at 1102 S. Yale Ave., is the kind of place where you have to keep one foot on a table leg to keep your coffee from wobbling into your pancakes and where the waitresses call you “hon.” But while patrons sport their share of camo-print truckers’ hats, they have also been seen in Ping golf vests and suits and ties.
“Tally’s is a good place to go when you have people in different moods, or when you aren’t sure what genre of food you want,” Eddington said.
The menu at Tally’s, which ranges from wraps and salads to barbecue and a breakfast item called The Smart Bomb – a platter-sized nest of hash browns thrown together with onions, green peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese and four types of meat and topped with two eggs – is as diverse as the people who walk through the front door. Though no one would say – a waitress politely informed me no one there had any spare time for questions from a reporter – the split-level dining room looks to seat about 130.
“Tally’s is, to me, the epitome of what diner dining should be,” said Mandy Vavrinak, president of Crossroads Communications LLC, 3732 S. Canton Ave. “It’s great service by friendly, familiar faces; food you remember from childhood, plus new things to try; and very, very tasty.”
“There is something special about eating breakfast at an authentic diner, especially on Route 66,” said Amby Barnes, founder and owner of The Knit Owl, a handmade goodies company that supplies to such local retail hotspots as Dwelling Spaces and Ida Red. “They’ve never served us a bad meal. If a place has been around that long, you can trust they’re probably doing something right.”
Early to Rise
The Murrito, a take on a breakfast burrito that could just as well come with two or three forks as one, along with the Florentine Omelet and Belgian waffles served with fresh fruit are top sellers at Brookside by Day, 3313 S. Peoria Ave. The average ticket at BBD, which rarely seems to have a problem filling all of its 130 seats, especially on the weekends, rings up at about $9 per person.
“BBD offers the traditional breakfast foods I love, but it also provides the feel of a hip, small-town diner,” said Kristen Turley, marketing manager for Navico Inc., 12000 E. Skelly Dr. “It’s a great place for conversation, networking and engaging with Tulsans who love this town.”
Business has been steady, said Everett Estes, a day manager at BBD. That’s saying a lot, considering the number of restaurants struggling to fill their seats.
“We haven’t felt any pinch,” he said. “That might be because our ticket price is a little bit less expensive than everybody else’s.”
On the weekdays BBD offers two private dining rooms that seat about 35 each for meetings. Hours are Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
The homemade biscuits and gravy, french toast, quiche and chicken fried steaks are what breakfast lovers are looking for when they come downtown to 311 E. Second St. to eat at Blue Dome Diner, said owner Brian Prewitt.
The average ticket price at Blue Dome Diner is $6-10, he said, and some couples make it out the door for as little as $15.
“We’re definitely over-feeders,” Prewitt said. “We give you enough food for you money, that’s for sure.
“I think that’s what’s been part of our success here lately. People know they can get a deal and, if they want to, take some food with them.”
The diner by the Blue Dome is Marnie Ducato’s breakfast joint of choice.
“Eclectic crowd, locally owned, great food and great prices,” said the vice president of Rex Public Relations of the Blue Dome Diner experience. In fact, she and her family can’t stay away – they convene there at least once per week, she said.
“It’s so close to my shop,” said Mary Beth Babcock, owner of Dwelling Spaces, 119 S. Detroit Ave. “I have met with some of my local vendors there.
“I actually prefer morning meetings,” she added, saying, “it’s a great way to start your day and get your brain flowing.”
“We get a wide variety of people in here,” Prewitt said. “A lot of painters, carpenters, lawn guys, people from Storey Wrecker, people who own pawn shops – it’s a diverse crowd. Then, we have our fair share of lawyers who come in. It’s pretty mixed.”
Blue Dome Diner, which measures about 7,000 SF, offers a private dining room for meetings that seats 200 and features a 20’ stage.
“Being so close to Williams, we have groups of six or eight come for our round tables in the back,” he said. “Those are conducive for them to have their meetings.”
The crowds have picked up on the weekends, he said, “which is kind of odd, because there are more people downtown during the week than on the weekends. We’ve been busier on Saturday and Sunday than any other day of the week. The weekdays have come up a little bit, but not as much as the weekends.”
“Families might be having their meals out at breakfast rather than dinner because breakfast is less expensive,” he said.
Blue Dome Diner is open Tues.-Fri., 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Comfort Food
Still more up-and-coming Tulsans who wake up hungry head south to Savoy Restaurant for its omelets, biscuits and gravy and skillets. Don’t forget those house-made Savoy cinnamon rolls, which inspire young and old alike to sing their praises, either by word of mouth or by tweet on Twitter.com. Average ticket price at Savoy for a full breakfast is $8.50.
“Everything is homemade,” said Bill, the owner who comes from a family in the local restaurant business since 1925. Savoy has been open at 6033 S. Sheridan Road for 34 years.
“It’s family-style, comfort food,” he said.
“They have great, fast service, and I’ve yet to order something that wasn’t good,” said Rachel Anderson Brewer, sales agent at Liberty Mutual, 81st and Lewis. “Your coffee cup is always full and they serve the best blueberry pancakes and cinnamon rolls in Tulsa, period.
“Rarely am I ever willing to wait for a seat to eat somewhere, but my husband and I will always wait for a seat to eat at Savoy. It’s always the first place that comes to mind for breakfast out.”
The breakfast business has been very good lately, Bill said, making the claim that’s rare among restaurant owners these days that business is better this year than it was the last.
“It leans toward breakfast – lunch is good, but breakfast has been very busy, and much busier than in the past,” he said.
What’s the secret to getting so many Tulsans out of bed at the crack of dawn for the better part of three decades?
“Give them good-quality food with good service and a clean place,” Bill said. “It’s basic stuff – basic, but not always common.”
Savoy closes shop at 2:30 during the week and until noon Saturday. It opens at bright and early at 6 a.m. every day except Sunday.
Bill has noticed over the years that during tough times, more Tulsans head out for the comfort food churned out by the cooks on the line at Savoy and other local diners.
“If you eat a good breakfast, that tides you through lunch, and you can snack in the evening,” he said. “And, breakfast is a comfort for people. We like to think that we’re a friendly place where people enjoy coming.”
The guys and gals who have been serving up breakfast in this town since their parents handed them the keys to the front door of the family diner have some new company with which to contend.
Jimmy’s Egg, a breakfast franchise based in Oklahoma City, set up shop on Brookside late last year, with more to come in the area before the end of 2009. Cafe Topeca has been wowing downtown with its fresh fruit crepes and pastries since it opened in late 2007. Last month, Dilly Deli in the Blue Dome District started breakfast service in the hours before its deli counter opens to the lunch crowd.
“So, you’re saying we should start serving breakfast?” asked Blake Ewing, owner of Joe Momma’s Pizza, upon being surveyed for his favorite local breakfast joints and hearing about the booming breakfast business in Tulsa.
“Consider it done. Brick Oven Breakfast has a nice ring.”



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