Abears, the little workday diner peeking out from under the green awning on Greenwood Avenue, is one of those eat spots with a reputation that precedes it. The 750-SF diner has been open since May 2007, but suddenly we heard about Abears everywhere we went.
We followed our ears to the site of the late, great Black Wall Street, a Tulsa Business Journal editor and I — two women proud and unafraid of ordering three entrees, two sides and dessert between them in order to get this restaurant review thing done right. We didn’t get through our first bites before we understood the reason for all the hubbub. The menu is exactly what you’d want to see at the beginning of a hurried lunch hour: Burgers, baskets, salads, sandwiches, sides and drinks, plain and simple. We ordered the catfish sandwich ($4.95), the rib-eye steak sandwich ($6.95 on the menu, but on special at the time for $5.49) and the hot link sandwich ($3.95). We asked for an order each of the french fries ($2.25) and fried okra ($2.50).
Going by looks alone, the catfish sandwich could have been mistaken for any other catfish sandwich in the world. One bite, though, proved it was a cut above. The fish, served on a buttered bun, was fried to a perfect crisp -— no grease or sogginess. However, the thick-cut veggies had us reaching for one of the many paper towel rolls placed strategically along the two tall bars lining the north and south sides of the Abears dining room.
The rib-eye sandwich was worth every penny, especially being on special for less than $6. Flavorful, tender and served with a stack of crisp, cool veggies on browned Texas toast, it was a down-home dream.
Ever had a french fry that tasted as if it’d done time alongside a brisket in a smoker? Try ‘em at Abears. They’re a treat, but if you’re on a one-side-order limit, opt for the basket of fried okra. It’s the best I’ve had outside of my grandmother’s kitchen — lightly breaded, fried super-hot and not a drop of grease.
As one man ordered his hot link sandwich with a side of Pepto-Bismol, so should any other diner who can’t handle lunch with a bit of a kick. For me, the hot link sandwich, served on browned Texas toast, was pleasantly feisty.
With plates still heaping, we conspired to split a lemon cake ($3.50), packaged in an ordinary Ziplock baggie, from one of the several cake stands along the bar. The cake, baked by Tulsa’s own The Cake Lady, was light and delicately sweet, complete with a drizzle of glaze over the top.
With the drone of the radio from overhead a black-and-white tile dining that seats 15 to 20, Abears felt like somewhere we’d end up with our grandparents — comfy, gritty, and the place to be for the best of the morning gossip. Owner Herbert Tennyson, maybe the most gregarious restaurant owner in town, carouses with regulars and roughs up first-time patrons, making the place feel like the setting for one of those feel-good situation comedies.
We saw a little bit of everyone come through the Abears door for a bite to eat, from construction workers to someone a gentleman couldn’t refrain from repeatedly proclaiming as “the richest trial lawyer in the state.” On the walls are vintage newspaper articles about Greenwood and the multitude of African-American-owned businesses formerly bustling there, along with photos of restaurant staff, patrons, friends and family – really, anyone with a smiling face. The snarky, handmade signs about maximum numbers of refills and the dress code make for humorous conversation pieces.
The name Abears comes from the French for Herbert — the handle Tennyson’s wife and co-owner of Abears, Adele Tennyson, who hails from New Orleans, uses for him.
“I just love to cook,” Tennyson said. “What you see at Abears is just me, coming up with a menu and cooking.” ?
Pink Bagels to the Rescue
Panera Bread invites its customers to join in the fight against breast cancer simply by eating a bagel during the month of October.
Panera will sell its signature Pink Ribbon Bagels in all locations in the Tulsa market this month, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The bakery will donate a portion of the proceeds from each Pink Ribbon Bagel sold to a variety of breast cancer causes throughout the country, including Tulsa Project Woman, a group that has provided cancer screening and services for more than 16,000 women and men.
Each Panera bakery-cafe location is open seven days per week. Find them in Tulsa at 6981 S. Lewis Ave., 1624 E. 15th St., 5601 E. 41st St., 8930 S. Memorial Drive and at 11123 E. 71st St., as well as in Broken Arrow at 2201 W. Detroit and in Owasso at 12417 E. 96th St. North.
Anthony Bourdain Tulsa Bound
Chef, author, provocateur, traveler, enthusiast and host of “No Reservations” on The Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain is known for his blunt observations about the world of restaurants, chefs and cooking. He is author of the best-selling Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. His work has appeared in the major-league U.S. publications and newspaper food sections, including The New Yorker, The New York Times and Gourmet, and he was named Best Food Writer in 2001 by Bon Appetit magazine.
And, he’s coming to Tulsa.
VIP tickets, which include a post-show meet-and-greet an a book signing with Bourdain, were released for presale at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, which will host No Reservations: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain in its Chapman Music Hall venue. Tickets, which range $35.50-85.50, went on sale to the general public Oct. 2. The event is slated for June 12, 2010.