The Blue Rose rises again
A popular Brookside hangout is resurrected on the Arkansas River in the form of Blue Rose Café, a hot-weather haven featuring a casual vibe and casual fare.
The Blue Rose Café features music memorabilia donated by Cain’s Ballroom and local musicians.
I was a waitress once. That’s not saying a lot, but I did put in a good two years at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater while attending Oklahoma State University. (I won’t tell you how long ago it was.) It was great fun, and I made some lifelong friends out of the deal. Unfortunately, my time at Joe’s came much later than that of legendary Tulsa restaurateur Tom Dittus, who managed Joe’s for many years.
At the same time Dittus was working at Joe’s, he was following a local red dirt band called Blue Rose Café. He says he always thought the band name would be a great name for a restaurant.
Jump ahead 15 or so years to 1991. With the blessing of Joe’s owner Stan Clark, Dittus opened his own juke joint in Tulsa, and he finally got to put the band’s name on his own marquee — Blue Rose Café was born. The Blue Rose was a popular hangout in the evolving Brookside strip for 10 years — until 2001, when Dittus closed the bar to help care for his older brother, who was undergoing cancer treatment in Germany.
A few years later, when he returned to Tulsa, Dittus joined a younger brother in the commercial real estate business — a plus, as he had long been looking for a spot to reopen the Blue Rose. They submitted a request for a proposal with River Parks on the much-publicized Arkansas River project and were selected to build a new restaurant overlooking the river.
The menu bears a striking resemblance to that of Eskimo Joe’s, both in look and content, all a nod to Clark. And because Sara and Heather, two of my best girlfriends, and I spent many a night at Joe’s, we felt like reliving some of our past fun.
We had to start with a plate of cheese fries — a heaping mound of seasoned fries, topped with Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses and crisp bacon. Definitely a substantial starter, the melty-cheese-covered fries ($8.29) were delicious dipped in the Blue Rose’s house-made ranch dressing. You can also opt for a topping of chili or blackened or marinated chicken for more of a pub-nacho meal.
For her entrée, Sara opted for the spinach salad topped with the Blue Rose’s famous blackened chicken. The main-dish salad was hearty yet light. Other salads include greens topped with marinated chicken, blackened chicken or crispy chicken fingers ($10.29). There is also a classic Caesar salad ($10.49), the soup of the day ($4.29/$5.49) and a new signature gumbo, Rhythm and Blues gumbo.
I opted for a classic Blue Rose sandwich — marinated chicken topped with Swiss cheese and grilled pineapple.
Unfortunately, mine came with neither cheese nor pineapple, but our sweet waitress tried to help me out by bringing a slice of cheese to the table. Not quite what I was planning, but the sandwich was great nonetheless. There are a slew of other sandwiches, including chicken-fried chicken ($9.49), the Blue Rose Club ($9.49) and the delicious blackened chicken ($9.49), served on a bun with the Blue Rose’s orange marmalade sauce (this was always my go-to sandwich at the former Blue Rose).
My friend Heather chose the Jr. Walker, a small old-fashioned onion-fried burger cooked on the flat-top grill. It was pretty tasty, but I would have probably ordered two. The other burger selections are third-pound burgers, hand packed daily, and include mushroom and Swiss, bacon and your choice of cheese, bacon and blue cheese, and homemade hickory sauce and Jack cheese (all $9.99).
The place was bustling, even for a Tuesday night. We waited about a half-hour for a table but were able to enjoy a beer on the patio and watch the sun set. I suspect the patio will be popular for that reason alone. There is also live music Tuesday through Saturday, so if you are looking for quiet conversation, you might want to eat early, before the band starts up.
My friends and I thought the new Blue Rose felt much like a modern tree house, albeit an urban one, with much of the musically themed décor donated by Cain’s Ballroom and local musicians. The space was built according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program. Kudos to Dittus for building one of the few LEED-certified businesses in Oklahoma, and for breathing life back into one of Tulsa’s favorite locally owned hangouts.
Blue Rose Café
1924 Riverside Drive, 918-582-4600
Cuisine — Bar and grill fare
Capacity — 100 inside; 100 to 120 outside
Setting — Bank of the Arkansas River
Managing partner — Tom Dittus
Prices — Starters and salads, $4-$11; burgers and entrées, $10-$16.99
Reservations — Not accepted
Credit cards — All major accepted
Hours — 11 a.m.-midnight, Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Friday and Saturday
Dress — Casual
Noise level — Moderate to loud (depends on whether bands are playing)
Handicapped access — Yes
Smoking — Only on the patio
Parking — Parking lot