A happy return
Former pro soccer player Charlie Mitchell reintroduces an old Tulsa favorite with Charlie Mitchell’s Modern Pub.
Charlie Mitchell’s Modern Pub’s menu features salmon, which can be marinated in a sweet soy sauce, turbinado sugar and garlic or simply grilled.
March may make most people think of Ireland, but I’m headed to Scotland instead — via Tulsa’s newest revival, Charlie Mitchell’s Modern Pub.
Born in Scotland, Charlie Mitchell began playing soccer at age 5. He turned pro at 17 and a year later joined the North American Soccer League and headed across the pond to play for the mighty New York Cosmos before eventually coming to Tulsa.
He played for the Tulsa Roughnecks for a year before coaching the team for two more. That is how most Tulsans came to know Mitchell. Luckily, after hanging up his cleats, the player and coach stayed in Tulsa and did what many retired Scottish soccer players do: He opened a namesake pub.
You may remember the original Charlie Mitchell’s Restaurant and Pub. The first location opened at East 81st Street and South Harvard Avenue in the spot currently home to Hideaway Pizza (a second location opened on 21st Street a few years later).
I spent countless evenings there as a teen. It was where I tried a Monte Cristo sandwich for the first time and sampled my first sizzling platter of fajitas.
Sadly, Mitchell closed his restaurants back in 1995, but he stuck around Tulsa because of the great youth soccer programs; he is still a coach today.
After some prodding from friends Greg McGill and Hal Walker (owners of the popular McGill’s restaurants in Tulsa), Charlie Mitchell’s Modern Pub was born.
Dishes reminiscent of the U.K. abound on the generous menu (shepherd’s pie and fish and chips, to name a few) as well as classics from the original Charlie Mitchell’s restaurants (cheese toast and the Monte Cristo). One perk of the location: The wood-fired pizza oven, kept from the previous occupant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, churns out some of the best pizza in town.
We stopped in on a recent Thursday evening hoping to bring back some memories of the original pub. We were starving when we got there and decided to share some starters while we perused the menu. The Rochester Lancers Dip (named for one of Mitchell’s former teams) is listed on the menu as a “must have,” so we had to try it. It is a creamy blend of spinach, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese and artichoke hearts, served warm with tortilla chips.
We also chose a bowl of white queso — my sister, Mary, never passes on a bowl of queso — which was nice and hot, although mild in flavor, and paired with salsa and chips.
Now, back to the Monte Cristo. It has been nearly 20 years since I last dined at Charlie Mitchell’s, so my memory of the original sandwich may have faded just a bit. I do remember, however, the sweet and savory sandwich, filled with ham and Swiss cheese, to be dipped in a light egg batter and fried like French toast. This newer version was dipped in a heavy beer batter and deep-fried. All I could taste was the batter and the raspberry jam that was served alongside as a dipping sauce. It was a bit of a letdown. On a good note, Mary’s fish tacos were fresh and light, topped with cabbage, avocados and a spicy chipotle sauce.
My husband, Tate, opted for fish and chips. The large pieces of cod were dipped in, I’m presuming, the same beer batter and deep-fried. They were hot, crisp and flaky. The “chips,” however, were not thick-cut pub fries but the thin variety.
My brother-in-law, Bryan, had been in before and chose to revisit the “Forfar Bridies” shepherd’s pie. While traditional shepherd’s pie is topped with mashed potatoes and then baked, this version is named for the bridie pastries originating in Forfar, Scotland, which are topped with a layer of puff pastry before baking.
The meat layer, which can be pretty heavy, was hearty but light, and the overall dish was delicious and filling. It is one of Charlie’s few original dishes to make the new menu.
The menu also features a selection of burgers and sandwiches, as well as a half-dozen signature salads, all of which were popular choices among diners on the night we visited. And as I mentioned before, there are six pizza selections, from the simple Margherita to meat lovers, baked in the wood-fired oven.
For dessert, the chocolate lava cake was rich, gooey and super chocolaty — perfect for sharing if you just want a bite of something sweet after dinner.
The bar area was packed the night we were in, with the TVs playing an assortment of sports. While basketball and football seem to be the most popular around here, I’m guessing this is the place to go to catch a soccer match. The full bar offers a typical selection of bottled beers as well as 10 on draft. My only minor suggestion on the draft beer selection is for the restaurant to offer an English or Irish lager for diners — OK, me — who might want to sip a black and tan.
Charlie Mitchell’s also features an all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet, served from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. It includes all of the traditional favorites: biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, eggs Benedict and the like for $12.95 a person.
Overall, the family-friendly modern pub is a great place to gather with friends, catch a game or grab a quick family dinner. Although Charlie Mitchell never left, we’re sure glad he’s back.