Restaurants might come and go in Tulsa, but many have made their mark on our city’s history for their food, service, owners and atmosphere. Here’s one serving of Tulsa’s gastronomic history from “Lost Restaurants of Tulsa.”
Kay’s Restaurant, operated by Ruby Gibson and her husband Glen, opened near East 31st Street and South Yale Avenue in 1958. It was a homestyle place that offered simple food cooked well; so well that the line to get in often went out the door and down the sidewalk.
Kay Watkins, Ruby’s daughter and namesake of the restaurant, remembered, “When my mother opened it, she had a counter, five booths and a smaller dining room you could go into for lunch or dinner.” The diner became known for its bold color palette in addition to the pulley bone special (the v-shaped bone in the center of the chicken breast) and out-of-this-world dinner rolls.
After more than 20 years, Ruby retired — but it didn’t stick. In 1986, she bought a service station only 150 feet away from the original diner and opened Ruby’s Restaurant. “I hated retirement,” Gibson said at the time. “I like to be where there’s people.”
Ruby continued making pies and serving Tulsans until the restaurant closed in June 2001. Ruby passed away later that same year.