Cruise down that dark and deserted stretch of Riverside just north of the bridge and there, way out over the water, you’ll see lights shining where no light could possibly be. Turn in, park the car, and there are cars and crowds and music – this place has got a groove. Big, shiny windows and blond oak wood – it looks like a cross between a ski chalet and a fishing shack. A party palace.
Tom Dittus is a happy man. Three nights after opening, not an empty seat in the house, and there he is, greeting old friends, running the tap behind the bar, bopping through the crowds and all the while smiling, an irrepressible sign of happiness he can’t control.
It’s been a long time coming. Dittus learned the trade back in the ‘70s, working at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater. Then he opened what he calls a “little rhythm and blues joint” in Brookside. You could walk along Peoria even on the grayest, gloomiest day, and without fail there’d be a huge, noisy drinking crowd swarming on a homey wood deck built out toward 34th Street. Bikers and businessmen, chicks and suits, one big happy bunch: Blue Rose Cafe.
The new Blue Rose is more than twice as large, and that’s not counting the big wooden deck over the river. A hundred people could crowd on out there, and come summer they surely will. Inside, it’s sleek, airy, almost industrial, with blond wood and floor to ceiling windows, redeemed from blandness by quirky touches where you’d least expect it. 1920s style ceiling lamps. Beams of tawny wood crossing pipes of black metal. A ghostly white mannequin at a window. An eerie, painted Medusa gliding on an ultramarine sea. Bauhaus meets roadhouse.
Go for a drink or two. You’ll have a fine time. But don’t forget the food. Lots of choices: blackened chicken with onion rings, chicken-fried chicken, a bowl of creamy gravy, fried okra. Sandwiches, salmon fillet, or a big sirloin steak. Best of all (or so it will definitely seem after a night of drinking) is an open-faced burger drenched with chili and all swimming in a lake of gooey cheese, bright and sunny as an egg yolk. This food satisfies primal cravings.
To experience Blue Rose at its finest, go on weekends. There’ll be a band playing. Dittus knows his music, and his choice of bands follows the current restaurant mantra: Go organic, go local. From time to time Oklahoma’s fertile soil spawns a new kind of music: homegrown, original. It happened in the ‘60s with the Tulsa Sound and again in the ‘90s with Red Dirt Music. That’s the kind of bands you’ll find at Blue Rose. Red Dirt Rangers, perhaps, or Mary Cogan. A few days before Mary played, Dittus sent her a note: “Mary tell your peeps to get there early. It’s been kookoo crazy!” Yes it has. And that’s how it should be. 1924 Riverside Dr., Tulsa. 918.582.4600. www.bluerosecafetulsa.com