If you haven’t been to RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks lately, you’ll be surprised at the changes. Oh, the Arkansas River is still the same, wide and brown and lazy under the summer sun. But what seemed like a ghost town a year or two ago now has an air of brisk vitality.
Almost all the storefronts are full – before, two-thirds lay vacant – and you can hear bands and laughter. Follow the laughter to a big splashy wading pool with lots of kids jumping as only kids can, and next to it is Maryn’s Taphouse and Raw Bar.
Walk in and it’s spacious, high-ceilinged and welcoming with sea-blue walls. Powder-blue banquettes are occupied by two middle-aged couples dining together, a guy and his date drinking beer, an older couple with daughter and son-in-law. Everyone comes to Maryn’s, it seems, and most of them make their way to the big bar in the center of the room. Chances are you’ll see one bartender who is twice as energetic as the others and who is friends with everyone around him. If you’ve been here before, he knows you.
That’s Corey Crandall, the owner. He designed everything in sight.
“I didn’t have an architect or designer,” he says. “I picked the shades of blue paint to echo the water. I chose the light fixtures, the benches, everything.”
But most important to Corey are the people. He’s been a bartender for 20 years.
“Other bartenders are expert in mixing drinks,” he says. “I concentrate on making friends. Look at that couple by the bar. They were regulars at my old place [the wildly popular George’s Pub in Jenks], and I’ve been to the college graduations of all three of their daughters.”
And he has no favorites because “we’re collective, not selective.” All are welcome (including children, by the way), and the menu has something for everyone. There are some fine-dining options, but also much cheaper fare: street tacos bursting with flavor, po’boys made with bread from New Orleans. He’s proud of Maryn’s burger, a blend of steak and short rib. And there are some fine oysters, blue points that were swimming (or whatever oysters do) off the Connecticut coast 48 hours before you eat them.
As if on cue, a wiry man walks over with a tray of oysters. He’s Josh McClure, the chef, bearded and tattooed with an intense, intelligent stare. McClure used to be executive chef at the Chalkboard, the epitome of elegant dining, but “this is more me,” he says. “I have a lot more fun. No more pretty plates or hoity-toity. But I still have the same high standards.”
While there is definitely no hoity-toity, Maryn’s has a few high-end entrees that are as good as any you’ll find in Tulsa, and maybe better. Try the lamb chops. They are simply seared in a hot skillet with olive oil and sea salt, and artfully plated above a white bean puree and a chutney made of fresh berries reduced with onions and brown sugar. The lamb is from a small farm in Colorado.
And then there’s the sesame-seared tuna. This one is a pretty plate, exploding in color. There’s the bright pink tuna, the black and white sesame seeds (half are toasted), green crisp asparagus segments and orange lobster meat blended into a hash below. And each component sings.
Even the simplest items are perfect. The lobster roll is pure New England. It’s made with bread from Maine and with a quarter pound of claw meat from Maine lobsters. You can’t stop eating it, and when you’re finished, you vow to return again. And when you do, Crandall will remember you.