Building On Tradition
Two business partners hope to capture the progressive spirit of their restaurant’s namesake.
There was a time when Tulsa was proud of its downtown. In those days, you could take the trolley in from Sand Springs and join the bustling crowds thronging Main Street and its huge department stores. You could tell your family, truthfully, that you’d have to go to New York or Chicago to see finer buildings than the tall, graceful Art Deco towers one block east on Boston. If you were lucky, you could catch a glimpse of the burnished brass, exuberantly sculpted marble and gleaming mahogany inside the fabled Philtower.
Now the excitement’s back. Go inside the Philtower lobby any weekday after 5 o’clock, and those glowing, sculpted walls ring with laughter and happy voices. Follow the joyous noise around the corner and step inside Edward Delk’s. Go past the tables filled with young professionals who stream in from nearby office towers, and chances are you’ll see the owners Eric Richards and Hunt Hawkins standing by the bar. Young professionals themselves (Eric, dapper and bespectacled, is a financial analyst; Hunt, tall and lean, an oilman), they fit right in.
“Before we built this place,” says Richards, “if you wanted to unwind after work downtown, there was no place to go.”
“And if you wanted food,” Hunt chimes in, “there was nothing but Domino’s Pizza. I got mighty tired of pizza.” For years, Hunt and Eric dreamed of opening a dapper professional hangout to satisfy these needs.
“We wanted two things,” says Richards. “(To pay) homage to the architectural district and a big city feel.” That’s why they named it after the well-traveled cosmopolitan architect who designed the Philtower: Edward Delk.
Like Delk, the two business partners lavished attention on each architectural detail. The marble that tops the tables comes from the Philtower lobby. The floor is original, carefully restored after years buried under linoleum. A huge chandelier, its crystals shimmering, shines on enormous reproductions of Delk’s original architectural drawings. Nearby, a spiral staircase from the tailor that originally occupied this space (Brenner’s) leads to a balcony above. Details, such as tufted leather sofas, black carved moldings, the metal sculpted bar back, and even the old-fashioned light bulbs, hint at the gilded age when the Philtower was new. The exposed brick walls and, high above, the pipes and crossbeams of the ceiling, have a more modern feel.
“We merged industrial with Art Deco,” says Richards.
Bearded and elegant despite his casual clothes, Tuck Curren hears Richards and strolls by. One of Tulsa’s great restaurateurs, owner of Biga and Local Table, Curren designed the menu, and he’s excited about it.
“It’s bar food,” he says. “Plates designed to share after work, but it’s bar food taken to a higher level.” One popular dish, the Brie and Wild Mushroom Fondue, looks simple. But, Curren explains, it’s not. Butter and flour are combined to form a roux and dried Porcini mushrooms added to form a version of a classic French Béchamel. Brie and Shiitake mushrooms are tossed in, and then the dish is baked in a pizza oven. The finished product is highly addictive and unforgettable. If you’re still hungry, there are some fine panini: housemade pastrami, beer-braised short ribs, chicken with pungent roasted peppers. Panini means “little breads,” but these hefty hoagies are far from little. Or there are salads, soups and pizzas. The owners favor the beef short rib pizza with barbecue sauce, but the Margherita, heaped with tomato and fresh mozzarella, looks like something that came out of an oven in Naples. If it’s drinks you’re after, there are some fine craft beers, a hundred kinds of liquor and some nifty cocktails with names like “Bitter Love” and “The Smoking Gun.” Edward Delk, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, would have enjoyed that.