Icon search Icon hamburger
Icon close large
Vg pearl guide

Photo: Valerie Grant

A Day in Downtown Tulsa's Pearl District

BY Julian Morgan

The Pearl District is a magical little piece of Tulsa situated just outside the Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) on the east side of downtown. The neighborhood begins at First Street with Peoria Avenue serving as its western border and running east to Utica Avenue. Historic Route 66 runs along 11th Street and serves as the southern boundary for the area.

This prime location adjacent to major railroads was ideal for the large factories booming early in the 20th century, but the workers needed somewhere to live within walking distance. Small houses and apartments were built nearby. With residential areas came small grocery stores and other services. Working class folks would walk or ride a streetcar between home and their factory jobs.

Eventually the manufacturing slowed or moved outside of town. People drove cars to and from their larger homes and began to emphasize parking lots and drive-thru options with new buildings. The Pearl District was left with vacant structures and undeveloped lots. The neighborhood seemed to stall and even die out.

Because of its history, the Pearl District is a wonderful mix of intricate brickwork, cozy bungalows and industrial buildings ripe for development. This building stock includes the Tulsa Fire Alarm Building, 1010 E. 8th St. and home of the Tulsa Fire Museum, and the Church Studio (where Leon Russell and many more famous musicians have recorded), 304 S. Trenton Ave. Some hardworking Tulsans who crave a more personal or even “old fashioned” way of life have a vision to restore the Pearl to what it once was and even improve upon it. The goal is for a person to live, work and play all within walking distance. For the purpose of this tour, the focus will be on play. Have fun!

Good Morning

There’s a lot to do in the neighborhood, so you’ll want to get an early start. Start your engine at The Phoenix Café, 1302 E. 6th St., for that caffeine fix (I recommend “The Pearl”) and a homemade bagel. While you’re there, peruse The Book End, located at the east end of the café, for some good used reads. You can take your new used book across the street and enjoy it in Tulsa’s best park with a skyline view, Centennial Park, which is also home to several large annual festivals, I am Yoga and Tulsa Pride – to name a couple.

Now that you’re awake, some mid-morning exercise is in order. Break a sweat at Be Love Yoga Studio, 1310 E. 6th St., for Acro (as in acrobatic) Yoga, boot camp at Forge, 1314 E. 3rd St., or kickboxing at The Engine Room, 1338 E. 6th St.

Lunch Time & Shop-a-Thon

Refuel with a quick lunch on Route 66 at Ike’s Chili, Lola’s Caravan or El Rancho Grande, all located along 11th Street. While you’re on 66, stop in The Cajun Blackbird, 1621 E. 11th St. in the Soul City complex, to admire its “Elvis in Baton Rouge” style. Shop owner and artist Amy Addington Smith sells impressive mosaics and does custom work as well.

You can get pretty at June Beauty Parlor, 1321 E. 6th St., and get your nails artfully adorned at Debzart Salon and Spa, 1020 S. St. Louis Ave. Spice up your formal wear with a customized piece from The Two Guys Bow Ties (featured on “Shark Tank”), 623 S. Peoria Ave. Keep shopping! Hillman's Garage, 1016 E. 4th St., has one-of-a-kind handcrafted décor and clothing. Garden Deva, 317 S. Trenton Ave., is constantly coming up with beautiful and whimsical metal sculptures for the yard and home. Or you can try to build or create something yourself at Wonderland Shopwerks, 571 S. Peoria Ave.

P.M. in the Pearl

Show off your refined look and appreciate some local art at Lot 6 Art Bar, 1323 E. 6th St., or enjoy a live theater experience at The Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. 4th St. Before dinner, support two Tulsa guys who make delicious beer and grab a pint at Dead Armadillo Brewery, 1004 E. 4th St. Just a heads up that most neighborhood restaurants in the area also pour Dead Armadillo brews.

For dinner, Papa Ganouj, 1328 E. 6th St., is the spot for authentic Mediterranean flavors. An impressive outdoor stage venue for local music can be found at Studio Soul (part of Soul City), 1621 E. 11th St.

Hitting each spot on this tour may be a lot for one day, but anything you missed will be there when you come back – alongside something new. This area is a favorite for artists and small businesses, whose grit and dedication make the neighborhood shinier and denser every day. The history will never be lost and is honored by new generations, making the Pearl a true Tulsa gem (pun intended).

Julian Morgan tests Tulsa's brainpower working for Live Event Trivia, a local entertainment company with weekly multimedia team trivia shows at bars, restaurants and private events. She is an all-around Tulsa enthusiast and poodle fanatic. Her ideal day would be to watch period dramas in her pajamas with minimal interruption, but now that she's probably seen them all she can be found exploring Tulsa's parks, local restaurants and art exhibits.