15 Hidden Gem Restaurants in East Tulsa
BY BEA BAKER, MATT CARNEY, MADELEINE DORST, SAM HATHAWAY, MADELINE ROPER & HOLLY WALL
11514 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 74129
Nestled inside the enormity of Nam Hai Oriental Food Market, Pho Ni (it's pronounced like "funny") offers an extensive menu of Vietnamese dishes. The various noodle bowls—and, of course, the pho, which comes in different serving sizes, depending on your appetite—are must-try items. The Banh Mi is also delicious, and the Vietnamese coffee is a perfect ending to any meal.
Pho Nhi’s broth is loaded with meat and noodles—so much so that it’s hard to reach the bottom of the bowl. The Pho Dac Biet, or “The Special,” packs plenty of meat; use your chopsticks and soup spoon to wade through the mass of flank, brisket, tendon and tripe that hovers around the top to hit the pile of noodles at the bottom.
While the tendon was a bit chewy, the savory flank made up for it. The spices take a backseat to the full, meaty flavors in the broth. You can also use the fish sauce on the table to adjust the flavor to your liking.
Noteworthy tidbits: The smallest size is plenty at Pho Nhi, especially if you order the summer rolls, which are near-bursting with pork and shrimp. Fans of Vietnamese coffee will want to give Pho Nhi’s a sip. Walk off your meal by browsing the stacks at Nam Hai, the Asian market Pho Nhi calls home. —Bea Baker
6380 E. 31st St., Tulsa, OK 74135
Tucked inside an unassuming strip mall near 31st and Sheridan, this intimate restaurant serves authentic Korean dishes, such as Bulgogi and banchan, as well as Korean fusion—think Bulgogi Tacos and Kimchi Steak Burger.
Boba tea’s on the menu, too, one of the few places in town that you can find it. —Matt Carney
1901 S. Garnett Rd., Tulsa, OK 74128
Crudoolandia is Tulsa’s only drive-through michelada and chelada restaurant. Don’t let their curb appeal fool you. As you turn off 21st and Garnett, you enter what appears to be an old car wash parking lot. But drive up to the entrance and you’ll hear a bell go off, signifying you’re in the right place. A large menu is posted on the garage wall written in Spanish with descriptive images to accompany each item.
This Mexican drive-thru—whose name translates to English as “Hangoverland”—is best known for its towering to-go cups of zesty clamato mix topped with shrimp, bacon, cucumber and celery, finished with a spiced rim. The mix comes with a beer of your choice—unopened of course. If you’re looking for something sweeter, try a Chuvi Duvi. It’s a michelada made with strawberry, mango, pineapple, and dressed with a chile lime rim and tamarind straw. These fruity drinks are accompanied by a Smirnoff Ice or beer of your choice.
Crudoolandia also serves snacks like shrimp cocktail, ceviche tostados and a creamy, citrus and corn treat called elote en vaso. Many of Crudoolandia’s bright flavors of citrus and spice are inspired by traditional street foods found on the beaches of Mazatlán, Mexico. Crudoolandia is a refreshing spin on the classic drive-thru experience unlike any other carhop service in Tulsa. —Sam Hathaway
5903 E. 31st St., Tulsa, OK 74135
Binh Le feels like a tropical jungle. Bright red chairs, gold accents, and an array of plants greet the casual foodie. The menu is just as exotic. With endless vegetarian options including ginger bean curd, ginger tofu, strawberry soy, and vegetarian chowmein, the owner/cook/waiter extraordinaire recommends the “deluxe bun cha gio.” Described as a salad, this bowl of glory brings together silky rice noodles, chicken, beef, shrimp, with crisp cucumber and julienned carrots. Two chopped warm egg rolls nestle in to make lunch fit for a deity. A sweet dipping sauce is nearby to add yet another complexity to the delicious bowl.
Wash down your meal with a Chinese hot tea or a Vietnamese coffee. This hidden haven is one of many incredible East Tulsa restaurants. —Bea Baker
6119 E. 31st St., Tulsa, OK 74135
With a casual, divey dining space, Gyros Palace brings Greek-inspired dishes to Tulsa. From traditional gyro sandwiches to burgers with a Greek twist, they’ve got something for everybody.
For $8.99, the value meal comes with a gyro, fries, tzatziki dipping sauce and a drink. The pita comes out warm and fluffy, the lamb meat cooked to perfection. Creamy tzatziki sauce adds taste and texture. You can upgrade your fries to Greek style for $1.99 extra. They come topped with a secret blend of spices and melted feta cheese.
Gyros Palace offers great vegetarian substitutions such as falafel and grape leaves. Customers can also try different meat platters with vegetables and rice. For dessert, snag a sweet piece of baklava. The traditional Mediterranean pastry consists of crushed walnuts soaked in honey and layered between sheets of thin filo dough. Even if you don’t eat a full meal, the rich treat is worth a stop to Gyros Palace. —Madeline Roper
6510 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 74129
With authentic Cuban food and a full bar, this spot on 21st and Sheridan is also known for hosing free Thursday night salsa and bachata dancing lessons. No partner required.
Try the sugarcane juice with rum or the plantains stuffed with ropa vieja, both Cuban specialties. —Root staff
3151 S. 129th E. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74134
Family-owned and operated in east Tulsa, La Tropical is a bilingual, family-friendly paradise for cold treats. Their offerings range from the straightforward single-scoop of ice cream (with loads of flavors to choose from) to Doritos-flavored popsicles, so this is where your wildest snacking fantasies can be realized. Strawberries encased in yogurt popsicles, mangonadas, milkshakes, snowcones, paletas, the list goes on.
They're always trying out new recipes behind that big ol' ice cream counter, so visit La Tropical often. It's a must if you're looking for dessert in east Tulsa. —Matt Carney
3151 S. 129th E. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74134
If you’re not dining east of Highway 169, you’re missing out on so much of Tulsa’s terrific cuisine.
Among these east Tulsa standouts is Lò Bánh Mì Viet Hot Bread, which serves real-deal banh mi and smoothies near the intersection of 31st St. and Garnett Ave. It’s hearty Vietnamese comfort food that edges a little to the spicy side in its mix of pâté, jalapeño peppers, house mayonnaise, soy sauce, daikon and carrots. Ooh and don’t forget those perfect baguettes with the pointy ends that are just the right amount of crusty on the outside but soft within.
Egg rolls are a dollar a pop and the cold drink menu at this modest establishment is downright wild, too. Don’t leave without a cold Vietnamese coffee, bubble tea or just about any variety of smoothie you can imagine: strawberry, guava, pistachio, lychee, passionfruit and plenty more. This little bistro’s got less than a dozen seats and gets its orders out to customers pretty quick, so don’t plan on waiting long for your food. —Matt Carney
9720 E. 31st St., Tulsa, OK 74146
Open since 2011, China Garden may look unassuming on the outside, but once you’re seated under the ceiling of paper red lanterns and are handed a beautifully presented dish, you’ll realize this is a cut above other hole-in-the-wall establishments.
Delicious food with good portion sizes, this is some of the best Chinese food for your buck in Tulsa (especially if you do the Monday through Friday $6.50 lunch special). China Garden is not a buffet, but with dining, delivery, takeout, and a giant menu with mouth-watering pictures for the entrees, there is no shortage of options. —Madeleine Dorst
3118 S. Mingo Rd., Tulsa, OK 74146
Skip the fast-food window and grab some to-go at Tortilleria De Puebla, which sells savory, stewed Barbacoa by the pound, along with fresh corn tortillas and homemade salsa. You can spend $15 and feed your entire family.
Of course, you can also eat in and choose from a menu of meats served up as tacos, tortas and other simple dishes. The Menudo, it's rumored, is some of the best in town. —Bea Baker
7940 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 74129
Tres Fronteras is a hidden gem, occupying a tiny strip center spot and serving Mexican, American and Honduran dishes. Honduran cuisine combines Spanish, Caribbean and African influences and utilizes lots of corn, beans and plantains.
This place's cook is known to visit often with customers, so come prepared with plenty of questions. —Root staff
7919 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 74129
Tulsans have been trekking to this local staple for years for authentic pho, noodle dishes, and Americanized Chinese food. The broth is spice-heavy and interesting, with lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove upfront.
For those new to pho, Viet Huong is a great place to start: a handy photo album shows you what to expect and makes it easy to choose something appetizing. You might settle on the Hu Tieu Nam Vang—seafood pho with fried wontons. The “small” order is massive, and the fishy soup includes steamed squid, quail eggs, shrimp, and pork. Heat lovers can add jalapeños.
Noteworthy tidbits: Viet Huong is cash-only. A spread for two will run around $20, but bring a little extra. The restaurant is small, and usually crowded (take it as a sign of quality). If you’re visiting with a large party, plan on splitting up. —Holly Wall
6618 E. Admiral Pl., Tulsa, OK 74115
Golden Saddle, near Admiral and Sheridan, offers an all-American buffet three times a day, but the real treat here is the diner's Persian fare, found on the back side of the menu.
Choose from a election of authentic Iranian dishes, or ask for the Chef's Choice, and try a little bit of everything they have to offer. —Root staff
2138 S. Garnett Rd., Tulsa, OK 74129
Within two nearby locations, this ice cream shop serves delicious, homemade flavors—chocolate, vanilla, coconut, coffee, walnut, rice, queso (think cream cheese), strawberry, mango and many more. They’ll let you taste as many as you like while you’re deciding.
They also serve homemade aguas frescas in a variety of flavors, as well as some street food.—Bea Baker
601 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74112
Owner Leon Thompson opened this hole-in-the-wall barbecue spot in east Tulsa after retiring from a long career with the Tulsa County District Court.
You can't go wrong with any of their smoked meats, but do be sure to order Them Beans. They toss little fatty chunks of brisket in with them for extra hearty flavor. —Matt Carney