November 2nd, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (3)
All around me truckers in overalls were digging in to huge plates of chicken-fried steak or ham and eggs. Me, I was eating lamb’s eyes, brain, tongue and feet all mixed together in a bracing, vibrant Persian soup called Kale Pache. I never thought I’d find a panoply of Iranian taste treats in a homey old diner just off Admiral, not that far from downtown Tulsa. But Golden Saddle is a very special place.
It’s a friendly place too. “Honey, just sit where you like!” That kind of place. Everyone has that Oklahoma vocal twang that is sadly dying out in Tulsa. The waitresses seem to have been there forever, and most of the customers are regulars. Just about all of them come for the traditional Oklahoma down home cooking — ham and beans ($5) and chicken-fried steak are their specialties, but there’s also breakfast served all day, a $9 buffet table, and just about anything else you can think of. Few of the diners know that Persian food is available. But it is. Nasim Salari, the owner, who has just as much of that Oklahoma accent as everyone else, and who is universally beloved because he helps his employees through times of need when other colder bosses would fire them (and because staff and regular customers get a free Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas party), is from Iran. And that’s why Golden Saddle serves food like this:
So we came to try the Persian food (an Iranian business exec had tipped me to it) and I didn’t know what to order. There wasn’t that much on the Persian menu and most of the entrees were over $15. “Honey, just order the chef’s choice”, said the waitress. “It’s nine dollars per person.” “What do you get?” I asked, expecting a daily special. “Oh, everything”, she said. “It’s like a buffet just for you.” I thought she was exaggerating. My first clue that she was not was when, after the 3 of us agreed to pay a total of $27, she began moving a huge long table to connect with ours.
The chef came out to meet me. I told him I loved khoresht, the stews for which Iranian cuisine is famous. We usually have several, he told me, but only one today. Then he told me about the Kale Pache. I was thrilled but told him I was sure my friends wouldn’t even touch it. (They didn’t.) Then the chef got to work.
Out came plates of hummus, flat nan bread, and a cucumber-yogurt mix. The hummus didn’t thrill me but I liked the yogurt spread. Meanwhile my friends loaded up at the salad bar… included in the $9!
I didn’t touch a bite of salad. I figured I’d need all available stomach space and I was right. Out came the khoresht.
It’s Ghormeh Sabzi, the most famous of all Persian stews, made with lamb, beans, and lots of different herbs. This is not the best version I’ve ever had, it had less herbs than I’m used to and I didn’t taste any of the usual dried fenugreek leaves, but it had lots of tender, delicious lamb and veggies in a pleasant broth. Then came the Kale Pache. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo! It looked a lot like the Ghormeh Sabzi, though, lots of meat and a big hoofbone in a light clear broth. “I think this is an eye!’ I said. It was. Lots of brains and feet too. I didn’t notice any tongue. The meat had a unique flavor. My friends didn’t touch it. (And note that you probably won’t be served this dish unless you specifically request it.) All the waitresses were familiar with it though; over the years they’ve learned to like Persian food.
And then the lamb shank arrived. It was so impressive we all gasped. (Photo is at the beginning of this review.) Soft tender flavorful meat atop rice so delicious I just couldn’t stop eating it. Rice is the unsung star of Persian cuisine. They use varieties of rice plants unavailable outside Iran (here they had to settle for Indian basmati, which was just fine). Rice is first soaked and then boiled. Before it’s fully cooked it is drained and then steamed. This four-step process is hard work but that’s why the rice is so fluffy. Oh and the shank was just soooo good!
By now the dishes spread over both tables and the food just kept on coming. Next, kebabs.
Yes, a huge platter of Iran’s most famous dish, chelo kebab (which means kebabs on that carefully steamed rice). We got roasted chicken kebabs, steak kebabs, and three long kebabs of minced meat. That’s my favorite, the minced meat. It’s called koobideh and features lamb that’s been minced, then minced a second time, marinated with spices and grilled. I managed to snag two of those and they were rich, juicy and surprisingly tender. And then another plate arrived.
Baked chicken on rice. Falling-off-the-bone tender, a few subtle spices, and the juices mixed with the rice.
Fortunately, that was it. I ate almost till bursting. The waitresses, impressed by how much I’d put away, came over to talk. They offered to make me a takeout container full of Kale Pache. I declined.
Golden Saddle BBQ Steakhouse
6618 E. Admiral Place (near Sheridan)
Open daily from 6 AM to 11 PM
For more about the staff, the owner, the customers, and the Oklahoma-style food, see
Brian Schwartz: Author
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.