February 8th, 2013 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (2)
I’d never eaten at Dilly Deli. That was a big mistake. Judging from my meal last night, a meatloaf worthy of any restaurant in Tulsa, I’ve missed some fine food. Still, I’m not a big fan of sandwiches for dinner, and though I always meant to go, and at one point even was friends with the manager, and kept assuring her I’d visit, I kept putting it off. But a few weeks ago, Dilly Deli, whose menu (like that fellow in “Forrest Gump” who could think of nothing but shrimp) was always limited to sandwiches, sandwiches, and sandwiches, started serving dinner for dinner. Yes, in addition to the sandwiches (which let me say at the start are excellent), they serve a different dinner entree for every day of the week. (Except weekends.) And by the way they also serve a daily soup, which I didn’t try. We went on Monday. That’s meatloaf. Ohhhhh it was good!
I’m a big fan of the word “quirky”, and it’s right up there with my most-used words, along with “juicy” and “flavorful”. But how else to describe the decor here?
It looks like the “Central Perk” coffeehouse featured in “Friends”, if Phoebe Buffay had done the interior design and hired a bunch of hippies to aid her. Despite (or because of) that it’s quite pleasant, and the staff, many of whom seem to fit right in with Phoebe and the hippies, are friendly and helpful. But let’s cut to the meatloaf.
This meatloaf is a definite contender for the Best Meatloaf in Tulsa prize. It would certainly win the Biggest in Tulsa prize, no question of that … that’s over a pound of meatloaf perched on the plate. And it just might be the best deal in Tulsa… all that for nine dollars! And yes it was juicy and flavorful… a wonderful chewy texture… just amazing. I saw a wonderful whimsical magical film a few hours later made by one of the best Czech New Wave directors, and there’s a scene in which the King of Ethiopia honors Czech diplomats by serving them the best dish ever created, and all the stuffy politicians in evening dress take one taste and get up and dance with joy, and when I saw it I wondered if it was as good as that meatloaf.
The sides were worthy companions for that meatloaf. The green beans had been cooked with bacon, were studded with bits of it, and retained the flavor. The beans were soft, not crunchy, but their texture worked well with this traditional Southern preparation. The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious and even the gravy, which is so often overwhelming, was good.
Judy Allen wrote a great article this month on comfort food in Tulsa, naming about 40 restaurants, and I would definitely urge you to read it were it not for the fact that I write for Oklahoma Magazine and she writes for our competitor. She has a lovely definition of comfort food… “any dish that has a nostalgic or sentimental appeal to the diner.” But she doesn’t mention Dilly Deli! I can only conclude that she has never tried this meatloaf. Despite that, Dilly Deli bought an ad in that issue which conveniently lists their other daily specials. Tuesday is chicken-fried chicken, on Wednesday a pasta dish, different each week, is featured, Thursday is “Breakfast for Dinner”, and on Friday you can get fried catfish. But go on Monday… that’s meatloaf.
Now about those sandwiches. I realized that a review of Dilly Deli would not be complete without them, so I conned Cathe into ordering a sandwich. I’m sure she would have preferred the meatloaf but she sacrificed. So many sandwiches to choose from! All named after someone. I wanted her to get the Meg ($8), which features a fried egg, tomato, lettuce, bacon and Cheddar. (I believe that’s named after the wife of the owner, famed Tulsa restaurateur Elliot Nelson, but I don’t want to mention Elliot Nelson’s name since he’s the only major restaurateur in Tulsa who totally ignores my reviews of all his wonderful restaurants, so I won’t mention this.) The Meg is in theory available only in the morning but they will often make it at dinnertime if they’re not busy. She considered the Jillian ($9, homemade meatballs, provolone and Parmesan with fresh basil and marinara sauce), but decided on the Michael Roy ($9).
This big boy is stuffed with grilled Portobello mushroom slices, sun dried tomato aioli, lettuce, tomato and feta cheese on stirato bread. Stirato is an Italian baguette but this bread, instead of being impossibly chewy like a French baguette, had just the right texture to highlight the ingredients without needing a knife to pierce the crust. And with all those rich, savory ingredients it was a wonderful sandwich. Just wonderful. But I was glad I got that meatloaf.
402 E. 2nd Street
Open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM (except closes 4 PM Sunday) Breakfast before 11 AM. The dinner specials are served after 4 PM Monday through Friday
The film referred to is “I Served the King of England” directed by the incomparable Jiri Menzel, the Czech New Wave director who, 40 years before, made the classic “Closely Watched Trains”, which made Czech film famous. Here is a trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgvlt_FFxJw The dish served, like the entire film, is fiction. It features a whole camel stuffed with lambs stuffed with turkeys stuffed with eggs… a sort of monster turducken. (Some books claim that this is indeed a traditional Saudi Arabian dish, but most authorities consider that a hoax.)
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.