Al Sultan: The All-you-can-eat Middle Eastern Buffet

By on November 3, 2010

You’d have to go back to Indian Territory days to find a time when there was no Middle Eastern food cooked in Tulsa. The first Lebanese immigrants arrived sometime around 1895. And buffet lines and all-you-can-eat deals were probably around long before that. Those early settlers were hungry. The first all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in this country opened in San Francisco in 1849. I’m sure Oklahoma wasn’t that far behind. But no one ever thought of combining the two and opening an all-you-can-eat Middle Eastern buffet. Until now.

I first heard of Al Sultan a fortnight ago. One of my readers sent me a tip. (And I love it when you readers do that!) “I am requesting that you go to this new middle eastern restaurant,” he wrote. He’s a tough old biker so I take his requests very seriously. I’m glad I did. The place used to be Sooner Barbecue and they’ve kept the layout but a few Middle Eastern decor touches make it seem totally different. The food setup reminded me of high school. Glass counter, food behind it, plastic trays. Unlike high school, there’s great food and friendly service behind that counter. First you pay. Only $8! Then the owner will guide you through the food, showing you the many dishes. It’s not self-service. No customers putting their greasy paws in the food. You tell the owner what you’d like, or just ask for a little bit of everything. He’ll put it all together and hand you your plate. Here’s mine. The presentation is so much better than if I’d done it myself and just piled on heaps of food.

On the left is hummus. Hummus is cooked mashed Garbanzo beans. It tastes so much better than it sounds. I love it and I asked for a big portion. I asked him to put Fool, which is Egyptian baked beans, over it, and then I drizzled on olive oil from a carton on the counter. I loved the mixture. I’ve tasted better hummus in Tulsa (at Shawkat’s) and I’ve tasted better Fool (in Cairo) but I did like these. I’m not usually a tabouli fan, but the two kinds served here were fresh and flavorful. The basmati rice pilaf was moist and lovely too. To the right of that are juicy fried eggplant and a fried potato cube. The bread wedges were dusted with za’atar, a spice blend so addictive that some people eat it like popcorn. (You can buy bags of za’atar from Jordan — I did — and a ton of other hard to find Middle Eastern spices and canned goods, even including 10 pound cans of cheese from Saudi Arabia, at the grocery next door to the restaurant.) On the right are kebabs. The chicken was a bit dry but I loved the kofta kebab. That’s the long one, a big cylinder of ground beef and lamb with a lot of spices thrown in.

The plates are so lovely I’ll show you Cathe’s.

She asked for a bit of everything with extra tabouli. So you can see the two kinds of tabouli. They were so good! You can also see the round of nice warm pita bread on the right, the crunchy toasted cheese bread in the center, and the lentil soup. She loved the soup and got a second bowl.

I loved it all so much I got a second plate, with hummus and fool and rice and a kofta kebab. They don’t serve desserts but that didn’t matter. We were stuffed to bursting.

Al Sultan Grill and Bakery
9515 E 51 St (just west of Mingo Rd.)
622-2942
Open 6 AM to 9 PM Mon through Thu, to midnight Fri and Sat, to 3 PM Sunday

Al Sultan Grill & Bakery and Mediterranean Grocery on Urbanspoon

Brian Schwartz:

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.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

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.

15 Comments

  1. Kristin

    November 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Yum!! I’ll be trying that ASAP!!!

  2. Macarons

    November 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Will be in the area soon and I LOVEEEE Middle Eastern food! Will definitely attempt to make it out there!

    ryan

  3. scott

    November 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I went there last week. The foods were all good but not great. I have had better. But the variety of foods for the price is outstanding. I went at about 1:30. Some of the food had softened from being on the buffet a while…next time I will go back earlier. The 3 people I interacted with (owner, food server, cashier) were very friendly and polite. I look forward to my next visit.

    • Brian Schwartz

      November 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

      I agree that some of the offerings were good but not great. The hummus and fool, for example. Still, when I drizzled it with olive oil and ate it with pita bread it was so satisfying that I requested a big second portion. The kofta kebab could have been moister but was still tasty; I got a second helping. Other things — strangely, things I don’t usually like — were top notch. The tabouli, those crispy bread chips baked with cheese and with za’atar, the potato cube, and the rice (plain but, again, good enough for me to get seconds), and the eggplant (which was like Imam Bayildi without a stuffing). I wasn’t crazy about the lentil soup but my friends liked it so much that they stuffed themselves on it. And yes, the variety was outstanding. We went at 5:30 PM, the start of the dinner rush, so everything was freshly made.

      • Brian Schwartz

        November 4, 2010 at 11:17 am

        Another thing. I still don’t know the nationality of the chef and owner. It would not have been polite to ask. I guess it doesn’t much matter. All the dishes served are found throughout the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Palestinians), even fool, which I always think of as Egyptian. The za’atar they use is imported from Jordan, but lots of non-Jordanians consider Jordanian za’atar to be the best, so that doesn’t tell me anything.

  4. dancinhomer

    November 5, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I *love* Middle Eastern food and have been wishing for a buffet lunch for YEARS! Even “good” Middle Eastern food will be a treat for THIS guy and his wife!

  5. Tulsa Gentleman

    November 7, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Based on your review I took my wife to Al Sultan for dinner tonight (Saturday). When we entered there was a table with 4 ladies wearing headscarfs enjoying dinner together with their small children. That was a good sign. We found the buffet to be just as you described it. There were 3 young guys bustling around and another a little older who looked like the boss. The fellow who served us was very pleasant and willing to tell us what each dish was. We had the little of everything plate. The hummus and beans was good (I got smiles for calling it fool), the eggplant was tasty although so soft it fell apart when he picked it up, we liked the cauliflower flash fried with seasonings. As you noted the chicken was dry (white meat is often dry) and the kofta kabob was good. I was not impressed with either of the taboulis but like the diced cucumber in yogurt very much. For me the soup was the best thing there. I want the recipe. I don’t know if it was the lentil soup you tried or something else. It was yellow, creamy and absolutely delicious. If I go back I will know what to ask for, hummus, beans, cucumber yogurt salad, eggplant, cauliflower, kofta kabob, and a big bowl of the great soup. I enjoyed it and will be back. My wife was less impressed but she is not as adventurous as I am. We stepped next door to the bakery for a box of cookies and ate them with coffee. So much for desert. For the money it was a great meal.

  6. Mike Shwayyat

    November 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    i eat there many times, the food is the best i ever had in Oklahoma

  7. Missfoodie

    November 11, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Try Pita Place, 111th & memorial, have a great lunch buffet, owners are Persian but serve Greek and Medi food too. Lots of vegetarian options.

    • Johnny McClanahan

      November 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

      Add one more recommendation for Pita Place. I agree with Missfoodie about the lunch buffet and weekend dinner buffet. Only place I know that has Gyro meat and taziki sauce on an all you can eat buffet. Learned about this place on the Tulsa restaurant deals website.

  8. Johnny McClanahan

    November 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for the excellent review! I went back this week for my fourth visit since they opened. Didn’t know I was eating fool. Just knew they were good beans. I love tabouli and I do like theirs. The other green tabouli salad I had never had until eating it there. I really like it. The menu calls it Israeli salad. The young lady that works there calls it Jerusalem salad. I asked her about the two different names for the salad and she said you could about take your pick on the two names as they are very similar salads depending on who was making them. After looking up recipes online appears that it is a Jerusalem salad as the distinct flavor that comes through is the sesame paste.

  9. Mike Shwayyat

    November 15, 2010 at 3:10 am

    THE FOOD JUST AWESOME, THIS IS A LINK TO IT:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QadTUCDxALE

    • Johnny McClanahan

      November 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      Looks good like I remember except I am looking through the sneeze guard side. Have somebody uncover the four pans after the soup and shoot again. I think they are covering up the kofta, chicken and rice.

  10. Clint

    December 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Went there for lunch today with my wife and the food was great!Will definitely be going back!!

  11. larry ziegler

    December 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    JUST WONDER FOOD+PEOPLE;I’D RECOMMEND!

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