5 years and going strong, Foolish Things Coffee Co is a local favorite

By on July 27, 2017

Foolish Things Coffee co in downtown Tulsa

It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday, and Foolish Things Coffee Co. is abuzz with young adults, business people, and families with children. I’m immediately struck by the variety of patrons flowing in and out of the brightly-lit warehouse-modern space. I’ve sipped more cups of coffee than I can count at Foolish Things, but today I’ve come for something different: a full breakfast/lunch experience practically hidden in plain sight right here in downtown Tulsa.

Foolish Things Coffee co in downtown Tulsa

Foolish Things Coffee co in downtown Tulsa

Around me, patrons are mostly sipping espresso drinks, pour-overs, and a few oak-aged cold brews. As I pull up a chair inside my neighbor at the spacious table notes my order number (creatively marked by a playing card) and nods with a knowing smile. “Best breakfast in Tulsa,” she tells me. If it wasn’t already, my interest is now peaked.

Before the food arrives, we’re treated with a hot cup and a few choice pastries. Although I usually order a simple pour-over or Americano (black, thank you), the lavender latte is really quite good. It’s smooth and aromatic (without being overly-sweet) and beautifully presented with a traditional latte art flourish. Everything here is distinguished by attention to detail and farm-fresh ingredients. The dairy is sourced locally from Lomah farms, and even the lavender is grown right outside on the patio. You can tell.

Five years ago Justin Carpenter set up his brand new business in an open storefront at 10th and Boston across from TCC’s Metro Campus. At the southern gateway to downtown, Foolish Things Coffee Co. was well positioned to intercept both students and professionals looking for some excellent coffee and great modern atmosphere.

Until about a year ago, the kitchens were more of an afterthought, with food accounting for only 25% of what they served. Today, breakfast and lunch have grown to almost equal beverage sales.

Justin now sits across the table, along with Bethany Edd, their (very pregnant) kitchen manager. “It’s a collaborative effort,” shares Justin, “any everything you see on the menu is driven by Bethany.” He explains that with her help, Foolish Things is steadily growing into the full-service operation he envisioned years a go. Like a traditional European cafe, he’s building something that’s “very chef-driven and communal … a coffee shop setting with a restaurant-driven kitchen.”

Our entrees are a colorful assortment off of both the ongoing and seasonal menus. Each quarter brings a new menu with fresh ideas, and today, Justin points out the colorful themes of radish, sprouts, and avocados featured most dishes off the summer menu. The first dish is a Summer Breakfast Plate: 2 eggs sunny side up with fruit, tomato slices, and avocado (a very popular addition to many entrees this year). It’s straightforward and fresh, and the eggs (also locally sourced) are prepared perfectly.

The next dish is off the regular menu and is clearly a bit more hearty for year-round consumption. The Breakfast Bowl contains roasted red potatoes and cheddar cheese crumbled topped with another sunny side up egg and house-made chili sauce. This little bowl packs quite a punch! The egg and cheese melts in your mouth, and the quite smoky chili sauce provides a bold complement to the potatoes. For $6, I’d be quite confident that this quick little entree could keep you full and well-energized through an entire morning.

As we look towards lunch, Justin brings us back over to the coffee bar, where he prepares a rather remarkable little concoction. The Lemon Maple Switchel is actually based on an old recipe, traditionally prepared to hydrate workers in the field — a bit of an old-fashioned Gatorade, if you will. It tastes like a very sharp lemonade, prepared with lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar and topped off with a seared lemon wheel. The result is really quite interesting: a refreshing, complex beverage that invites slow-sipping and enjoyment throughout the meal.

Next we sample a few summer favorites: the Southwest Salad, a Summer Sprout Sammy, and Curried Chicken Salad served on a bed of greens.

“It’s fun for us to keep up with trends on the East and West coasts,” shares Bethany. “A big trend last year has been sprouts, and this year it’s radish and other farm-fresh veggies.”

Foolish Things Coffee co in downtown Tulsa

The Southwest Salad is balanced and fresh, and the Summer Sammy is excellent. Both the house-made chipotle Ranch dressing and the Sammy’s cheese spread are rich and perfectly textured. The kitchen really does dairy well. The fresh-baked focaccia roll is another highlight, just lightly toasted to give this summer sandwich a pleasant crunch.

The Curried Chicken Salad actually came in as an unexpected favorite. The delicious concoction is savory, which familiar notes of rich Greek yogurt (and perhaps cream cheese). A light curry flavor pulls the whole thing together, and it tastes great with the salad greens. This dish is truly a unique experience to be had, and patrons have the option of ordering it on a focaccia roll as well — and that’s a combination I’d really like to try!

Foolish Things Coffee co in Downtown Tulsa, boutique sodas, soft drinks

“We’ve changed a lot in the last five years,” Justin says. “Since we opened, we’ve been working with TYPros, TCC, and others to shine a light on what south downtown could look like, thinking strategically about density, walkability, and parking lots.” Foolish Things is a founding member of the new Cathedral District, and Justin explains that there are many organizations now working together to further the neighborhood. “It takes time, but it’s fun.”

“Tulsa is a really unique cuisine scene,” he says with a smile. “My wife and I try to travel to bigger markets, but we’re always glad to return. Here there’s a concerted effort to elevate what it means to be a restaurant.”

After all, with a name like Foolish Things, Justin explains that they have to be about community and having fun, all while seeking “excellence in craft and hospitality.”

Foolish Things kitchen manager Bethany Edd and owner Justin Carpenter.

About Lucas Forsythe

Lucas and his wife Hannah love food! They combine backgrounds in photography and journalism to share stories of great restaurants all over Tulsa. When they're not dining, they run their own creative "micro agency," providing branding, marketing, and photography to small businesses across the U.S.