Nelson's Ranch House

By on May 27, 2010

I’ve never much liked the term “comfort food” but if you had to use it just once in your life, you’d probably use it about the food at Nelson’s Ranch House. When Dorothy was lounging in the Wizard of Oz’s fancy palace and all she could think of was going home, it might have been a place like Nelson’s that she missed, though she kept that secret from Auntie Em. Have a look, you’ll see its a comforting place, a welcoming place, a place like home.

It’s a lot more slow and country that the original Nelson’s (set up by the grandfather of Nelson Ranch House’s current owner, Nelson Rogers III) which first opened in downtown Tulsa in 1929 as an all-night gambling joint. Later, as Nelson’s Buffeteria, for 50 years it drew a crowd of high-powered businessmen as its loyal fans. The Buffeteria was a bustling big-city place, and walking in there was like stepping back into the days when Tulsa was the nation’s boomtown. Those city sharpies all went for the food, and at the Ranch House, the food’s the same. (The wife of Nelson Rogers, Jr. wrote down all the recipes sometime around 1970.) The chef’s the same too and so is most of the staff; our friendly waitress told us she’s been working at Nelson’s for 40 years.

Don’t expect the waiters to bring your food, head straight for the buffet line in the back. There’s a big long line of food and vegetable selections but I barely gave it a glance. I ordered what just about half the world orders at Nelson’s. Chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese.($7.69)


This could be the state meal of Oklahoma. The steak was fine, with thick crunchy breading crispy enough to stand up to the rich white gravy. I asked for brown gravy on the potatoes; that was a good choice. The mac & cheese was classic; not a fancy variety but the old-fashioned processed cheese kind (a.k.a guilty pleasure) from everyone’s childhood. Cathe, to be different, got the pan-fried steak, which was braised and served with a salty rich brown gravy. Just look at that gravy!


There were green beans (long-cooked and soft but still fine) and fried okra too. I liked the steak but I preferred mine. If I lived nearby I’d probably be seeing a lot of each. And last, maybe tallest, but certainly not least, came a lemon meringue pie.

Made from scratch by the owner’s mom, and it tasted as good as it looked. And that’s saying something.

Nelson’s Ranch House
1547 E. 3rd Street (West of Utica)
(918) 551-7601
7 AM till 2 PM, closed Sunday

Ranch House on Urbanspoon

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.

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.

0 Comments

  1. Joe @ Joe's Burger Search

    May 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Hello Chicken Fry! Recently got addicted to their Mac&Cheese. Make sure not to pass on the pie.

  2. enid

    May 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    That pie looks awesome!

  3. Kristie Moon

    May 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    How are you finding these places? Another winner I’m adding to my list of places to try.

  4. Richard Wilhour

    May 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Look familiar?

  5. TravelGirl

    May 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Maybe when Anthony Bourdain comes and I win the tickets we could catch up over the state meal of Oklahoma :)

  6. Robi

    May 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I doubt Anthony Bourdain has ever tasted any Lemon Meringue Pie as delicious as the one at Nelson’s Ranch House!

  7. MaryAnn

    May 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I live about a mile away, and so have to ration myself. And by ration, I mean sit at the counter and eat just a slice of pie once a week. Sigh….

  8. enid

    May 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I remember when working at Amoco downtown we loved to go to Nelson’s with new people and we would laugh at how flustered they got when the cook would say, “Hello Chicken Fried, talk to me green beans?” I didn’t realize I was this old until a sweet 30 year-old reminded me I am an old woman, and this memory just proves it! Yup, I’m old!

  9. Claire

    October 18, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I started the Facebook Fan page for Nelson’s…the result of a great love for chicken fried steak! I’ve shared this link on the website.

  10. carolyn ward barnes

    April 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I worked with Suzanne Rogers who married Nelson Rogers Jr in the 1960′s. I would love to reconnect with her. We worked at the Ohio Oil Company later Marathon Oil Co. My phone no. Is 9187060477. Any help you can be would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Carolyn ward Adams Barnes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>