Prairie Fire Pie – Chef James Shrader Doubles Down on Cherry Street

By on November 7, 2017

I’ll never forget the first time I dined at Palace Cafe, on the corner of 15th and Peoria Ave. It was a busy night in the restaurant, and I saw this guy in a flannel plaid shirt helping the hostess guide people to their seats. Later, I saw him bussing tables. At the end of the evening, I walked toward the back of the restaurant and saw the same guy in the kitchen chopping vegetables and placing them on the grill. I asked our server, “Who is that guy?”. She told me it was James Shrader, the owner and chef. From that day forward I was a fan.

James is a quiet guy, full of talent and humility, and one of the hardest working chefs in Tulsa. In the summers, he works a booth at the Cherry Street Farmers Market, just outside the Palace Cafe where he sells breakfast burritos, salsas, and seasonal take-home dishes from his restaurant. I’ve attended many private events where James is the caterer, and his food is the center of the party.

On Halloween night James opened his next project, Prairie Fire Pie, a wood-fire pizza restaurant next door to Palace Cafe on Cherry Street. I was there, and again I was impressed. James was in the back rolling pizza dough and placing it in the big brick oven, while cooks are bustling back and forth through the kitchen door that connects the two restaurants. The tables were packed, the bar was standing room only, and the pizzas that were passed through the restaurant by the smiling servers looked delicious.

When asked what makes Prairie Fire Pie distinct James decribes his new restaurant like this: “Prairie Fire Pies are West Coast inspired, meaning the difference is in the details. West Coast style pizza crust is baked differently than any other style and topped with high quality ingredients you won’t find just anywhere. These details add up to a unique flavor, texture and experience.”

The menu is short and simple, with four choices of red sauce pizzas and three choices of white sauce pizzas. There is also the option of a gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza. I sampled the sweet fennel sausage pizza, the pepperoni pizza, and the mushroom and garlic white sauce pizza. All were fantastic, but the pepperoni was the best I’d ever had! James told me he makes a ciabatta-style dough everyday, which is 80 percent hydrated. That’s why it’s so light and chewy with a nice crunch through the surface.

There’s no yeast in his dough, and he began with a biga starter that gives his pizza dough a rustic flavor. James told me that the leftover dough at the end of the day is made into loaves to be baked for the Palace Cafe restaurant next door. His white pizzas are made with a reduced cream sauce, and his toppings are all carefully sourced, including the American proscuitto which James says is more flavorful than what he can get imported. He uses Bixby pecan wood in his oven which just adds more flavor to his tasty pies.

I was also impressed with the wine list which is a choice of ten wines from all over Italy. Instead of using stemware to serve the wine, he uses short glasses like they use in Italy, which just seems fitting when you’re drinking with pizza. There are salads (The Burrata is pictured above), charcuterie, and desserts on the menu, but I’m saving those for my next visit. A good time to beat the rush at Prairie Fire Pizza is to arrive around 5:00pm. Sit at the bar and watch James prepare your pizza while you sip a beer or vino. You won’t be disappointed.

Prairie Fire Pie
Monday-Sunday 4pm-10pm
(918) 895-8725

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Shannon Smith

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