Tulsa’s looking a bit too comfy for East coast elitists…
It's time to fan the meth smoke!
1:57 PM EST on January 31, 2023
A few weeks back, the local scene went nuts after NY Magazine published a little travel article about Tulsa.
I guess the movie-script-style premise is that Luke Leifeste – an editor at GQ and Architectural Digest – returned home for a few days to drink craft beer and brought some of his swaggy East Coast friends with him.
Via NY Mag:
In early November, Luke Leifeste, senior entertainment editor at GQ and Architectural Digest and proud Tulsa native, decided to take a trip back to his hometown after his friends expressed interest in checking out the city’s craft-brewery scene. With a new nonstop American flight from LGA to TUL, it felt like the perfect opportunity to play tour guide for a long weekend. “Tulsa is low-key having a moment,” Leifeste declares. “Folks on the coasts may be surprised to learn that Tulsa boasts a wealth of Art Deco architecture, over a dozen craft breweries, and as of last year, the entire Bob Dylan archive.” Leifeste adds that Tulsa, in many ways, is the underground cultural capital of the heartland with a budding hip-hop scene and a thriving queer community.
First off, let me express an immense amount of pride for my fellow Okie, Luke, who was able to transcend the gotti, bedazzled belt buckle, gator skin boot, and other stereotypes associated with fashion in our state and make it all the way up to being an editor at a cultural behemoth like GQ, see…THIS IS A DOPE PLACE AND WE MAKE DOPE PEOPLE!
Also, of course, his friends have heard about the beer here. If we’re gonna be nationally known for anything, I guess that’s the one. It’s better than low test scores, tornados or teen pregnancy.
That being said, every time I see an article like this, I feel a tremble in my spine that’s not related to fracking earthquakes and start to shake in my metaphoric cowboy boots!
As a stand-up comedian who regularly frequents places like Austin on a, thankfully, temporary basis, I’ve seen firsthand the expensive effect that floods of people from California and New York can have on once weird southern cities that have been given the unfortunate pass of “cool.”
Call me simple and old-fashioned, but I actually enjoy paying a rent that makes my friends in bigger cities quickly reconsider whether they want to live somewhere more "relevant."
But alas, people keep writing words like "I Brought My New York Friends to Tulsa" and “My hometown is low-key having a moment," making my hopes of maintaining a reasonable rent go up in flames fueled by pure driller oil.
While the city was developed with big oil money in the 1920s, with stunning Art Deco buildings downtown, there’s an exciting new energy in the air; confirmation of this can be seen across new urban projects, like the 66-acre Gathering Place park in the heart of the city. Much of this trip was spent exploring Tulsa’s live-music and dive-bar scene — highlights included dropping into Mercury Lounge on Friday night for sets from local artists Knipple and Freak Juice and visiting the Bob Dylan Center. “Our craft-brewery crawl was quite fun too,” Leifeste says. “I learned about the local craft-brewery scene from my beer-aficionado friends and was surprised to find out just how big of a deal Tulsa breweries were on the national scene.” But the ultimate highlight? Undoubtedly the porterhouse steak at Lowood.
Once again, as a Tulsan, I am immensely proud that my city is getting the spotlight for something other than a Sylvester Stalone show. Unfortunately, being a Tulsan also gives me insight into the fact that when you go somewhere like Dallas or Chicago, you quickly realize that traffic in Tulsa basically doesn’t exist and I’D LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY!
Maybe one of the guy's friends was stabbed at Magoo's or was attacked by one of Biker Fox’s old raccoons. That could keep the big city people away!
9 p.m.: Land in Tulsa, check in to the hotel
We took the new American Airlines nonstop flight from LGA, which leaves each evening from New York City and lands before 9 p.m. in Tulsa, and it was a breeze. We Ubered to the hotel, Harwelden Mansion Bed & Breakfast (2210 S. Main St.). Albeit pricey, the historic mansion sits on a hill overlooking the Arkansas River, which is particularly beautiful at sunset. The location is super central, the service was excellent, and the small luxuries, like Hermès bath products, made it feel extra special. (Other great options are the Bruce Goff–designed Tulsa Club Hotel and the Ambassador Hotel downtown.)
10 p.m.: Grab a nightcap (or three)
After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we headed downtown to the extremely vibey Saturn Room – Rum & Tiki Bar (209 N.Boulder Ave.), which delivers some deliciously potent cocktails. We ordered a variety of tiki drinks from the standard Mai Tai to the infamous Cobra’s Fang, which is a mixture of two different rums, two liqueurs, absinthe, fruit juice, and bitters. From there, we walked a few blocks over through the Arts District to another bar called Valkyrie (13 E. Reconciliation Way). It’s in this industrial-chic space where you basically choose a few enticing taste descriptors off the menu and allow the bartender to mix something up from their extensive liquor and spirit selection. I kept the tiki vibe going and ordered a rum-heavy daiquiri spinoff while my comrades went for gin-forward concoctions.
Or maybe not.
From there, the article only gets worse! The entire trip was great and everyone had fun! Worst of all, they didn’t even mention Cain’s or the Center of the Universe or Queenies, perhaps saving them for the next batch of invaders!
To conclude this insane, dab-fueled rant, I’d like to challenge ex-pats and magazine editors to go ahead and keep talking about how cool it is to live-in or visit Tulsa and OKC or (just kidding) Enid.
Change is inevitable and the character of anything, person or city, is defined by how they adapt to change. If any cities in the midwest are going to withstand the gentrifying waves of people fleeing the impossible cost of living on the coasts, it’s Tulsa and OKC. We’ll just adapt and deal with the consequences, even if it means I have to move to the suburbs to avoid living here.
Stay in touch
Sign up for our free newsletter