The Edmond Sun

April 19, 2013

ON TRAVEL: Tulsa’s Brady District features many delights

Elaine Warner
Special to The Sun

TULSA — The Brady District is one of Tulsa’s oldest areas and is named after one of the incorporators of Tulsa, Wyatt Tate Brady. Brady, who came to the area in 1890 as a shoe salesman, opened one of the town’s first mercantile stores. Between 1912-14, he built the Brady Theater, originally designed to be the municipal auditorium and convention center.  

The building that houses the iconic Cain’s Ballroom was once the garage for Brady’s cars. Both the theater and the ballroom still stand and are standouts in Tulsa’s array of entertainment venues. Many other original buildings remain in the area but have been repurposed over the years.  

And now the entire area, which had become a warehouse district, has been repurposed as the Brady Arts District. A number of new entities have moved into the district and with the arts and entertainment came new dining opportunities, popular loft living spaces and a new hotel — the $10.5 million, 104 room Fairfield Inn and Suites.

The heart of this arts district is Guthrie Green, an urban park/garden/performance space created on a former industrial site and freight yard. As with so many wonderful things in Tulsa, the George Kaiser Family Foundation was intimately involved in making this happen — purchasing the property and working with architects, designers and local performing arts organizations to create a vibrant and user-friendly space.

All sorts of great things happen on the Green — from yoga classes and movies to live entertainment and the Sunday Market. Open on Sundays, April to October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the market features locally grown produce, handmade items and gourmet food trucks.  

During the warm season a cool café, Lucky’s on the Green, is open for lunch and dinner and during special events. The offerings are described as “international park fare” and include items as simple as smoked tomato soup with basil pesto or a fresh baked pretzel with Guinness mustard and more adventuresome entrees like a lamb and shrimp burger or Berkshire pork cheek tacos.  

The newest kid in the neighborhood is the Woody Guthrie Center, which houses the Woody Guthrie Archives. Again, this is thanks to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which purchased the archives and has brought the collection to Oklahoma. The aggregation includes personal papers, recordings, handwritten songbooks, artworks, journals and books.  

Displays at the center, which opens on April 27, include state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits on Guthrie’s life, art and legacy and will include Oklahoma’s only permanent exhibit on the Dust Bowl. A highlighted artifact on display is Guthrie’s original handwritten copy of “This Land Is Your Land.”

You can’t think of music in Tulsa without thinking of Cain’s Ballroom. I don’t believe Woody Guthrie ever performed there, but his music has been celebrated in the venue many times.  Probably the name most associated with Cain’s is Bob Wills — he and the Texas Playboys played here from 1935-42. Thanks to Wills, Cain’s earned the title “Carnegie Hall of Western Swing.”  You can still hear country, bluegrass, swing, red dirt — all sorts of roots music — plus contemporary genres like hip-hop and heavy metal. The Ballroom has a full schedule of concerts.  And now you can enjoy your music accompanied by some of Oklahoma’s best barbecue at Oklahoma Joe’s, which shares the Cain’s building.

From Bob Wills “yee haw” to “ah-ha” is a short walk. AHHA is the affectionate nickname for the Hardesty Arts Center, home of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. In the four-story building are exhibition spaces, performance art spots, classrooms, a photography suite that includes a studio and darkroom, a media lab and library and studio space. Not to get too earthy — but this is an art womb.

All sorts of arts find a home in Brady. You can watch glassblowers at work at the Tulsa Glassblowing Studio — or take a class and try it yourself. Or just buy a beautiful piece by a local artist.

The Tulsa Violin Shop is a trip back in time. You can buy an instrument or have one repaired in an atmosphere redolent of a European craftsman’s atelier.

Restaurants, clubs and bars abound in the district — something for everyone. PRHYME Steakhouse gets rave revues while Caz’s Chowhouse with its down-home menu is an all-around favorite. Wednesday nights children eat free, making that popular with parents. Eating my way through Brady is on my to-do list. I’ll leave the clubbing to others.

I will finish this article — like a good meal — with something sweet. A Brady do-not-miss for me is Glacier Confection. There’s nothing ordinary about Glacier chocolates. They’re works of art that melt in your mouth. Many of the chocolates have been hand-painted or airbrushed and sport jewel tones so that opening a box is like looking into a tiny treasure chest. Owner/chocolatier Bill Copeland creates his own chocolate from imported raw cacao. He also carries the world’s rarest chocolate, Fortunato No. 4 Nacional. The Ecuadorian tree that produces this bean was thought to be extinct for almost a century. The chocolate produced from the beans is dark, rich and high in cocoa butter.  

Wander through the Brady District to discover its many surprises. And don’t forget to top it off with chocolate.