Tulsa World: Comfort is in the food and the atmosphere at Ollie's Station
We had taken grandkids to Ollie's Station in the past to watch the model trains run on tracks around the walls and ceiling of the restaurant, and the trip never failed to be a hit.
We recently took a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 20-year-old on their first visit. The mother of the younger ones was skeptical that the trains would hold their attention, but she shouldn't have worried. They were mesmerized the whole time we were there.
Add to that the fact we immediately could put food in front of them from the buffet, and you have a perfect outing for the young-uns.
It wasn't bad for us older folks, either, what with the all-you-can-eat fried chicken and other home-style favorites on the buffet.
Ollie's Station has a full menu of traditional comfort food, but many fans like to come to the weekday lunch buffets and weekend breakfast and lunch buffets.
The weekend buffets change from breakfast to lunch at 11 a.m., and we made it for a Sunday lunch buffet.
The fried chicken - lightly battered and cooked to perfection - is the poster boy for the buffet, but other items were tasty, too.
Among the standouts were mashed potatoes with a chicken-broth gravy, ham cooked with pineapple, salty potato-chicken soup, a sweet corn casserole, boiled potatoes and green beans, and big, soft dinner rolls.
One diner ordered pancakes off the breakfast menu (available all day) with bacon ($4.49). The pancakes were large and fluffy with a bit of a vanilla flavor, and the bacon had a mild smokiness to it.
The weekday lunch buffet is $6.99, and the weekend buffet is $7.99.
Ollie's Station is located in the heart of the west Tulsa neighborhood of Red Fork, by the train tracks and just under a major highway overpass.
Joe Gilling, who managed the old Metro Diner for 16 years, bought the restaurant seven years ago from Lin and John Gray, who had installed the first model trains. Gilling, who knew nothing about model trains before buying the restaurant, has taken the hobby to a whole new level.
He has added dozens of cars and sets to the collection and occasionally rotates those used on the tracks. Other interesting memorabilia include a 1943 photo of the Webster High School state-championship football team, a youth cooking stove made by the train-maker Lionel and a print drawing of what only can be described as a pin-up girl wearing a Frisco hat.
"The stove actually worked at one time, and it is very rare," Gilling said. "I've never seen the Frisco pin-up girl anywhere before; I paid severely for that one."
She is in the hallway across from the men's room, in case you go there looking for her.
Ollie's Station offers a variety of daily specials, from meatloaf and mushroom Swiss steak to smothered pork loin and chicken Parmesan, depending on the day.
One that caught my eye was the bean bar, offered Monday nights beginning at 5. The $4.99 all-you-can-eat bean bar includes black-eyed peas, pinto beans, navy beans, lima beans, fried potatoes, grilled potatoes with onions and peppers, regular cornbread and jalapeno cornbread.
Gas, the sign says, is free.
4070 Southwest Blvd.
6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (lunch buffet, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. all week; breakfast buffet, 6:30-11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday); accepts all major credit cards.