It’s not every day you can shop for a La-Z-Boy and enjoy a good meal, all in one location. But tucked inside the enormous furniture store (Mathis Brothers), Sponzs is an upbeat, modern oasis of swanky jazz and brilliant cooking. The must-eat fowl dish is Barbara Anne’s Famous Chicken and Sponzs Waffle, featuring “mom’s” fried garlic chicken on the restaurant’s fluffy vanilla waffle, topped with bourbon pecan syrup. Customer favorites also include the Bill’s Le Gourmet burger with smoked Gouda, bacon and an over easy egg with caramelized onions; and the flat bread pizza Sinatra with Italian meatballs on roasted garlic tomato sauce with mozzarella and asiago cheese. It’s like a trip to New Orleans, without the travel time.
Chef Anthony Card grew up eating his mother’s garlic fried chicken. And after one taste of his Barbara Anne’s Chicken and Waffles, you will envy his childhood. Card has used family recipes, three generations of restaurant experience and his own distinguished resume to turn a little corner of Mathis Brothers Furniture into Sponzs, a hidden treasure of a restaurant.
Coffeehouse style jazz plays as you make your way past opulent displays of sofas, beds and table arrangements toward the overhead sign reading ‘Deli.’ You’ll know you’re there when you catch a hint of garlic scenting the air. Natural light spills into Sponzs through the expansive windows on two walls. Quirky art — sparkly saxophones and baritone horns — covers the available wall space, while unique centerpieces decorate each table. Inspired by his background as a jazz lover, Card opened Sponzs two and a half years ago.
“I worked with my dad in a jazz restaurant in Wichita (Kan.). Jazz is big for us,” he says. “We listened to jazz musicians from Oklahoma like Wayman Tisdale, Earl Clark and Starr Fisher.”
Card is friends with many of those jazz greats. “And they come in. It’s a who’s who of musical talent, you never know who you’re gonna see in Sponzs. When the hockey teams are in town, they eat here, too.”
Card describes his menu as eclectic. “A lot of staples, but everything sells. We have deli sandwiches: Reuben, Club, a great Philly cheesesteak and our Cherry Street Cobb. We have a lot of breakfast dishes.”
The Wayman Tisdale Oklahoma French Toast is sourdough French toast stuffed with cream cheese and strawberries, served with bourbon syrup and mixed berries with whipped cream. The Earl Clark Spectrum Jazz breakfast is three eggs cooked however you like, three sausage patties and biscuits with Oklahoma cream gravy. “It’s everything on one plate. We have a lot of good burgers — the Bill’s Le Gourmet Burger is named after my dad. It has an egg over easy, apple wood bacon, cheddar, grilled onions, served on apretzel bun.”
And for dessert? “The fried coconut pie is to die for. People say they don’t like coconut. But I tell them I’ll buy it back if they don’t like it. I fry them one up… I’ve never bought one back.”
The most popular menu item — the one Card says outsells everything five to one — is Barbara Anne’s Chicken and Waffles. Card takes thick, white meat tenders and fries them in a light and crunchy garlic batter so they are moist and flavorful. He cooks up a crisp Belgian waffle, adds a generous pat of vanilla butter, a sprinkle of pecans, then pours bourbon pecan syrup over the whole thing. The sweet syrup, the savory chicken, the hint of garlic, the nutty pecan all together makes a bite of heaven. After one bite will make you understand why it’s the most popular item on the menu.
Card is a third generation chef, who made a name for himself in Tulsa. “I was the executive chef of the Summit Club,” he says. “I opened the River Spirit Casino; I was the executive chef and the food and beverage director. A lot of south Tulsa knows me from a place called Infusion. I was the executive chef there, too.”
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