Lebanese culture has been part of the fabric of Oklahoma since immigrants from southeastern Lebanon came here at the birth of statehood. Lebanese steak houses used to be more common than Sonic drive-ins. Unfortunately, restaurants serving steak with hummus, tabouli, cabbage rolls, pita bread, smoked bologna and a pork rib are almost all gone. Jamil’s Steakhouse on Lincoln Boulevard certainly is not gone, but it is oft-forgotten. That’s the price you pay for staying in business more than 30 years in a location that’s not on a main traffic artery. "Lincoln Boulevard used to be like the Las Vegas strip,” owner Greg Gawey said. "Back in the ’60s, this place was hoppin’.” While the street’s fortunes changed, Jamil’s has remained in business, serving up top-choice cuts and traditional Lebanese hors d’oeuvres. "Our motto is slow down,” Gawey said. "Come in, sit down with us, slow down the pace. Take your time, have some drinks, eat a little, talk with your friends and eat some more.” Traditional Lebanese dining can take all day, Gawey said. Jamil’s began in Tulsa in 1952 under the direction of Gawey’s uncle, Jim "Jamil” Elias. The Tulsa location is still going strong at a new location, 3823 E 51st St., under the guidance of Elias’ son, Tyrone. In 1964, Jamil Elias opened the Oklahoma City location. Tyrone ran it for a spell before Gawey, who started working at the restaurant in 1969, was lured out of law school in 1976. Elias died in 1978, with a location in Houston and three in Dallas operating. Today, Gawey is serving virtually the same menu. He has a waitstaff and kitchen crew that change about as often as the expressions on Mount Rushmore. Tough to get bad service when your two-man crew has a collective 80 years’ experience. Jamil’s is in a house built in the early 1930s and once was a private club in the ’50s. The ambiance is antique-store chic with a dash of sports. Portraits and photos from bygone days populate the walls. During the state legislative session, state representatives and senators are a common sight in Jamil’s, generally eating smoked bologna sandwiches for as long as they can stay en vogue with voters. Thick, juicy steaks never go out of style, and let’s hope the Lebanese hors d’oeuvres don’t either.
Where: 4910 N. Lincolm Blvd. Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Information: 525-8352 or www.jamilssteakhouseokc.com.
Check out the Food Dude's take on Jamil's. www.wimgo.com/restaurants