Vegan Dreams

6 minutes

As more diners look for cruelty-free alternatives, Tulsa has seen a recent surge in restaurants offering meatless and plant-based dishes. These spots provide new options for everyone from vegans and vegetarians to conscious eaters and culinary explorers.

Emily and Tony Galvez are part of the city’s burgeoning plant-based food scene. The couple opened their flagship restaurant, The Local Bison, in downtown Tulsa’s Deco District in 2019. Originally planned to be a bar, The Local Bison became a fast favorite for Tulsa foodies due to the creations of head chef Joey Guns. The team’s newest venture, Sando’s Rockin’ Deli, opened right next door in November 2021. While the two restaurants differ in terms of concepts—Sando’s caters primarily to the downtown lunch crowd, while The Local Bison is a sit-down affair—they share a similar mission.

“When we opened The Local Bison and realized, ‘Okay, we’re going to be more of a restaurant than a bar,’ we wanted it to be a restaurant that we would want to eat at. We tried to make it where it’s approachable but where we also catered to everyone,” Emily says.

The Galvezes have been vegan for six years, making the switch after their son Hendrix was diagnosed with an allergy to eggs and dairy. The Local Bison and Sando’s, which operate under the couple’s Okie Proud Restaurant Group banner, offer plant-based variations for all non-vegan dishes as well as gluten-free, soy-free, and keto options.

“People can be vegan for their health, for the animals, for the environment,” Emily says. “Those are all things that are important to us, and we want people to have a place where they can come eat.”

For Guns, who was vegetarian for fourteen years and has been vegan for the last six, there are other perks to this cruelty-free approach.

“Having vegan options means you have to be a little more creative,” he says. “You can’t just throw butter on things or, you know, just put bacon on it. We have to get creative with our dishes. Flavor combinations are really important to us.”

Emily and Tony Galvez plan to expand their family of restaurants with Copaneazi’s Pizzeria in the coming months. Photo by Valerie Wei Haas

Emily and Tony Galvez plan to expand their family of restaurants with Copaneazi’s Pizzeria in the coming months. Photo by Valerie Wei Haas

As a consequence, Guns’ creations exude some attitude, especially at Sando’s. Sandwiches like the Rockaway Beef and Sweet Virginia—homages to The Ramones and The Rolling Stones, respectively—are not centered on meat and cheese or their plant-based alternatives but on the bold harmony of flavors from ingredients like citrus-serrano slaw, strawberry-serrano jam, and agave mint drizzle.

Other vegan offerings include rib dinners made from house seitan and jackfruit, stuffed biscuits and gravy, quiche, and a Field Roast chili dog special. Many of the ingredients—including the pickled veggies, sauces, and vegan meats and cheeses—are made in-house. Sando’s vegan meats are made with seitan, which comes from wheat gluten, while their cheeses are made from ingredients like cashews and nutritional yeast.

At Okie Proud’s more upscale eatery, patrons can try out vegan versions of comfort foods like meatloaf mac ‘n’ cheese (made with Impossible crumbles) and konjac root shrimp and grits.

“I think everybody kind of grew up eating that way,” Guns says of The Local Bison’s comforting yet conscious menu. “Once you transition to go vegan, you might not want to eat that way all the time anymore, but you might still crave those foods.”

With Sando’s approaching its first year in business, Emily and Tony are already looking forward to their next restaurant. They recently announced their plan to open Copaneazi’s Pizzeria—a name that was coined by their son—which will specialize in customizable personal pizzas. As with their other restaurants, there will be plenty of vegan options at the eatery set to open later this year.

Meanwhile, the Okie Proud team has introduced an island influence to The Local Bison’s menu and decor, creating a vibe that Emily and Tony describe as a “1950s rockabilly tiki bar with Bigfoot.” This goes to their mission of creating a place where everyone can relax and enjoy a delicious meal together.

“Our biggest goal with our vegan items is to make veganism easy, approachable, and flavorful. We want people to know that vegan food is not boring when it’s done right,” Emily says.

Get There
Sando's Rockin' Deli, 522 South Boston Avenue in Tulsa or
Get There:
Local Bison 522 S Boston Ave, Ste 103 Tulsa, OK 74103 or
Written By
Caleb Freeman

Caleb Freeman