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At the French Hen, beef tenderloin Rossini comes with a cushion of potatoes and can be topped with a foie gras and truffle sauce.
Photo by LORI DUCKWORTH
This south Tulsa establishment has been dishing out delectable French food for three decades
By Leighona Bernstein
Published September/October 2017
The French journalist and writer Rouff Marcel once said the cooking of France is intimately linked to the genius of its greatest men. In south Tulsa, however, the cooking of France is linked to the genius of one woman and her restaurant, the French Hen Bistro and Wine Bar.
Kathy Bondy grew up working at her father’s restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and came to Tulsa to study accounting in 1983. But soon, she returned to her hospitality roots and started working in restaurants again.
“I started waiting tables, bartending, and managing,” Bondy says. “When they say food is in the blood, it really is.”
In 2004, she partnered with Richard Clark, the French Hen’s previous owner, and opened Table 10. But that eatery closed in 2007. Due to her long-standing relationship with the Clark family and her love of the restaurant, Bondy purchased the French Hen from them in 2011. Since then, she has maintained the thirty-eight-year tradition of pleasing guests with gloriously fresh dishes served in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
“All of my seafood comes in fresh three times a week, and I serve prime beef, as much local as I can and as fresh as possible,” Bondy says. “I am big on quality.”
Patrons come for a taste of the excellence Bondy works hard to maintain. Susi Taylor, Tulsa resident and a regular since the early ’90s, says the salmon is the best in town.
“Any way they serve it is always amazing,” Taylor says.
In addition to enjoying uncommon dishes like savory and smooth duck liver pâté or bouillabaisse, some diners have uncommon experiences within the comfort of the warm red walls. In April 1993, Chuck Wilson, Tulsa native and French Hen regular since the late ’70s, came face-to-face with two boxing icons.
“Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali were passing through the restaurant,” Wilson says. “For some reason, Joe just put his hand out, introduced himself, and said, ‘I would like you to meet my good friend Muhammad Ali.’”
The two had come to Tulsa together for a charity fight night and visited the French Hen for dinner. It’s unknown what they ate that evening, but the beef tenderloin Rossini with foie gras and truffle sauce perched atop a stack of thinly sliced and delectable potatoes would be a good bet.
In addition to notable culinary fixtures, Bondy puts together a monthly wine dinner.
“If I can, I bring in the winemaker or winery owner,” she says. “In June, it was Jeff Gordon from Gordon Estate. It is a five-course meal and a big draw for customers.”
Even if there aren’t any special guests, Bondy still hosts one event per month and does all the menu writing and wine pairing herself unless a guest chef is invited to partake.
“I am a chef not by trade but by learning,” she says.
Like a fine French wine, Bondy, her restaurant, and the genius of their combination keep getting better with age.
Get There: The French Hen Bistro and Wine Bar, 7143 South Yale Avenue in Tulsa. (918) 492-2596 or frenchhentulsa.net.