for The Tulsa Voice
Dim lighting, antiqued damask wallpaper, ragged frames housing paintings of cowboys on the range. In the air, the din of conversation, clinking glass, classic country, and the aroma of … fries?
The Dutch word wirwar means “hodgepodge.” It’s a fitting name for Wirwar Tulsa, a Belgian honky-tonk, where Belgian beers and street food and American hillbilly music collide.
Broken Arrow native J.D. McPherson, a partner in Wirwar Tulsa, tours Belgium often and frequents Wirwar Turnhout, the concept borrowed for the Tulsa edition.
“I always go in there and hear old American country music; that’s a pretty common thing to run into,” McPherson said. “That’s a neat thing when you’re far from home. It helps you feel grounded.”
McPherson accidentally pitched the concept to partners Mike McLaughlin and Alex Desai, who were already in talks to bring a restaurant to The Boxyard.
“I mentioned in passing to Mike that I had a dream of someday opening a Belgian steakhouse,” McPherson said. “They called me back and said, ‘We want to do that.’”
Wirwar boasts a wide selection of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, many sourced from monastic breweries in Belgium.
“Belgium has the oldest, greatest beer culture. Every type of beer has its own glass—the ephemera is a big deal,” McPherson said. “They use wild yeast. It’s never the same and infinitely more exciting than any beer on the planet.”
The complexity and wildness of the Wirwar’s beer menu touches both sides of the price—from $2 to $20 or a little more—and flavor spectrums. There’s something for everyone here.
“If someone doesn’t know about beer, but they want to try a Belgian, I’d go with Achel,” a Belgian Trappist blond, said General Manager Chase Cline. “If they’ve tried everything, I might go with [Ommegang’s] Rosetta. It’s a sweet, interesting style that isn’t carried everywhere. Kind of a dessert beer.”
But you have to have a meal before you have dessert, and Wirwar offers an array of Belgian-style street foods, like a rich beef carbonnade (eat this with a strong, dark quad beer), liege waffles topped with speculoos, Burn Co. sausages, and the quintessential Belgian street eat, frites (which, McPherson implores, are to be eaten with mayonnaise and not ketchup).
Beyond Wirwar’s June 24 grand opening, there are special events in the works in partnership with the Belgian-owned New York brewery Ommegang, including a “Game of Thrones” tap takeover and a music video series.
A hodgepodge it might be, but other than the fry mayonnaise, “nothing we’re offering is unfamiliar to the Oklahoman palate,” McPherson said. “It’s steak, potatoes, waffles. It makes a whole lot of sense to dress this up as an Okie-friendly environment. Belgian beer, all the food that goes with it, and country music … it’s kind of a perfect little scene.”