"When we decided to do a Day Trip feature every month, it just seemed right that Stillwater would be our first adventure and, in an effort, to bring you a must-visit on your day trip restaurant, a brewery, and a cocktail, we gladly set out on it.
Let’s just say that it has been a few years since my stint in Stillwater. However, the good ole college years are never forgotten for long once I pull into the city limits. My twenty-two-year-old self starts to rally and before I know it… here we go lol. It is like nothing has changed and yet everything has.
Of course, everyone has heard of the world-famous Eskimo Joe’s, so it had to be first on our list. This is the place that is deemed the best place to go and hang out after an OSU game by Kansas University Basketball, Bill Self. It is also the place that President George H. W. Bush placed on the map during his 1990 Commencement speech at Oklahoma State University when he mentioned that Barbara told him to go over to Eskimo Joe’s for a beer and some cheese fries. And just like that, history was made.
Eskimo Joe’s was brought to life in July 1975 by CEO Stan Clark, just 2 weeks after his college graduation, in a 2-story house on Elm Street just one block away from OSU. Well known for their iconic Joe and Buffy logo, “Joe’s”, as the college kids call it, has become a smile seen around the world. Let’s face it if you don’t have an Eskimo Joe’s t-shirt you are not one of the cool kids! Make sure and grab one while you are there! So how did Joe and Buffy happen? Well, it is a marketer’s dream and goes down in the record books as the easiest and best price logo creation since the inception of logos. First-year art student Bill Thompson was given the task and returned with his first rendition of a boy with a huge smile and his dog and the logo that turned the juke joint into a multimillion-dollar corporation…the price you ask? A whopping $35.
Eskimo Joe’s positioned itself as Stillwaters Jumping Little Juke Joint with the coldest beer in town and then opened its kitchen in the spring of 1984. They immediately became the place to eat… I mean a college kid needs more substance than beer alone! Stan jokingly laughs and says, “imagine my surprise when I realized that more people eat than drink every day!”
All of Eskimo Joe’s food is sourced locally if possible and, on the menu, you will find amazing burgers such as the Little Joe which is an old-fashioned, quarter-pound grilled onion burger. They use fresh ground beef with onions pressed in and grilled to order on their flat top. Served on a toasted bun with mustard and pickles. Doesn’t sound so little to me! They also have their famous Joe’s Juicy Foul Thing. This sandwich is deliciously marinated, charbroiled chicken breast topped with a grilled pineapple ring on a toasted sweet sourdough bun. They also have two other renditions, The Elm St. Foul Thinks with cheddar cheese and sweet peppered bacon and the West St. Foul Thing topped with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Simply Delicious! And don’t forget about the Presidential stamp of approval Cheese Fries! For a treat I haven’t found anywhere else and not on the menu, is pickles and ranch. Do yourself a favor and ask for some when you first sit down, you won’t be disappointed.
For those of legal age, you can try their over-the-top signature drink, the Skylab Fallout. This New Orleans-inspired drink has been scaled down over time since the one down there is almost lethal from 151 rum to just rum and taking the clear from ever clear to just vodka. This drink is a Stillwater legend, and this author has had her fair share of them over the years. Just know this. One is fun, two means get an uber to drive you home or to a hotel.
A trip to Eskimo Joe’s also means bringing your signature “Joe’s Cup” home with you. They have been deemed “Oklahoma China” and have been notoriously used in crafts, patio lights and some agricultural projects we will not go into right now. If you think you know… you probably do.
One very cool thing about Eskimo Joe’s is that they leverage their brand to help others. Over the years they have released themed t-shirts for The Girls Scouts, Humane Society, Special Olympics, and many more. They also coordinate and hold the annual Juke Joint Jog 5k benefiting the United Way of Payne County.
Since 1975, Eskimo Joes has added an atrium over where the old beer garden used to be and made it a restaurant, giving it a family-friendly feel during the day and a college party atmosphere at night. This includes live local music and when the weather is right, they will even open the atrium allowing the moonlight and starry skies to creep in.
For all you craft beer enthusiasts, put Iron Monk Brewery on your must-visit while in town. It all started in 2014 when two friends, Jerod Millirons and Dave Monks, combined their love for beer, more precisely making beer, and their business savvy to bring the first craft brewery to Stillwater. Then in late 2015 they opened the state’s first premier taproom!
To say that they have perfected the art of brewing craft beer is an understatement and we were lucky enough to be able to spend the day learning how it is done with their Head Brewer, Mr. Sam Mosle. If you ever have the chance to meet and talk with Sam, prepare to have your mind blown. The amount of knowledge and experience he brings to the table is astronomical and the care he brings to his craft is exceptional. One thing we learned is that brewing craft beer is an all-day affair. It is a science, and it takes experimentation and time to create the perfect beer.
And more than one perfect beer they have made. Iron Monk has a beer for everyone! The first being their most popular beer, Stilly Wheat. You will get a “crisp, refreshing, orange peel and coriander infused wheat ale that is bursting with lemony citrus aromas and flavors.” A great pairing with pizza and cheeseburgers.
Next on the list is Bright D Weizensour…now that’s a mouthful! It is a tasty sour wheat beer brewed with boysenberries and black currants. “It’s tart, refreshing and highly drinkable.” It goes great with sweet and salty snacks.
IPA fan? Fear not…You will find the pleasantly surprising The 9 IPA is not a bitter beer but has a crisp and clean taste. This libation goes well with your toes in the sand.
Once you walk into the taproom you will immediately feel welcomed and at home. There is a large window that will allow you to watch the happenings in the brewery, you know where all the magic happens. There are numerous board games on a shelf in the corner for you to play if you find yourself with a group of friends and in the game playing mood.
Iron Monk loves supporting local musicians and several nights a week you will find live music giving their venue that entertainment value we all love. From solo acoustic artists to full bands, you will be sure to find your type of toe tapping music. Extra points if you want to get up and dance!
The good news is that once you find your favorite craft beer, you don’t have to make the trip back to Stillwater for it. You can purchase it to go, and Iron Monk also cans their beers for distribution so you can find them at various convenience and liquor stores across the state.
Looking for an upscale place to hang out or for date night? Zannotti’s is easily Stillwater’s best-kept secret. With a delicious owner-inspired menu that delivers on the promise of real authentic Tuscan delicacies, you won’t find food like this in the region.
According to the staff, The Brie En Croute Brie Wheel is the way to go and everyone’s favorite. It is delicately wrapped in a flaky pastry and baked golden brown with toasted almonds, a fig jam served with French baguette, and fresh berries. Is it an appetizer or is it a dessert? We will let you decide.
They also serve a Caprese Flatbread Pizza with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and drizzled with a balsamic port wine reduction. This is not your typical pizza, and you will never look at a delivery pizza the same way again.
Another Specialty is their Duck Confit Nachos. This platter of pure goodness is also chock full of black bean & roasted corn salsa, Monterey jack cheese, cilantro, sweet pepper marmalade, sour cream, and tortilla chips. This dish is meant to be shared and the perfect appetizer for you and your family or friends.
Since amazing food is normally served with amazing drinks it would be a huge disservice to leave their specialty cocktails out of this story. We walked away as fans of two special ones. The Smoked Old-Fashioned toast a cedar plank and put it on top to create the smokey effect, muddle a little bit of orange and sugar cube with bitters. And a House Special Peppered Bacon Bloody Mary made with Tito’s vodka, their own special house seasoning, and a skewer of all the goodies.
Is wine more your thing? Zannotti’s has an impressive wine selection as well with 18 by the glass options and 130 by the bottle options. They also have a selective and exclusive Captains List that allows you to pick from 12 – 15 wines for your special occasion. You can find your favorite wine here from a Cabernet Sauvignon to a Moscato and everything in between.
When you visit Zannotti’s, make sure and go on a night with live music. It just enriches the atmosphere and gives the restaurant an upscale and laid-back feel which is the ultimate finisher to such a delightful experience."