This summer, make a promise to yourself to slow down, take in the surroundings and have a leisurely and incredible meal at one of the true dining treasures in our region. Haven 55, nestled among the trees on a bend in Little Sugar Creek.
Chef Greg Bolton of the Red Oak Steakhouse at the Downstream Casino Resort says he was born “without a silver spoon in my mouth, but with a ladle in one hand and a spatula in the other.” He grew up in a culinary household and spent as much time as he could, outside of chores and school, watching and learning in the kitchen and in his family’s restaurant. Since joining the team at Downstream in 2013, his culinary skills have continued to grow and been greatly impacted by working and learning from what he calls “some of the most amazing chefs.”
One of those chefs is Chef Saul Paniagua, who has been cooking for more than 20 years. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, he has worked with and been inspired by international chefs from around the world. “I love using my New Mexico heritage to infuse different Spanish, Native American and Mexican dishes,” Chef Saul says. “We like it spicy in New Mexico so I use a bunch of different types of peppers to spice it up.”
Chef Greg, on the other hand, calls upon his Southern roots for inspiration. “I love the Fusion Craze that is upon us. I have a true Southern-Cajun background and I love experimenting, using the Southern flavors and flare with other ethnic cuisines and creating new dishes,” he notes, saying his cooking mantra is “set the trend, not follow the trend.”
Both chefs are in the right place for trendsetting and innovation. A growing demand for locally-sourced food aligns perfectly with the Quapaw Nation’s farm-to-table initiatives and commitment to sustainability. More than a fad or a marketing gimmick, it reflects a deep reverence for quality and human connection that’s rooted in the history of the tribe.
Honoring agricultural roots
“The Quapaw Tribe prides itself on giving back to Mother Earth; therefore, it was very important to the tribe to implement a very strong and sustainable farm to table agricultural program to provide fresh ingredients to the food venues within their own domain,” Chef Greg explains. “The tribe wants to diversify its economy while honoring its agricultural roots and establishing food sovereignty for its tribal members.”
From the pastures, to the greenhouses, to the beehives, the Quapaw’s agriculture program infuses every meal.
“Red Oak Steakhouse proudly serves our own Quapaw Cattle Company Beef (QCC), which is raised and processed using safe and humane practices within the tribe’s care,” Chef Greg explains.
QCC was launched in 2014 on tribal land in Quapaw, OK, with the sole purpose of raising top quality Angus cattle for Angus beef. QCC currently has over 1,000 head of cattle on over 3,000 acres of land in Ottawa County, OK and Cherokee County, KS. Careful tracking of performance and genetics enables QCC to produce superior quality hormone and chemical free beef, year after year. QCC steers are processed at the Quapaw Processing Plant, which is the first meat processing plant in the United States owned and operated by an American Indian Tribe. The plant processes beef for all of the tribe’s casinos, as well as for other needs within the tribe.
From there, QCC Angus beef is dry-aged and prepared by Downstream’s culinary team. That in-house dry aging really makes a difference, according to Chef Saul.
“Knowing the QCC Beef that we serve is managed by our own staff from pasture to plate allows us to control quality and integrity of our product, resulting in a better dining experience,” Chef Greg adds.
The Quapaw Nation also has several greenhouses located on site at Downstream, providing a source of fresh, pesticide-free herbs and vegetables for the food venues at all of their casinos, as well as the Tribal Senior Center, Tribal Schools, and the Quapaw Mercantile, located in Quapaw, OK. The greenhouses grow more than 20 crops, including several corn varieties and tobacco for ceremonial use.
The chefs visit the greenhouses regularly to incorporate the freshest herbs and produce into the innovative Red Oak Steakhouse offerings.
“We develop our menus and features based on what we have available at that time of year,” Chef Saul notes. “We usually meet with the greenhouse staff and plan on what they can grow and produce for us at certain times of the year. We are currently in the process of putting a summer menu together that will work based on what is available the next four months in our area.”
And even the bees are busy, doing their part in the agricultural program. More than 75 Quapaw beehives produce on-site harvested honey for use in the restaurants. It’s a key ingredient in Downstream Crafted Brewing Company’s popular Honey Bomber Brown Ale, as well as in fresh honey-infused breads, muffins and fresh gelato from the in-house bakery.
The top quality QCC beef and bison, fresh seafood, and harvested produce come together in menu offerings that are truly inspired, giving every guest palate-pleasing options.
Right now, Chef Saul is excited about some of the new menu items, including his award-winning oysters. “We have our fried oysters on the menu, which I won first place with at the World Food Championships. It was a structure dish where we had to do our own version of Oysters Rockefeller,” he explains. Chef Saul took home the award, beating out 49 other cooks. “We also do a smoked pork belly grits, with creamed spinach, southern fried oyster and pickled corn tartar sauce.”
Beyond the impeccable food quality and sourcing, the overall service and atmosphere also sets Red Oak Steakhouse apart.
“The restaurant is beautifully designed and decorated to provide an upscale dining experience,” Chef Greg points out. “The servers are all very well trained on wine parings, drink suggestions, and overall service needs, which elevates your opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy your evening.”
Above all, it’s the reactions of his customers that inspire him.
“Inspiration to me is watching people’s faces when they eat. The most pleasing sight is the smile and lost look from satisfaction. Preparing food and seeing your guest enjoying it is the most inspiring and pleasing motivation a chef can have. You can’t put a price tag on that feeling!”
Learn more, visit the menu, and plan a trip to the Red Oak Steakhouse at the Downstream Casino Resort to experience a truly one-of-a-kind dining adventure.