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Oklahoma State University
STATE

The official magazine of Oklahoma State University

A Taste of Stillwater

Unique shops and eateries bring new life to town

 

By Holly Bergbower

 If you haven’t visited your alma mater lately, the campus surroundings may not look familiar. Stillwater is growing and changing. Downtown is experiencing a revitalization with new shops, eateries and decidedly urban living spaces. New businesses are popping up, and local tastemakers are blazing a trail with the help of Oklahoma State University. The town is a destination of renewal and adventurous gastronomic delights focusing on local production and suppliers. Enjoy a taste of Stillwater here.

 

 

 

 

 

What began as a personal hobby is a booming business for Dave Monks and his partner Jerod Millirons.

The two met as professors at Northern Oklahoma College in Stillwater and quickly became friends.

Alumnus Millirons earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2005 and master’s degree in business administration in 2007 from OSU.

Before earning a doctoral degree in molecular biology from North Carolina State University and conducting research at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle, Monks completed undergraduate research in plant pathology at OSU with Dr. Carol Bender during summers while earning his bachelor’s degree in cell biology at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Monks spent years perfecting his small batches of brews and introduced Millirons to the process in 2007.

Fast forward seven and a half years, and the two opened Iron Monk Brewing Company. Loads of research, tons of sweat equity and travel to other craft breweries went into the planning. Both owners had lived in Stillwater for more than a decade and felt a strong sense of community. One thing was certain: The brewery belonged in Stillwater.

 

 The duo gutted a building at Sixth Avenue and Husband Street and turned it into a craft brewery, creating every part of their operation, including a taproom and brewery area, with their own hands.

“We spent seven days a week here and uncountable hours turning a 14,000-square-foot office building into Stillwater’s first brewery,” Monks says. “Luckily, the way we set it up seems to work.”

While the manual labor was exhausting, naming the brewery was even harder. What was originally going to be called Stillwater Brewing Company evolved into a combination of their surnames based on Monks’ late-night epiphany.

Iron Monk Brewing was born.

Luckily for Monks and Millirons, fellow craft brewers believed that a rising tide lifts all boats and were happy to share what did and didn’t work in their world. Once the building was completed and the brewing began, the taproom provided a perfect unof cial focus group setting for testing new brews. Stilly Wheat, the most popular Stillwater brew, took numerous formulations to get it just right. Thanks to taproom customers, a winner was developed. Monks and Millirons promised each other early on to serve the state of Oklahoma well before branching out elsewhere. Two years ago, they took their first order — less than one full pallet of kegs. Today, their output is steadily increasing. Outside of Stillwater, Milk Stout is the go-to brew, while new selections are added constantly.

Clever can design is an integral part of the craft brewing world. Each brew requires a thread of consistency for brand recognition, but at the same time, Iron Monk is resistant to be put in a box. Marketing manager Mark Waits and graphic designer Dallas Tidwell created most of the images, but it’s an ongoing challenge to come up with something new and eye catching.

“Believe it or not, can design creation and finalization is one of the most difficult parts of our jobs,” Monks says.

The task is such a challenge that they’ve taken it to the OSU Art Department. Each semester, art students vie for a chance to feature their design on a new brew. The inaugural pitches resulted in three usable ideas that will all be featured on cans.

We thought we’d maybe get a couple that were good, and it would be an easy decision,” Monks says. “What ended up happening was we got eleven fantastic ideas, so we’re using the top three. And we’re de nitely going to do this each semester, if not more often.”

Iron Monk’s mantra is “local, local, local.” While hops can’t be grown locally due to the conditions, barley and wheat can. Much of their grain is purchased from 46 Grain Company out of Ames, Oklahoma, while the popular Stilly Wheat exclusively uses Gallagher wheat, a variety created at Oklahoma State University.

Monks and Millirons hoped that Stillwater would welcome them with open arms. Monks says the community did and then some. Alumni come in during athletics events, students frequent the taproom, and Stillwater professionals stop in often. In return, Iron Monk gives back to the community by donating beer to events, brewery packages to auctions, and supporting local fire and police efforts. The brewery helps sponsor the Traditions Tailgate with the OSU Alumni Association.

What began with two brewing tanks has now increased to eight, lending the brewery more time and space to develop a variety of brews and lots of small-batch specials. Iron Monk is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. Brewery tours are available Saturdays at 2 and 4 p.m. 

Good Little Eater

 

 Chef Sarah Ramsay grew up as a daring eater and edgling foodie. Nevertheless, she didn’t always think being praised for her eating prowess was necessarily a compliment.

“My dad always said, ‘Sarah, you’re such a good little eater!’” Ramsay says. “I would say, ‘Don’t call me that!’ but when it came time to name my restaurant, I thought, ‘Good Little Eater!’ It means someone who likes to eat healthy, loves food and is adventurous, so it worked.” 

Ramsay’s father passed away in 1999. The business name is a reminder of him and a tribute to the man who encouraged her love for food. Throughout her life, Ramsay has worked in the food industry, whether serving or baking. She attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, from 1996 to 1998. 

Marrying Chris Ramsay, an art professor at OSU, landed her in Stillwater. She began her business with an email list and a catering license. Ramsay sent out her weekly menus to the list and prepared meals for clients to pick up or took orders for special events. Attending the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship “Cowboy Boot Camp” proved to be invaluable with business advice for planning, marketing and accounting, Ramsay says. 

 

 After three years of catering (and twins old enough to be on their own more), it was time to expand the business. A kitchen became available for rent, and Good Little Eater found a new home. In 2016, Ramsay expanded the catering business to offer lunch twice a week and brunch most Sundays. Catered meals are still available on Mondays, and special events can be booked in the dining room. Backstage, a downtown artistic venue opened by alumnus Russ Teubner, has also featured Ramsay in a chef series.

“We have unique food and offer a place to order food that is 90 percent made from scratch,” Ramsay says. “We offer fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and dressings, and ethnic dishes that bring something a little different to Stillwater.” 

Ramsay’s first love, baking, has not been left out. She says baking is still her favorite thing to do in the kitchen, and weekly menus offer a wide array of desserts. Fridays are now known as pie days, and communal seating welcomes Stillwater residents and students to get to know one another. Ramsay’s goal is to serve lunch ve days a week by following her tried-and-true formula of adding a little at a time. 

“The dining really took off quickly, and I have to say I love serving people,” she says. “It’s rewarding to see happy people enjoy a satisfying lunch.” 

Ramsay also enjoys helping to revitalize downtown Stillwater. She has repainted her building and will install a new sign soon. Most importantly, the Good Little Eater will continue to create unique menus. 

Good Little Eater, 1061⁄2 West Tenth Avenue, is open Mondays from 3–6 p.m. for takeout meals; Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch; and every other Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for brunch. Special orders are available by arrangement Monday through Friday. Find out more at goodlittleeater.net

Billy Goat Ice Cream 

 

OSU graduate RaShaun Robinson has had the idea of goat’s milk ice cream in his back pocket since the second semester of his freshman year. By the time he reached the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship for OSU’s Pitch and Poster competition, he and partner Caleb Neil had fleshed out the idea well.

They won that contest and drew the interest of the judges, who were more than happy to weigh in with advice on how to make goat’s milk ice cream a reality. What was once a fun idea morphed into real work. Billy Goat Ice Cream launched April 10, 2015. The duo received a USDA grant for rural development and leaned very heavily upon OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center. 

“We pride ourselves on making our ice cream taste like the high-fat cow’s milk ice cream but with half the calories,” Robinson says. 

The advantages of goat’s milk ice cream are abundant. It’s gluten-free, calcium rich, low-fat, low lactose with significantly more potassium, calcium, Vitamin A and protein than cow’s milk ice cream. Billy Goat ice cream is easier to digest than cow’s milk ice cream and contains twice the healthful medium-chain fatty acids. Perhaps most importantly, its ingredients are all locally sourced from a co-op of dairies in Atoka, Antlers and Newalla, Oklahoma. 

 

 Billy Goat Ice Cream currently operates out of Meridian Technology’s Business Incubator, after spending a good deal of time at FAPC. Production began with eight varieties: six core avors and two special batches. 

“We knew we had to make sure our vanilla was right,” Robinson says. “My dad told me over and over that if you don’t get the vanilla right, no other flavor matters.” 

Billy Goat’s first sale was to Stillwater’s Hampton Inn and Suites on Hall of Fame Avenue. Next move was into local grocery stores and OSU. Eventually, the sweet treat moved into Crest Foods, Fresh Markets, some Homelands, Reasor’s and Green Acres Market. In April 2017, Wal-Mart began carrying Billy Goat Ice Cream across the country. Sprouts Farmers Market started featuring the frozen treats this summer.

Growing a business wasn’t always as easy as Neil and Robinson might have thought. Alumna Rhonda Hooper has served as a mentor and helped them avoid many new- business pitfalls. 

 

“We really wanted to move faster than we were prepared,” Robinson says. “Rhonda was great about helping us set a pace and move forward at the right times.” 

Billy Goat Ice Cream has its roots in Stillwater and desires to stay. The company is hoping to move into a new facility in the next few months. 

“We want to contribute to the economy in Stillwater, and we want to offer something that’s not currently available,” Robinson says. 

The new facility would feature an ice cream garden, which could offer special batches. As a testing center for new avors, the shop would serve as a consumer “sounding board.” The remainder of the building would be a home for manufacturing Billy Goat Ice Cream. 

“We really can’t imagine being anywhere else,” Robinson says. “How cool would it be for Billy Goat Ice Cream to be a destination to visit when you’re in Stillwater?” 

Visit bgicecream.com for the new location and hours. Pick up your favorite avor in your nearby grocery store. 

1907 Meat Co.

 

 1907 was the year Oklahoma became a state. Not coincidentally, 1907 Meat Co. is championing the state with local products grown by Oklahoma farmers. Adam Gribben, the owner and operator of 1907 and a 2013 OSU electrical engineering technology graduate, prides himself on authenticity and transparency.

After three years of working as an engineer involving consistent travel, Gribben was ready to get back to Stillwater. He thoroughly investigated and debated what Stillwater needed. After reading The Ominvore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan, 2006) and Salad Bar Beef (Joel Salatin, 1996), he began researching meat production and developed a business plan. 

“Everyone who looked at my business plan said, ‘Don’t you mean you want to open in Oklahoma City or Tulsa?’” Gribben says. “My answer was no. I believe Stillwater deserves something nice.” 

As an engineer, Gribben had little experience with agriculture. What he did know was that Stillwater had a wealth of agricultural information at its finger- tips with the state’s foremost agricultural school — OSU. 

 

 He visited local farmers next. 

“I asked myself, ‘What’s the most I can pay a farmer and still be viable?’”

Gribben says. “I really want to be of value to these farmers and to the state.” 

What began with ordering, processing and selling one beef a month through a subscription system has progressed to four cattle and five pigs a week through the downtown Stillwater location. OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center assists 1907 Meat with techniques for slaughtering and minimally processing cattle and pigs. Student employees at the FAPC slaughter the animals and the butcher at 1907 Meat breaks the product into steaks, ribs and various other cuts of meat. The company dry-ages beef in the FAPC cold storage facility, which enhances the avor and quality of the meat. 

“The FAPC has provided guidance for regulatory labeling and 1907 is now a state-inspected meat facility,” Gribben says. “Because of our proximity to the university, we enjoy a level of access that really helps us tackle problems as they occur.” 

 

 1907’s doors opened at 919 South Main Street on October 11, 2016, as Stillwater’s only butcher shop downtown in a space that originally operated as a grocery store. The store employs 15 workers including two full-time butchers, three apprentice butchers and Executive Chef Matt Buechele, who plans the weekly menu, which changes frequently. 

The shop is open Tuesday through Friday from 8-10:30 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch. Weekends, 1907 is open for brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and keeps its butcher counter open until 6 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The butcher shop offers everything from bacon to T-bone steaks and recently added farm-fresh eggs, baked goods and local cheeses. 

Expanding Culinary Horizons

Chicken. Curry. Tacos. 

 

They're each wonderful things, but putting them together creates a super- predator of deliciousness. 

1907 Meat Company debuted the Coconut Curry Chicken Sausage in the meat case — and I was skeptical, because my experiences with curry didn't include anything even remotely resembling sausage, but I was willing to give it a shot because I like curry and chicken together, so why not expand my culinary horizons? 

I took home a few and cooked them up with some rice and a curry cream sauce (white sauce with curry powder, garlic powder, paprika and salt). It was fantas- tic! The perfect marriage of curry avor with the chicken and just enough spice to make it interesting — we liked it so much we decided to do it again, but the sausages were sold out by the time I went back for round two. The butcher had some of the coconut curry chicken sausage in bulk (not linked), so we went for a taco theme. 

I added some fresh cilantro as a garnish, and instead of our tortillas, we took it another international step further and used naan, a traditional atbread in Central and South Asia. The naan did make it more lling, and I ended up eating only one taco. 

I like to make the curry cream sauce first and then heat it up when it's time to eat. 

I found the best way to eat this is to fold it like a New York City slice of pizza and go to town on it. There's no civilized way to eat a taco. 

(Read OSU alumna Sally Asher’s food blog with products from 1907 Meat online at 1907meat.co/in-your-kitchen.)

More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join or call 405-744-5368.