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Chris Hennes

Oklahoma City Restaurants

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Hey Chris! Thanks for all of your reviews. We're going down there this weekend and I remembered that you had moved to that area, so I searched and found ya lol.

The Wedge and Cheever's Cafe look pretty good. Is that Asian Market still open--the Cao Nguyen?

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Yup, just make sure you aren't dissuaded by the empty building next door (their old location) - plenty of places to eat in there and nearby (and the churros they sell in the supermarket aren't half bad either, despite it being an Asian market).

Nathan, sorry for the tardiness of my reply, I missed your post before... everything I said above still holds. I'll have to gather my thoughts before posting another update, and I'm afraid I haven't made it up to Lawton (of course, feel free to post your thoughts!!).

A couple places on my "to try" list are Bolero tapas bar in Bricktown and Avanti Bar & Grill at the Courtyard by Marriott off of Memorial Road (of all the bizarre places for a nice restaurant).


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Red Primesteak (non-chain, www.redprimesteak.com/, 504 N. Broadway Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK)

I've been meaning to try Red Primesteak pretty much since I moved here: they are owned by the Good Egg Group, the same folks who own Cheever's and Iron Star, so I had high hopes. They position themselves as a bit more upscale than either of the other two places, but "upscale" in Oklahoma has a different meaning than in New York or Philadelphia, or Dallas for that matter. Unsurprisingly they are focused on steak, though their gimmick is the inclusion of both a rub and a sauce of your choice with whatever steak you choose. Since in my opinion a dry aged prime steak needs little adornment, I cannot weigh in on their rubs or sauces, since I had them left off mine. I had the dry-aged ribeye, which was excellent, easily the best steak I've had in Oklahoma (not exactly a glowing endorsement, I will grant you). It was much too large, but the price was reasonable for the quality, so it's hard to complain too much. As sides we ordered the horseradish potato gratin, which was also very good, and the green beans, which tasted like red bell peppers and soy sauce (OK, but I prefer my green beans to taste like... well... green beans). As appetizers we had the crabcakes, which tasted like seafood stock rather than crab, and the roasted quail, which was quite good, perhaps a little on the generic side. We each had one of their cocktails, and again I had high hopes since they listed their daiquiri as being made with fresh citrus: alas, they didn't mean lime. It was a mixture of lime and grapefruit juice, which ultimately meant that it was much too rum heavy, since the grapefruit juice is nowhere near as assertive as lime. I had a "Broadway," their take on a Manhattan, and it was a bit orange-happy. Overall, I can't really recommend the cocktail scene there, but it's still better than anything else I've tried in the OKC area to date. The steak I can wholeheartedly recommend, it was excellent. Be careful with your apps and your sides and you'll leave happy, and not too poor. Our total bill after tip, including two drinks a piece, was just under $200. Maybe not cheap, but not ridiculous.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Hi everyone! Thought I'd share a few pictures of our trip to Ok. City.

Chris, we LOVED the Asian market!!! OMG we were in there for hours. We went on Saturday before the races and ended up coming back right before we left on Sunday in order to get some LIVE crawfish and bring them home. We ate them last night along with some frog legs. Soooooo good.

Crawfish

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Frog legs

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In the front of the store they make all kinds of sandwiches, fresh breads, sushi etc. We got a couple of these steamed buns. They were stuffed with pork, mushrooms and hard boiled egg

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We also got these spring rolls--I haven't gotten into those yet

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Lychees!!!!!!!

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Gooseberries!!!

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Quail and frog legs

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Chicken hearts and gizzards and FEET

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Pears, chives, mushrooms etc.

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Hadn't seen this combo before--so naturally had to buy it lol

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This bread had just been brought out of the oven!

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Can you tell we don't get out much? lol

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Saturday went to Bricktown. It was a rainy, gray day, so not many people were out. It's nice down there. AND I spied Pearl's Crabtown. We decided on the spot to go there for lunch. It's in a HUGE old warehouse. Beautiful woodwork on the inside. The bloody mary's are excellent. Notice the Mardi Gras colored salt! http://www.funfresh.com/

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We got the crawfish and oysters. YUM. I'm pretty sure the oysters were gulf oysters. Not as briny as some, but still very fresh and good. Crawfish were like lobster -so sweet.

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I highly recommend Pearl's.

So, that's a little taste of our trip! Thanks again to you, Chris, for guiding us to the Asian market, it was the highlight!


Edited by Shelby (log)

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Ray's Smokehouse BBQ (non-chain, 1514 W. Lindsey Street., Norman, OK)

Opened last year by former OU football free safety and five-year New York Jets player Darrol Ray, this is one of the few non-chain BBQ restaurants in town. Located in what obviously used to be a Pizza Hut, and decorated with photos of Ray with various other local "celebrities," it's more of a pet project than a serious BBQ restaurant (though Ray has a bit of experience in the industry: this is his second restaurant). The brisket was sliced too thinly, oddly juicy, and devoid of any smoke flavor whatsoever. The pork ribs were a bit better: tender, reasonably flavorful, with a decent dose of smoke flavor but a strange sweetness to whatever they were rubbed with. The sauce is too heavy on the tomato, in my opinion, and the sides are so-so. Unless you're a big football fan and want to get Ray's autograph, I can't really recommend the place.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Benvenutis Restaurante (non-chain, 105 W Main St., Norman, OK)

I don't know why we hadn't tried Benvenutis before: my thought had always been that it didn't look that promising on the outside, and I kept putting it off. It turns out that was something of a mistake: so far, this is the best Italian I've found in Oklahoma. It's a little higher-end than the other places I have tried, and a fair bit of their menu isn't really Italian, but the few things I've tried there have been pretty good. The beef carpaccio tasted excessively of the mayonnaise-based sauce they heavy-handedly applied, and it had nearly a full salad's worth of lettuce on top, so I wouldn't recommend it. The mussels were quite good, however, if a little sweet considering the fact that their house bread is also sweet: I would have thought either a neutral bread or a saltier broth would have worked better. The lasagna was so-so, but the lobster "ravioli" was very good, and my wife said the pizza was OK. The wine list was reasonably extensive, and reasonably priced, with many bottles under $50, and quite a few available either by the glass or as a flight. The atmosphere is relaxed and elegant (for Norman), the service was unobtrusive, and the prices are good all things considered. I find it inexplicable that the University frequently takes guests out to Legend's when they are looking for something "nice," with Benvenutis under a mile from campus and head-and-shoulders better on every dimension.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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As I read these reports I keep wondering why a person would eat seafood in OK.

I will be there [OKC] next Sat. to watch a Triathlon. I read this hoping to find a few non-Applebee's for a good meal. From there on to mid Missouri, which I know has at least places to buy limited but good food; so the reviews of OKC eateries seem to fit most of my mid west restaurant experiences.

I just find my self totally surprised at the seafood portions of these reviews. As I say this, I remember my surprise at finding Fresh Cooper River Salmon at [i think the spelling is correct] Schnuck's in Columbia, Mo. It was fresh too! That, though, is my only time.

I guess, if someone as knowledgeable as Chris and his bride find at least eatable seafood there, my expectations need to be reviewed.

That said, the best food I have ever had in the Heart-Lands has been at someone's home.

I told my son, the triathlete, about this review search; his remark was he was taking his own food with him. I won't eat what most of these athletes eat so I was searching for me.


Robert

Seattle

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That's the beauty of overnight shipping :smile:. What I find most distressing about the food in Oklahoma is the near-impossibility of finding good steak: I thought it would be a mecca! How wrong I was... the nice thing about things like lobster, oysters and mussels is that they are shipped live, so it's a bit easier to guarantee freshness.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Avanti Bar & Grill (non-chain, www.avantibarandgrill.com, 13509 Highland Park Blvd., Oklahoma City)

We had dinner tonight at Avanti, a relatively new Italian restaurant in North OKC (just south of Quail Springs Mall): it was definitely sub-par. It took a number of back-and-forth sessions with the waiter and eventually the bartender to get our drink order in, which ultimately was not what I wanted due to a missing ingredient in their bar lineup (no bitters = no Manhattan). We started with a "lamb samosa" appetizer which actually turned out to be ground lamb egg rolls: these were relatively flavorless and generally underseasoned. After a competent but overdressed house salad, I had the veal Saltimbocca. The veal was overcooked to my liking, but not terribly so. The downfall of the dish was the seasoning: it was dramatically overseasoned, to the point where all you could taste were the herbs and pepper, in everything. The vegetables, the gluey mashed potatoes, the veal, everything. My wife reports that the same was true of her dish. I had ordered a glass of wine a few minutes before our entrees arrived that showed up after I had finished my meal, with an apology that the bartender was slow (I had seen that glass of wine sitting on the bar for almost ten minutes, suspecting it was mine). So, part of the problem can be blamed on our individual incompetent waiter, but the overseasoning is of course coming from the kitchen. All told, I can't recommend anything about Avanti, and I strongly doubt I will be returning to give them a second chance.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Nonna's Euro-American Restaurant and Bar (non-chain, www.nonnas.com, 1 Mickey Mantle Dr., Oklahoma City)

In an attempt to recover from last night's disaster at Avanti, we tried another new (to us) restaurant tonight, Nonna's, in Bricktown. Much, much better. Shy of "awesome," but still very good, and certainly worth going to. We started with a cheese plate that, unlike every other cheese plate in Oklahoma, actually had several very interesting, unusual, and highly tasty cheeses on it. I then had the "Bleu Cheese Tart" which was a theoretically blue-cheese-flavored tart with a salad on top. It was good, but it was not very "blue-cheesy." I then enjoyed the Filet en Croute: the sides served with it were generic toss-off sides (exactly the same ones were served with my wife's Tilapia), and the plates were garnished with rosemary of all things (a little to pungent to serve as a garnish, IMO), but the filet was perfectly seasoned and well-cooked (rare), with a well-executed béarnaise and a sort of toss-off Cabernet sauce that was unnecessary given the béarnaise. Still, it was a very good steak if you just ignored the superfluous sauce. By this point we were full, but we felt it was our duty to try the strawberry shortcake: thankfully served on a cream biscuit rather than poundcake or something of that nature, it was quite good, if a little sweet. Overall, the service was competent (though the timing was a little rushed between the salads and the entrees, the rest of the pacing was good), the food quite good, and the ambiance was very nice. It's pricey (with tip and two glasses of wine each we were about $250, a bit high by OKC standards), but for special occasions, etc. you could do far worse.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Mr. Pho (non-chain, 1133 NW 25th St, Oklahoma City, OK‎)

Mr. Pho is located in the lobby of the Super Cao Nugyen supermarket, so we've stopped there on a couple Saturdays when we hit SCN around lunchtime. We've had a few different phos, plus the egg rolls. Surprisingly, the fried eggs rolls are particularly good here, or are at least the best iteration I've encountered so far in the OKC area. More Vietnamese than generic Chinese-American, they are a much smaller diameter, with a different (and very crispy) wrapper. They have a good flavor and texture to whatever the filling is, and they are served with plenty mint (not sure the variety, though I've bought it at SCN many times...) that makes a good accompaniment. The broth in the pho is pretty good, a bit better than the other pho place I reviewed above (in Moore). Nothing amazing, but not bad either. I discovered here that either their tripe and meatballs are crappy, or I don't like tripe and Vietnamese meatballs: I don't know which, unfortunately. The tripe was very chewy and basically flavorless (it tasted like the broth), and the meatballs very, very squishy: it could be that this is intentional and "authentic," but I didn't care for it, for whatever that is worth. The rest of the meats were fine—again, nothing to write home about, but for like $6, worth the price of admission. I wouldn't seek Mr. Pho out, but since I routinely do seek SCN out, the location is pretty damned convenient.

Swadley's Barbeque (local chain, www.swadleys.com, 304 N Telephone Rd, Moore, OK)

OK, maybe I just don't get Oklahoma barbeque: where is the damned smoke?!?!? This is the third local BBQ place I have tried, and the third that I find myself complaining about the lack of smoke flavor at. I tried the sampler platter of brisket, pork, turkey, and sausage, and the only think I could really taste the smoke in was the turkey (which was white meat! and dry!). The brisket was chopped quite fine, as was the pork: the basic beef and pork flavors were fine, but I really had a hard time detecting any smoke flavor. The sausage was a collagen-cased commercial variety with a very fine texture—not what I think of when I think of BBQ sausage: no snap to the casing, and too smooth inside. It tasted fine, but nothing remarkable. The ribs were mediocre at best: the meat was too sweet, and again, where's the smoke? The fried okra was quite salty and otherwise unremarkable, and the mac'n'cheese could have been Stouffer's. We were comped an order of the house fries when I told the woman at the counter we had never been there and were trying stuff: tasted like salt, pepper and onion. Not bad, but equally unremarkable. I only tried one sauce, the "hot" variety, which was OK, and must have had a bit of liquid smoke in it, because in the end the only was to get my smoke fix was to dip the meat in the sauce. The fact that the sauce is essentially required to me means failure. I should note for the record that Swadley's has a large and loyal following, so maybe I am just missing the point of OK BBQ. Or maybe they are falling into the "90% of everything is crap" theory and their followers just have never had anything better.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I continue to refine my opinions of the various places I eat at; here are some additional comments:

Tarahumara's (first reviewed here)—I think it may be that I lucked out and ordered the best thing on the menu the first time I went (the carne asada tacos). I've eaten there a number of times since and I frequently leave feeling vaguely disappointed. I set them up in my memory as this great Mexican place, and it just isn't so. There are some real winners on the menu, but a heck of a lot of losers too. Right now I'm thinking that Ted's is a better choice for Mexican. I've also tried some hole-in-the-wall places in OKC but I want to give them a few more visits before I weigh in.

The Wedge (first reviewed here)—I must be getting jaded about pizza (I spend too much time reading about it from the obsessives over in the NYC forums :smile:). The last couple times I've been to the Wedge I've been underwhelmed. I still love the Wedge Trio, but I've strayed into some of their simpler, more classic pies, and come away quite disappointed. In particular their Pizza Margherita was very poor: it really exposed how much they undercook the pies there. I'm going to given them a few more chances, maybe with instructions to give me the pizza "well done," but I'm losing the faith here...

Flip's Wine Bar and Trattoria (first reviewed here)—I went again and sat at the bar this time: they really do have a very good selection of base spirits. Their mixers leave something to be desired, however, and like most places in OKC, they don't carry rye. This time I had the lasagna, and ate at the bar. It was a good rendition of the standard Italian-American lasagna, and a pretty good value, too. I've only been there twice now, but my second visit was quite a bit more favorable than the first, so there's hope.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Misal of India (non-chain, misalofindia.com, 580 Ed Noble Pkwy, Norman, OK‎)

Misal is a small Indian bistro just off Interstate 35 in South Norman: I usually go for dinner. I've been there once for their lunch buffet and was underwhelmed by the selection and quality. For dinner I like them much better: it is not a buffet, but a rather simple two-page menu with good descriptions of each dish (which helps a lot if you are not familiar with the names of dishes). They have a good bottled beer selection and a short low-end wine list: all of the alcohol is priced reasonably. I cannot speak to the authenticity of any of the food having never been to India or to an Indian restaurant that any of my Indian friends didn't think was absolute crap: I hear the same thing about Misal from the few Indians I know here... in general, those I've talked to don't seem to care for it. That said, I've gone maybe a half dozen times, and for the most part enjoyed the meals. Their appetizers are good, particularly the vegetarian samosas and the pakoras. I am also a big fan of their curry vindaloo: its spiciness is just enough to satisfy my craving for pain without actually causing me to break down in tears. Which is to say, Indians probably think it's for sissies, and I think it's great. I've also tried the lamb kabobs, which are so-so, and the chicken biryani, which I liked. The nan here is OK, but nothing to write home about. The prices are reasonable, with most entrees in the $10-$15 range (the vegetarian options are cheaper, more like $5-$10, but I haven't tried any of those yet). This is another one of those "don't go out of your way" kind of places: there are probably thousands if nearly-identical Indian restaurants in the US, but the food is pretty good. And if you live in the area and are looking for something new to try, give it a shot.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Big Truck Tacos (non-chain, 530 NW 23rd St., Oklahoma City)

Big Truck Tacos is the newest entry into the OKC "serious" dining scene, and an attempt to update the humble taco for a more contemporary palate. Open 7:30am-7:30pm every day except Sunday, they serve both breakfast and non-breakfast tacos and burritos: I have not tried their breakfast yet. Certainly not strictly "Mexican" or even "Tex-Mex," the non-breakfast tacos range from the traditional Tacos al Carbon to the modern "Flaming Lips" (hickory-smoked tongue with what I believe is a sweet potato Pico de Gallo). I have had those two, as well as their "Fifth Amendment," which at least today consisted of an unidentifiable protein (tasted beefy, but could have been a well-done non-chicken poultry element) with a heavy dose of avocado and a crumbly fresh cheese. I ordered them all on corn tortillas, though the Flaming Lips showed up on flour anyway. The corn tortillas themselves were lackluster store-bought offerings with little flavor or texture, and at least today (Saturday) were definitely past their prime. The flour was... well, a flour tortilla. Not much to say about it! Not the best in the city, nor the worst, but did not appear to be house-made at any rate. On to the fillings: the Fifth Amendment was quite good, with well-balanced flavors and a good level of seasoning overall. There was nice textural contrast between the protein and the avocado, though I definitely found myself wishing the tortillas were fresher, since that would have added a welcome additional textural element. The Tacos al Carbon were one-dimensional, the beef had a bit too much bite, and they had no textural contrasts going on at all. A weak offering that I would not order again, considering the high quality of TaC available elsewhere in the city. The Flaming Lips were an intriguing flavor combination, but ultimately unbalanced by the shear quantity of the relish/pico/whatever they are calling it. The meat was succulent and perfectly cooked, and though a bit over-seasoned had excellent flavor when eaten on its own. In the context of the taco, however, most of the flavors lost out to the sweet potatoes (or yams? not sure here) which were present in far too much abundance. The flavor combination, if balanced, could have worked well, so this taco may be worth giving a shot on another day. I thought the heat level was good, and the smokiness of the lips was a nice touch, it just has some execution issues.

Overall, although it has been hyped like mad, I thought that BTT was only good, not great, on this visit. I'll visit again, since I drive by a lot, but for my money Taqueria los Comales makes a better taco. Maybe once BTT has matured they will improve, however: they are still very new, and may have some kinks to work out yet.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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For what its worth, I really enjoyed the Onion Burgers and buttermilk pie at Johnnie's Grill in El Reno.

Outside of town in Meers I also devoured a gargantuan Meers Burger. Less than two hours after Johnnie's. Hehe.

Oh, and in the northern 'burbs I ate AYCE sushi at Sumo, which was "fine". I was loading up before my race the next day, so it served the purpose.

This site has helped me tremendously: Eat Around OKC

Oh yeah, there was a custard place, too. Bodensee. Pretty good stuff. I think custard is the "new gelato" - we just got a new shop here in Albuquerque.


"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

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Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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I agree about the folks at Eat Around OKC, they seem to be a good bunch. I find that even better than the reviews on their website are the quick recommendations you can get by adding #eataroundokc to a Twitter post looking for someplace to eat.

I admit, I haven't braved any of the sushi in OK yet...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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An update on the breakfast food at Big Truck Tacos: very good, but almost entirely build-your-own, which is a little disappointing. The regular menu at BTT is full of fascinating and generally tasty flavor combinations frequently involving off-the-beaten-path ingredients and combinations, and unfortunately the breakfast menu does not take the same tack. The taco selection is simply a list of ingredients: the combinations are up to you, and they are all basically conventional breakfast taco ingredients (chorizo, potato, cheese, eggs, etc.). So, if you know what you like you can put together a good taco, but it's not going to be anywhere near as interesting as their lunchtime fare. I've also given the Huevos Rancheros a shot, and they are among the best in the city (bear in mind that I am a huge sucker for Huevos Rancheros). The sauce is basically perfect, the ingredients well-balanced, and the overall flavor was excellent. My mom thought it was weird that I was taking her out for tacos for breakfast when she was here to visit, but even she came away impressed.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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A quick request.

I have dinner tonight at Charleston's in Norman. Any recommendations on the place and what they do well?

I can't find it mentioned here or in Eat Around OKC

Thanks,

Peter

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I've avoided Charleston's because I lump them in the same category as Perkins and Old Country Buffet, rightly or wrongly. So I can't give you any suggestions, but please do weigh in with your experience after your visit.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks, Chris. For once, I'll get things done in a timely manner.

Charleston's - Norman, Oklahoma

We went to this as part of business, so I approached it pretty much naked. Sometimes these things can be good, sometimes bad, sometimes indifferent.

My first impression wasn't positive, but I would say that's partially my bias against restaurants located on the feeder roads of Interstates. The building design relies upon that mix of comfortable old wood homestead, set off by giant red neon. The neon is pretty much part and parcel of the interstate theme, luring motorists like unwary mosquitoes off of their flight paths.

Inside it has that "sameness" that (I think) you're alluding to. Lots of dark wood, low lights, but fairly simple seating. The staff are dressed in 'noughties standard solid black, which I think they believe may make them invisible, somewhat like the bunraku puppet masters (more on service in a bit).

On the bright side, they don't pack their walls with odd rummage sale stuff. It is fairly clean.

The menu is fairly small, which is a good thing. A small set of appetizers, some pasta, chicken, catfish, and - today - a nice blackened tilapia and a good looking halibut.

For four-footed protein, they had a short and sensible selection of steaks (center cut and prime rib, in two portionings), and a pork chop done up with caramelized apple and honey.

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I went for the pork chop. I'd had a porterhouse for lunch at Saltgrass, beside our hotel (again, no time for extensive choices, but I must say I had nothing bad to say about that piece of beef - no photos, sorry). To their credit, when I asked for the pig to be rare-medium rare, our waitress recommended that we go for rare, and we could always send it back if it needed more. The result was just about right, that twinge of pink in the middle that I want in good pork. And I do appreciate wait-staff that think ahead.

The side of mushrooms was surprisingly good. Plump, with a variety of fungi in there. I'd hoped to use these to perk up the fries, but they were a little too much on the shoestring side of things. Still they were good company for the pork chop.

The wine list was a pleasant surprise, too. Like the menu, relatively short, with the bulk of their offerings New World. They had an A-Z Pinot Noir from Oregon, which I thought would work with the rarish pork, and ordered that. It was a nice combination with the sweetness of the apples and the soft pork.

I avoided dessert, but one of our group did order the brownie.

First, let me say that I've been having problems with American portioning. I was raised to eat everything on my plate ("put that garnish down"), and it's hard to learn to say "no". But what arrived as a "brownie" was a lump of vanilla ice cream the size of my fist crusted with nuts and stuff on top of a brown slab of brownie about the size of my friend's head.

This did seem excessive.

All of this is well and good. Competent. Not the sort of thing you'd write home about ("what are you doing here, then?"), but competent enough. If I was a mosquito on the I35, I wouldn't mind being lured in here too much. Still, it rather palled in comparison to what I'd been eating for the last couple of months (yes, I will get caught up on my writing at some point).

My real complaints were three-fold.

First was the availability of their dishes. I was okay, but two at our table were told that the centre-cut had just run out. Then, at dessert, they were also told that the key lime pie was finished. This isn't an extensive menu, so it's odd that they'd be running out. But then again, things were quite busy for a Monday night.

Another issue was the support service. Our waitress was a bit over-stretched, covering a lot of tables, and so couldn't quite stay on top of our needs. That's forgivable, but when I tried getting some service in her stead from the bussers, they completely cold-shouldered me, giving that "I'm not paid to talk to you" feeling.

The worst problem was the noise. We'd come here for a business discussion, but the ambient noise was so high that we had to yell at each other. This probably goes back to the avoidance of table linen, and the straightforward design, with no real dampeners for the sound. But it made for an awkward meal at times (even the spelling of awkward looks awkward).

And a meal shouldn't be awkward.

My feelings, overall? Rather industrial, but not the "let's throw everything onto the menu" format I see elsewhere. It's not offensive (outside of my three complaints), but neither is it going to draw me back.

Touching on Saltgrass, it's a bit of the same. A good steak, but not an inspired steak. While I liked the porterhouse, I still have dreams of that 240 day grain fed rib eye roast that Paola did for us in Bangkok a couple of weeks back.

I rather wish I had another day here, as this is the second time I've been in Oklahoma, and it's not a bad place at all. I just need time to root through the places here on eGullet. But in this instance, I'm at the mercy of a schedule.

And so, with the refrain of Warren Zevon's the French Inhaler running through my head ("so long, Norman"), I settle down to bed with a Californian Ozeki nigori sake that I smuggled in from Houston.

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I guess I'm going to have to catch up on Houston, too, at some point.

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Pho Hoa (901 NW 23rd St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106)

Oklahoma City actually has a very large (percentage-wise) Vietnamese population, and a ton of Pho restaurants to match. This is the one most frequently recommended, and having been there a few times, I think I agree with that. The broth is a bit richer and more flavorful than the other restaurants I've been to here, and the meat higher quality. In addition, their fried egg rolls are very good. One word of warning, however: they are cash-only, and I didn't see an ATM on the premises. The food is inexpensive, under $10 per person, so that shouldn't be too big an issue.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Iron Starr (Norman location) (ironstarrbbq.com, 575 South University Boulevard, Norman, OK‎)

The Iron Starr folks recently opened up a Norman location just off the OU campus. The space is great: high ceilings, tasteful, understated decor, and decent parking options. I think the menu is the same as the original location in OKC, but don't quote me on that. I've eaten at the Norman location a half dozen times since they opened, and there are some clear winners and losers. I'll start with the losers so I can end this review on a positive note. Holy jebus their ribs are terrible. Like, absolutely awful, why did you let this leave the kitchen? kind of terrible. Maybe it's just a style choice and it turns out I hate this style of ribs, coated with a very thick, soft layer of... something. The meat is beyond tender and into soggy territory. Bad stuff. If I was you I'd stay FAR away from the ribs. Next up, while their pulled pork tastes pretty good, it looks like it's been through a food processor: all finely chopped, and looking a bit like sauced canned tuna. So, while the flavor is OK, the texture is bad enough to warrant a big thumbs down. On the plus side, the brisket and sausage are tasty, if not exactly the best in town. Both of their burgers are quite good, among the better in Norman. Among the sides their fries and onion/jalapeno mix are the best, IMO, but my wife likes their slaw. Overall, it's hard to beat the convenience of the location (if you are on campus), and as long as you choose carefully you can have a very good meal. Bonus points for a drinkable wine that runs $20/bottle. Makes everything taste better...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Golden Phoenix Restaurant

This was a delightful find for us. The cooked meats hanging in the case looked very good when we first walked in. There were lots of Asians dining there along with a few of us Anglos. There is a separate, closed-off room for smokers (seen in last photo).

I had a duck dish and we had spring rolls and another dish or two. I had Tsingtao beer. They have a small wine selection.

I can't remember specifically all of what we had, but we know it was very good food.

This area seems to be an Asian hot-spot. We saw many restaurants in the area.

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Banished from Chowhound; I like it just fine on eGullet!

If you`re not big enough to lose, you`re not big enough to win! Try this jalapeno, son. It ain't hot...

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Golden Phoenix Restaurant

This was a delightful find for us. The cooked meats hanging in the case looked very good when we first walked in. There were lots of Asians dining there along with a few of us Anglos. There is a separate, closed-off room for smokers (seen in last photo).

I had a duck dish and we had spring rolls and another dish or two. I had Tsingtao beer. They have a small wine selection.

I can't remember specifically all of what we had, but we know it was very good food.

This area seems to be an Asian hot-spot. We saw many restaurants in the area.

From my experiences with Golden Phoenix, it is best to go with a crowd, that way you can order and tastes several different dishes when you sit at one of the lazy susan tables. Some of my favorites are a combo of the crispy duck, crispy pork and bbq pork, then the salted squid, the green papaya salad with shrimp, the green beans, and several other choices, oh the crispy pork spring rolls, still warm and crispy with the cool vegetables and noodles when you bite into it, and make sure you use the dipping sauce, I pass on the peanut sauce.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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A couple of updates based on recent trips:

Benvenuti's is my current go-to restaurant in Norman: the August specials were uniformly good, probably the best food in Norman right now. They changed their bread for the better, it's not so sweet anymore, so works far better with the mussels. When I'm hungry and can't decide what I want, this is where I end up, nine times out of ten.

Big Truck Tacos is still serving very good tacos. They've added chef-selected breakfast tacos (I previously complained about their lack), of which I am a big fan of The Zig and the Sam I Am. Unfortunately, the service here is really slow. They are slow taking orders, and slow pushing them out. So the place always seems busy, but that's partially because half the people waiting haven't gotten their food yet.

I've also stopped once at Grand House China Bistro for Dim Sum, but I'll hold off on a verdict until I try them again: especially with dim sum, where you can easily have some misses if you don't know what's rolling around. I have also visited RePUBlic twice and been reasonably pleased, I'll write that up shortly.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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