Don't Sleep on Oklahoma City's Dining Scene
When I told people I was going to Oklahoma City in February, some responded, "Why?"
Still dogged by the perception, at least among outsiders, that there isn't much happening there, Oklahoma's capital city continues to transform nonetheless, with a flurry of new and exciting bars, restaurants, and cafés opening in the past few years as old standbys blossom into institutions. (My colleague David Landsel's 2017 article, "We Can't Believe How Cool Oklahoma City Is Being Right Now," is a great intro to the city's evolution.)
In short, there is no reason to doubt why someone would plan a trip to the city.
On a drive from my hotel in downtown OKC to the nearest outpost of Tucker's Onion Burgers, my Lyft driver was surprised to hear I was in town to eat and drink, though she understood—having lived there her whole life, she knows the bourgeoning restaurant scene inside and out; she just wasn't expecting an out-of-towner to show interest in it.
Having consulted with countless Oklahoma City locals, I devised a rigorous eating plan for my next few days, though I could have stuck around for weeks; there was so much to eat and drink. Here are some of the standout places in the city right now:
Most locals you ask for dinner recs will send you here. Cheever's, an OKC institution, is considered to be the first "fine dining" restaurant in the city. A cozy, bistro-type setting with generous portions of regional comfort food, the restaurant serves a heavenly queso, as well as other (super rich) standouts like Benton's Country Ham carbonara, chicken fried steak, and mixed seafood tamales.
In case you hadn't heard, the Oklahoma City onion burger is a thing of beauty. Tucker's, a local chain, is one of the best places to get one. Make it a double, and please order fries. If you try to be healthy by ordering the side salad, you will be foiled: the seven lettuce leaves are topped with a mountain of Fritos, cheese, and beans.
With fantastic locally-roasted coffee sourced from Central America, the airy café is just one of many spots solidifying the city's impressive coffee culture. "There’s also a weirdly robust coffee scene in OKC," a local tells me. (Don't miss out on Elemental Coffee, either; it's just a few blocks away.)
This massive, beautifully designed bar-meets-cafe-meets-restaurant-meets-concert-venue is the reason I considered, however briefly, abandoning my life in New York and moving to OKC, where there is so much beautiful space and you don't get elbowed in the face while trying to order a cocktail. Which reminds me: The cocktails here are excellent. The food—and bar snacks, like the golden nuggets of fried okra served with a fiery ranch—is excellent, too. "In case you couldn't tell, we're proud of our okra in this state," the bartender told me as I gobbled ten in ten seconds.
In the Plaza District of OKC, this sophisticated wine bar from executive chef Shelby Sieg is the spot for pre-dinner drinks, and post-dinner drinks, and, well, dinner. Don't miss their G&T (with housemade tonic) or brilliant charcuterie and cheese spreads. The short rib pasta is top-notch, too.
"Whenever you're here, stick around long enough to try dessert—ask about the doughnuts," Landsel wrote in his 2017 piece. "Everybody does."