Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Oklahoma’ Category

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse

Cattlemen's t-bone steak

Cattlemen’s, an Oklahoma City meatery that remains much of its 1940s charm, serves a George Bush-approved T-bone.

Ronald reagan & gene autry at cattlemen's
I went for the rib-eye, instead, gnawing the medium-rare meat with Ronald Regan and Gene Autry as witnesses.

A server who spoke like a caricature of already-caricatured Kenneth on 30 Rock suggested the popular lamb fries, which I knew were breaded and fried testicles even as a city slicker.

Cattlemen's ribeye

We just stuck with the steaks, which were better than I’d expected, juicy, a little fatty, not complex or dry aged, but hardly the dull Outback Steakhouse slabs they’d been compared to on Yelp (Yelp and surprisingly active, Urbanspoon, were practically all I had to go on in this region). You would be crazy to go to Oklahoma City and not pay a visit to Cattlemen’s, for the experience alone.

Cattlemen's salad

Dinners come with a requisite heavily dressed salad (get the thick and garlicky house dressing).

Cattlemen's meal

And warm, fluffy rolls and a baked potato, little scoops of butter and sour cream on the side.

Cattlemen's bar

I didn’t even mind the half-hour Friday night wait because there is a spacious rec room-style bar upstairs where you can sit beneath a wagon wheel chandelier, watch big screen TVs and drink Shiner Bock or a big bottle of Double Deuce, brewed specially for the restaurant. No one will blink twice if you’re in a cowboy hat and boots.

Cattlemen's smoking room

There is also a self-contained dining room just for smokers, a still-thriving species.

Cattlemen's exterior

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse * 1309 S. Agnew, Oklahoma City, OK



If anything, I wasn't put off by Oklahoma's gun culture, big trucks, or the cowboy regalia, which are at  odds with everything New York. My father was an aficionado of all of those trappings, NRA stickers were a window presence on our family's pick-up growing up, and a pair of custom-made shark skin boots lived in my parents' closet, and yes, a gun or two were tucked into dresser drawers.

Tarahumara's freebie starters

At Tarahumara's, and most Oklahoman Mexican restaurants, chips, flour tortillas, salsa, and queso appear as a matter of course, and are replenished as soon as they start to dwindle.  Even though I knew an onslaught of food was on its way, I couldn't stop eating the fluffy tortillas and pale, melted cheddar (not Velveeta, as I would've presumed).

Tarahumara's mexican combo

Tarahumara's chicken taco

Combo platters rule. My Mexican dinner (only $12, hardly anything crept into the double digits) consisted of two tamales (I hate to admit that I have no idea what the filling was–there was so much going on–though I want to say beef), a cheese enchilada, rice, beans, and a hard-shelled chicken taco with guacamole and sour cream. When James' coworkers (my visit was a business trip tag-along) complain about no Mexican food in NYC they mean no giant platters like this. It's true.  The melted cheese, masa, corn tortillas, and chili start blurring together, but it's a delicious mess.

Tarahumara's mixed grill

And a mixed grill, which is fajitas of all fillings (beef, chicken, and shrimp) like a Mexican happy family, with even  a few potato slices thrown in for good measure.

Tarahumara's drinks

I don't know if the long wait was typical or if it was more a case of a Mother's Day Sunday rush, but you can hang out on the patio with a giant margarita or a lime juice-and-salt-rimmed Negro Modelo.

Tarahumara's * 702 N. Porter Ave., Norman, Oklahoma

Sid’s Diner

If I had been in El Reno just one Saturday earlier, I may have witnessed the world's largest fried onion burger. But being a regular Saturday, the small town 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, was pretty sleepy with the exception of Sid's (I did not check out the names in the game, Johnnie's or Robert's). Yes, you can also find fried onion burgers in the state capital, but why not go to the source?

El reno streets

What seemed like a main drag was a ghost town with nothing open except an office supply-type store.

Beau brumel barber shop

Beau Brummel was also shut up tight. At least I could admire its signage in peace.

Sid's counter

El Reno lays claim to the fried onion burger, a meat-stretching, depression-era treat that presses and grills a shitton of onions (half a whole onion, I've read) onto a thin patty, creating one caramelized entity.

  Sid's fried onion burger

Adorned with little more than pickle slices and heavy squirts of mustard, the sandwich is only lightly beefy with onion sweetness and the tart condiments in the foreground. I prefer my austerity-measure food in this fashion–I've never grown to love oatmeal-riddled, ketchup-slathered meatloaf. Size-wise, the burger harkens back to fast food of yore. It won't weigh you down. That's what the too-thick-for straws milkshakes are for (not pictured).

Sid's exterior

Sid's Diner * 300 South Choctaw Ave., El Reno, OK

Junior’s Supperclub

Junior's whiskey sour

I thought Spain was the last hold-out and even that nicotine-riddled dream was quashed on my visit around this time last year. Holy moly, smoking is alive and well in bars (well, some–I don't fully understand the rules) in Oklahoma. As a member of that wretched class, the social smoker, I very much enjoy the rare moments in life when I can indulge (I hate words like sinful and indulgent in relation to food, but it truly feels that way with cigarettes) in a indoor cigarette with an alcoholic beverage.

Junior's in the oil center

And if you're going to do it anywhere in Oklahoma, it should be at Junior's Supperclub, a dark, smoky subterranean lounge that goes one step further by being in such a wackadoo location. It is in the basement of a towering office complex called the Oil Center, along the expressway that also housed our hotel, with a Hooters and Sonic providing the padding in-between.

Door to junior's

Would you guess there was a piano bar and restaurant behind this door?

Junior's bar

We secured the last two plush chairs (it's not a standing type of venue and a hostess will seat you) at the far end of bar, just out of sight of the live performance (Michael Jackson covers sung by a woman wearing and playing a washboard bathed in the blue and pink lights, out of camera-shot) and abutting a large multi-generation party of the type I'm not familiar with personally but I imagine are  fixtures in lesser, maybe more southern cities around the country: very white yet tan, seemingly wealthy, preppier than the setting calls for, and used to being accommodated.

Two young men spilling over from their tables into my comfort zone shouted, "barkeep!"  and while I snickered at the antiquated term (and mentally shot daggers to keep their chairs from wheeling into mine) it got immediate service and cigars from the bar top humidor. Then again, no hipsters. One must pick their battles.

I only regret not having sufficient time to return.  They don't make them like this in NYC, and it makes me sadder for the demise of Bill's Gay Nineties, the closest facsmilie, which wasn't really that close at all the more I think about it.

Junior's Supperclub * 2601 NW Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK

Chuck House

I have heard Oklahoman tales of chicken-fried steak, or just chicken fry in local parlance, that spans an entire plate and then some. This was not the case at Chuck House, though you still got a lot of food for your $5.69: witness the pounded beef cutlet, mashed potatoes, and Texas toast buried in a velvety blanket of cream gravy white and speckled like vanilla ice cream. A meat sundae.

Chuck house chicken fried steak

We were nearly the only ones not partaking in the salad bar; that was the prime source of towering feats of plate-filling whimsy, heavy on the shredded cheddar and ranch dressing. I was more taken with the ordering system that has diners call to the front counter to place your order (some get very specific: "extra mayonnaise," "fries well-done, not salted") within eyeshot of the staffer speaking and noting your request.

Chuck house call & order

When it's ready, your phone rings and you retrieve it on a plastic tray from the front counter. Driving-thru is also a respectable way to pick up an order, though that probably precludes the popular salad bar.

Chuck house exterior

Chuck House * 4430 NW 10th St., Oklahoma City, OK

From Tortas to Chicken-Fried Steak

The first time I went to Chicago Mo Rocca sat directly in front of me on the plane.

Mo rocca's head

On my recent visit to Oklahoma City I was routed through Chicago, and once again trailed Mo Rocca. While still at La Guardia I spied his location via a flirtatious Rick Bayless retweet.


Tortas fronteraSoon enough, I, too, had a torta (choriqueso) for the road. Tortas Frontera is a great idea at O'Hare. It's too bad my plane was already boarding when I arrived for my return flight–even though the restaurant was right next the gate, it takes a chunk of time (15 minutes for the original sandwich) for the food to get made because there's usually a line and everything's prepped on demand. Actually, I ran over (I'm one of those freaks who pays to check my bag, so I don't need to rush the gate to snag precious storage bin space) in search of anything readymade and was able to score a poblano chile and Chihuahua cheese mollete boxed up rapido. They call them open-faced sandwiches.  I've always thought of them as Mexican French bread pizzas.


Even McDonald's in Mexico has a version.

I have the suspicion that no one's clamoring for a slew of posts on Oklahoma City dining unless you greatly enjoy variations on meat and potatoes: steak and baked potato, chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes, and ribs and fries–there were even potatoes in the Okla-Mex fajitas.  It's not one of those regions that may be third-tier but still has plenty of food lore, like say, Charlotte and environs, with North Carolinian barbecue culture as a backdrop. (Chowhound had  almost nothing in the way of OKC advice and Serious Eats had no more than a mention or two. The craziest thing I read about online but didn't have a chance to check out was a weekend-only honey-dipped fried chicken truck in the "bad" part of town that a pair of local, Native American, dwarf, Christian rappers had written a song about.) But here are some photos untill those posts arrive, like them or not.

McMollete photo via Brand Eating where there is currently a must-see series on all of the Mc items at McDonald's around the world.


Sonic in view of motel

No,  despite the frequent commercials taunting Sonic-free New Yorkers, the food isn't anything special. But when you're on the chain's home turf (founded in Shawnee, OK in 1953) you must pull-in to one of the many beckoning parking lots for at least a little something.

Country inn & suites
A Bacon Cheeseburger Toaster Sandwich (a Texas toast cheeseburger topped with squishy onion rings) and a Hey Batter Blast (that would be cookie dough and brownie bits in a Styrofoam, the to-go material of choice in the South and Midwest, cup of vanilla ice cream) were enjoyed in view of my hotel (or is that a motel?) the new-to-me brand, Hotwire-win (only $68 a night) Country Inn & Suites, owned by Carlson, the same as T.G.I. Friday's and the "upper midscale" chain, Park Plaza, I've booked for Bangkok this summer.

I love this country

I'd already eaten in a car and been greeted by the slogan, "I love this Country" within an hour of touching down at Will Rogers Airport.