Let’s start south in Pauls Valley.
Temptation is strong at Bob’s Pig Shop, 829 N. Ash. Around since 1933, it features hamburgers, sliced brisket and a pulled pork sandwich that is “to die for.” Bob’s also satisfies with some Mexican offerings, and those cooks behind the counter pamper people with homemade salsa.
right Aubrey McClendon picks out pop at Pops in Arcadia.
This little-known gem is a real find, with framed newspaper articles of note from moments in history lining the walls. Reach owner Phil Henderson at 238-2332.
Head east of Edmond to hit up a popular spot in Arcadia. Join the crowds from all over the nation at Pops, 660 W. Highway 66. Neighborhood people, too, flock to Pops to pick up a favorite bottle of soda from childhood.
Pops was actually the idea of Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon in honor of his father. Working with talented architect Rand Elliott, the gas station/restaurant swung open its doors in 2007 and never looked back.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, and all the dishes are conceived to go well with any one of 400 selections of soda, chilled and ready to sip. It’s just plain pleasure. Reach Pops at 928-7677.
In the Tulsa area, you can’t miss going to Biga, 4329 S. Peoria, smack dab in a nice neighborhood and much-loved by local residents.
Keep traveling for more destination dining.
For the past 10 years, Tuck and Kate Curren have been offering impeccable ingredients, perfect service and an exceptional wine list. Biga features authentic Italian dishes from more than 20 regions of the bootshaped country. It also has wine dinners, and if you look around the room, you will see empty bottles of wine with autographs on labels from famous customers, along with those from regulars who enjoyed their own particular bottle of wine.
Dine outside when the weather is warm and enjoy the two patios, but the inside dining room is built for comfort. Reach Biga at 918-743-2442.
Keep traveling northeast for more destination dining. Have you grown fond of the touristy Grand Lake area? Then visit Diana and Jim Sellers at their most popular The Artichoke Restaurant & Bar, 2610 N. Third in Langley. Actually, it is just north of Langley on Highway 82.
The professional, experienced couple offers dining daily in a charming farmhouse that is more than 100 years old. The signature dish is its superb artichoke and spinach dip, and other best bets include the stuffed mushrooms called “whatnots,” along with blackened salmon, juicy steaks and chicken.
Diana is a gardener, and the Sellers had a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse until heavy snows destroyed it. But still, they recovered and The Artichoke is well worth seeking out. Reach them at 918-782-9855.
Heading north of Langley, take note of Clanton’s Cafe, 319 E. Illinois in Vinita. In fact, the place for chicken-fried steak was chosen by Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and featured on network television in 2007. Jeez, Clanton’s practiced enough! Open since 1927, Clanton’s claims that it is the oldest continually owned family restaurant on Route 66 in the state of Oklahoma.
If you haven’t thrown away your Gourmet magazine issues of 2006, there was a feature on Clanton’s, and it is one of the most welcoming restaurants in the city.
Besides the chicken- fried steak, it serves creamy mashed potatoes, hearty hamburgers, made-from-scratch french fries and even calf fries. Reach Clanton’s at 918-256-9053.
Back down the road in Stroud, halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, is Rock Cafe, and it really rocks!
The packed Rock Cafe, 114 W. Main, has been around since the 1930s. It was shuttered by a fire in 2008, but it reopened and is back on track again. It actually is a hangout for those traveling back and forth between the two cities.
Diners have grown fond of its catfish, salads and burgers. Try the alligator burger, the bison burger or the guacamole burger, and beg for those fried green tomatoes. Reach Rock Cafe at 918-968-3990.
WHEN IN OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma can be cruel. It can be hot. It can be freezing. And sometimes, especially during football season, traffic can be a real mess. Ducking out of the way of tornadoes and stomping out fires, that’s the price we pay to live here.
For quality comfort, lace up your sneakers and walk, hop on a bus or get behind the wheel of your car. On the other hand, many pilots find great places to eat and arrive by private plane.
Fliers like Annie Okies Runway Cafe, 5915 Phillip J. Rhoads at Will Rogers Airport. Check out the huge cinnamon rolls and the three-egg omelets that are baked, not pan-fried. Reach Annie Okies at 787-7732.
Another spot to investigate preor post-flight is Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant at the Ponca City Municipal Airport. Owned by Enrique Avila, he puts out pancakes, great Mexican food and some of the best onion rings around, with all the food made on the premises. Reach Enrique’s at 580-762-5507. —Carol Smaglinski