Cover story: From The Lunchbox to Okie Poutine, we share 15 food and drink favorites

15 Foods Cover

Food trends come and go, along with rediscovered local favorites. Whether you’re a born-and-bred local, just visiting or going out for a flavor-filled night with friends, we rounded up 15 must-try items in Oklahoma City. Below, you’ll find new, trendy dishes; diverse, ethnic-inspired delights; beloved regional favorites; special-occasion splurges; and specialty drinks.

— By Angela Botzer
Photos by Mark Hancock and Garett Fisbeck


Quinoa avocado salad from Cheever's. (Garett Fisbeck)

Quinoa avocado salad from Cheever’s. (Garett Fisbeck)



1. Quinoa avocado salad

Ancient grains spelt; quinoa; and the new grain du jour, freekah (fun to say: freak-ah) are in vogue and show up frequently on local menus. Cheever’s Cafe, 2409 N. Hudson Ave., has the perfect quinoa avocado salad ($11) healthy for a lunch or dinner.

“[Cheever’s] has always been innovative, ahead of the game, always thinking outside the box when it comes to creating new dishes,” said Melissa Yohn, general manager. “The quinoa salad … is a popular favorite.”

It’s a refreshing and delicious dish made with red quinoa, avocado, chili-lime sauce, corn, pico de gallo, goat cheese and almonds in garlic vinaigrette.


Camel Toes and Pimp Hands from Polar Donuts. (Garett Fisbeck)

Camel Toes and Pimp Hands from Polar Donuts. (Garett Fisbeck)


2. Camel Toes and Pimp Hands

Doughnuts are back; they’re the new cupcakes.

“Entire offices come here. They are in love with the doughnuts,” said Younts Waters, owner of Polar Donuts, 1111 N. Meridian Ave.

Reconnect with heavenly favorites and discover two owner-trademarked doughnuts: Camel Toes and Pimp Hands.

“The Camel Toes and Pimp Hands are both my own original recipes and names,” Waters said. “I had them trademarked because I didn’t want anyone to steal the recipe.”

Inside the Camel Toes is a decadent cherry frosting. Pimp Hands have an apple-cinnamon filling, a callback to the bear claw. But you’ll never get the recipe.

“People like the names so much, and they talk about it,” Waters said. “[But] it’s too much to give away.”


Warm Brussels sprout and baby kale salad from Cafe 501

Warm Brussels sprout and baby kale salad from Cafe 501


3. Warm Brussels sprout and baby kale salad

A distinctive version of Kalettes (a hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts) mania finally reached us from the east and west coasts.

“The idea came to us when we learned of it in California, so we created our own version here,” said Margaret Holloway, one of Cafe 501’s owners.

The restaurant, located at 5825 NW Grand Blvd., is au courant with warm Brussels sprout and baby kale salad ($10).

“It’s using kale in a good and healthy way,” said Holloway.


Ethnic influences

Thai green curry from Panang 2 (Mark Hancock)

Thai green curry from Panang 2 (Mark Hancock)


4. Thai green curry

Indulge in Thai green curry at Panang 2, 14101 N. May Ave.

“We make certain the green curry here is a thick curry with lots of coconut milk and lime leaves, just like you would have in Thailand,” said Toan Mac Chan, owner.

This curry gets its color from hot green peppers and includes coconut milk, bamboo shoots, basil, peas, bell peppers and a choice of chicken, beef, pork, vegetables or tofu ($10.50) or shrimp ($11.50).

“The Thai green curry is the hottest,” said Manager “Beer” Chalermphol Thiensingchai.

Cool off with a delightfully frosty Thai iced coffee ($2.75).


Hibachi calamari at Shiki. (Mark Hancock)

Hibachi calamari at Shiki. (Mark Hancock)


5. Hibachi calamari

Watch Japanese knives and spatulas fly into motion over a sizzling teppanyaki grill at Shiki, 14041 N. May Ave.

“It’s a wonderful live cooking performance,” said Stephanie Pham, manager.

The hibachi calamari ($18.95) comes with with miso soup, house Shiki salad with ginger dressing and a hibachi shrimp appetizer. Then it’s showtime, featuring your meal cooked in front of you with sautéed calamari, broccoli, onions, mushrooms and bean sprouts.

“Traditionally, a Sapporo beer or sake goes well with dinner,” Pham said.


Mushroom rigatoni from Benvenutis (Mark Hancock)

Mushroom rigatoni from Benvenutis (Mark Hancock)


6. Mushroom rigatoni

Italian cuisine and romance are a perfect dinner pairing at this lovely date-night spot, Benvenuti’s Ristorante, 105 W. Main St., in Norman. The mushroom rigatoni ($17) is the quintessential romantic dish with imported Italian rigatoni, locally grown shiitake and crimini mushrooms and a pink sauce made with fresh marinara and a touch of rich cream. It is finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and Parmesan.

“I would suggest a dry Chianti or pinot noir as a perfect pairing for the rigatoni,” said “Hoss” Hossain, general manager.


Okie originals

Okie Poutine at The Mule.  (Mark Hancock)

Okie Poutine at The Mule. (Mark Hancock)


7. Okie Poutine

Oklahoma City has its own version of the trendy poutine, a French- Canadian comfort food. Poutine is commonly made with french fries, gravy and cheese curds. The Mule, 1630 N. Blackwelder Ave. — where almost everything is popular — offers Okie Poutine ($7.50). This beauty of a dish consists of beer- battered fries covered in a peppery white gravy and topped with cheese curds.

“The gravy is Oklahoma-style, house-made white gravy, and [it’s] Watonga cheese curds … so this makes it a local delicacy,” said bartender/server Josh DaSilva.

To drink, he recommends Birra Farmhouse Ale, brewed locally by Prairie Artisan Ales in Krebs.


Chicken-Fried Steak with corn and okra, at Chuck House. (Mark Hancock)

Chicken-Fried Steak with corn and okra, at Chuck House. (Mark Hancock)


8. Chicken-fried steak

Go straight to Chuck House Restaurant, 4430 NW 10th St., for its chicken-fried steak initiation. Part of our Oklahoma state meal, it is a great deal at $7.40 with sides of deep-fried okra, mashed potatoes and Texas toast. Place your order from a telephone at your table at this friendly mainstay.

“What makes our chicken-fried steak so amazing is that our steak is delivered fresh daily; we never use frozen steak as other restaurants do,” said Manager Terri Thweatt.


Smoked beef brisket with a side of baked beans, at Leo's Barbecue. (Mark Hancock)

Smoked beef brisket with a side of baked beans, at Leo’s Barbecue. (Mark Hancock)


9. Smoked beef brisket

Leo’s Barbecue, 3631 N. Kelley Ave., has a sublimely succulent in-house smoked beef brisket with sauce, creamy macaroni salad and baked beans ($10.49).

“My links and bologna are locally sourced,” said Charles Smith, owner Leo Smith’s son. “We make and sell our own barbecue sauce.”

Also try Leo’s World-Famous Strawberry-Banana Cake ($3.50). “In 1974, when we started the restaurant, no one was making strawberry-banana cake; it’s our very own creation,” Smith said.



Wild salmon from Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)

Wild salmon from Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)


10. Wild salmon

The top-shelf feature at Rococo, 2824 N. Pennsylvania Ave., is Executive Chef Jason Bustamante’s wild salmon (market price): salmon cooked in a bamboo steamer with an Asian glaze and served with mixed seasonal vegetables like snap peas, coriander, basil, shallots and carrots.

“Currently, we source a wild salmon farm off the coast of Scotland in a sustainable loch,” Bustamante said. “Fish farming has come a long way; the salmon eat what they would normally eat in the wild.”


The Seafood Trio at Deep Fork. (Garett Fisbeck)

The Seafood Trio at Deep Fork. (Garett Fisbeck)


11. The Seafood Trio

The Seafood Trio at Deep Fork Grill, 5418 N. Western Ave., features New England Maine lobster, Baha 1620 prawns and Black sea bass served in a ciopinno fennel broth ($72 for two).

“The fresh lobster from Maine — not South Africa, where a lot of lobster comes from — makes this dinner-for-two quite special,” said Chris House, chef.

It’s accompanied by Sicilian cauliflower and broccoli sautéed with garlic and saffron in a white wine reduction. To drink, House recommends “a clear, dry Riesling to complement the delicate layers and textures of the dinner.”


 8-ounce filet steak at Flint. (Mark Hancock)

8-ounce filet steak at Flint. (Mark Hancock)


12. 8-ounce filet steak

The 8-ounce filet ($39) accompanied with potatoes and sautéed broccolini at Flint, 15 N. Robinson Ave., inside the Colcord Hotel, is the perfect celebration night dish. A bone- marrow demi-glace is gently poured over the steak with a touch extra on the side, said Colcord Manager Shawn Rogers.

“We choose our beef from high-quality, local Midwest farms,” Rogers said. “We lightly season our steaks … The flavor of the beef’s excellence should shine through.”

Follow this with the lemon curd tart with toasted meringue and sublime kiwi lime sauce ($7).



A frosty Lunch Box at Edna's.  (Mark Hancock)

A frosty Lunch Box at Edna’s. (Mark Hancock)


The Lunchbox

Edna’s, a venerable part of Oklahoma City’s barmuda triangle located at 5137 N. Classen Circle, has served “about 1.4 million Lunchboxes,” said bartender Susan Emberton.

Late owner Edna Scott created The Lunchbox ($5.50) years ago, and it quickly became her signature concoction. It’s Coors and orange juice mixed in a large beer mug with a shot glass of Amaretto dropped into it.


Ramos Gin Fizz at Whiskey Chicks. (Garett Fisbeck)

Ramos Gin Fizz at Whiskey Chicks. (Garett Fisbeck)


Ramos Gin Fizz

Whiskey Chicks, 115 E. Reno Ave., has its own secret specialty drink. Its Ramos Gin Fizz ($8), created by New Orleans bar owner Henry Ramos in the late 1800s, is rare in these parts.

“It’s not usually found in Oklahoma City because the drink takes a bit of time to make,” said Nick Hermes, bartender.


St. Germain cocktail at Martini Lounge. (Garett Fisbeck)

St. Germain cocktail at Martini Lounge. (Garett Fisbeck)


St. Germain cocktail

Even though the Martini Lounge at La Quinta Inn, 800 S. Meridian Ave., has martini in its name, it’s the perfect place for the St. Germain cocktail apéritif ($8.50).

“It’s pretty classy with a game of pool on the two pool tables in the bar’s side room,” said bartender Reanna Thompson.

Don’t laugh; she’s right. The pre-dinner libation mixes St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (made with hand- picked flowers), champagne, club soda and a lemon twist, giving it a slightly pink tint.

Print headline: Prized provisions, From The Lunchbox (made with Coors!) to Okie Poutine, Oklahoma Gazette shares food and drink trends and classics you should try right now.

Angela Botzer

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email with this story's headline in your subject line.

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