Show of hands. Who thinks this should start back up?
Two years ago something fantastic happened; Norman got (good) pho.
If you don’t know about pho, now would be a good time to check out my previous lectures.
Coriander Cafe on Campus Corner is the brain child of Owner Christopher Lê and Chef Jeremiah Caldwell, and when I am working in the Norman area I now know that I can get reliably good Vietnamese fare.
While I have almost always had good luck with pho in Oklahoma City, it seemed that none of the attempts being made in Norman were working out.
Coriander can be found at the northwest end of the Campus Corner area, at White and Buchanan; unlike most of its raucous neighbors, Coriander is notably calm, a good place to slow down.
The menu here is simple, but well executed.
You start by deciding between five choices; bahn mi sandwich, rice bowl, pho, lettuce wrap, or vermicelli noodle salad. Then select from nine or so meats (or tofu). Voila, your meal is on its way.
If you are the type of person that desires appetizers, they can help you there as well. Springs rolls, both the cold kind and the fried kind, are always a good bet, as well as their shredded green papaya salad with mango.Two dollars more adds shrimp to that salad, making it a meal in its own right.
They offer several teas and coffees, including large mugs of Ca Phe Sua Da, and even a few domestic beers, if you so choose.
The quality of the food has always been good, probably because of the care they take when selecting their ingredients. Many of their meats are sourced from Artisan’s Pride, right in Norman, and their Tofu is made in Oklahoma City, by Thanh-Son Tofu, so everything is always fresh.
This is one of the few places in the area where you can find both vegetarian and true vegan menu options, clearly stated and without fuss, as well.
Coriander is open every day but Sunday, for both lunch and dinner.
If you are looking for good pho south of the metro, or just want to try something new, I can say with confidence that you will have a good meal, timely service, friendly staff, a casual atmosphere, and pho(od) that can’t be beat.
I don’t like to be negative when I am writing about food. If it’s bad, I just won’t write about it. I will, however, say that although there are currently two places to eat Vietnamese on Campus Corner, I only eat at one of them.
If you disagree, let me know why. I always like to hear people’s thoughts on food.
Find out more at Coriander Cafe’s Website.
If you have been on Sixteenth Street any time in the last few years, you might think that this trendy little spot had been here a while.
The buildings and shops have the feel that they are well settled, even comfortable; but just a short while ago this neighborhood was all but dead.
They like to call the former state of the strip a blight, and I was inclined to agree. A couple of convenience stores, an old coin-op laundromat, and the defunct Plaza Theatre dominated what was otherwise a series of abandoned store fronts.
This area was an urban hub for Oklahoma City dating back to the twenties, but with age, fell from grace. It wasn’t until the late nineties that a group of entrepreneurial spirits joined forces and formed the non-profit Plaza District Association.
It took quite some time for the ball to get rolling on what many thought to be an insurmountable task, but through years of hard work, they gathered the support of their community and brought about cultural renaissance uncharacteristic of such decayed urban landscapes.
Today you will find more than a dozen shops and art galleries, a dance studio, hair salon, tattoo parlor, several restaurants, and the newly renovated Lyric Theater on the Plaza.
From hooligan hang-out to hipster hub, the 16th Street Plaza at Blackwelder has a new face and a new lease on life.
A great place to visit any day of the month, you definitely won’t want to miss their LIVE on the Plaza event which takes place every second Friday of the month.
Every month seems to bring its own theme. From sidewalk chalk murals to summer picnicking, they have been going for more than six months now without missing a second Friday.
A whirlwind of people and activity, prepare for live music both indoors and out, wine tastings at the local winery, Urban Wineworks, art shows and demonstrations, and plenty of food.
The LIVE event brings with it the ever sought after food truck meet-up, a rarity in Oklahoma City.
Expect a showing from one of Big Truck Tacos so-named trucks, as well as many other local favorites.
This month gave me a chance to try out a recent, and delicious, addition to our city’s line-up, Taste of Soul Eggrolls. Homemade egg rolls for every taste, occasion, and time of day.
The Bly family hand-wraps their own egg rolls, making everything from the traditional meat and cabbage to a vegetarian mixed veggie, one stuffed with chicken fried rice, dessert rolls, and though they didn’t have them that evening, be on the lookout for their original breakfast egg rolls (think breakfast burritos in a crispy wrapper).
A great time to come hang out with a good group of locally minded people, it is also a family and pet friendly event. This summer they started scheduling kids activities, such as water balloon tosses, as well.
LIVE on the Plaza is a fantastic showcase for local artists and business owners, showing off art, vintage clothing, hand-made boutique gifts, and more.
The Guatamalan Imports shop has a pretty good food counter in the back of the store, where they will fix you up something traditional.
Saints bar has an amazing menu with authentic Irish food that goes way beyond your typical Irish novelty pub.
Urban Wineworks even has an outdoor patio where they grill up some great food.
Another restaurant is soon to open on the Plaza, a gourmet sandwich shop/hangout spot, known only as The Goat. Scheduled to open in mid-September, the owners have been working furiously to get the place ready. Keep an eye out for open house events.
The 16th Street Plaza is also the home of Keep It Local OKC. If you are a card holder, it can be used at many of the shops here, as well as around the OKC metro. If you aren’t a card holder, then you better get one, because you are missing some of the best deals this city has to offer.
So feel free to pop into the Plaza at NW 16th and Blackwelder any time (I’m sure they will appreciate it), but don’t miss out on LIVE on the Plaza for great food, music, art, and people.
Keep up with LIVE, the Plaza District Association, and all of the events on the Plaza at plazadistrict.org.
I have only recently been introduced to Peruvian food, but I am already a devotee.
I have had other South American cuisines and have always enjoyed them, but Peruvian cuisine has one thing that sets it apart. In most other South American food you can see two major influences; the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors bringing their style and flair from Europe, and the long history of African Slaves brought across the ocean, all seasoned by the available native ingredients.
Peruvian food most definitely incorporates these aspects into their food, but they also have Chifa. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many immigrants from China settled in the capital, Lima, and its environs, seeking work. They brought with them all of the technique and recipes of their homeland, but not their ingredients. Just as they did here in the U.S., they improvised.
Chifa is the term given to the cross of Peruvian and Chinese foods, and is strongly supported by the Peruvian government as a defining aspect of their culture.
If you read most anything I have written before, you have probably discerned that two of my favorite things to dine on are Central/South American (not tex-mex) and Asian. This is the perfect blending of the two. Now I just want to know why no one told me about this sooner.
I have recently tried a few different Peruvian establishments, but my first, and still favorite, was Inca Trail on North May Avenue.
Immigrants themselves, the owners of Inca Trail came here seeking opportunity, and judging by the number of people eating here each time I visit, I believe they may have found it.
It is very difficult for me to decide what to tell you about without this post turning into a play-by-play of the entire menu, but I will do my best.
If I had to choose a place to start, it would probably be with the Palta Rellena. A whole avocado, peeled, pitted, and split in two and then stuffed with a cold chicken salad consisting of shredded chicken, corn, peas, carrots, and mayonnaise. This was surprisingly good.
One of the restaurants specialties is Pollo a la Brasa, a charcoal roasted chicken slathered in South American seasonings, and I have an (unconfirmed) suspicion that some version of this, or at least that seasoning, is used in the chicken salad.
One of my favorite entrees, so far, has been the Lomo Saltado. A very common Peruvian Dish, and a good standard for comparison, this dish is reasonably simple, delightfully flavored, and a good example of Chifa. Strips of sirloin steak, or chicken should you choose, stir fried with tomatoes, onions, and red bell peppers in a garlic soy sauce, and white steamed rice.
Traditionally, Lomo Saltado would come with large potato wedges. Here they use thick cut French fries, but I will forgive them, because when mixed into the rest of the dish they add just the right amount of starch to balance the dish. Sweet, salty, and savory all at once.
Another dish I would suggest is their Tacu Tacu. A mix of rice and refried beans stir fried and formed into a thin patty, accompanying a grilled sirloin steak with spicy criolla sauce, and fried plantains.
Some people I know are not fans, but any restaurant that serves fried plantains has pretty much won my heart before I go in the door.
They also serve a wide variety of seafood dishes, with a special section of the menu set aside for ceviche, another dish native to Peru.
The restaurant itself is decorated in Peruvian and Incan designs, and a full wall mural Machu Picchu and the jungles of the Andes mountains. A calm atmosphere pervades this restaurant, and is only amplified the overwhelming hospitality of the owners themselves.
And if you’re lucky, they will bring out a bowl of their chicken soup before your food arrives.
Good as a quick-lunch spot or as a nice dinner out, I give Inca Trail my full recommendation.
If you have any other recommendations of places or foods for me to try, or know of any more Peruvian places around Oklahoma (I’ve already been to a few), then let me know.
Getting back to it, I have to apologize for being gone so long. The site was put on hiatus while I decided its future. A lot of people asked about it, so we’re back, and I have a lot to tell you about.
One major impetus for returning to writing was that I made a promise to the owner Whiskey Chicks that I would write about him and his restaurant. Before heading to this Bricktown hot spot I knew very little about the place or what they would have to offer. Taking over what Roosters Fried Chicken left behind for them, they have completely redone everything from the style, to the food, to the bar itself, and they have done well with it.
Some friends invited me out one evening to celebrate the birthday of an old friend from work. I asked where we were going and everyone insisted on Whiskey Chicks. I turned up my nose at first, based only on the previous owners. I am, sadly, not a fried chicken man. But when I arrived and met up with everyone at the bar, I was pleasantly surprised.
Where I had anticipated fried chicken and cheap beer, I was surprised to find an amazing drink list that was overseen by two of the best bartenders in town. Doling out classics and new concoctions alike, they won my heart right away.
One of my favorite mixed drinks is the Sidecar, and while it is an amazingly simple drink to mix, a lot of people get it wrong. If you can’t mix the basics, why bother with the fancy stuff. These guys did it right the first time, didn’t try to make me one of those terrible Chelsea variants (with gin), and immediately understood my incredulity when handing me the drink.
I looked sideways at my glass the first time, as I am so often let down, and the bartender caught it immediately. “The classic drink guys always think I’m going to do it wrong. Go ahead and try it,” he said. And it turns out he knew exactly what he was doing.
That bartender turned out to be Kevin McCracken, the owner/operator of Whiskey Chicks, pulling double duty and doing it well.
He took us on a tour of his well rounded drink list, and while I still love my classic, their Feckin Honey Old Fashioned, mixed traditionally and then muddled with Irish honey, was a definite winner.
Their beer list isn’t half bad either, with lots of local beers on tap, including my current favorite Coop DNR. Their bottle selection was also surprisingly well rounded that evening with several unusual offerings, including Lindemaan’s Framboise.
Already impressed with the place as “just a bar” we almost left to eat elsewhere before Kevin pulled us back in with his delicious food menu. He had overheard me mentioning a few other places that focused on locally based ingredients, such as Local or Ludivine, and he pointed out that he too had a focus on local.
Sourcing as many ingredients as possible, he and his staff make multiple runs each week to local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as using only Oklahoma raised beef.
What seemed like typical “bar food” turned out to be carefully planned and prepared recipes with a definite originality and flair. I started with the chicken nachos, which come out as six individual nachos covered with cheddar, chicken, home-made pico-guacamole, and grilled jalapeños on over sized tortilla chips made in house.
Already tasting great, they didn’t stop there. I also had their take on the common Asian salad, which comes with seasoned grilled asparagus for an added crunch. The Whiskey Chick Burger and the Chick’n Club are also worth a try if you are in the mood for something a little heartier.
The bar itself was something of note, as it is the old bar and bar top from the Prohibition Room which sadly closed last year. Any of you wishing for fond remembrances of your Gold Domed hang out should come find it here.
I can’t say enough about the staff here either. They managed to be pleasant and easy to get along with, while still getting their jobs done. That is unheard of in some restaurants in this town. They took good care of us all night, with quick and accurate service, and no (visible) irritation at my barrage of questions.
We went on a Friday night and so were treated to a local blues-rock act that fit the atmosphere of the place perfectly.
If you are looking for a good hang out spot in OKC, or just want to bar hop in Bricktown, this is definitely the place to be, and be sure to tell them I gave them a thumbs up.
Unless you want greasy fried chicken and cheap domestic beer. Then go somewhere else.
Last Friday, I finally got to attend, and eat at, the Night Market at H(udson) & 8th street.
This was a first for me, as my previous attempts had ended with me getting there too late in the evening and everyone being sold out already.
H & 8th is a monthly meet-up for food trucks from around the Oklahoma City area, hosted by Elemental Coffee.
The event takes place on the street outside of Elemental’s shop, and combines drinks and coffee from them, with food from several trucks, live music, adult beverages, and a chance to enjoy the outdoors.
Originally plagued by legal problems, stemming from the inability of the Oklahoma City government to issue proper permits, and a surprise raid by police and health inspectors after the city informed the police of their own mistake. All of those issues have since been resolved, out of court, and the relationship is much more amicable.
You can be assured all of the food here is safe to eat thanks to a health inspector that attends each gathering, and you will be safe now that the city police provide officers to maintain the street closure and safety of patrons.
Now it’s just good, wholesome, family fun.
I suggest getting there early, because as I have found out in the past, they can sell out quick.
This is also a good way to keep up on local food trends as many of the new trucks popping up in town have made this a proving ground for their businesses.
The April event hosted a total five food trucks, a fairly average gathering, so there is definitely something for everyone, no matter how picky you are.
Wild Al’s Barbecue, Roxy’s Ice Cream Social, and Wok Stop all made appearances, along with an egg roll truck and a Nathan’s Hotdogs vendor.
Wok Stop provides a broad selection of Chinese food favorites, simple and quick; they give you a lot of food for your money.
For ease of preparation on their end, all of the dishes are made with chicken so they can mix and match sauces and ingredients at will.
Be aware that some of their dishes, like the Kung Pao Chicken, can be pretty hot, so be sure to tell them if you prefer your food a bit less spicy.
Wild Al’s brought a whole different experience, providing some totally different dishes than what you would expect from a barbecue truck.
We had to try both the Pulled Pork Sundae, and the Southwest BBQ Quesadilla.
The sundae was made of two large dollops of mashed potatoes covered in pulled pork and a pork gravy, served with artisan bread. As the first meat and potatoes sundae I’ve ever had, I have to say it was a rousing success and definitely one of a kind.
The quesadilla was also tasty; a mix of spicy pulled pork, onions, bell peppers, and jack cheese, topped with a chipotle sauce.
Unfortunately, we missed out on the “Italian” Sandwich, roast beef and au jus with Italian seasonings on a baguette style roll, but it looked pretty good as well.
Roxy’s was the hit of the party for my son.
A very distinct truck, you know right away that Roxy’s is bringing the home-made ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. Even my two-year old son could tell, and we were the first in line when they opened, because he might have died if he hadn’t gotten some of the ice cream soon.
We managed to try the pecan, coconut, and strawberry ice creams, and we were impressed by all three. not only was it good quality ice cream, it actually contained the ingredients for which the flavors were named.
The event takes place on the last Friday of each month, with a slightly different line of vendors every time, so you have to keep coming back. There is no charge to attend and hang out, but be sure to bring food money.
Also, be sure to come on inside Elemental Coffee and give a try to some of their lattes, cappuccino, espresso, or plain old black coffee. Elemental roasts all their own beans and blends in-house for a taste that is unique to Oklahoma City.
Some of the best coffee around and definitely better than that Starbucks joe.
If you are looking for something a little more serious, adult beverages are provided by a number of different vendors, with regular appearances by locals Coop Ale Works and the Belle Isle Brewery.
Just around the corner at H & 7th is Ludivine, with both their restaurant and full service bar open every evening and warmly welcoming all Night Market visitors.
I also want to give a special shout out to Chris Morrison for providing live music, keeping my son entertained, and evening adding his name a song.
In all, a lot of fun for me, my family, and my friends. We will definitely be going back, and I encourage everyone to attend the next market on May 25th.
El Reno’s Onion Fried Burger Day is this Saturday, May 5th. Come on out and try the original onion burgers in the town that started them. Be sure to stick around and see the world’s largest onion fried hamburger, almost 1500 pounds, and try to try a piece of something you won’t find anywhere else. The burger is served around 1:00 p.m.
For details and updates go to http://elrenoburgerday.wordpress.com/ and show them some wordpress love.