Coriander Cafe

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.


LIVE On The Plaza

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

Inca Trail

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.

Whiskey Chicks

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.

Catfish Cove in Yukon, Oklahoma

Hello All! Your friendly restaurant reviewer  has been extra busy with his real job this week, so he asked me to contribute a post so this blog doesn’t get all lonely and forgotten. And considering that I am his wife and eat with him at most of the restaurants he plans to review, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

To any who don’t know me, my name is Heather. I love good food almost as much as my husband does, and I do most of the cooking around here (trying to live up to his high standards! – HA!) I may even add some posts later on about some of my favorite recipes.

So I’m going to talk today about a little place in Yukon called Catfish Cove. (There is also a location in Moore that we haven’t tried). It’s nothing fancy, but we enjoyed it a couple of weeks ago and it seems that a lot of people have never heard of it. Basically it’s an all-you-can-eat catfish buffet. I know, not exactly culinary arts. But they have a simple idea and they do it well.

Catfish Cove is open Thursday and Friday for dinner, Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sundays for lunch. They definitely stay busy during their limited hours, but we had no trouble getting a table right away on a Saturday evening.

The buffet is priced according to age, with youngsters and senior citizens receiving a discount. Our son got to eat free since he’s under 3 — always a bonus at any restaurant! The base price covers the salad bar, main buffet, and a dessert buffet. On Saturday nights there’s an additional option for all-you-can-eat crab legs — we didn’t indulge in these when we went, but saw a lot of people enjoying them.

Ok, on to the food. It’s really just what you would expect. There’s a large cold salad bar with all the basic veggies and other toppings plus a broccoli salad and coleslaw. Peel and eat shrimp are also available from this area, kept chilled. While there was nothing particularly stand-out about the salad bar, I will say that everything appeared fresh. I ate some of the peel and eat shrimp and was surprised at how good it was, considering this dish is often overly fishy for me.

The hot bar had, of course, CATFISH. It was crunchy and well seasoned; everything I want from catfish. Also available were fried shrimp, chicken strips, hush puppies, corn fritters, green beans, fried okra, pinto beans, and multiple other sides. Everything was hot and fresh and I saw servers refilling the bar multiple times.

Another plus were the baked and sweet potato bars. Both potato varieties were available, with all the traditional topping for each. Load up a potato with bacon, cheese, green onions, etc., from the salad bar and add in some sour cream and plenty of butter from the condiments area. Or put brown sugar, cinnamon, and other toppings on a sweet potato. Both looked like great options, but I had too much to handle just with the other selections!

It’s an odd thing to say, but I was probably most excited that there was a decent remoulade in the condiments section, alongside the expected cocktail and tartar sauces. I’m not a fan of either of those old standbys, and having the remoulade to dip my seafood in really made the whole meal for me.

Finally, definitely save room for the dessert. There were a few types of cake cobblers available, and each were good but not great. The real treat here is the homemade vanilla ice cream. Pile it on your favorite cobbler, or add some chocolate sauce or caramel to make a sundae. The ice cream on its own tastes just like my mom and grandma always made on the Fourth of July.

I really enjoyed our meal at Catfish Cove. I can’t tell you it will change your life, but if you’re like me and grew up loving fish fries and restaurants that knew how to do it right, this place is worth a visit. For me it’s really comfort food, and sometimes that’s just what I’m craving! I think I enjoyed the meal more than my husband. He didn’t have any complaints about the place, it’s just not his favorite type of food. It’s was a good place to get a decent meal close to home and I’m sure we will be back.

Have any of you visited Catfish Cove? What were your thoughts? Are there other restaurants like this that we should try? Let us know what you think!

Catfich Cove

Catfich Cove

Fried Goodness

Fried Goodness

El Reno Onion Fried Burger Day

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.

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