Cheevers is a little bit of a hidden gem found just off 23rd Street — an area in which you can buy gourmet cupcakes, start your next tattoo, and get a loan all on one block. Some people call it cozy, some call it cramped, but your day has nowhere to go but down after devouring the huge portions of chicken fried steak and their famed carrot cake. Before you leave, don’t forget to stuff the rest of the dinner rolls covered in sea salt butter and heaven in your purse for later.
2. The Mule
A Plaza District bar/restaurant combo, The Mule is perfect place to meet your family for dinner and then — hours later when you’re STILL there — go home with a hipster stranger who inevitably lives just a short fixed-gear bike ride away. While the drinks are perfectly delicious and there’s an overwhelming beer selection, it’s the gourmet sandwiches that keep us coming back night after drunken night. Nothing feels more Oklahoman than cramming jalapeño cornbread, BBQ pulled pork, and macaroni and cheese into your mouth all at the same time.
There’s basically no way anyone who lives in OKC hasn’t eaten at BTT. It’s conceivable that some haven’t been to the actual establishment, but with the most active food truck in the city, everyone has had it at some point. Offering fast but not fast-food Mexican to the OKC masses, BTT’s motto is “Saving the world, one taco at a time.” Their mission a noble one, we show our support by consuming large quantities of beer can chicken tacos and Mexican Coke.
Located in the freaking Bermuda Triangle that is Classen Circle, Edna’s is home to the legendary Lunchbox: a mix of OJ, light beer, and amaretto. Much like your first kiss, you never forget your first Lunchbox.
5. The Red Cup
TRC is a quirky coffee shop located in the Asian District that would be hard to find except there’s a giant red cup on the roof to let you know you’re probably on the right track. The interior is eclectic to say the least, with no two pieces of furniture, artwork, or even cups alike. Although the food menu features a divisive strictly vegetarian offering, even the most carnivorous OKC locals can agree that TRC has the best mocha milkshakes on the planet. For those 3 to 4 OKC snow days a year, the Sexi Mexi (a spicy mix of espresso, steamed milk, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chocolate) keeps the harsh criticism of OKC drivers’ ability to drive in said snow to a minimum.
Speaking of spicy, Ted’s is the absolute best place to get TexMex — a unique, cheese-covered quasi-Mexican cuisine that leaves actual Mexicans shaking their heads in disgust. The long wait at Ted’s is an agony-filled blur of mariachi music and parties of 10-plus, but nothing is sweeter than finally sitting down to an endless parade of chips, queso, salsa, and handmade tortillas.
For those of us still in mourning over the loss of Mad Men — or the days of misogyny and lava rock — R&J’s fills the hole in our old souls. A retro-style cocktail lounge, R&J’s is all about misplaced nostalgia with its low lighting, red velvet wallpaper, and dark leather seats. While most of its clientele wasn’t alive during the time of “Happy Hour” Don Draper-style, we can all pretend we were while sipping our Old Fashions to the indie songs of yesteryear (meaning 2013).
Centered around a large teepee (and no we don’t all live in teepees in Oklahoma) the Bleu Garten is the best place to enjoy the OKC summer nights. Just make sure to wait until the sun has gone down and the air has returned to a temperature that actually sustains life. The place has two badass bars, a constantly rotating group of gourmet food trucks, flatscreen TVs, and a host of games that are surprisingly fun as an adult — like oversized Jenga. Bleu Garten is relaxed enough to welcome all kinds, including dogs, which makes it the best spot for people watching this side of the Belle Aisle Walmart.
9. Café 501
Although the Classen Curve is normally populated by Edmond moms buying their $150 yoga sweaters or duvet covers that cost more than the average OKC monthly rent, Café 501 is a rare lunch spot worth potentially door-dinging a Maserati. The Coyote Crunch wrap is the best nod in the city to OKC’s sometimes inclusion into Southwest culture.
10. Sushi Neko
Sushi Neko is OKC’s most famous sushi place. This in itself is a pretty amazing feat, given that our state’s most notable relationship with fish involves sticking limbs into murky water in the hopes of catching a live one. Although not the most authentic of sashimi joints, most of us locals had our first non-Target sushi experience at Neko. It’s got all our normal favorite rolls like the Cowboy and Oklahoma Dynamite, but it’s the Red Canyon Roll — so messy it’s served in a shallow bowl — that keeps us battling the bitch that is parking on Western Avenue.
11. The Other Room
Love it or hate it, TOR is here to stay. A shotgun-style smoking bar, TOR is cramped as hell 9 times out of 10. In reality, none of us would name TOR as our favorite bar, and yet we continually end up here time and time again because it somehow always gets brought up as a suggestion for an evening out. If you can squeeze past security and hordes of people to make it to the back patio, the atmosphere is much less frenetic and you can enjoy your glass of perfectly fine Hippy Juice in peace. Bonus points if you see a certain Thunder player that’s rumored to frequent the place.
12. Michael’s Grill
It used to be that when we wanted to party like an Oklahoma oil baron, OKC residents would go to the 70s/80s oil exec hot spot Junior’s. However, for those of us that don’t subscribe to the “Drill, Baby, Drill” mindset, Michael’s Grill is slowly taking its place as the rightful owner of the title of best steak in OKC. There are several comparisons to Junior’s, like the Caesar salads (made tableside) and the refreshing after-dinner brandy ice, but the much more modern feel of Michael’s make it OKC’s best date night restaurant. Or possibly just special occasions, because no one escapes Michael’s without paying well over the average price per barrel of that precious black gold. But when the awesome staff, including the always present owner Michael himself, is tending to your every need as if you’re Aubrey McClendon himself, we willingly part with our real gold at the end of the night.
If you’re drunk and hungry — or you want to be — follow the Pink Elephant to one of the best pizza parlors/local beer selection in OKC. Get your bacon on with the Notorious P.I.G., or support the greatest basketball player of all time with the Brussel Westbrook.
Every Thursday evening, OKC residents dress up a little nicer, head downtown, and pretend that we will take advantage of the $5 dollar admission to OKC’s fantastic art museum during Art After 5. In reality, we all take the elevator straight up to the top floor and enjoy a boozy Happy Hour with a view of downtown and free chips and salsa. We’ll go see the Chihulys next week, we promise.
This might technically qualify as a fast-food chain, but don’t mention that to any of us. Nothing is bad at Braums. Nothing. Not the hamburgers, the crinkle fries, the ice cream, not even the cringe-inducing advertisements seemingly shot around the same time TV became a thing. Don’t ever change, Braums.