Heading to Oklahoma City soon? Trying to figure out the best places to eat? Whether you’re looking for a good, cheap cut of meat or a bacon and monterey jack strata (which is essentially bacon cake), we’ve got you covered right here with a list of the tastiest destinations to hit while you’re in town.
1309 S Agnew Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73108
This review of Cattlemen's Steakhouse originally appeared March 28, 2016.
Half of finding happiness is properly setting your expectations. You shouldn’t watch a Michael Bay movie and expect rich character development. You shouldn’t buy store-brand liquor and expect to wake up without a hangover. You also shouldn’t go to a steakhouse where the average steak costs $25 and expect the same beef you’d get at Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris for twice the price.
That’s the problem some people encounter when they go to a place like Cattlemen's, the Oklahoma City institution that originally opened in 1910 to serve the workers driving cattle into the nearby stockyards. If you think that $30.75 T-bone is going to taste like the one you got at your local red-velvet steakhouse for $59*, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. If you arrive with the proper expectations—a decent steak surrounded by kitschy decor and people who aren’t wearing cowboy hats ironically—you’ll leave smiling.
*I’m getting the bone-in ribeye at most of those places—with one notable exception**—but that isn’t an option on the Cattlemen’s menu.
** That would be Charley’s in Tampa and Orlando. It’s the home of the 20-ounce Fabulous Filet. One per loin. Two per steer. Order it rare. Thank me later.
Steak is the ultimate get-what-you-pay-for food. Restaurants make the slimmest profit margins on meat. At the prime steakhouses, they hope you load up on ridiculously priced sides or wine. At a place like Cattlemen's or its mass-appeal descendants Texas Roadhouse and Logan’s Roadhouse, they give you a salad and delicious bread and hope you load up appetizers and booze. At Cattlemen’s, they probably pray you order the lamb fries.
What’s a lamb fry? It’s a fried lamb testicle. I’d never eaten testicles of any kind before my visit to Cattlemen’s, so I have no basis for comparison. I can only surmise what happened based on the plate of heavily battered gonads and the miniature swimming pool of watery cocktail sauce set before us. Either these weren’t the most virile lambs or Cattlemen’s was heavily battering only tiny shards of lamb family jewels to goose the profitability of the $9.95 appetizer.
I should have skipped the lamb fries and offered to pay for extra rolls. Those were tremendous, especially when dipped in the juices of a T-bone. The steak was cooked exactly as I’d ordered it (rare, preferably still mooing) and simply seasoned. A good cut of beef doesn’t need much help, and the cooks at Cattlemen’s didn’t go crazy trying to coach up a steak that arrived with a near-perfect skill set.
Had I gone in expecting Mercedes performance at Ford prices, I may have left Cattlemen’s feeling shorted. Instead, I left with a story about testicles and a belly full of beef. These days, that’s pretty much all I could expect for less than $50.
Kitchen No. 324
324 N Robinson Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102
This review of Kitchen No. 324 originally appeared March 21, 2016.
Sometimes, it’s best to explain things to me as if I’m a six-year-old. As I stared at the menu at Kitchen No. 324 on Saturday morning, the entry for “Bacon and Monterey Jack Strata” didn’t exactly jump off the page. The price ($7.99) didn’t suggest anything out of the ordinary. The additional info (thyme béchamel, crispy potatoes) didn’t offer any extra clues. I’m not a brunch person—why combine two perfectly good meals?—so I had no idea what “strata” meant beyond the geological definition. Fortunately, my server saved me from what would have been a tragic ordering omission.
“It’s essentially bacon cake,” she said.
A more accurate definition might be bacon bread pudding. As I learned Saturday, strata is what the brunchies call a layered casserole. Replace the bread with eggs, and it would be a quiche. But for neanderthals such as myself, Bacon Cake would be a perfectly acceptable menu descriptor. And $20 would be a perfectly acceptable price, because the hunk I received made for the best breakfast I’d eaten all year.
Back when I was writing my Heaven is a Buffet blog, I handed down two commandments. The first of these was this: There is nothing on earth that can’t be improved by adding a few slabs of bacon. This includes cake. The salty-sweet combination snapped me out of the zombie state I’d been in since filing a column about Paul Jesperson’s halfcourt buzzer-beater seven hours earlier. That that wonderful server offered another piece of advice.
“You should try just the bacon,” she said. Yes, America. Angels do exist.
For an additional $4.50, she brought a plate covered by thick slabs of McCabe’s small-batch bacon. Imagine an only-slightly-thinner version of the bacon steaks served as an appetizer at your favorite $200-a-visit velvet-walled steakhouse. Then add a kiss of sweetness on the front end. Bacon cake may capture the imagination, but perfect bacon still owns the tastebuds.
Because I can’t help myself, I also ordered a biscuit with Chorizo gravy. I have a complicated relationship with Chorizo. I love it every time we’re reunited. This is especially true when said Chorizo is served atop a warm, flaky biscuit nestled in a pool of gravy loaded with chunks of even more Chorizo. I savored every bite even though I knew how angrily it would sit in my stomach for the rest of the day. This ensuing pain wasn’t Kitchen No. 324’s fault. It wasn’t the Chorizo’s fault. It was my fault for not being made of strong enough stuff to withstand the strength of the Iberian peninsula’s version of hot guts. As I labored in the gym to sweat out the bacon, the bacon cake and the Chorizo biscuit and gravy, I cursed my inferior construction.
Eventually, my stomach settled. The curses stopped, and only the happy memories remained. That’s when I offered up thanks for the angels who guide us toward the finest parts of the pig.