O-K-L-A etc
July 29, 2010 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm headed to Oklahoma City for a conference in September, and have a few days extra to explore. Seeking travel recommendations - details inside!

Excited to visit OK and check off my 39th state in my quest to visit all 50. The trip is Sept 19-25. I'd love to hear about special things I should be sure to see and do while in Oklahoma City - I have checked old threads but there isn't anything too recent or very general. Some of my travel interests:

-Unique local food, all ethnicities, Roadfood-type selections especially
-Great bakeries or speciality food shops
-Interesting arty/funky neighborhoods to walk around in
-Places to hear live music
-Secondhand or vintage shops
-Classic local-type experiences that couldn't be had anyplace else

Since I'm going for a museum conference, I've pretty much got the museum scene covered, so I'm looking for things to do in downtime and on my extra days (Sunday evening, Monday, Tuesday).

Also, I'm kind of interested in buying a pair of cowboy boots, if there's a good place to do that.
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around Oklahoma City, OK (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should have added music and dancing to my wish list - old-time music, contra/square or swing dancing...
posted by Miko at 7:20 AM on July 29, 2010

The Paseo Arts District is interesting to walk around in; there are quite a few art galleries and restaurants there. Bricktown (warning: music auto-start) is the place to go for live music, although it might be a little, uh, frat boy chic. Coffee Slingers is a great place to get coffee. Cheever's Cafe is a really good local restaurant that serves "contemporary comfort food". The Wedge serves great brick oven pizzas and has good beer. Speaking of beer, you should try Choc Beer, which is brewed in Oklahoma.
posted by neushoorn at 7:50 AM on July 29, 2010

I'm not in OKC often so I don't have great answers, but you could check out Bricktown. There are a lot of bars and restaurants there along a man-made canal, along with the local minor league baseball stadium.

The Conservatory is a good place to see bands play, as is the Diamond Ballroom.

I like Tokyo Sushi, but it's not exactly road food. If you have more time, you should drive down Route 66 to Tulsa (not the turnpike), stopping at Pops and the Round Barn.
posted by hilaritas at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2010

Wow, you just saved me a question. I'm also going to OKC for a conference in September (but not the same one). Thanks! :)
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 8:15 AM on July 29, 2010

The OK Gazette is putting together the annual best of list. It final list hasn't yet been posted, but the lists of top five restaurants by category are up. Also, Eat Around OKC is a good local restaurant blog.

Some other local places in and around OKC: the 100 year old Cattlemens' Steakhouse in the Stockyard City section of town, Big Truck Tacos near the Capitol, Mama E's soul food restaurant, and Eichens Bar in Okarche (its about 30 minutes NW of town but its a neat experience if you have the time).

If you have an interest in burgers, you should try an onion burger while you're in town. They were invented up the road in El Reno, so there are lots of purveyors in town (see Bunny's or Bricktown Burgers among others).

Another good place to see music in town is The Blue Door.
posted by Joe Schlabotnik at 8:36 AM on July 29, 2010

go with joe as your tour guide. if you go to eischen's after 6 expect a wait and it is basically a lurk for a table place, not a maitre d' or even hostess kind of place. we like to go around 4 30 to beat the rush and still get the great vibe of a packed house as it fills up later on. last time we had two groups get into a bidding war of our table. the husband swears the chicken is best with red beer - a pitcher of beer with tomato juice on the side. mix as you wish.

1492 is pretty cool and has really really yummy queso.

i would guess there is a good place to buy cowboy boots in the area around the stockyards but i don't have a personal recommendation - unless you are looking for steel toes which i doubt.

the area around the wedge, suggested above, has some cute independent shops. sort of spread out over a few blocks though.

pick up a copy of the aforementioned OK gazette - they are free in lots of restaurants and other places. they will have a listing of all live music shows etc going on.

www.okctalk.com good local blog that might give you some ideas. some real okc history buffs on there.
posted by domino at 9:00 AM on July 29, 2010

Spent my first 23 years living there!

Oklahoma is a grid system where the E-W streets are numbered north and south, with Reno, going right through the heart of downtown, as "zero." The N-S streets are named, but this should help give you an idea of where to go. The main part of the city is bordered on all four sides by I-35 to the E, I-44 to the West, I-40 to the South and NW Expressway and a few other major streets to the north. You really don't need to go too far out of this square for fun, unless you want to explore the country a bit, in which case Eischen's chicken fried steak is legendary. You might also consider a day trip to Lawton and the Wichita Mountains to see Geronimo's grave, eat a bison burger at Meers and see real living buffalo and elk in the federal wildlife refuge. It's beautiful and there's plenty of hiking if you like that.

The Paseo is good for an arts district. From there it's not far to North Western and 50th, where there are lots of hip bars (see also Classen and the high 30s) and some cool shops. Cattlemans will be the best steak you've ever had in your life. (Not that this should sell you but it's George Bush Sr.'s favorite restaurant in America.)

The area around N. May and 10-16th streets have my favorite antiquing and junk shopping. Memory Market, on the south -eat corner of May and 10th has more records that you can count and is run by some comic book nerds who are always sitting around talking about inane shit. Antique Co-op on 16th and May is my all-time favorite antique store in the world. in between the two there are plenty of other small shops.

The area just NW of downtown is growing a lot lately. Near Classen and 12th there is an old building that now houses a number of resuatrants, bars and shops.
posted by Brittanie at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2010

Hey, I'm calling half the Sept 25th contra in OKC -- you want Scissortail for folk dance and music stuff. As you'll see from that calendar, there's English country dance (where I might also call, although prob not if I'm doing the contra) on the 23rd, too. I'm an art history prof/curator at Oklahoma State, too.

Let's organize a meetup, or maybe have dinner before one of the dances?

As far as cool districts go, Paseo has the galleries, for sure -- One Penn Place has the best bookstore (Full Circle) in town; it often has live music (and has free wifi). Sean Cummings (Irish pub) also has live music of the Irish/folky variety fairly frequently...

The Wedge is good pizza; Big Truck is good tacos; Cafe do Brasil is good Brazilian; Classen Grill is good breakfasts if you like that sort of thing; Red Cup is *the* coffee shop (and has free wifi). I don't recommend Bricktown unless you enjoy generic and touristy, apologies to the person above who suggested it.

I know you said you had galleries/museums covered, but Artspace at [Untitled] (I always get those brackets around the wrong word) is a simply amazing space, in addition to doing great shows.

And, memail me for more, or my phone number, or whatever!
posted by obliquicity at 2:52 PM on July 29, 2010

105degrees is the first raw food restaurant in the whole state (music on/off toggle in lower left quadrant of the page)
posted by unknowncommand at 5:51 PM on July 29, 2010

Shepler's is a good place to buy cowboy boots. The OKC Bombing Memorial is very moving, especially at night. It does have a museum so that may already be on your agenda.
posted by tamitang at 7:32 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Let's organize a meetup, or maybe have dinner before one of the dances?

Absolutely! I don't want to miss the opportunity to meet the OK MeFites. Count on hearing from me!

And thanks all for these wonderful responses. You know just the kind of thing I'm after. Looking forward to discovering this city!
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on July 29, 2010

Oklahoma City has the best antique shops (the good ones that are big and cheap and full of weird stuff) of any city I've been to. They're kind of scattered throughout the city but there are a lot up and down Western Avenue.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2010

Wow, sorry, just stumbled across this. You're not here yet, right?

Walking neighborhoods
Bricktown is almost all tourist bait, but you may be pulled down there anyway. If you are, you might as well poke your head in at the Red Dirt Emporium for concentrated souvenir shopping. Otherwise, stick with the Paseo or Western Avenue for your strolls. (OKC is not a big public-transportation community, although they're perpetually trying to change that.) If you do go to Cattleman's Steakhouse (and you should), you can poke around the several Western-wear shops in the Stockyard District for boots. This used to be OKC's tourist area twenty years ago, but it's adjacent to active cattle-trading and can get mildly aromatic when the wind is right. This is considered healthy.

Specialty food shops
Forward Foods. On that antique-y stretch on Western Avenue that you've already been pointed to, the best place in the city to get local/organic products. Great, great stuff. In about 15 months, Oklahoma's first full-scale Whole Foods is scheduled to open three blocks away, so get there before they're crushed. The supermarket-sized Super Cao Nguyen is the heart of OKC's goodish-sized Vietnamese community (with a couple of pleasant tea and pho shops upstairs); and there are several Mexican import markets scattered around. (I'd try NW 23rd, where you'll find the bakery / hot food counter at Mercados Morelos and the Feria Latina supermarket.) And if dried meat appeals to you at all, do not miss the possibly unique Beef Jerky Emporium.

Road Food
obliquity and Joe Schlabotnik made some good calls above (Red Cup!). If you're in the mood for Indian, there's the buffet at Khazana, or incredibly tasty newcomer Kabob-n-Curry. Just as new, obscure, store-fronty, and delicious is Cajun King (the white beans, fried chicken, and complimentary catfish almondine are amazing). As you'd expect from cattle country, Oklahoma City knows hamburgers: Bunny's onion burgers, the sausage cheeseburger at Ron's, the No-Name at Irma's Burger Shack. For atmospheric barbecue, there's Leo's. There are a few regional chains you might look into: since the tragic demise of Kaiser's, Braum's is probably your best bet for ice cream. Rudy's is an extremely deft rip-off of the legendary Texas Hill Country barbecue joints - if you're not going to be in Austin anytime soon, Rudy's is the next best thing. And the aforementioned Vietnamese community means OKC is about the only city outside of California to sport a Lee's Sandwiches.

Local experiences
I hesitate to mention this, but you're arriving in the middle of the Oklahoma State Fair (auto-playing music). I haven't been since I used to call the quiz bee ten years ago, but... if you like that sort of thing, perhaps that's the sort of thing you would like.

And there should definitely be a meetup.
posted by ormondsacker at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm kind of interested in buying a pair of cowboy boots, if there's a good place to do that.

Langston's has an excellent selection of boots; will also serve your cowboy hat needs.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:01 PM on August 30, 2010

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