OKC Faves Places i dig in Oklahoma city

It's no secret that I hate this state. Oklahoma is the epitome of red states. Not one single county has voted for a democrat in the last three elections. This place is so conservative it makes Ted Cruz look liberal. But as backassward as this state is, Oklahoma City is really kind of coming along nicely. I'm not talking about civic and municipal projects. The city and state are in deep debt because the conservatives collected virtually no taxes from the oil industry when it was booming. That left gaping holes in the coffers.

No, what I'm talking about it private investment in restaurants and other locations.

OKC is all about sprawl. It is the second largest city in the country in terms of square miles. Lack of investment in the downtown and midtown areas sent the population fleeing to areas like Edmond, Yukon, Piedmont, and Choctaw. Because those areas were undeveloped farmland, the houses are all shiny and new. That means there weren't established neighborhoods that foster culture and community. When there's no identity, there's no sense of community. No sense of community means you don't have local investment in the area. And all that leads to a takeover of national chains. WalMart, Applebees, Olive Garden, Home Depot, and Red Lobster rule the suburbs.

But then came the 1990's and our savior. OKC couldn't pass a bond issue to save it's life in the 70's and 80's. It took a mayor named Ron Norick to convince the population what could be built if they'd just pass those damn bond issues and sales tax increases. He was able to sell it like no other mayor. The result was MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects Plan). MAPS turned the once dismal, and dangerous, downtown into a tourist hell. But that tourist hell brings in good money for the city. It also brought in an NBA franchise and other projects that turned this city into something other than a piss-stop for truckers.

When MAPS re-energized the city, those crappy neighborhoods around downtown and midtown started to see life again. And with that life came local investment. You still see those national chains in the suburbs, but when you get to the heart of OKC, all you see are local establishments that really identify each area. There are so many great places in this city, it's hard to name them all. So, I thought I'd just list a few of my favorites.

AUTOMOBILE ALLEY

Schlegel Bicycles, 900 N. Broadway Ave. (405) 232-4040

Ok, so I'm a little biased about Schlegel's. I grew up with Steve Schlegel so I'm kind of obligated to buy all my biking gear from his store. But even though I'm biased, Schlegel's really is the premier store in Oklahoma City. No one even comes close to the customer service or high end products at this business. Ask for Steve Swanson if you need sales advice or Marty Buchanan for service.

Iguana Grill, 9 NW 9th (405) 606-7172

You have to get passed the attitude when dining here, but this place has been a staple in OKC for years. Originally on N. Western Ave in the wealthy Nichols Hills area, they closed down and moved to Automobile Alley in the early 2000s.

The food is always good and the service is mediocre (that's a compliment for OKC).

Twisted Spike Brewing Company, 1 NW 10th, (405) 301-3467

I first hit this place on our annual Santa Pub Run last year. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, I had consumed way too much COOP F5 so I can't tell you much about this place other than it is based on the railway, hence the name.

CHURCH ROW

Packards, 201 NW 10th St (405) 605-3771

I loved Packards the first time I walked into this place. It doesn't hurt that the rooftop is one of the best places in OKC either! The menu changes by season (summer/winter) and the food has always been spectacular. Try the Lentil Curry. It has a great kick and you won't even notice it's vegetarian.

ASIA DISTRICT

Red Cup, 3122 N Classen Blvd (405) 525-3430

Don't let the stench of patchouli and un-showered hippies scare you off. Although, I would be leery of the homeless guy that hangs out on the patio grabbing his crotch! With a revamped menu (And revamped prices! Yikes!), this place has put together a great menu even if the place is more than slightly granola!

MIDTOWN

Elemental, 815 N Hudson Ave (405) 604-9766

This is another establishment where I have a personal connection. I grew up with the owner, Laura Messenat, and the general manager, Elena, is one of my best friends. Laura grabbed Elena from the Wedge Pizzeria where she had developed a spectacular menu. Elena brought that same creative flow to Elemental where she created dishes like the Smokie Dokie, a tofu wrap with daikon carrots and a spicy bbq-ish sauce, and the Joan Rivers, a vegetarian take on a Reuben with tempe, sauerkraut, and Daiya cheese. Hit them up for breakfast and get the tofu-scrambled tacos too!

FARMERS MARKET

The Loaded Bowl, 1211 SW 2nd St, (405) 820-9599

The Loaded Bowl started as a vegan food truck. When they because hugely successful, they opened up a physical location in the up and coming Farmer's Market district. The entire menu is vegetarian/vegan so don't get too excited by the items you see in the pic above if you're a die hard meat eater. However, I can promise you that the food is incredible and even the most ardent meat-a-saurs will love the food in this place.

PowerHouse, 1228 SW 2nd St, (405) 702-0699

PowerHouse was the first restaurant/bar in the Market district. What was once a ghetto where people escaped after sundown, the Market is now a cool place to hang out because of places like PowerHouse, the Loaded Bowl, and a cool section that has food trucks.

PowerHouse is like walking into a Harry Potter bar. It's dark at night but the drinks and food are great and in good weather, the patio is a fun place.

PASEO

Sauced, 2912 Paseo, (405) 521-9800

I have a love/hate relationship with Sauced. They undoubtedly have the best patio in the city. They allow dogs. They have great pizza and cheap sketti. But the hippies cram up near the door and smoke like chimneys. It drives me nuts to have to walk through that crap. However, I do love this place and highly recommend it. Every once in a while you will find a decent musician on Three for Thursday. Notice I said "every once in a while." That means most of the acts shouldn't quit their day jobs!

GET HEALTHY

Lake Hefner

I think Lake Hefner started it all. It's no secret that Okc is a fat, out of shape city. But we are also miles beyond what we were pre-Lake Hefner trails. With massive investment into the trail system throughout the city, Okc is becoming a biking and running mecca. Yes, that actually came out of my mouth!

Like I said, I believe it all started when the city created a nine mile trail around Lake Hefner. Residents saw the benefits of a trail and it just took off. While it's difficult for the hardcore athlete to cycle around the lake, it still has massive multi-sport use. Of course, it's a family, multi-use trail!

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