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Comfort Food You Crave

In praise of meat and memories



 



Growing up in Oklahoma, Sundays usually meant coming home from church to the aroma of pot roast filling the house. The cut had been allowed to thaw overnight, and then placed in the slow cooker or “electric skillet” before we left for Sunday school. The smell of pot roast still sends an involuntary pleasure response through my brain, but my mother’s overcooked carrots and potatoes are seldom replicated in restaurants.
 

Still, Southern comfort food is central to the culinary history of Oklahoma. For other Okies it was fried chicken on Sundays or fish fries on Saturdays. Pinto beans and ham hocks or bacon were staples in public schools and family tables, cost being a key factor in that choice. In most cases, feeding families meant high carb, high protein, high fat diets, and my mother fed three teenage boys with a loaf of white bread and a boat of gravy more than once after football practice.

The problem with comfort food is that the associations are usually based on family contexts, so replicating it in restaurants is difficult. While my favorite leaf-eater, Christine Eddington, will handle vegetarian options in this issue (page 54) – we omnivores eat vegetarian, too; we simply call them sides – my task is to offer the reader choices around the 405 for places that do “meat and potatoes” well. That phrase should not be construed too narrowly, though, because comfort food takes all kinds of shapes, including dessert and the occasional side dish (mac ‘n’ cheese, anyone?).

Hal Smith Restaurant Group has established its reputation as a collection of concepts that produce comfort food with remarkable consistency and serve them with outstanding efficiency. When Kevin Durant left town, Smith himself had to fire up his contingency plan for the Bricktown location previously known as Kd’s.

“We knew there was a possibility that KD would leave,” Smith says, “so we came up with the idea of a destination restaurant where people could enjoy Oklahoma and Oklahoma food.”

Like many of us, Smith grew up eating Okie food – fried chicken on Sundays for his family, meat loaf, French dips and even shrimp and grits. When he looked at the Kd’s menu, he realized that it could be adapted with only minor tweaks because it already had several items that, while not necessarily Oklahoma-specific, were certainly part of our culinary traditions.

So it is that Legacy Grill now has fried chicken and waffles, a newly designed meat loaf, ridiculously delicious pot roast, mashed potatoes and a new shrimp pasta dish. The food, like all HSRG food, is produced with attention to detail and a commitment to quality and affordability. The fried chicken is brined for 48 hours, so it is full of flavor, and the juices are locked in by the deep fryer. While I’d never say it was better than my Okie grandmother’s, it is better than some people’s grandmothers could produce.

Legacy Grill appreciates the classics, like this savory plate of fried chicken and waffles.


 

Since this is about meat and potatoes, Redrock Canyon Grill is worth mentioning, since they have some of the best meat loaf available anywhere. If your mom was the type who finished the meat loaf with ketchup, you have our unqualified sympathy. That’s not how meat loaf should be treated. HSRG Executive Chef Brad Johnson is a big believer in beef, but he’s not opposed to blending the meats either. The Legacy Grill meat loaf is 5 percent sausage, but at Redrock it’s all beef – the trimmings from beef tenderloin and ribeye.

It’s almost impossible to talk about the best comfort food in the 405 without mentioning the chicken fried steak at Cheever’s Café. At this point, the dish is justifiably iconic. Two hand-breaded cutlets – enough to cover a dinner plate – are served with mashed potatoes and jalapeño-cream gravy. There is another side in there, but I’ll need a vegetarian to explain to me which kind of green garnish it is. The gravy alone is worth the dish, and at this point, unless you are on a plant-based diet or have other restrictions, you should have to try this dish to call yourself an Oklahoman.

The sides at Cheever’s are fantastic, even the ones featuring vegetables, and this is probably a good place to concede a point. The vegetarians among us are right about a few things, but the vegetarian vs. omnivore discussion is won or lost on taste, and omnivores win that one. We could eat less meat; that would be better for the planet and better for our health. That’s sort of indisputable at this point, but beef and pork and lamb, etc., are delicious, so finding a way to eat them ethically and healthily is the goal, not abandoning them entirely.  

An Oklahoma icon: Mashed potatoes and jalapeño cream gravy smother the tender chicken fried steak at Cheever’s.


 

Mac ‘n’ cheese is one of the easiest, most delicious ways to add calories, flavor, protein and fat to a diet. How many of us haven’t had Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? For some of us, it’s still a guilty pleasure. Remember grabbing a microwaveable bowl as a kid? Remember grabbing a quick sandwich? Maybe even the pot roast from the day before with a little mayo and tomato. Why not combine them into one amazing meal? That was sort of the solution they came up with at The Mule.

The Mule decided that if mac ‘n’ cheese and sandwiches are great separately, they’re even better together. (Note: This does not work with every possible combination of two things you love.) The most obvious choice is the Macaroni Pony since it combines mac ‘n’ cheese with pulled pork and jalapeno cornbread – yet another comforting staple we haven’t yet mentioned.

From there, an obvious realization occurs: Macaroni is really pasta! Therefore, pasta is an Okie comfort food! Of course it is. Most of us grew up with spaghetti once a week. Since it first opened, Café 7 has been serving fast, affordable, delicious pasta dishes to a vast number of Oklahomans since it first opened. Managing partner J Mays said the pasta dishes far outsell their sandwiches, salads and pizzas.

While the downtown location only does breakfast and lunch, the North May store is open for lunch and dinner, and dinner includes a longtime favorite Pasta Maggio: rigatoni, chicken, mushrooms and artichokes in creamy pesto sauce. Café 7 features other childhood favorites, too, like fettuccine alfredo and spaghetti with meatballs. The team focuses on processes, so they get food out hot and fast – which is to say, don’t let a long line deter you.

Seriously sumptuous comfort food in the form of The Mule’s Macaroni Pony sandwich


 

Here we arrive at steak. There may not be a more signature Oklahoma choice. Did your dad fire up the grill on weekends? Hopefully, he knew how to cook it to temp, and hopefully you didn’t grow up in one of those families where they treat steak unethically … by which I mean cooking it past medium. The state produces beef, and largely because of that, we get some of the best beef in the world right here in Oklahoma City.

Beef prices are as high as they have been in recent memory, so prime steaks are going to cost you dearly. Sorting through the selection of prime steakhouses in the 405 can be an impossible task. How do you prefer one prime filet to another? Sides can help sort through that, and Ranch Steakhouse, Mahogany and Red PrimeSteak all have good sides.

Ultimately, it comes down to the meat, though, and that becomes a personal preference. I go for ribeye – marbling matters – but friends prefer filet or strip. It’s impossible to go wrong at our city’s best prime steakhouses. Just expect to lay out some serious cash for now.

Vegetarian meals will always provide a healthy option to eating meat every day, and unlike some of my omnivorous friends, I really do enjoy a Portobello sandwich. I’ve even eaten the occasional veggie burger; I just wish they’d call it a veggie-mash sandwich instead of a burger, since that’s what it is. Omnivores do themselves a favor by opting for a flexatarian diet, but we are unlikely to convert, because the “carcasses or corpses,” as some vegetarians and vegans are prone to call them, are delicious. And, yes, I know how they ended up on my plate.

Beef reigns in Oklahoma, and the 22oz bone-in ribeye at Ranch Steakhouse is a king among steaks.

 



 

► A Legacy of Teamwork

When the transition from Kd’s to Legacy Grill was underway, Hal Smith and his team made the decision to retain and pay the employees during the 45-day preparation time. In order to keep the team focused and foster a sense of community, managing partner Nathan Couch got them involved in charitable work in Oklahoma City.

“At first we were suggesting projects, but before it was over with, the employees were coming to us with ideas of how they could help the community,” Couch says. “It was amazing to see.”

Hank Kraft, the COO of HSRG, said they knew the employees they had were special, but their willingness to dive into the community to help where they could confirmed it for the company. “Individual stores will get involved in projects, but this team was choosing projects, working together and staying together through a transition period.”

The projects included work at both Ronald McDonald Houses in Oklahoma City, centers for the charity that provides temporary lodging to the families of sick or injured children who are receiving medical treatment in facilities away from their hometown. Legacy Grill employees helped families staying in the houses by feeding them extremely well on a special guest chef day.

In addition to the Ronald McDonald House events, employees volunteered at a local animal shelter and worked on a Habitat for Humanity home together.

“HSRG took an unusual and expensive step in keeping the team together,” Couch says, “and they responded by working together, helping the community and getting closer together as a team. It was inspiring to be a part of it.”

 



 


 

► The Magical Beast

In one of the greatest “Simpsons” sequences of all time (which is a high bar), Homer is trying to understand why Lisa is choosing to become a vegetarian. He questions her about eating meat ever again and then lists three of his favorites.


“What about bacon?”
   
“No.”
   
“Ham?”
   
“No.”

“Pork chops?”

“Dad, those all come from the same animal!”

[Chuckles.] “Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.”

   
Omnivores do understand that Homer is only accidentally exaggerating here. Pigs are wonderful, magical animals, and the list of incredibly delicious cuts and applications is far longer than the one in the episode. While Chef Chris McKenna at Packard’s New American Kitchen is as good with pork cuts as anyone we know, the Piggy Burger stands out as one of the most comforting of comfort foods in the metro. The mix is ground, blackened pork shoulder, a little bit of bacon and sliced ham. The French fries at Packard’s are more than an afterthought, too, but you’ll need to ask for ketchup, since they usually come with tomato jam.

For a more traditional use of pork, try the pulled pork at Back Door Barbecue. Really, though, the meats and sauces – hot or mustard for the pork – are delicious, but the sides at Back Door really stand out. The potato salad is inexplicably delicious; it’s potato salad! The bacon in the mix might be the secret, but whatever the case, both the beans and potato salad are must-haves.

 

 

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Calendar

September 2019

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

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Art Moments 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Enjoy a variety of 10-minute spotlight talks throughout the galleries to introduce different works in the Museum’s temporary exhibitions or permanent...

Cost: Free with Museum admisison

Where:
National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Cost: 40.00

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Civic Center Music Hall
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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Show More...
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
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Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

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Cost: Free

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Vanessa House Beer Co.
118 NW 8th Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
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415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
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Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
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Cost: FREE

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NorthCare
2617 General Pershing Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
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Sponsor: NorthCare
Telephone: 405-858-2706
Contact Name: Kaitlynn Wilkinson
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Cost: Free

Where:
FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
7415 N May Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
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Sponsor: FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
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Join us Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. when Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Justin Echols helps to kick off the 19th season of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s acclaimed...

Cost: Free

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USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
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Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1310
Contact Name: Katie Davis
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Cost: 40.00

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Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
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Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
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Cost: $35-$40

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OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center
7777 South May Ave
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Cost: Free

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Bicentennial Park
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Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
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Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

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Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
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Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
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Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
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Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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Cost: Varies

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Hudiburg Chevrolet Cneter
6000 Prosper Blvd
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View map »


Sponsor: Emporium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
Memorial Park
204 N Main St
Hennessey, OK  73742
View map »


Sponsor: Hennessey United
Telephone: 580-484-1682
Contact Name: Angela Bruner
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

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Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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