Not that we need outside validation, but if ever there were an indication that Oklahoma City’s food scene was at the top of its game, it’s evident in the fact that Bon Appétit once again touted the city as having one of the best new restaurants in the nation — for seafood. That accolade went to Sedalia’s, the pint-sized oyster and natural wine bar that topped our list of the best new restaurants in town last year. Coupled with the fact that the James Beard Foundation named Andrew Black the best chef in the Southwest at its annual awards gala, making this the first time an Oklahoma chef has taken home a trophy from the Oscars of food, there’s never been a better time to eat in the 405.
But while Bon Appétit and the James Beard Foundation are just catching up, this momentum has been building for years. In addition to similar awards and praise bestowed upon restaurants old and new, like Florence’s Restaurant and Ma Der Lao Kitchen, the nation’s eyes are increasingly on our ever-growing metro. As the city’s population continues to boom, and with the most recent tourism numbers surpassing pre-pandemic levels and reaching a record economic impact of $4.3 billion, there are a lot of hungry people in our fair metro.
After the hard knocks posed by COVID and subsequent supply chain snafus, the big-picture local restaurant forecast looks just as sunny as those tourism stats. All over town, we’ve seen a spate of restaurant expansions and growth — 84 Hospitality continues to dominate, adding a new ramen concept in Edmond and expanding Burger Punk to the increasingly intriguing Britton District, while Andrew Black announced plans for a new restaurant in the Skirvin Hotel, and Spark, one of our best new restaurants of 2022, plans two more locations. Heck, even Gordon Ramsay wants a piece of the OKC action, with one of his restaurants opening imminently in Chisholm Creek.
We’ve come a long way from chicken-fried stereotypes. With impassioned talent paving the way, in a city ripe for continued innovation and growth, OKC’s culinary landscape has never been more dynamic or more exciting. As made clear by this year’s batch of Best New Restaurants, showcasing a wide cross-section of concepts, cuisines and districts.
925 W. Britton Road, OKC
After mastering Italian cuisine, at both consistently popular Bar Cicchetti and Osteria (the latter of which opened a location at Will Rogers Airport this year), Jonathon Stranger went in a markedly different direction for his most recent venture, a New Mexican homage that feels straight out of Santa Fe. When El Coyote debuted in the Britton District, it was met with such fervent fanfare that it had to temporarily suspend brunch and lunch to keep up with demand. Both meal periods are back, along with dinner, but the hype hasn’t waned. Nor should it, considering the level of authenticity and artistry poured into every detail here, from its adobe-style motif — complete with chile-clad ristras and kiva-like fireplaces — to its menus so flavorful, fiery and fragrant that you’d think you were literally in New Mexico. Start with the succulent red chile rib tips and green chile queso, sample a pork adovada taco, and feast on chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms and molten cheese. Then come back for brunch and do it all over again.
800 W. Sheridan Ave., OKC
Considering Oklahoma has its very own style of burger, the wildly underrated onion burger, it seems strange that more restaurants aren’t capitalizing on the opportunity to spotlight this homegrown specialty. Outside of the rustic diners in El Reno, where onion burgers were born a century ago out of recession-era necessity, you don’t see too many iterations on menus in the city. Enter: Sun Cattle Co. Operated by the folks behind Ludivine, which has a dedicated fan following for its weekly Monday burger nights, the concept is all about onion fried hamburgers at this new entry on Film Row. The decor is reminiscent of a hipster version of Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, with an equally beefy menu and a quality of locally sourced meat that tastes distinctly better. The menu boasts a lineup of onion burger variations, from the basic to the Big Jack, which adds double meat, cheese and hash browns to the mix. There are also coney dogs, steak nuggets, cocktails, boozy shakes and beer, but the focus remains rightfully on the onion burger, finally getting its time in the sun.
1332 W. Memorial Road, OKC
Easily the most exciting thing to happen yet in Chisholm Creek, Riserva Bar + Tapas proves that size doesn’t matter. The tapas-style plates may be (mostly) small, but flavors are big and bold, emphasizing fresh ingredients and scratch-made precision across its globally inspired menu. Served up in a sleek, industrial-chic space, tapas range from pitch-perfect Spanish staples, like patatas bravas with smoked paprika aïoli, to internationally inspired novelties like short rib hummus with pomegranate molasses, roasted sweet potato with coconut curry and grilled swordfish kebabs with chermoula and garlic toum. It’s also got one of the best drink lists on the far north side, from seasonal cocktails to a vast library of wines and spirits.
2600 N. Classen Blvd., OKC
Don’t let the name fool you; there aren’t really any buns to be found at Bún Box. But you won’t miss them at this refreshing addition in the Asian District. Courtesy of Jenny Nguyen, owner of Lee’s Sandwiches up the street, this jewel box-sized eatery is unlike anything else in the neighborhood. For starters, it’s drive-thru and carryout only, with takeout orders placed through the front window and a covered patio with a smattering of tables around the corner. Its equally tiny menu is focused on bún, a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle dish strewn with ingredients like lemongrass pork, pickled daikon, roasted peanuts, pan-seared chicken and fried tofu. Light and fresh, the bowls are as hearty as they are wholesome, with a few rice dishes and spring rolls to round it all out.
2912 Paseo, OKC
One of the best new restaurants in OKC isn’t technically all that new. After a long dormancy due to a fire, Sauced on Paseo rose from the ashes anew this year, under new ownership from the Paseo fixtures behind HumanKind Hospitality (OSO, Picasso Cafe, etc.). The restaurant, a mostly frills-free joint known for pizza slices and jumbo Rice Krispies treats, was a beloved keystone in the community, sorely missed and eagerly awaited as new owners worked to restore it and put their stamp on it. When Sauced 2.0 emerged, it was the best of both worlds: at once familiar and completely fresh. Jumbo pizza slices are still the crux, but the menu has ballooned to offer an ever-changing array of interesting daily slices and signature pies, like the Nichols Hills with garlic glaze, mozzarella, caramelized onions, spinach, pecorino romano, mushrooms and truffle oil, and the Twister, with red sauce, mozzarella, two kinds of pepperoni, Italian sausage, whipped ricotta and fresh basil. Also new: a full cocktail program, wine, expanded indoor and outdoor space and a breakfast menu with pizza rolls, strudels and kolaches. Sauced on Paseo is back and better than ever.
612 N. Robinson Ave., OKC
It would be all too easy to judge a book by its cover, and assume that any place bedecked with an indoor wisteria tree, Versace wallpaper, and Barbie-pink decor was made purely for Instagram. But at JK by Chef King, a dazzling new Asian entry across the street from the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the dishes and drinks not only live up to their lavish environs — they exceed them. Courtesy of chef King Dey, intricate and vibrant plates are as photogenic as the furnishings, like an Asian romaine salad — sprinkled with crispy quinoa and drizzled with yuzu buttermilk — that looks like a painting, or the burly oxtail and bone marrow fried rice, complete with femur. To drink, this is the only place in town where you can order an espresso martini with a photo of yourself printed on the foam.
128 Park Ave., OKC
When The National hotel burst onto the scene last year, all the hype was centered around the European-style Great Hall, Tellers restaurant and the Library of Distilled Spirits, the masterful cocktail bar in the bank vault. So by the time Stock & Bond came around months later, on the street level of the hotel, the fact that it was one of the best steakhouses to open in OKC in recent memory was oddly devoid of such hype. Unlike most steakhouses in this steak-happy town, Stock & Bond feels distinctly metropolitan, swanky and most importantly, deeply legit. Rich with dark brown decor and leather furnishings, the cave-like space is the perfect setting in which to indulge some vices, like a rare whiskey from the collection of 300-plus or a slab of Black Angus USDA Prime beef, melting with whiskey butter and paired with a tower of onion rings. It should also be noted that this is the rare OKC steakhouse that employs sommeliers to oversee its wide portfolio of wine.
1807 N. Classen Blvd., OKC
Rarely has the leap from food truck to brick and mortar been executed with such ravenous success as The Saucee Sicilian. A longtime street-side fixture for Neapolitan pizza, Gannon Mendez opened a permanent restaurant late last year in a former flower shop, slinging a menu largely inspired by his Grandma Lena and their Sicilian heritage. Now, the evolution of The Saucee Sicilian is a convivial brick-lined restaurant, centered around a huge wood-fired oven, whose expanded menu runs the gamut on all things bread and sauce. Pillowy, rosemary-scented focaccia pairs perfectly with buttery Sicilian Burrata, plump meatballs arrive swimming in meat sauce and Neapolitan-style pies come laced with toppings like hot sopressata, maple balsamic and rosemary-roasted chicken. And don’t sleep on the s’mores calzone for dessert.
1742 NE 23rd St., OKC
At some brunch places, you come for the mimosas and the French toast. At Scrambl’d, a spirited newcomer on the Eastside, you can get both — and so much more. With a pulsing, upbeat soundtrack that fills the sunny dining room with party-like energy, the restaurant takes a creative and decadent approach to brunch. Here, mimosas come spiked with Hennessy, and French toast is deep-fried in a wafer crust, then topped with cream cheese anglaise. It’s the type of place that takes an unabashed approach to comfort food, using doughnuts as burger buns and dangling lamb chops on a miniature clothesline over perfectly runny eggs. But it’s not excess for the sake of excess. Like the overall atmosphere, it all harmonizes to create a restaurant that feels like a new community cornerstone.
2121 S. Yukon Pkwy., Yukon
When it comes to food and cuisines, there are plenty of things OKC does really well, but then there are those that are sorely lacking. Filling a bagel-shaped void in the dining scene this year, Krell’s East Coast Style Delicatessen is the most legit deli to ever descend on the 405, beckoning metro-wide lox-lovers to its nondescript locale in a Yukon plaza. It’s all courtesy of Jonathan Krell, a Philadelphia native reared on real-deal Jewish-style deli fare — something that’s been missing in OKC for far too long. In a heartfelt homage to his upbringing, Krell ticks all the boxes for East Coast nostalgia: bodega-style bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, whitefish spread on everything bagels, Taylor pork roll on fluffy English muffins, Reuben sandwiches awash in Russian dressing and deli meats by the pound. For dessert, try the noodle kugel, basically a deli-fied bread pudding that uses egg noodles in lieu of bread, in vanilla creme anglaise with raisins and cinnamon.