International Dining in the 405

International Dining in the 405

You don’t have to leave the OKC metro to sample a range of flavors from all across the globe. This roundup of dishes representing 26 nationalities makes for a diverse and delicious dining itinerary.


IF THERE'S ONE THING WE LEARNED FROM BELOVED CHEF, AUTHOR AND TV HOST ANTHONY BOURDAIN, it’s that stepping outside your arena of familiarity to try new things often pays huge rewards in personal growth and memorable experiences. And while most of us don’t have the budget or schedule flexibility to match his travel itinerary, the OKC metro is home to a surprising breadth of options when it comes to cuisines of other countries and cultures. Many of these dishes are authentic as they come, and are waiting right around the corner to take visitors on a flavor journey around the world.






With such a wealth of great Vietnamese food in OKC, it’s nearly impossible to recommend just one restaurant. Pho abounds in the metro, but Lido also offers an array of more rustic dishes that are a little less familiar to local diners. Thit Ko To (clay pot pork) is Vietnamese comfort food. In fact, Denise Duong, the artist whose work is on the cover of the April issue of 405 Magazine, said clay pot pork was one of her favorite childhood dishes. The sauce is garlic, ginger, fish sauce and magic, apparently, and the tender meat is served with steamed rice. 2518 N Military (Asian District)






If there is anything that Chef Jonathan Krell can’t make well, we haven’t found it yet. His work at Patrono has turned a little-known Italian eatery into one of the city’s brightest spots. Get the bread service; the salsa verde and balsamic butter that come with the bread are going to haunt your dreams. Krell excels at seafood dishes – likely due in part to his sushi background – so if there is crudo or octopus on the menu, it’s an easy yes. The pasta dishes are flavorful and well balanced, and the front-of-house staff is as good as you’ll find anywhere. 305 N Walker (Arts District)





A couple of years ago, CNN Travel did an online poll for the world’s best foods that drew more than 35,000 votes – and Thailand’s cuisine got more love than any other country’s, including dishes 4, 5, 6 and 10. Frankly, it’s hard to argue with the school of thought that everyone should be eating more Thai food all the time. This Norman restaurant’s Pad Thai, a traditional heap of rice noodles and deliciousness, is very good, but that can be said about lots of places; try something more distinctive by ordering the stir fry using the paste from their yellow curry, and chase it with a dessert of mango and sweetened rice. 1324 N Interstate (Norman)






Chibugan is a Filipino word that translates to “eating,” which is solid advice at this Del City hidden gem. One of the benefits of getting out of the urban core is that food prices drop dramatically, and the $7 lunch specials at Chibugan are as delicious as they are affordable. Start with lumpia (fried egg rolls) with a dash of banana ketchup, and then move on to the pancit. These rice noodles are traditional Filipino cuisine, and the lunch at Chibugan features pork and vegetables in a savory broth. 4728 SE 29th (Del City)






The menu overseen by owner and GM Mark Javidi is filled with family recipes and flavors from around the Mediterranean. If you hear “Greek food” and think of gyros or beef kabobs, they can deliver the goods, but we’re staunch proponents of the moussaka: a casserole of eggplant, potato and ground beef that’s smothered in a rich, creamy béchamel sauce, topped with bread crumbs and baked. The dish’s only downside? It’s filling enough that you might not have much extra room for baba ghanouj. 6014 N May (North OKC)





Mohamed and Nesrine Hussein started Yummy Mummy – two locations of authentic Egyptian food – after Mohamed discovered the television program “Shark Tank.” He credits the program with his entrepreneurial drive, and if that’s the case, all of Oklahoma City is indebted to the show … because the fatta served at Yummy Mummy is one of the best tastes in the city. A dish of jasmine rice, beef or chicken (or both!), and toasted pita, fatta is tangy, savory and filling. The accompanying garlic sauce and chili sauce add even more flavor, and a touch of heat. The red pepper hummus is stellar, as is the falafel. 13415 N Penn, 119 N Robinson (North OKC and Downtown)






This one brings out people’s trust issues; everyone probably feels the same trepidation on hearing the phrase “truck stop Indian food,” just like “gas station sushi,” but one trip to Tandoor will make you a convert. Go easy on the spice level – maybe start with a 4 out of 10 – and don’t skip the garlic naan. The traditional Indian dishes include chicken tikka masala, curried goat and a butter chicken that’s a rich, savory pleasure with just the right heat (if you followed the advice above). When the food in a truck stop is this good, you just know it isn’t the ambience. 1901 E Reno (East OKC)




Photo by Rachel Maucieri



The Buthion brothers, Alain and Michel, were on a cross-country trip when they arrived in Oklahoma City. Fortunately for us, they never left, and La Baguette has become a staple in international dining as a result. Chef Alain is particularly good with duck and seafood; his fish dishes are some of the state’s best. The focus on breakfast has added a unique option to our city’s breakfast-scape, with traditional crepes, and what many local chefs insist is the best Croque Madame in town. 7408 N May (North OKC)





A traditional dish from Mexico, birria is typically made with beef and/or goat, but Birrieria Diaz offers a choice of beef or lamb. The spiced meat stew is served in a bowl family style, and diners use fried or steamed tortillas to scoop the meat, along with condiments such as diced peppers, red onion, cilantro, etc. The family-owned restaurant across from SNU has other traditional Mexican fare, but it’s impossible to say no to birria. 6700 NW 39th Expressway (Bethany)





Try to bring a friend or two – Ethiopian dining is a social occasion, and many of this well-established restaurant’s specialties are at their best when shared. It’s an outstanding destination for vegetarians, with plenty of well-seasoned and delectably spicy choices, but neophytes who don’t mind a little meat would be well-advised to start with the Queen of Sheba Messob sampler platter. Help yourself to the spongy bread called injera and try a taste of, well, everything. 2308 N MacArthur (West OKC)






Corned beef is on the menu – and it’s good – but you already know that’s more of an Irish-American dish, right? For the food of the Emerald Isle itself, look no further than the boxty, a crepelike potato pancake. It comes folded around your choice of a flaky salmon filet doused in a delicate dill cream sauce, or beef with mushrooms and onions, or even a vegetable medley. Vegetarians might be sad, though – not because they’ll have nothing to eat, but because they can’t try the delectable rashers, bangers or black and white puddings. 7628 N May (North OKC)






Three words to know when checking out this tasty purveyor of North African goodness: #1: Tagine, the heavy clay pot used to slow-cook stews (which are also called tagines). #2: Couscous, the tiny balls of crushed semolina that are optional as an ingredient along with the savory broth, tender vegetables and optional meats, but of which you should avail yourself for the full taste experience – the restaurant’s name should be a hint, after all. Oh, and #3: Cake. Their selection of pastries is quite good, but the Moroccan almond cake is a cut above. 6165 N May (North OKC)





Magid Assaleh is a Syrian immigrant who’s been making great Mediterranean food in Edmond since he opened this restaurant. Given the name, you’d expect the falafel to be excellent – and it is, but so are the kabobs, shawarma and kafta. Having said all that, it’s important to note that you should definitely get the kibbi to start. You won’t find a better version outside of a home kitchen, and depending on how busy the day is, you can probably get Assaleh to tell you a story or two. 343 S Blackwelder (Edmond)





From the building’s architectural style and decorative details to the contents of the menu, Kwan’s is designed to evoke elements of Chinese cultural heritage. Chef Pak Kwan learned to cook in Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, and brings flavors from that upbringing to dishes including fried rice with chicken and abalone that’s served in a large lotus leaf, and the stunning Crispy Sea Bass that’s immersed in oil for days and then roasted, as well as wondrously smooth bisques. And if your taste runs toward trying a little bit of everything, don’t miss out on the dim sum service during weekend lunch hours. 3031 W Memorial (North OKC)






As Four J’s Alex Panhguay cheerfully says, “When Laotians get together to have a party, there has to be larb.” A lot goes into the Lao specialty – lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili, cilantro, onion, galangal (a relative of ginger with a more citrusy taste), lime juice, fish sauce, mint, ground meat – and a ton of flavor comes out in the results. Just don’t test Bouakham Panhguay when it comes to spice: Her scale goes from 1-10, but she told us she has a regular who gets a 15, and she once fulfilled a request for a 45(!) We didn’t ask what happened to the customer; presumably he’s now the Kwisatz Hadderach. 2920 S Agnew (South OKC)






Ana Davis was an early arrival in the newly redeveloped Midtown when she relocated Café do Brasil from its original location (which is now home to Café Antigua). The menu is filled with traditional tastes, including feijoada, the black bean and pork stew that is the traditional dish of Brazil. Breakfast and brunch are popular choices, and the Divorciados – two eggs with tomatillo pork and chipotle chicken sauces, rice and beans – is one of the city’s heartiest breakfasts. 440 NW 11th (Midtown)





Carican (as in Caribbean-American) should definitely be on your radar – it’s not fancy, but entrees range from fried catfish to stewed oxtails to curried goat, and the side dishes aren’t the familiar standbys of fries or mashed potatoes; think black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese and plantains (you should definitely get the plantains). They even have the vegetable stew called callaloo on Fridays and Saturdays, and you’re unlikely to find better jerk chicken in OKC. 2701 N Martin Luther King (East OKC)





Among the many cultural contributions Peru has made to the world, two will stand out to diners: potatoes and ceviche. Yes, all the potatoes in the world started in Peru, so expect a variety of options at Naylamp (pronounced NIGH-lahmp), including the traditional Papa a la Huancaina. That’s sliced boiled potatoes served with boiled eggs and huancaina sauce, which is made with garlic, onion and aji amarillo peppers. Peru has approximately 1,500 miles of coastland, so seafood dishes are popular; the Ceviche de Pescado, with strips of marinated fish, sweet potatoes and hot peppers, is the ideal introduction to Peruvian ceviche. 2106 SW 44th (South OKC)






Celebrating its 25th anniversary a few months ago, Royal Bavaria’s festive atmosphere makes a trip to Moore feel like a worthy time investment, and it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will head home hungry. The various wursts are always a good choice, although the golden fried schnitzels are popular for good reason, and the house specialty of Schweinebraten – roasted pork shoulder in beer gravy – is, according to the menu, “one a Bavarian cannot live without.” That should tell you something. Pro tip: The house-brewed beers are absolutely fantastisch. 3401 S Sooner (Moore)






Café Antigua focuses on breakfast and lunch, a perfect combination if you wish to become a brunch hot spot. The Guatemalan restaurant is owned and operated by Ana Sofia del Cid and her family, pioneers of the Guatemalan food scene in the metro. Breakfast is served all day at Antigua, and many of the dishes feature refried black beans, which, at Antigua, are somehow better than anyone would expect black beans to be. The chirmol sauce adds a tangy, spicy kick to many of the dishes, including Huevos Motuleño. For meat lovers, the carne asada’s generous slice of chimichurri-marinated steak topped with an egg pairs deliciously with fried plantains. 1903 N Classen (Midtown)




Photo by Quit Nguyen



For being a landlocked region on the other side of the world from Japan, OKC has a surprisingly high number of sushi places. But for a delicious and less well-represented window on Japanese cuisine, look to the Plaza’s izakaya (a casual pub). The menu’s centerpiece is ramen – a far cry from 15-cent grocery store mush, it’s the rich, filling real deal – although visitors could easily make excellent meals from the nikuman (soft steamed bun) selection and extras such as Brussels sprouts salad, crispy fried chicken and mochi cake. 1634 Blackwelder (Plaza District)





Ooh, sorry. OKC doesn’t have a Tim Horton’s, eh? But THE MULE at 1630 N Blackwelder does have some pretty good poutine.






Daniel Chae’s eponymous restaurant on NW 23rd was a delight, introducing many OKC residents to the joys of Korean cuisine. Its closing was a grievous blow to fans’ palates – but new restaurant Social fills that building nicely (see p. 68), and a facet of the Chae experience has been resurrected on Western. Chae Café deals more in omelets, waffles and benedicts, but the crunchy rice, tender beef, fresh vegetables and tangy gochujang – ask for extra – of the Iron Bibimbap remains on the menu, and a must-try. And rumor has it the oxtail soup should be making a comeback soon. 7300 N Western (Western Avenue District)





The house specialty is hashwa, and Nunu Farhood makes it from a recipe that’s been in her family for generations. While not as well known in OKC as other Lebanese staples, hashwa is deserving of more love. The beef and rice dish is made with clarified butter and a spice mix that creates delicious cohesion. The toasted almonds are both texture and flavor. All of Nunu’s dishes are delicious, but the hashwa is the best reason to go. 3131 W Memorial (North OKC)





The family-owned Colombian restaurant moved from north side to south last year, and left a wave of grief along NW 23rd. Edgar Devia, an immigrant from Bogota, serves traditional fare that begins with a basket of empanadas. Smaller than the variety served most commonly in OKC, Devia’s are lighter, and even include a vegetarian option. The aji verde sauce is served in a small ramekin, but the staff will bring more, and you’ll likely want more. The Sobrebarriga – flank steak in a tomato-based sauce – is a wonderful introduction to Devia’s skill in the kitchen. 7220 S Western (South OKC)






The combination of hefty portion size and small price tag make visiting this cozy little restaurant feel like you’re getting away with something … even more so considering the food is so delicious. They specialize in halal Pakistani cuisine, so it’s similar to some Indian food in terms of fragrance and spice, but with perhaps a little more emphasis on meats, including beef. The beautifully seasoned biryani – a rice-based dish with heat that’s present but not overwhelming – makes a good starting point, especially with the complimentary mint tea. 4621 N May (North OKC)





As long as you’re eating authentically, you might give some thought to having a sip of the national beverage, as well – here are a few possibilities for toasting:

BRAZIL – cachaça, made from sugarcane and often used in caipirinha cocktails

CHINA – baijiu, grain alcohol that’s been produced for more than 600 years

ETHIOPIA – tej, made from honey and powdered leaves

FRANCE – probably the strong licorice-flavored pastis, though it’s hard to argue with wine

GERMANY – schnapps from various fruits, such as apfelkorn

GREECE – ouzo, anise-flavored spirit

ICELAND – brennevin, a potato schnapps whose name means “burning wine”

INDIA – feni, made from cashew apples or coconut palm sap

IRELAND – technically Irish whiskey, but Guinness goes with everything

ITALY – try grappa, a grape-based brandy served as an after-dinner drink

JAMAICA – rum for sure, and Jamaica’s also known for ginger beer, so try a Dark and Stormy

JAPAN – the rice wine sake; try higher-quality sake chilled, because heating blunts the flavor

KOREA – soju, made from rice or wheat and with a flavor similar to a sweeter vodka

MEXICO – tequila, made from only blue agave, or mezcal, from other agaves and with a smokier flavor

MOROCCO – mahia, a brandy made from figs

PHILIPPINES – tuba, wine made from date or coconut palms that can be further distilled into lambanog

THAILAND – mekhong, “The Spirit of Thailand,” is distilled mostly from molasses for a rum-like flavor