"There's something about that place that just makes me want to dress up."
That's my friend Jack Fowler, who is normally spattered in paint, possibly while wearing overalls. So when a business gets him riled up enough to put on his Sunday best, you can be sure it's someplace special.
And therein lie the charms of The R&J Lounge and Supper Club. It's a transformative place.
The lights are low in R&J's and there's something about the deep red wallpaper that gives everyone sultry glow. You can dress up and be a little rumpled. Your makeup doesn't have to be perfect and your hair can be tousled. It's a forgiving atmosphere.
And yet, when the drinks start flowing, the one thing that becomes crystal clear is how much fun you're having. Drinking old-school cocktails and tiki drinks is fun. Ordering carafes of champagne and talking a little too loud is fun.
Don't let the classiness fool you -- this is a bar, and it's perfectly fine to enjoy yourself.
Some restaurants are so upscale as to stifle. You're paying so much for your drinks, for your food, for the view, that everything must be perfect and suddenly nothing's quite good enough. At the R&J, it's nice, but it's a laid-back sort of nice. The food is good, but there's no expectation that if you don't savor every bite that it's somehow going to waste.
When you order the beef stroganoff, it's a big plate of food beef and noodles and sauce that will fill you (and maybe the others at your table) with the classic taste of home cooking. And if you happen to pour an R&J Sour or a Painkiller over the top, that home seems a lot more enjoyable.
The lobster roll is tremendous -- creamy and chock full of that fresh, sweet lobster flavor that is so often lost -- and I cannot get enough of the lamb burger with blue cheese.
But for the ultimate in comfort, I go for the croque tartine parisienne. A big slab of bread. Ham. Cheese. Bechamel sauce. Eggs over medium. It's sloppy and gooey and it slams on my satisfaction button like a police chief on a desk in a 1980s buddy cop movie.
A warning: The R&J is small. Even with the patio out back, it's a postage stamp of a building. Unless you're renting the place out, you don't have a party here. You go with a few friends, you meet a few new ones and you MAKE a party there.
The upside is the size breeds intimacy. You'll get to know your server, your bartender, the person in the big booth whose thighs are smooshed up against your own as you wait for the next round.
When my friends came in from Houston for the holidays, they asked where we should meet for dinner and drinks. When I suggested the R&J Lounge and Supper Club they said:
"Oh, we went there last night!"
That's right: even the out-of-town kids know R&J is the cool place to be.
Greg Elwell is a staff writer for the Oklahoma Gazette. For more restaurant reviews and news from Greg click here.