Plaza District Dining
Technically, The Mule is a sandwich shop that specializes in grilled cheese, but it's really a comfort food destination and neighborhood hub for the Plaza District. While purists will argue that a grilled cheese can only be bread and cheese (otherwise you have a melt), that kind of argumentativeness won't make you any friends. Just enjoy the sandies (sandwiches) and the huge selection of beer, including a ton of local brews.
Start with the house speciality, the Okie Poutine, an Oklahoma take on the famous Louisiana indulgence. The Mule makes theirs with beer-battered French fries, creamy white gravy, and cheese curds. You'd not be making a mistake to ask for it with bacon. Those same cheese curds are also available battered, fried, and served with marinara and ranch dressing.
Surprisingly, The Mule has salads. If there is a member of the party who insists on eating healthy, the roasted veggie salad is an excellent choice. It comes with roasted squash, onions, zucchini, onions, mushrooms and peppers, and it's served with a red wine and rosemary vinaigrette.
The sandwiches are the heart of the menu, and they are rich and filling, which makes sense, as they come loaded with cheese. It's generally hard to go wrong, so let your own preferences guide you. The Cortez--jalapeño cornbread, short ribs and grilled jalapeños--or the FYDH--bacon, goat cheese and avocado on sourdough--are solid introductions to The Mule's interesting flavor combinations.
The Mule has a full bar, and they also serve Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are dinner only on Monday, from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday the hours are 11 to 11, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
People who grow up outside the middle of the country are familiar with small, local pizza-by-the-slice restaurants. Rachel Cope realized that Oklahoma City could benefit from the same sensible approach to pizza, so she opened Empire Slice House. Slices are $3.50, and they are huge. The pies themselves are 20 inches, so a single slice is often enough for a quick lunch, and the patio is one of the most popular al fresco options in the metro.
Start with Andre the Giant Meatball. (Yes, all the names come from pop culture of one form or another, except pepperoni because it's, well, pepperoni.) The one-pound meatball--you read that right--is a blend of pork and lamb, and it's served with marinara and ricotta. If that seems a little heavy, opt for the roasted garlic and sriracha hummus.
You can build your own pie, but the house pies are super creative and delicious, featuring quirky themes and interesting flavor combinations. For obvious reasons, the Brussell Westbrook is a popular local choice. It's a combination of roasted garlic, caramelized onions, bacon, fennel Brussels sprouts and banana peppers, which is to say, almost vegetarian. For the really hungry, the Notorious P.I.G. is a meat feast: bacon, pepperoni, sausage, capicola and Canadian bacon.
Empire has a small selection of salads, as well, but the menu is really about the pies. Cope decided to do a few things and do them well. It was a good choice. There is a full bar with a good selection of wine and beer. Part of what makes Empire so popular is that it's open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday, making it a rare late-night dining option.