Uptown 23rd Dining
This was Oklahoma City’s first street taco restaurant on the north side of the city. (We divide the city into north and south based on Interstate 40.) Big Truck is as casual as it gets, but it’s a must-try when in town. Chef Kathryn Mathis brings excellence to every endeavor, including two other restaurants in Uptown 23rd (Pizzeria Gusto and Back Door BBQ).
Go to the counter and get a basket of chips with your order. You’ll want at least one basket because half the fun and deliciousness of Big Truck are the sauces on the table. They are arranged by heat, so you’ll know whether or not you can handle the OMG or OMFG based on the name and your preference for heat. The OMG is a roasted jalapeno and garlic cream-based sauce that is just at the edge of most people’s tolerance for heat. The two base salsas are more conventional red and green sauces, and they’re in larger bottles as they get the most use. Experiment with all of them, and the red bottle is a monthly salsa that regulars love to sample.
The tacos are hearty and filling. The verde pork is a local favorite, featuring slow-roasted pork, Hatch green chiles, queso fresco, lime, cilantro and onion. Throw on some OMG for an extra kick. For the more adventurous, the Flaming Lips features hickory-smoked beef tongue, pico de gallo, sliced avocado and queso fresco. The texture is not off-putting as tongue can often be, because Mathis cooks it to a palatable consistency.
Big Truck has a small selection of beers but no bar. The breakfast is outstanding, and they are open from 7:30 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday, close at midnight on Friday and Saturday, and serve from 9 am to 10 pm on Sunday.
How owner Daniel Chae manages to keep two of Oklahoma City’s best chefs—Taylor Desjarlais and Sam Salinas—in one kitchen is mystifying, but the team earned Chae the best new restaurant in Oklahoma City award in one local publication this year. For those unfamiliar with Korean food, Chae can seem a bit daunting, but the staff is well-trained in explaining what items are and increasing diner comfort.
The appetizer menu is full of Korean favorites like steam buns—get the roasted pork belly—wings, dumplings and eggrolls. However, the best item on the entire might well be the Galbi tacos, a combination of short ribs, jalapenos, cabbage and pickles. All the pickling is done in house, as is expected for traditional Korean cooking.
Chef Desjarlais makes his own consommé for the oxtail soup, and the broth is one of the richest, creamiest you will ever taste. Soup is ubiquitous on restaurant menus, but it’s seldom done with the results that Chae manages. Soup is often an afterthought, but the oxtail soup is easily an outstanding choice for main course.
The lunch and dinner menus are slightly different, with the primary difference being serving size. One of the local favorites is the Iron Bibimbap, a rice dish that is served in a huge cast iron skillet. The dinner portion serves four very hungry people, but only two at lunch. The rice cooks to a wonderful crispy texture because of the cast iron, and the pickled vegetables, short ribs, fried eggs, and house-made gochujang sauce combine to make this a dish that locals return to constantly.
Chae has a full bar, including a small but excellent wine list. They open daily at 11 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed Monday.
Located in an old house and flower shop, Cheever’s is a multiple “Best of OKC” winner in a couple local publications. A combination of Southwest cuisine and Southern comfort food, Cheever’s is one of the few places in the metro where a reservation at lunch is often necessary; at brunch, it’s imperative. The restaurant is billed as “casual elegance,” so think upscale casual in terms of attire and price.
On the appetizer menu, the roasted quail stack is a perfect introduction to what Cheever’s does so very well. Layers of corn tortillas, farm-raised quail, ancho chile sauce, cheese and their signature salsa verde make this dish a perfect small meal, too. Add a fried egg and a glass of wine from their excellent wine list, and it is a meal. Juan’s Queso Chihuahua—really a modified 7-layer dip—is also a local favorite.
Cheever’s is known as a place that does salad right, and the reputation is well deserved. Sharolynn’s Salad—roma tomatoes, bleu cheese, pine nuts, red onions and maple vinaigrette—remains on the menu no matter what vegetables or grains are trendy from year to year. The quinoa avocado salad is a popular choice for people who are trying to be healthy, but don’t go to Cheever’s to eat healthy.
The hands-down most popular item on the menu, and it’s on every list of “must try foods” compiled in the state, is the chicken fried steak with jalapeno cream gravy, served with mashed potatoes. You need two plates, and you’ll want to share. For brunch, it’s shrimp and grits or Cowgirl Benedict (made with chicken fried steak). Like we said, comfort food.
Cheever’s has a full bar, and if you aren’t too stuffed, don’t pass up the chocolate cake. There will be enough to take home. They are open Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 10 a.m. weekends, and they close at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 p.m. on weekends.
Oklahoma City’s newest oyster bar and seafood restaurant is a dinner and brunch only dining option. Owned by the same company as Cheever’s, the quality of the food and service is consistent with their sister restaurant. Food at The Drake is served family style, so items come out when they are ready, not so that individuals are served at the same time.
The fresh oysters are one of the house specialties. The list changes based on season and availability, but expect at least six varieties of oysters, which makes side-by-side tasting almost a moral imperative. They are served with four mignonettes, charred lemons and fresh horseradish.
On the appetizer menu, the fish tacos may be the best thing on the menu period. You will get three small tacos, but you’ll want a platter. They are served with avocado slaw, carrots and an amazing chili-lime sauce. For a little more down-home comfort, the hush puppies served with shaved ham, honey butter and Cholula hot sauce are a combination that has to be tried to be believed.
Amidst and array of seafood options—including a delicious hiramasa crudo—the whole salt-crusted Branzino stands out. Maybe it’s the old-school presentation or the delicious blend of flavors, but this is one of the best fish dishes in Oklahoma.
The Drake has a full bar, including an extensive and affordable wine list with some of the more unique options in town. Don’t skip the lemon cloud pie for dessert. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday 4:30 to 10 pm and 4:30 to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Brunch starts at 10 am on Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday hours are 10 am to 10 pm.
Author: Greg Horton