Ten Iconic Restaurants You Have To Try In Oklahoma
I think it's fair to say that each state probably has their own legends when it comes to restaurants. Pennsylvania has cheesesteaks, New York has wings and pizza, Texas has Franklin BBQ and tex-mex, etc... Oklahoma is no different. Birthed into statehood as a cattle state, there's no shortage of beef on any menu here, but there's a little room for chicken and fries too. Here are the absolute, hands down, best restaurants, in no particular order, everyone has to try in The Sooner State before they die.
Let me completely honest with you, I'm tossing this one up first because we both knew it had to be on the list. Famously in the stockyard district of OKC, experienced by royalty, celebs, and presidents alike, it had to be on this list. Personally, I've had better steaks elsewhere, but it's a staple and the only place I know of that serves up lamb-fries year round.
Since it's pretty fresh on my mind, I might as well toss this one out early too. Eichen's Bar owns the title of being the oldest bar in Oklahoma, opened in 1896... but I think they also deserve the title of the oldest restaurant since they've always served food. More explanation about that here. Known for their unbelievable fried chicken, it's definitely worth the drive to Okarche for a bite.
It's that little juke joint up in Oklahoma's biggest party town, Stillwater. Home of Oklahoma State University, and the best cheese fries you'll ever find in these united states. Hand cut in the kitchen, fried to perfection, topped with an unlimited supply of everything you could want on a fry. It's also served with their house made ranch dip on the side. World famous cheap t-shirts are also found on site.
I'm sure you've never heard of this place. In fact, the name of it is an absolute mouthful mess of the English language, but you'll recognize it's other name... Head Country BBQ. This is the home of the best BBQ in the world. Believe me, I've eaten a lot of BBQ in a lot of different places, this one is king of the meat mountain. Known the world over for the famous, and only condiment worthy of being called BBQ sauce. Where the meat doesn't fall off the bone because it's not made in a pressure cooker. It's made with smoke so it has that glorious tender chew. It is absolutely worth the drive to the Mayberry Northern Oklahoma town of Ponca City to eat proper meat.
There are many great burger joints in Oklahoma that deserve being on this list. Dixie Dog and 4th Street Burger in Ponca City are remarkable. Meer's is world famous. I'm told Burgess Grill is second to none in SWOK... but when we're talking knock-your-socks-off burgers, there's only one place to find Oklahoma's best, and that's at Sid's Diner in El Reno. Home of the original onion burger. A recipe born during the depression just to feed people, now beloved by millions, it's the best burger you'll find in this state.
What list of Oklahoma must-eats would be complete without the trite and true, humble chicken fried steak? As this particular dish has disappeared from menus all over the country as we try to think healthier, only the greats still remain true. Kendall's is THE place in Oklahoma to eat a chicken fried steak. Why? Because they don't skim profits doing it. You get a huge chunk of beef and plenty of the peppered gravy to go on top. The sides are just icing on that particular meat cake. It's also one of the closer destinations, just Southeast of Norman in Noble.
- Honorable Mention
I'll admit, this one is more of a personal favorite. Truth be told, the place is too small and the service takes too long, but the food is worth every moment you wait in this once-a-Dairy Queen SWOK icon of a restaurant.
While the chicken fry is pretty good, the chicken bits are legit, and you'll have to try the Texas Toothpicks when you get there... the burger really is the star of this show. Cooked when you order it, a juicy and steaming hot slab of beef tucked between two buttered pillows of bun is just about the closest to heaven many will ever get. It's located 90 miles West in the town of Hollis. It'll take you two hours to order and eat, but you'll thank me for telling you about it.
You can't really tell the story of Oklahoma's statehood without mentioning the shear number of immigrants from Irish descent. If you remember the Tom Cruise classic "Far And Away," you can sort of get the picture. While the accents morphed into something a little more Southern and rural, and the names have changed pronunciation a million times over, Oklahoma was once as Irish as it has always been native. Knowing that, what list of Oklahoma eats is complete without a hearty breakfast. Kilkenny's in Tulsa is a Top-5 ranked Irish Pub in the United States, if you get the chance to, you might indulge in a proper Irish breakfast up that way sometime.
I know, I know... You're about to give me grief for putting a fast food chain restaurant on this list, but you have to understand something... Nobody does a steak sandwich like Del Rancho, and as far as I know, it's an Oklahoma thing. Most Lawtonians will most likely never heard of the place since they don't advertise this far away, but believe me when I tell you, this sandwich is worth the drive. Take everything you love about chicken fried steak, and slap it inside a bun. That's the draw, and it tastes amazing. I believe our closest location is in Moore.
OK, fair is fair... Liberty Theater isn't a "restaurant," but if people make the drive to Carnegie just to grab a bunch of what they call "Show Dogs" for dinner at home, it qualifies to be on this list. When it comes to hot dogs, people are usually at two ends of the spectrum... They either love the cheap hot dogs a little burned on the grill, or they prefer the premium all-beef hot dogs prepared the same way. I was always partial to the Nathan's dogs they served with chili and onion at Sam's a decade ago, but since they hot-swapped their dogs over to the Member's Mark brand, they're just not as good. Now, I drive to Carnegie just to eat hot dogs twice a year when I crave them.
I know, I know... I've made far too many of these "Listen to my reasoning" type posts so far in this list, and this one is the last. I know Redbone isn't a "restaurant" per se, it's a food trailer. Additionally, I know Redbone is too new to be thought of as "iconic" in the grand scheme of this list... but I'm telling you, one day, Redbone will be an icon of Oklahoma eateries. It's that dang good. On the other side of it, I'm not sure if Indian tacos are just an Oklahoma thing, but I've never found one beyond our borders. Puffy, chewy fry bread topped with seasoned meat and veggies? Yes. A million times yes. Ask any kid that ate hot lunch at Oklahoma schools growing up... The favorite lunch days were pizza pocket day and Indian taco day. I really wish I could tell you where to find Redbone Indian Tacos too. I often see that trailer in Medicine Park, but I know it travels quite a bit too in the region. If you get the chance, try anything on the menu. While the Indian taco is the star, everything else will flat knock your socks off.