When people think about Oklahoma City, they might envision scenes of the Wild West, dry and deserted areas, and oil derricks dotting the landscape, but the city is nothing like that. OKC has evolved over the last several decades into a thriving metropolis with a diverse population, a rich culture, and a robust food scene. Yes, you read that right. Oklahoma City’s restaurants are thriving, constantly reinventing what diners can expect to find in the land of wheat and cattle.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants — in no particular order — you will want to seek out on your next visit to Oklahoma City.
I dined at some of these restaurants on a hosted press trip, but as always, opinions are 100 percent my own.
1. Cafe Kacao
This restaurant is regularly named as one of the top restaurants in Oklahoma City, and for good reason. Patrons are welcomed by a large street art mural that reads Alegria (or “happiness” in Spanish) on the exterior restaurant wall. It’s the perfect introduction to the vibe you’ll find inside.
Cafe Kacao serves breakfast dishes from around Latin America, including those from the owner’s native Guatemala. The crowds come early every day of the week, so if you don’t want to wait in a long line, be sure to arrive before 9 a.m.
What To Order At Cafe Kacao
In my opinion, all good breakfasts start with coffee, and Cafe Kacao has plenty of options for every palate. My personal favorites are the Café Cubano and the Orange Zest Mocha. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, there are brunch cocktails (try the Horchata Rum Latte) and beer.
As I mentioned, dishes here have a Latin American foundation or twist. The main entrées are listed as Recetas de Mama, or “Family Recipes.” Chilaquiles are a popular menu item, as is Desayuno Chapin, a traditional Guatemalan breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, refried black beans, feta, tortillas, and fried plantains.
Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t miss their signature mango pancakes, two giant flapjacks with mango, lechera sauce, blackberry bourbon sauce, and seasonal berries. No matter what you order, you’re sure to find a new favorite at Cafe Kacao.
Pro Tip: The restaurant opens at 7 a.m. every day of the week; except on Sunday when they open at 8 a.m. If you can’t arrive early, you can reserve a spot in line on Yelp. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting an hour or more to be seated.
2. Thirty Nine Restaurant
The restaurant’s menu is based on the traditional ingredients used by 39 recognized Native American tribes in Oklahoma. Expect to find things that would be grown locally such as corn, beans, and bison.
What To Order At Thirty Nine Restaurant
Dishes that shouldn’t be missed include the corn rib appetizer, with sumac butter, smoked jalapeño aioli, and queso fresco; the Thirty Nine bison burger; and the popcorn crème brûlée.
Pro Tip: The restaurant is open for lunch Wednesday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, but is closed on Monday and Tuesday. We recommend making a reservation ahead of time on the restaurant’s website and visiting the museum before or after you eat.
3. The Collective Food Hall
Food halls are a great option when traveling with friends or when you don’t know what you want to eat. Located in the Midtown District, The Collective has nine different dining options serving everything from coffee and dessert waffles to Philly cheesesteaks and poke bowls. There’s also a bar serving over 30 beers on draft, an outdoor patio space, and weekly entertainment. It’s one of the best places to spend a Friday or Saturday evening downtown.
What To Order At The Collective Food Hall
I’m a sucker for tacos, so we tried the fried taco which offers a variety of fillings served inside fried taco shells. These Puerto Rican tacos will melt in your mouth and I recommend ordering a variety of flavors so you can find your new favorite. We tried the Nashville hot chicken and the brisket with a side of tostones. This Puerto Rican can confirm that the flavors were the right mix of spicy and sweet, and the meat was perfectly cooked.
Pro Tip: The dining hall can get crowded and seating can be at a premium, especially on the weekends. Find a table first and then take turns placing your orders. You’ll receive pagers that will buzz when your food is ready.
4. Black Walnut
James Beard Outstanding Chef Award semifinalist Andrew Black is at the helm of this fine-dining restaurant in downtown OKC. Menu choices are paired with flavor profiles instead of the traditional appetizer, salad, entrée, or dessert. Instead, you’ll find the menu divided into sections like fresh and light, smoky and satisfying, and sweet and savory. Cocktails have fun names like “Old Man and the Sea” or “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” No matter which part of the menu you order from, you’re sure to find a new favorite.
What To Order At Black Walnut
Everything on the menu deserves to be sampled, but we recommend starting with the baked chèvre with confit peppers and candied bacon. For the main course, why not dig into the 28-day aged tomahawk with mac and cheese and braised root vegetables? If that’s too big for your appetite, how about a nice branzino with saffron raisin couscous? Dessert is constantly changing, so if you have room, be sure to try the creation of the day.
5. Saj Lebanese Cuisine
I can honestly say I have never sought out a Lebanese restaurant while traveling, but Saj Lebanese Cuisine has changed my mind. The restaurant just opened in August and has quickly become a neighborhood favorite. Dishes are created from family recipes that were passed from generation to generation, and the owners want you to feel their love through the meals they create.
What To Order At Saj Lebanese Cuisine
I had no idea what to order, but I was not disappointed by the chicken shawarma platter and baba ghanoush. Other well-known Lebanese dishes can also be found here, including falafel, kafta, and tabouli. Be sure to finish with a slice of baklava and try the Aïshti Fashioned, a cocktail with Lebanese cherry liqueur and bourbon bitters.
6. Waffle Champion
Who says waffles are only for breakfast? Waffle Champion offers a variety of sweet and savory flavors that are sure to please all palates. This popular restaurant in the Midtown District serves waffles of all shapes and sizes, from waffle bites to waffle sandwiches. There are even waffle fries if that’s what you’re looking for!
What To Order At Waffle Champion
I’ve never said no to a sweet breakfast dish, so my choice is the liege waffle with caramelized pearl sugar, or the s’mores waffle with melted marshmallow, a chocolate ganache, and graham cracker crumbs.
If you are looking for savory options, be sure to try the chicken and waffles with Tabasco honey or the Florentine with scrambled eggs, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and a goat cheese béchamel. There are also smoothies, salads, soups, breakfast tacos, and avocado toast. If you’re not a waffle fan, there are plenty of other options.
Pro Tip: This is a counter-service restaurant, so order at the counter and then find a seat. We recommend a table on the patio if the weather is nice, but be sure to get your silverware and napkins before heading outside.
7. Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
If you want traditional Oklahoma City fare, you need to head to Cattlemen’s. One of the best steakhouses in the U.S. this OKC staple opened in 1910 and is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the state. Located in historic Stockyards City, the restaurant has served everyone from John Wayne and Reba McEntire to George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. As my Oklahoma-raised husband says, “it’s the place where the cattle walk in the back door and go out the front door on a plate.” It’s that fresh.
What To Order At Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
Everyone is sure to have a different cut of meat they prefer, but we love the restaurant’s blue ribbon feature, The “USDA Prime” Blue Ribbon Special. It’s not always available, but if it’s on the menu, be sure to try it. Other local favorites include fried catfish, fried okra, lamb fries (best if you don’t look this up on Google, just try them), and the filet mignon.
Pro Tip: If you’re dining at Cattlemen’s on the weekend, be sure to walk over and check out the events happening in Stockyards City. There are year-round events, from the Stockyards Stampede to a Cowboy Christmas Parade.