There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
1150 Ed Noble Parkway, Norman
What worked: attentive service, contemporary atmosphere and good food
What needs work: Pound that round steak harder before frying it.
The Tip: Lots of menu choices with a few out-of-the park home runs.
Back in the day, Interurban was the popular streetcar people-mover between Oklahoma City and Norman. The system eventually went away as cars and highways took over transportation needs. Norman’s Interurban station survived and was transformed into a restaurant in 1976.
Since then, the locally owned and operated eatery has grown to three other metro locations and stores in Tulsa, Chickasha, Ardmore and Duncan. Norman’s original Interurban moved from the railroad tracks a few years ago and now stands on the south end of the miracle mile of restaurants — mostly national chains — stretching along Ed Noble Parkway. Its new building is an attractive, futuristic structure with a flying V-shaped roof, glass block walls and a full-window entryway.
It has a diabolical way of extracting money before you even walk in the door, with an adorable, coin-operated Interurban Flyer kiddie ride on the sidewalk.
Inside, the contemporary theme continues with oversized canvases of trolley cars on the walls, track lighting and spacious teak and leather booth seating. Low lighting, delicate background music and fresh flowers contribute to an attractive place.
We were greeted promptly at the door and led to a table right away. Server Justin Thrash expertly walked the thin line between attentiveness and annoying hover.
“We’re family-oriented,” manager Nate Clark said. “Our main goal is to make people happy.”
Interurban does that with a large menu that could be called International American. Hints are taken from Asian and Mexican cuisines, but most dishes would be familiar at similar spots coast to coast. Cajun flavor makes a few appearances, and Tex-Mex is well-represented. There’s even a Cuban sandwich ($7.99) with the traditional filling of pork, ham and Swiss cheese held together by nonpurist ciabatta, rather than Cuban bread.
Brett’s Fish Tacos ($10.49) are a superb catch because of the scintillating combination of flavors. Blackened tilapia, avocado spears, shredded cabbage, Jack cheese and pineapple salsa are swaddled in a pair of flour tortillas. Save for the side of borracho beans needing some spicy oomph in the department of rocking taste buds, fish tacos come with unqualified recommendation.
Heather’s Macaroni and Cheese ($10.99) is a pretty name for a pasta dish, unless it reminds you of Heathers, the 1988 Winona Ryder movie. Elbow-shaped noodles are stirred with grilled chicken, Alfredo sauce, Parmesan, American and pepper Jack cheeses. Heather should be proud to be immortalized through this macaroni plate.
An ugly name for a tasty meal is the Barking Fish sandwich ($10.29). The simplicity of tuna grilled to order and served on a toast- ed bun with lemon, caper and aioli sauce is howling good. A little heart shape appears on the menu next to this sandwich, so what’s not to love?
The chicken-fried steak ($10.79) was not “fork tender” as described on the menu. However, the otherwise-delicious hunk of well-breaded fried beef disappeared from my plate.
The cream gravy was excellent, and fancy mashed potatoes likewise. A small section of boiled and unadorned sweet corn begged to be grilled instead or tarted up in some way. There was also a scrumptious beer-batter muffin on the side.
Don’t skip dessert. Pineapple and raisin bread pudding with sweet tequila sauce ($4.99) may sound like a culinary train wreck, but it’s divine.