We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
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
Red Horse Grill
2205 W. Main St., Norman
What worked: Diner food that’s not from a corporate supplier.
What needs work: Tidy up the dining room sports shrine.
Tip: Twenty years in business means it’s doing lots of things right.
“Hidden in plain sight” is one way to describe Red Horse Grill. The eatery’s front is angled in such a way that the windows don’t face the busy main drag nearby.
“We’re kind of secluded in here,” co-owner Andrew Kabara said.
This year, he and his wife, Jane Kabara, are celebrating two decades of operating Red Horse Grill.
“We want people to know that we’re still here after all these years,” Kabara said.
Six-foot-tall posters on the windows holler to the world that the Wednesday evening special is Indian tacos ($3.99) and the all-day Friday special is fried catfish ($6.75) with family-recipe coleslaw and pumpkin fritters.
The couple contracts with a Native American woman who makes the fry bread dough for the tacos.
“Jane says we have a Cheers atmosphere without the alcohol,” Kabara said. “Especially on Friday nights; our customers all know each other. It’s like a neighborhood bar without being a bar.”
With its lived-in atmosphere, the place certainly is comfortable. And it’s not pretentious in the least; service was swift and cheerful on an early weeknight. The menu is not exotic and adheres to Oklahoma grill standards including burgers, chickenfried steak, grilled or fried chicken and chili. “Munchers” was the only unknown item.
Those are deep-fried potato and jalapeño bits served with, of course, ranch dressing. The restaurant even has Frito chili pie, and okra is right at the top of the side dish section. When gravy is among the “extras” for addition to any dish, you’re assuredly dining in the bosom of the Sooner Nation.
There’s a small ($6.99) and large ($7.99) chef’s salad. But it’s not bunny food that brings in the oil patch hands and delivery truck drivers that dominate the noon crowd. The deep fryer’s roar was like music to the ears. That’s what the roustabouts are talking about, not an eight-buck bowl of iceberg lettuce.
Red Horse’s 1/3-pound bacon cheeseburger ($6.80) is Oklahoma-raised Certified Angus Beef. Its irregular patty was obviously handformed right there in the kitchen.
The burger was right up there with any of the best in Norman, and it’s the Red Horse pride and joy. But before biting into any meal, you should hit the “fixin’s bar.” It’s like a salad bar but just includes sliced red onions, pickles, sliced tomatoes and salsa. The bread-and-butter pickles are particularly crunchy and good.
The dozen gorgeous golden brown onion rings ($4.50) ordered to accompany the hamburger were the size of donuts. There’s no way you can eat them all. Frozen custard (75 cents to $3.75) is vanilla only, but Red Horse will be glad to top it with a bright red maraschino cherry. Little touches like that have undoubtedly kept Red Horse Grill running for 20 years and will carry it forward through the next twenty.