Best of OKC

Best of OKC 2017: Rest of OKC


Welcome to Oklahoma Gazette’s annual Rest of OKC issue, where we take a lighthearted look at the best other things in Oklahoma City! You’ll find a list of all of this year’s Best of OKC winners plus all the weird and wonderful things about our great city.

By Gazette staff | Photos and illustrations by Gazette staff and provided



Best worst capitol day

Bennett v. Muslims

Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, knew it was the third annual Muslim Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Oklahoma chapter.

The lawmaker, who is well known for making radical, bigoted remarks in his official capacity at the Capitol, knew he would be away from his office. In the event that Muslim constituents made a visit to his office, Bennett prepared a questionnaire.

When three Muslim students visited Bennett’s office and asked to speak with the four-term lawmaker, they were handed the prepared questionnaire.

It asked the students, “Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?” and “Do you beat your wife?”

As you might imagine, Bennett once again made national headlines and the incident was added to a long list of anti-Muslim events in Oklahoma. You might recall Bennett conducted an interim study on “radical Islam” last fall. At the capitol study, a presenter called CAIR a terrorist organization.

According to a statement Bennett sent KFOR, the questionnaire was based on what he had read in the Quran and other Muslim faith texts. Bennett, himself, is a reader of the Bible, which he says is the blueprint for living.

Until Bennett, who is not to be confused with Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, re-reads John 13:34-35 (A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another) and embraces the biblical advice, we sadly see Oklahoma Muslims repeating in this category.

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Garett Fisbeck
Governor Mary Fallin speaks during a Makers Conference at Francis Tuttle, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

Best worst Trump nominees from Oklahoma

Mary Fallin and Scott Pruitt

In a state so red that surrounding states worriedly ask if Oklahoma is still taking its beta blockers, it only makes sense that the state Capitol was a great place for President Donald Trump to recruit new officials to join the wrong side of history.

Shortly after Trump won on Nov. 8, Gov. Mary Fallin excitedly met with Captain Orange at Trump Tower. During the campaign, her name was bandied about for leading the Bureau of Indian Affairs, possibly because of her daughter’s abiding love for wearing sacred tribal headdresses as a fashion statement. Other potential jobs mentioned for Fallin included the Bureau of Land Management, because there aren’t enough oil derricks in Yellowstone National Park, and the U.S. Geological Survey, because she recently discovered what causes earthquakes in Oklahoma.

After her meeting, Fallin met with reporters in front of those golden elevators that later served as a backdrop for Trump’s post-Charlottesville great healing of our riven nation.

“We discussed a wide range of issues and his plan and agenda for America and how I might be able to help,” she told reporters. “It was a wonderful discussion. Really enjoyed it. Very excited about the administration and all of the wonderful things that will be done for America.”

Such an innocent, sun-dappled time that was. Anyway, Fallin wasn’t offered a cabinet-level position, but in May, Trump appointed her co-chair of the Council of Governors, a body that was convened in 2010 to facilitate greater cooperation between states and the feds regarding homeland

security and response to disasters. By meeting with Trump, Fallin proved that her standard response to disasters is to shake hands with the disaster.

Meanwhile, the real Trump Sweepstakes winner was former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, our new Environmental “Protection” Agency chief. Pruitt spent much of his tenure as AG railing against what he saw as anti-capitalist environmental regulations and trying to push through a state question that would have given factory farms a carte blanche to run roughshod over surrounding landowners.

According to a July 24 New York Times report, these days, Pruitt spends roughly half his time back in Oklahoma. The Times article reported widespread speculation in Oklahoma that Pruitt is seeking statewide office, which would mean we should all go home and hug our children and tell them we love them.

But then a subsequent Times article described the current EPA as a shadowy, paranoid institution where Pruitt is the first agency head to request 24/7 security. Pruitt has armed guards accompanying him at all times, just like all super-popular people charged with making sure the birds still chirp. EPA employees can no longer access the floor where Pruitt works without escort, and they must first leave their cellphones outside his office before meeting with him and are often told not to take notes.

This way, they cannot take cellphone photos of Pruitt, disheveled and alone, babbling to himself while eating a live, mercury-poisoned fish. We’re not saying that Gollum-like behavior takes place, but thanks to the weirdly Howard Hughesian clampdown Pruitt enacted at the EPA, we don’t know that it hasn’t happened.

Best friend to Oklahoma women

Sen. Kay Floyd

It’s tough being a woman in Oklahoma.

In recent years, our state has become the female incarceration capital of the nation. In domestic violence statistics, the Sooner State is sixth in the nation for women killed by their intimate partner.

It doesn’t get any better in the workforce, as Oklahoma women with full-time jobs earned an average 77 cents to every dollar their male counterparts earned.

In areas of health, Oklahoma has the second-highest teen birth rate in the United States. Of course, unconstitutional bills filed by state lawmakers perennially assault women’s health and reproductive rights.

At the Capitol, despite a female governor, only 13.4 percent of state legislators are female.

There are bright spots for women, like Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. First elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, Floyd has fought to improve the quality of life of Oklahoma families and protect children and victims of domestic abuse. She is not alone. There are many other brave and courageous Oklahoma women lawmakers by her side.

Last November, Floyd accepted the 2016 Elected Women of Excellence Award from the National Foundation for Women Legislators. This past spring, the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women honored Floyd with the 2017 Guardian Award to recognize her contribution to guarding, protecting and preserving the rights of women and families.

Three cheers for Floyd!

Best worst friend to Oklahoma women

Rep. Elise Hall

It wasn’t a stellar session for the Oklahoma Legislature and its treatment of women. An equal pay bill remained stalled in committee thanks to Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, who became the only woman in the House not to sign on as co-author.

Ironically, Hall replaced Dan Kirby as chair of the Business, Commerce and Tourism committee. Kirby resigned from the Legislature following sexual harassment claims leveled by former assistants.

Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, made international headlines during the session when he referred to pregnant women as “hosts” during debate on a bill he authored that would’ve required women to get written consent of the fetus’ father before getting an abortion.

Rep. Karen Gaddis, D-Tulsa, was elected to replace Kirby, which brings the Oklahoma legislature’s female representation to 13.4 percent, among the bottom 10 in the country.

After some of the comments and actions from lawmakers this session, we can only hope that number will increase.

Best activism

Women’s March on Oklahoma

A month before the Women’s March, which became a worldwide protest on Jan. 21 to advocate legislation and policies that benefit women and children, Lindsey Kanaly — lead organizer of Women’s March on Oklahoma — told Oklahoma Gazette, “Our goal is to bring people together, educate them about what is happening in Oklahoma and what needs to change. Our legislators need our support. They can’t do it by themselves. They need to know what is important to us.”

Kanaly and other Oklahomans planning the Capitol march anticipated a crowd of 2,000 people gathering around the south Capitol steps that morning. By the time the march began down N. Lincoln Boulevard, the crowd had swelled well past a couple thousand people. About 12,000 women, men and children of various races, religions, political affiliations and social classes united to advocate on a number of policies to impact change in Oklahoma.

In the past 12 months, there has been a number of marches, protests, rallies and candlelight vigils in response to police brutality, indigenous rights, racism and other issues of social injustice. Metro residents have made their voices heard.

“The potential for the change to happen from the bottom up has never been greater than right now,” Kanaly told PBS NewsHour. “What we do with it is going to be key. It can’t just be show up for this march for this one day, then go home and get on Facebook to complain. You have to keep doing something.”

Best worst law proposed

Laws undoing State Questions 780 and 781

Ye careless voters of Oklahoma need not worry; our state’s fine elected officials are here to cover up all your misguided mistakes.

In reality, most Oklahomans probably knew exactly what they were voting for when they approved State Questions 780 and 781, which together reclassified lesser drug offenses as misdemeanors and funneled the money saved from reduced sentences to fund rehabilitative programs. Voters approved both state questions last November.

A few lawmakers who pride themselves as “tough on crime” types were apparently flabbergasted that the state’s people could make a decision to lessen any kind of penalty, despite a prison system currently well beyond its maximum capacity.

Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, introduced House Bill 1482 this legislative session. Former Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, introduced Senate Bills 503 and 512. Among other things, both legislative attempts would have increased penalties if drugs were found within a certain distance of a public park or school, effectively reversing the will of the people in SQ 780 and SQ 781.

Neither of the lawmakers’ bills advanced to the governor’s desk this past legislative session. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, told Tulsa World in a March 2017 story that the notion that state voters did not know the implications of either State Question is insulting.

“This idea that voters didn’t know what they were voting on is wrong,” she said. “I’ve heard from people inside my district and outside who said, ‘I knew exactly what I was doing.’”

Hear that? State voters actually knew what they were doing. Then again, this is the same electorate that voted in some of these lawmakers.

Best future district

SheMa (Shepherd Mall)

With all due respect to our friends at NoMa, the upstart commercial North May District between NW 122nd Street and Hefner Avenue, mama didn’t raise no fool.

Yes, we realize there are districts in this city with more tangible momentum than (the historic?) Shepherd Mall. The Farmers Market District (near downtown between Pennsylvania and Shartel avenues and Reno Ave. and Interstate 40), Film Row (west of downtown near the intersection of N. Sheridan and N. Lee avenues) and Wheeler District (south of the Oklahoma River near the Wheeler Ferris wheel, 1701 S. Western Ave.) are all clearly on the rise with plenty of new attractions.

Still, we here at Oklahoma Gazette like to peer into the future — even the very distant future. Maybe the forgotten shopping mall found on NW 23rd Street between Pennsylvania and Villa avenues does not excite the average onlooker now, but just wait until a failed Silicon Valley trust-fund millennial comes along to throw some of daddy’s cash at the site.

Once that place adds an Apple Store, avocado toast bar and local hot sauce boutique, the young crowd won’t be able to stay away. Current tenants like ASTEC Charter School and the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission are about to be popping!

Other forgotten area malls are attempting to step back into relevance. Crossroads Mall has seen some success after being rebranded as Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads. Northpark Mall (now Shoppes at Northpark) is doing its best to stay hip as part of NoMa. But we believe Shepherd Mall — given its close proximity to top-notch fried-chicken fast food staples like KFC, Golden Chick and Raising Cane’s — is best positioned to become a true cultural force in this city: SheMa.

Best place to get Faygo in the face

Gathering of the Juggalos

July’s four-day Gathering of the Juggalos festival essentially went off without a hitch, with only eight people arrested out of the estimated 8,000 attending each day. The arrests were for the expected violations like drugs and disorderly conduct. Considering that Insane Clown Posse was founded on principles of disorderly conduct, this arrest must have really been super-special, like finding a Faygo bottle at Whole Foods Market.

But considering how local media and law enforcement responded to the impending arrival of the face-painting invitational and hardcore music haven, it was as if thousands of Pennywises were crawling from the Oklahoma City sewers to take our children. KOCO had its chopper flying over Lost Lakes Amphitheater and Water Park, and The Oklahoman even interviewed a reformed Juggalo who was traveling from Florida for the event in the hopes of dragging a few of Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J’s acolytes into the church, where they would sing sweet verses to the Almighty instead of “Fucking magnets/ how do they work?”

Ultimately, there were no buffalo statue mutilations, appearances by the Yellow King or the Slim Jim shortages that many feared. Instead, Oklahoma City received an infusion of Faygo, the super-fizzy bargain soda that the average Juggalo would normally have to drive 227 miles to the Bosselman Travel Stop in Salina, Kansas, to enjoy. That sweet nectar of the evil clown gets sprayed at ICP concerts at a constant clip, which meant thousands of Sooner Juggalos and Juggalettes could forego Best Choice brand and soak up face-fulls of Redpop, Candy Apple and Moon Mist Blue, all delivered at high velocity. So far, that’s not a crime in Oklahoma, but the Oklahoma State Legislature, instead of fixing the state budget crisis, is probably mulling a new law against cheap Michigan soda that a few low-information legislators might believe causes clown rampages.

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Donnay Building, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best one-company urban renewal machine

Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores

The Donnay Building is a funky-looking historic building at a weird and busy intersection in northwest Oklahoma City. With local businesses like HiLo Club, Drunken Fry, Charlie’s Jazz-Rhythm & Blues Records and neighboring diner Classen Grill, it’s a well-liked place to make memories and spend time with friends and family.

According to Okie Mod Squad cofounder Lynne Rostochil, that’s exactly what has happened at the Donnay Building since it opened in 1954 with businesses like The Patio restaurant.

“This building and the businesses in it touch the core of people,” Rostochil told Oklahoma Gazette in July. “What I find interesting about this building is it’s not just history; these businesses are thriving with new memories being made every day.”

Maybe that’s what Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores officials saw when they looked closely at Classen Circle. They pondered, “Why couldn’t people make more great memories with Braum’s ice cream and other food items ‘Fresh From Our Family Farm’ at that very spot in Oklahoma City?”

In July, Braum’s officials submitted a rezoning application with the City of Oklahoma City that revealed their plans for a new restaurant on the property and the demolition of existing buildings including the Donnay.

One might call it the most ambitious — on a much smaller scale — urban renewal project since architect I.M. Pei unveiled his plan to modernize downtown Oklahoma City by demolishing 500 buildings back in the 1960s. (BTW, most Oklahoma Citians look back on the Pei Plan with distaste, as the city tore down one historic building after another in hopes to create viable retail or residential options that never took off.)

A group called Save Classen Circle – Boycott Braums organized a protest hours after news broke of the rezoning application. The Tuttle-based company’s attorney later asked city officials to move the application to a September planning and zoning meeting to allow for more time to meet with the community. Let’s hope this community meeting happens.

Best local celebrity with two Beatles’ names

Paul George

Wow! Genius Sam Presti has done it again. The Oklahoma City Thunder general manager only had to give up players Victor Oladipo and Domantis Sabonis to land half of Liverpool’s legendary Fab Four. We’re not sure how much game Paul McCartney has on the court (hopefully he was able to find some time for a shootaround before his July 17 concert at Chesapeake Arena), but the halftime shows are about to be the league’s best.

OK, relax. Of course we know the Thunder roster’s newest addition is former Indiana Pacer small forward Paul George and not a pair of English musicians born in the 1940s (one of which is no longer living).

Whether or not George stays after his contract expires at the end of this season, OKC has every right to be excited about watching one of basketball’s best talents in a Thunder uniform.

Still, if Presti’s goal is to get Russell Westbrook to resign with the team, trading for some top-flight musical talent would not be the worst idea. Westbrook’s love for Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is well documented. We also know that his seemingly endless wardrobe includes band shirts for KISS, Ramones and Slayer.

Everyone loves Rumble, but if trading him for legendary metal vocalist Tom Araya of Slayer is enough to keep Westbrook in town, then it is time to send our bipedal bovine friend packing.

Best new golf buddy

Bob Stoops

Are you looking to add a four handicap to your foursome at Belmar Golf Club or the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club?

It turns out that one avid golfer has some more free time on his hands and will be able to give you the inside scoop on how the Sooners stack up this year: Bob Stoops himself.

After Big Game Bob made the shocking decision to retire as the University of Oklahoma’s football coach in June, an announcement that was delayed to give OU’s softball and men’s golf team a chance to celebrate national championships, Stoops has yet to take a high-paying television analyst gig. That should give him plenty of time to hit the links.

Stoops is an annual participant in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he finished fourth in 2012 and once hit a hole-in-one according to Golf Digest, but his game can always drops a few strokes, and what better way than to do so with you? That’s right, you!

Stoops turned the program over to 33-year-old Lincoln Riley, but he left him senior Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Baker Mayfield and a strong recruiting class on which to build.

Stoops took over the program in 1998 coming off three losing seasons; the team was a shell of its former glory. Stoops won a national title and appeared in three other championship games while becoming the all-time winningest coach in school history in the process. That’s a lot to accomplish by the age of 57. It’ll be awhile before he moves up to the senior tees on the golf course.

Best person to help you cry into your cereal

John Moreland

Let’s start with this: John Moreland is fantastic and one of the most exquisitely talented songwriters in a state chock-full of songsmiths. When we’re crying to Moreland’s music, it is absolutely because we want to be.

The tattooed and gruffly bearded Americana crooner uniquely rose to prominence by way of Oklahoma’s hardcore punk community. Moreland was born in Texas but settled in Tulsa as a teen thanks to his father’s military job.

As much as we love Moreland in Oklahoma, his music is truly the world’s now. The singer-songwriter has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and his last few albums have drawn rave reviews from national music media. He is currently on the last stretch of a long tour through Europe.

Moreland released his newest album, Big Bad Luv, in May, continuing the relentless momentum of 2015’s High on Tulsa Heat. Big Bad Luv sprinkles in a few more upbeat numbers in an overall more rock-centric album, but make no mistake; there is still plenty of heartbreak to go around.

Sometimes the best way to start the day is by letting all your emotions out. When you need an early morning release, go pour some Froot Loops and put on “Cherokee” or “No Glory in Regret.” After you thoughtfully crunch your way through breakfast, dripping slow tears into your cold milk, you’ll be more than ready to put past pain behind you as you march bravely toward the future.

Best boring park name

Scissortail Park

The downtown development of a 68-acre, $138 million park that will connect two parks with the use of a sky bridge is this much closer to reality after a groundbreaking ceremony in June.

It’s an exciting time in downtown OKC as the MAPS project continues to pay off. There is only one problem: Did we really have to name the upper park after the Scissortail? Doesn’t the state bird already serve as enough inspiration around the state? Skydance Bridge, which will connect the two parks, is designed after the bird. The new Oklahoma license plate features an outline of the bird. We get it; the bird has a cool tail.

Public input was used to determine the park’s name, and we feel this was an opportunity missed to gain some viral fame. The city said on Twitter that it would not accept Parky McParkface as an option after Boaty McBoatface won an Internet contest to name a British research ship.

What about Kendrick Parkins, a name the city said would be considered? That would’ve been a great way to honor a great Oklahoma City Thunder teammate and get some Internet chatter.

Despite its rather boring name, Scissortail Park is scheduled to open in early 2019 and will bring development to an otherwise forgotten area of downtown.

Best place to getaway from it all

Frontier City’s Silver Bullet

Oklahoma City is loaded with coffee shops and libraries well geared for making quiet work or study sessions pleasant and enjoyable. There are also plenty of lakes and camping destinations in the state for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

However, none of those spots are what we’d call “thrilling.” For the adrenaline junkie looking to catch up on emails or read through a few chapters of the newest James Patterson novel, the Silver Bullet roller coaster at Frontier City is highly recommended.

Some call the coaster’s penchant for stalling midway through its run on the tracks a negative. (There have been at least five stoppages on the ride in the last decade and at least three in the last two years.) We here at Oklahoma Gazette are glass-half-full types. Instead of looking at it as “getting stuck,” riders should enjoy their aerial perch as they patiently wait for emergency personnel to pluck them from the sky.

Let’s face it; there is probably something in most riders’ days they were trying to avoid anyway — a high school reunion or family dinner perhaps. But one ride on the Silver Bullet and boom, an instant, undeniable and verifiable excuse from any and all social engagements.

“Oh, I’m so sorry middle-school-friend Becky whom I have not seen in three years. I can’t make it to your wedding to Steve the insurance salesman because I’m stuck on a roller coaster high above the city’s Adventure District. My best and sincerest wishes to you both.”

Best worst Trump inaugural performer

Toby Keith

Oklahomans contend with a constant fear that the “# Days Without a National Embarrassment” sign will roll back to zero, like whenever State Rep. John Bennett opens his mouth. Those unfortunate incidents always play to Oklahoma’s largely incorrect national image as a mélange of country music clichés, catastrophic weather phenomena, atrocious politics and YouTube supercuts of classic Cops arrests.

Then Toby Keith decided to perform at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and we watched the rolling digit creak sadly back to its nil position. One of the best-selling acts from Oklahoma not rhyming with Darth Schnooks, Keith joined such illustrious performers as 1970s variety show star Tony Orlando, child warbler Jackie Evancho and 3 Doors Down, who have dined out on their single “Kryptonite” for 17 years now.

Keith left the Democratic Party in 2008, one month before Barack Obama’s first presidential victory, but he did play the Nobel Peace Prize concert in 2009, when Obama won the award, so he continues to be a bipartisan event performer. However, he is unapologetic that his “Red Solo Cup” has “MAGA” emblazoned on it.

“There’s no reason not to do it,” Keith said about the inauguration performance during the 2017 Country Radio Seminar, as reported in March by The Boot. “I know a bunch of people were committed. I know a bunch of people — I’m not naming names — but there’s a bunch of people that I didn’t think would have considered it who were committed, and they backed out due to pressure.”

Yes, “pressure” is the real culprit, not any concern about being associated with an apologist for hate groups who is currently under investigation by a special counsel and cannot get through a single news cycle without damaging the U.S. standing on the world stage. No, sir.

This summer, Keith released a new single, “Wacky Tobacky,” from his upcoming album, The Bus Songs. The song extolls the virtues of cannabis, à la his “Weed With Willie.” This puts Keith at odds with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who wants to prosecute medical marijuana growers who are acting in accordance with laws in their states. He also reauthorized civil asset forfeiture in drug cases, which means that if Keith gets popped for “Wacky Tobacky” by the Drug Enforcement Agency, he could lose the bus from The Bus Songs. Still no reason not to do it, Toby?

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Adam Daniels and Jeremy Melvin talk about an upcoming black mass at the Church of Ahriman Satanists in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 19, 2016. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best devilish ritual

Black Mass at the Civic Center

Civic Center Music Hall is the heart of Oklahoma City’s cultural life, but it’s not without its issues. For instance, there’s always the herd of unfortunate Nutcracker attendees who don’t know proper ballet etiquette and proceed to loudly complain about their seats and unwrap and eat the fried chicken that Grandma smuggled in her purse. And, of course, there’s the labyrinthine climb to the balcony, which can start to feel like an endurance test rivaled only by the Michael Bublé concert that awaits you.

But those inconveniences are nothing compared to having a satanic priest unleash a hellmouth on stage, and you thought you were there to see The Lion King. In August 2016, Church of Ahriman leader Dastur Adam Daniels held a black Mass at the Civic Center, including a ceremony known as the Consumption of Mary.

In the ceremony, a statue of the Virgin Mary is placed at the center of a Solomonic triangle and some devil worshippers dance counter-clockwise around the statue. (Counter-clockwise is bad, like being left-handed or parting your hair on the wrong side.) Then a priestess breaks open the statue, revealing a pig’s heart, and eats it as if she’s eating the heart of Mary. It’s melodramatic to such a point that old-school Satan-baiters like Ozzy Osbourne or Marilyn Manson might deem it too over-the-top.

Daniels’ periodic grandstanding in the name of Baphomet caused more problems than just a need to call Buffy in to reseal the hellmouth. This month, Daniels filed suit against Putnam City School District, alleging that teachers and employees mistreated his three children and made false allegations to the Department of Human Services about their parenting. Daniels is suing for $300,000 in damages, which would buy approximately 30,000 pig hearts on

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Chicken and Waffles with Thundertini at Legacy Grill Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best worst name fulfillment

Legacy Grill

Oh, Legacy Grill, we hardly knew ye. Less than a year after Legacy Grill opened as a retrofitting of KD’s southern eatery, the restaurant concept that opened because Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors is already gone.

We expected more from a restaurant with “legacy” in the name. Legacy Grill opened with tributes to famous Oklahomans, which was coordinated by Oklahoma Heritage Association, but its menu was only a slight retooling of the soul food offered at KD’s.

Legacy Grill did about as well at honoring Oklahoma’s history as Gary Busey trying to remember facts from his Tulsa high school history class after a bender.

The restaurant location at 224 Johnny Bench Drive in Bricktown that is managed by Hal Smith Restaurants has reemerged as part of the Charleston’s chain. The popular chain, which boasts three OKC locations among its 18 national locations, should provide stability to the downtown storefront, but we were hoping for something original. Too bad we couldn’t get it at Legacy Grill.

Best story Oklahoma Gazette almost wrote

Wall-to-wall Tom Felton coverage

If you have a Facebook or other social media account, you likely saw at least one of your friends posting a picture or update on former Harry Potter actor Tom Felton, who was seemingly all over the metro area while filming a movie in-state.

Felton spent most of his childhood playing Potter’s personal adversary Draco Malfoy in the series of films based on author J.K. Rowling’s teen fiction phenomenon.

The British actor, who turns 30 in September (seriously, where have the years gone?), enjoyed an extended stay in Oklahoma while shooting a film titled Whaling, which co-stars Tammin Sursok (The Young and the Restless, Pretty Little Liars). The film’s crew shot several scenes in Guthrie.

Like any good news outlet, Oklahoma Gazette directs its coverage to fit the interests and needs of its audience. Judging from our social networking feeds flooded with Felton selfies, blurry pictures at a distance of Felton at a neighborhood bar or thrift store and nearly stalkerlike updates on his location in the city, it is clear there was a fair amount of interest in Felton.

While it would have been tempting to focus all our attention on Felton’s day-to-day activities in the Sooner State, the truth is social media seemed to have this particular news beat pretty well covered. On top of your great journalistic work in documenting Felton’s shopping and eating habits over the span of his Oklahoma stay, we will merely add that Whaling is currently in post-production and its release date is still undetermined.

Best new bar concept

Meow touché

With the addition of Rewind Pub, 1203 SW Second St., in the up-and-coming Farmer’s Market District, it means Oklahoma City has not one, but two vintage video game-themed bars, positioning the city to corner the market on 2012’s hottest trend: the barcade.

Mario, Donkey Kong and Galaga are just a few of the old-school video game cabinets available at Rewind Pub or FlashBack Retro Pub at 814 W. Sheridan Ave. Classic video games are fun, especially when paired with the right ’80s soundtrack, but if Oklahoma City has two barcades, does that mean the trend is losing steam?

Instead of being reactionary, what if OKC became a trendsetter for the rest of the country’s bar scene? Let’s see; we’re just spitballing here, but y’all like cats, right? The Japanese trend of using cats to help soothe patrons at cafes has made its way stateside, with Meow Parlour in New York City, but we can do better than that. Maybe a cat bar with a side of fencing. Snuggle kitties while you watch your possibly inebriated friends fence.

The latest trend in Tokyo is the penguin bar. At Penguin no Iru Bar, patrons can watch their cute bird friends waddle and splash in cool water while they sip drinks. Is this something OKC Zoo can put together? It might allow the zoo to stay open past 5 p.m.

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Chicken fried steak dinner with mashed potatoes at Chuck House in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best future food truck item

Chicken-fried steak on a stick

Food truck business in Oklahoma City is exploding, and the phenomenon has led certain local industry leaders like The Loaded Bowl, The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen and Taste of Soul Egg Roll to set up brick-and-mortar restaurants. The average life expectancy for a restaurant is three years, but food trucks give culinary entrepreneurs a chance to market test their creations and work out the kinks before committing to a storefront. This way, if Goulash On A Roll isn’t a hit at The Bleu Garten, simply re-wrap the truck and try again until something sticks.

Speaking of sticks, for every Goulash On A Roll, there is a solution: Chicken-Fried Steak on a Stick. This is, after all, the official food of Oklahoma, but it usually isn’t terribly portable. Look at the Steak Sandwich Supreme at Del Rancho. They’ve never found a bun big enough to cover that damn thing. But a CFSOAS allows discriminating gourmands to eat the fried ball of cow on a tongue depressor without getting their hands greasy. Furthermore, the accompanying paper bowl of gravy allows for rapid spinning of the CFSOAS for even coating as well as Jackson Pollock-style culinary splatter art.

Oklahoma Gazette offers this idea without strings attached. We consider this a public service and will even offer a truck name: Stick It 2 You.

Best former OKC meteorologist

Lacey Swope

On June 27, Oklahoma City said goodbye to Lacey Swope. #GoodbyeLacey

Please don’t play all cool and pretend like you don’t know about the former News 9 meteorologist. Don’t pretend that you didn’t shed a tear and become emotional as station members gathered around Lacey Swope during her final broadcast.

Don’t pretend you didn’t replay the farewell videos News 9 created, remember all the good times and curse the name of News On 6.

“Why did the Tulsa station take Lacey Swope from us? What do they have that we don’t have?”

For six years, Oklahoma City metro viewers tuned in to watch Lacey Swope, morning and noon meteorologist, deliver the day’s forecast. Did we need an umbrella? Sunscreen? Or should we expect to hunker down in a storm shelter as an early afternoon severe storm rolls through the Sooner State? Lacey Swope would tell us!

Lacey Swope was everything anyone could ever want in a meteorologist. With a positive and energetic attitude, she informed viewers of the forecast, everything from blizzards to droughts, floods and tornadoes. She did it while sporting trendy knee-length dresses with a statement necklace to tie the look together.

Now she delivers the forecast to Tulsa viewers at News 9’s sister channel News On 6.

We miss you, Lacey Swope!


click to enlarge Best of OKC 2017: Rest of OKC
Spaghetti Warehouse in Oklahoma City, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best former restaurant

Spaghetti Warehouse

“Former restaurant” sounds about right. While Spaghetti Warehouse, once found at the intersection of Sheridan and Oklahoma Avenues, will forever have a place in the history of downtown Oklahoma City as one of Bricktown’s early torchbearer eateries, its food legacy is often called nostalgic at best and forgettable at worst.

The chain Italian-style restaurant closed its Oklahoma City operation in February 2016. It moved into the first floor of a historic six-story building in 1988, though its upper five floors remained sealed and unused. reported in June that the space is in the process of being purchased by Cedars Group LLC with the intention of turning the space into a hotel or offices.

While many locals and out-of-town guests have no doubt sat for a meal or two at Spaghetti Warehouse in the last two or three decades, Oklahoma City’s dining palate has matured well beyond generic plates of pasta. One can hardly walk local streets these days without tripping over a local pho or ramen shop, a reality that few could have imagined in the ’80s. Thriving district culture has brought locally owned restaurants and dining groups to a new plateau. Chic new food and bar concepts pop up almost every month.

Oklahoma City truly thanks Spaghetti Warehouse for believing in the downtown area at a time when not many did. But the city’s tastes simply outgrew the longtime Bricktown staple. Next time you’re enjoying a pork belly steamed bun or an artisanal farm-to-table arugula salad, offer a tip of the hat to the bygone downtown eats of yesteryear.

click to enlarge Best of OKC 2017: Rest of OKC
Mural at Alotta Action Advertising at 46th and Western, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. (Garett Fisbeck)
Best Worst Public Art

AlottaAction Advertising

In January, Western Avenue received a master class in reverse art appreciation. Just two years after the district adorned many of its buildings with strikingly beautiful murals, one of the works was painted over, signaling that if a tenant thinks your work is “ugly,” your winsome depiction of children frolicking in a swimming hole is doomed to suffer death by Sherwin-Williams.

The mural in question, painted by 66-year-old local muralist Bob Palmer, was located at 4616 N. Western Ave., the home of Alotta Action Advertising. When much furor arose after this sweetly nostalgic vision of rural Americana was blotted out with blood-red latex paint, Nondoc contacted Alotta Action owner Jen Hutchings while she was on vacation in Key West, Florida, and presumably hoping not to experience a lot of action. But she did, and she was pissed.

“That mural was ugly, and we are going to put a new mural on it,” Hutchings told Nondoc as she was presumably living on sponge cake and watching the sun bake all those tourists covered in oil.

Months later, the wall was still red as raw tuna, leading some observers to think that Alotta Action had created a minimalist mural depicting a close-in, microscopic shot of a blood corpuscle. But then in late summer, a new image appeared, almost as if the wall were a sacred shroud or a tortilla.

It was Jesus.

At least, it looks like Jesus. It could be just a hippie, but a hippie mural wouldn’t have the power to cynically deflect criticism from residents angered by the loss of a beloved painting by Palmer, who told KOCO that the erasure of his work was “like a kick to the stomach.”

As for the artistic merit of the new mural, it’s no verdant view into cherished memories of summers spent cooling in the clear waters of a rural stream. It’s Jesus, and if Oklahoma has nothing else, it has a ton of Jesus Christ depictions. So here’s another one, and let’s just say it’s not the “Mona Lisa.”

Best alleged felons

Richard and Ryan Tate

Seventeen years ago, Dr. Richard and Rita Tate launched Tate Publishing & Enterprises as a Christian-based company working with aspiring authors, and later musicians, by offering an array of services to produce and promote high-quality books and music.

With the help of their family, including son Ryan, Tate Publishing became known as a vanity press, meaning most of their clients paid the Mustang-based company to have their works published.

Following a $2.2 million lawsuit filed by Xerox Corporation against Tate Publishing and Ryan Tate, the company ceased operations in January.

At the time of the closure, Mustang Times reported Tate Publishing, between its Mustang and Filipino offices, was working with 35,000 authors. While it promised to work with authors by returning manuscripts for a fee, authors and musicians began routing their complaints to the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General.

While the AG’s office was already more than a year into their investigation into Tate Publishing, 4,849 complaints were lodged against the company between Jan. 17 and May 4. Those complaints led Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to respond with four felony embezzlement charges, a misdemeanor embezzlement charge, three felony extortion-by-threat charges and a felony racketeering charge against Richard and Ryan Tate as operators of Tate Publishing. Canadian County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and booked the Tates, who posted bond.

A Canadian County judge scheduled a pre-hearing conference for the alleged felons on Sept. 6.

Best worst license plate

The 2017 scissortail flycatcher

Just a few days into 2017, Oklahoma Tax Commission began issuing new license plates bearing a stylized image of the state bird, the scissortail flycatcher. Because we live in an age of complaint and eternal grievance, social media criticism sprang to life like a flock of birds taking flight on the savannah.

Now, considering that Oklahomans spent years driving around our fair state with plates declaring that “Oklahoma is OK,” which means it’s a lot like lima beans, the 24th season of Survivor and the latest Macklemore single, this issue caused a surprising level of pique. Perhaps because it was preceded by Allan Houser’s Sacred Rain Arrow design, Oklahomans reacted as if Gov. Mary Fallin had slapped Red from Angry Birds on our tags.

Some people on Twitter, perhaps suffering from tunnel vision, thought the new design looked like the Twitter logo. They aren’t incorrect. If you took the bird from the Twitter logo and saddled it with a janky, unwieldy tail that didn’t proportionately evolve after the Pleistocene epoch, you’ve got the new Oklahoma license plate.

Still others were convinced that a Hunger Games fanatic designed the new plate to express her or his undying devotion to Mockingjay. Indeed, if one were to squint at the design like Donald Trump looking at an eclipse, it triggers visions of Katniss Everdeen avenging the death of her sister Prim by drawing her bow on Interim President Alma Coin. Does this mean that Oklahoma is bucking to be District 12 in Trump’s Panem? May the odds be ever in Oklahoma’s favor.

Best worst defacement of an Oklahoma Gazette

Wayne Coyne

“Let It Be Paul”

When Oklahoma Gazette graphic designer Anna Shilling created the cover for the July 12 “Let It Be Paul” story by Ben Luschen, she depicted Paul McCartney in four stages of his career: the British Invasion mop-top, the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band mustachioed drum major, the Let It Be/McCartney beardo and the indefatigable elder statesman. This gorgeous cover captured some of McCartney’s personality and character, but it also inspired a remix.

Once it reached Wayne Coyne, he summoned his artistic fortitude and hurled a flaming pie at Macca. Soon, the youngest and the eldest McCartney were trading pink teardrops, the Pepper era Paul shot green lasers from his eyes and the bearded courtly sheep farmer Paul bled profusely from his forehead. The composer was artfully decomposing.

Besides, apart from 2009’s Zombieland, it’s rare to see celebrities transformed into ghoulish stumblers. McCartney seems game for the occasional left turn; maybe he could show up in a Robert Kirkman side project, like Fear the Rocking Dead.

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