“I gotta go, Julia. We got cows,” said a storm chaser riding in a vehicle near the core of a tornado, as an adult Holstein sailed by.

The National Weather Center is a world-class, high-tech information facility. There are offices and conference rooms for OU faculty, students, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees and corporate contractors. There’s plenty of free parking, and the sign-in to enter the building is quick and efficient.

“We want people to know we’re here,” OU public relations specialist Lauren Royston said. “You can make a day of it by coming in for a tour of the facility and then have a meal at the Flying Cow Cafe.”

right, The quarter-bird rotisserie meal at The Flying Cow Cafe.

The contemporary building boasts a spacious first floor and displays delightfully geeky scientific artifacts, such as the retired Dorothy and Toto wind speed measuring devices. But even if you have no interest in mesocyclones and just want a bite to eat, the Flying Cow Cafe is a destination in itself, serving breakfast and lunch on weekdays.

It’s a bright, modern dining room with lots of stainless steel, blond wood tables and black chairs. Floorto-ceiling windows give a panoramic view, and a single big-screen TV is tuned to The Weather Channel.

The Flying Cow is not just a snack bar; it’s a full-service restaurant with chef Curtis J. Gregoire at the helm. Manager Rhonda Winkelman said hundreds of selections rotate through a hot buffet that changes daily.

“My personal favorites are our meat loaf and jambalaya,” she said. All the entrees are $6.50, including a beverage and two side dishes. Also popular are beef or chicken enchiladas and chicken-fried steak.

Certain days are associated with specific regular customer favorites. I tried Friday’s catfish plate that was as good as you’ll find at any lakeside joint. The petite fillets were mild flavored and delicately seasoned. One of my sides was an amazingly creamy white potato salad. Rotisserie chicken is on the buffet most days, and they  do a
good job roasting birds. The server behind the counter asks if you want
white or dark meat and deftly cuts a quarter chicken of your choice.

Brick-oven pizza (7-inch personal
size) is baked to order, and when I was in they had a weekly special
goat cheese pie ($6) that the chef was bragging about. You can check the
cafe’s Facebook page for daily menu offerings and also see that they
have an amusing repartee with regular customers. Chef Gregoire said his
student patrons tend to be clued-in to the latest culinary trends.

“My challenge is to take the common item and present it in an uncommon way,” he said.

Flying Cow club sandwich ($4.95) was a standout because the bacon had
an extra strong hickorysmoked flavor. Other sandwiching options include
veggies, tuna, pastrami, BLT, turkey, Reuben or ham and Swiss, all
$4.95. Baked ziti or spaghetti ($4.75) is served with marinara sauce,
Parmesan and garlic bread. Indian tacos ($6.50) are served every
Wednesday, and they’re the cafe’s signature dish. It’s a generous hunk
of fry bread smothered with your choice of chicken or beef and frijoles.
The mélange is blanketed with tomato, lettuce, red onion, ripe olives,
cheese and jalapeños.

a Whoopie Pie for dessert. It’s a big devil’s food cake concoction with
cream filling that students have given the unfortunate nickname of what
else? A cow pie.

Photo by Mark Hancock

Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects
and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service
when appropriate.

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