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Best of OKC 2018: Write Ups 

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Gorō Ramen

Best Japanese restaurant
The journey to opening Oklahoma City’s best Japanese restaurant, Gorō Ramen, began when chef and co-owner Jeff Chanchaleune became obsessed with instant ramen as a kid.

“I ate so many [types of instant ramen] growing up, and I wondered, ‘Why don’t we have a real ramen shop in Oklahoma City?’” Chanchaleune said.

He opened the food truck Kaiteki Ramen in 2014 to immediate success but yearned for a brick-and-mortar location. He partnered with 84 Hospitality restaurant group owner Rachel Cope — fresh off Empire Slice House — to create a series of ramen pop-up diners called Project Slurp.
After selling out pop-up diners and finding a 16th Street Plaza District location for Gorō, Chanchaleune wanted to finalize the menu the only way he knew how: tasting ramen from its source.

Chanchaleune and his wife Rachel traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto’s famed ramen street located in Kyoto Station. There, Chanchaleune settled on wanting to highlight the chicken-based tori paitan broth.

“The first sip kind of reminded me of my mom’s chicken noodle soup,” Chanchaleune said. “I thought that it was so rich and savory, I knew immediately that I wanted to do it because it was different from what everyone else was doing, which was a Tokyo-style shoyu ramen or rich, pork-based tonkotsu ramen.”

Instant ramen is antithetical to real ramen’s laborious effort to create a layered and rich broth. Creating the tori paitan is a 24-hour process. Three huge pots begin cooking in the morning. After eight hours, they are strained and the process is repeated throughout the day.

Gorō’s menu is limited to four types of ramen (two tori kaiten-based, one gluten-free and vegan and a chilled ramen perfect for the summer) and modeled after the Japanese tradition of small shops dedicated to one or two dishes.

“There is more focus on quality when you have a smaller menu,” Chanchaleune said.
Gorō Ramen also offers three types of nikuman, Japanese steam buns, and a variety of snacks including fried vegetables, chicken wings and chicken kara-age. The restaurant continues to turn out high-quality food to crowds of patrons.

“I didn’t expect any of this,” Chanchaleune said. “I just wanted to cook great food and have my own restaurant. I wanted to be successful, but I didn’t think it would be this successful. It’s really humbling, and I’m honored to be part of it all.”



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Picasso Cafe

Best Paseo Arts district restaurant
If you live in or around The Paseo Arts District, Picasso Cafe is the perfect neighborhood eatery with a menu ranging from vegan to meaty, and the fare is adventurous enough to warrant non-residents driving for the pleasure of dining there. Situated on the north end of the district at 3009 Paseo St., Picasso Cafe opened nearly a decade ago yet still holds its own in Best of OKC polling thanks to its constantly evolving menu and events like its monthly veggie dinner, a five-course herbivore extravaganza that even flesh-centric foodies find a lot to love.

Under the supervision of chef Ryan Parrott, Picasso Cafe splits its meaty-to-leafy fare 50/50, but vegetarians and vegans can still feel like they are indulging. For instance, when it comes to hot chicken, the poultry enthusiast can get the spicy fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun while the fungi lover in the family can get a Nashville hot chicken dish with maitake mushrooms subbing in for the hen.

Parrott and owner Shaun Fiaccone are busy at work on their next Humankind Hospitality Services offering in the district, taco-oriented Oso, but they have plenty of culinary expertise to spread around the district. Picasso Cafe will continue to be that rare destination where salmon spring rolls, an Indian taco, tikka masala, prosciutto pizza and a Cubano can all share menu space outside of a United Nations conference.



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click to enlarge Best chef - Andrew Eskridge
  • Best chef - Andrew Eskridge

The Jones Assembly

Best new restaurant
Best place to dine before an event
Best upscale bar
Best nonsmoking bar
Best new bar
Best downtown restaurant
Best chef - Andrew Eskridge
Best server - Gwynevere Langer
Best bartender - Jason Nguyen
In its first full year of operation, The Jones Assembly took home nine category wins in the 2018 Best of OKC reader poll. Chef Andrew Eskridge, server Gwynevere Langer and bartender Jason Nguyen are winners in their fields. The Jones also won for best new restaurant, best place to dine before an event, best upscale bar, best nonsmoking bar, best new bar and best downtown restaurant. Co-owner Graham Colton reflected on The Jones Assembly’s first year.

click to enlarge Best server - Gwynevere Langer
  • Best server - Gwynevere Langer
What are your favorite memories of the first year at The Jones Assembly?
The thing that has been really cool for us, and it sounds really cliché, is to see this big, crazy dream come true. You put a concept together, but it is such an understatement to conceive something like The Jones Assembly was a dream of all dreams. To have a space for people experience all types of different things at the same time: food, spirits, music, indoor, outdoor, upstairs, downstairs. There was no real model to follow. To use Russell Westbrook’s famous line, ‘Why not?’ That was our mentality: Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we put 1,700 people in our building for Pixies or a Willie Nelson concert and turn around the next morning and have brunch. We just dreamed big and bet on the city to support our crazy idea. The coolest thing is to see it take a life of its own.

click to enlarge Best bartender - Jason Nguyen
  • Best bartender - Jason Nguyen
How did the menu under chef Andrew Eskridge come together?
The main thing is not just that we’re serving elevated cuisine, but that we’re doing it for a tremendous amount of people every day. That is the hardest thing. It would’ve been easier for us to say, ‘Come get a burger and fries.’ We’re continuing to push our kitchen to make new relationships and new ideas.

Our bread program is really special. Everything we bake in-house, from the pizza dough to our sandwich bread, as well as gluten-free options. For us to shut down and people to be leaving the building after a Friday night at 3 and 4 in the morning, and our bakers are showing up that early, that’s been a really cool thing to see.

What was the philosophy when putting the bar together?
It was my partner Brian Bogert’s vision to have the best beverage and cocktail program in the city. His vision, like the cuisine, it’s one thing to have a little cocktail bar and to execute incredible cocktails in a small quantity, but we do it every day on a large scale. It’s not just one [cocktail] menu; we have our tea room upstairs, and downstairs is brunch cocktails. Why can’t we strive for greatness in all these areas?

Did you have a moment when you feel like it all came together?
If I say anything at all, I’d love to just to echo that it is our partners, staff and our customers that continue to come back. The people that I work with on a daily basis make The Jones even bigger and more fun than what Brian and I thought it could be. It’s one thing to dream it and another to do it action. You see the Paul George event, Russell Westbrook coming in the night he signed his contract extension, Kings of Leon coming in for an after-party, Willie Nelson on the stage and Lady Gaga having lunch here before her show at Chesapeake [Energy] Arena. That stuff is almost like, ‘That is cool,’ but to keep it going and that energy, that’s when it’s really fun.



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Sushi Neko

Best sushi
Sushi Neko is an Oklahoma City institution. When it was founded in the late 1990s, sushi was an obscure delicacy in the city’s foodscape.

Entrepreneur Carl Milam arrived from Boulder, Colorado, where he was exposed to sushi, and saw Oklahoma City’s need for a restaurant, said Kurt Fleischfresser, Western Concepts director of operations.

“Carl’s vision was something else,” Fleishfresser said, noting that his commitment to high-quality ingredients has allowed Sushi Neko to remain popular as many other competitors have entered the metro area’s sushi market.

“There are so many sushi places that have opened,” he said. “People have to drive by sushi places to get to Sushi Neko. We have such a high volume that it allows us to keep fresh fish at all times.”
Chef Jeab Chansahdee Nittaya dutifully curates its sushi menu, where the Red Canyon roll remains a top seller. The rolls are filled with fried calamari, avocado and spicy sauce and then topped with baked crawfish, Japanese mayonnaise, green onion and eel sauce.

The menu at Sushi Neko is extensive with over 60 offerings for specialty sushi rolls in addition to preselected dinner and sushi boxes.

Even if sushi isn’t your favorite cuisine, there are plenty of options to keep guests coming back. Sushi Neko has an extensive kitchen menu; the cherry blossom-smoked filet is a popular choice, as are the french fries (pommes frites Neko-style) that are toped in special seasonings.

“They’re addictive; people go nuts over them,” Fleischfresser said of the french fries.

Business at Sushi Neko remained strong even as its patio went through an extensive renovation for the better part of 2018. It reopened at the beginning of August with new windows, new signage, new heating and a new cooling system. Its patio furniture has been replaced with upholstered banquettes.

“It’s almost like eating inside, but you’re on the front patio,” Fleischfresser said. “[The patio] was always popular, but now it is something else.”



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Off the Hook

Best soul Food
Off the Hook has seemingly done the impossible by putting an Oklahoma twist on seafood.
Created by husband-and-wife duo Corey and Loniesha Harris, Off the Hook has gone from a food truck in 2013 to its first brick-and-mortar location at 125 W. Britton Road in 2015. Its 1920 S. Meridian location opened in the second half of 2017.

Its star is the super smothered seafood. Fried tilapia and five shrimp are smothered in a lobster sauce filled with crawfish, lump crab, baby crab, cheese, bacon and green onions and served over a choice of spicy rice or fries.

“My motto is that we’re a little bit of Cajun and a whole lot of amazing. I’m born and raised in Oklahoma,” Corey Harris said. “This is an Oklahoma thing. … I don’t like people to look at us as being a soul food restaurant. We have some soul-inspired dishes, but I don’t like to being put in a box. I want people to enjoy it for what it is, which is off the hook.”

Off the Hook offers soul food classics like cheese grits, fried okra, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. It also offers perhaps the city’s best shrimp and grits, but it’s by no means a typical meat-and-three soul food restaurant.

Its menu goes out of the proverbial box with selections like the melted lobster sandwich a grilled cheese with lobster, roasted poblano peppers, grilled onions and Sriracha mayonnaise on Texas toast.

It’s Meridian location menu expands and has a full-service bar in a much larger space than its original Britton location, which has a drive-thru window and less seating.

The Meridian location offers a soft-shell crab sandwich, a brunch burger that tops a 10-ounce burger patty with smoked sausage, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, hashbrowns and strawberry jam. It also has six flavors of chicken wings that can’t be found at its Britton location.

Regardless of how you might classify Off the Hook, there is something everyone can agree on: It’s delicious.



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Zorba’s Mediterranean Cuisine

Best Mediterranean restaurant
Best gyro
Open for 28 years, Zorba’s Mediterranean Cuisine’s continued popularity with its devoted customers boils down to one main ingredient.

“It’s being consistent,” said owner and head chef Ray Bastani. “Same owner since 1991, same chef since 1991.”

Bastani, who moved from Iran to the United States in 1984 and worked in restaurants for several years before opening his own, said Zorba’s clientele also appreciates the restaurant’s “family-oriented attitude.”

“We treat our customers just like they’re family,” Bastani said, “and we just have fun with the business. We’ve been blessed with Oklahomans being supportive throughout the years.”

Bastani said the most popular items on the menu are the gyros and kebabs, but his favorite dish is the moussaka, made from layered eggplant and potato slices and seasoned ground beef. The menu also features tastes of Persian cooking from Iran.

“We do have a little bit of every Mediterranean country,” Bastani said. “Everything we make has the Persian influence, like the chicken bandarri, which is a chicken side cooked slowly with tomato garlic base, which is very popular.”

Though Zorba’s is obviously popular with its customers, some of whom have been dining there since the early ’90s, Bastani said he does worry that people driving by might get the wrong impression, thinking the restaurant, which offers wine, beer, liquor and occasionally belly dancing performances along with its Mediterranean cuisine, is more upscale than it actually is.

“Looking from the outside, Zorba’s looks very high-end, and we do have quality food,” Bastani said, “but we are a very casual and down to earth. We have a full bar and live entertainment every two weeks.”



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COOP Ale Works

Best local craft beer
COOP’s growth in sales since it was founded in 2009:
Sales are up 30 percent compared to 2013, and it has grown 20 percent per year each of its first nine years.

Beers offered year-round versus seasonal:
Year-round: F5 IPA, Native Amber red IPA, Saturday Siren Dry-Hopped Pils, DNR Belgian dark ale, Horny Toad Blonde ale, Spare Rib Pale Ale, Elevator Wheat hefeweizen
Seasonal: Alpha Hive Double IPA (February-July), Fly Me Away IPA (summer), Oktoberfest (August-October), Gran Sport Porter (January)

Limited runs:
Territorial Reserve Bourbon barrel-aged series: Barley Wine (September - November), Rye Wine (June-August), Wild Wheat Wine (March-May), Imperial Stout (January).

DNR Cask-it Series: Cherry Brandy, Tequila, Rye, Chocolate Bourbon.

Beer sales tap versus bottle/can:
25 percent draft to 75 percent package

Pounds of hops used per year:
Approximately 30,000 pounds

Square feet of the upcoming COOP Ale Works facility in old armory building:
82,000 total square feet



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The Saucee Sicilian

Best food truck or food cart
The Saucee Sicilian’s success is baked right in, having topped Best of OKC’s best food truck category for the third straight year. Owners Gannon Mendez and his mother, Priscilla “Nonna” Jones, maintain a busy schedule to keep up with customers at festivals and food truck parks, and somehow, that elaborate truck with the flat-screen TVs seems to be everywhere. So what goes into keeping The Saucee Sicilian on the road and producing those prodigious pies? The numbers are staggering no matter how you slice it.

2017
68,692 pizzas were made
41,227 meatballs were hand-rolled by Nonna
16,338 pounds of cheese
2,864 gallons of sauce
15,193 miles driven

2018 year to date
51,014 pizzas were made
25,860 meatballs hand-rolled by Nonna
11,286 pounds of cheese
1728 gallons of sauce
9,872 miles driven



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My So Called Band

Best local band/artist
Norman-based ’90s tribute act My So Called Band played its first show in 2010, and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Davis said he and his bandmates Carly Gwin, Zach Nedbalek, Arash Davari and Ricky Salthouse originally intended the show to be their last as well.

What inspired you to form the band?
The plan was just that we were going to do a show at The Deli. It wasn’t to start a band. It was just, ‘Let’s do one ’90s tribute show,’ and then we did that and it was really successful and really fun. So we decided to do one in Oklahoma City, and then we just kept doing it.

What made you decide to focus on music from the ’90s specifically?
The first music we fell in love with was ’90s music. I would say I’m a little young to have fully lived ’90s music. I only started actively listening to music in the middle of the decade, but still, that era was my first taste of what would become a music obsession.

What are some of your favorite songs to play?
It kind of changes. Whatever are the newest songs are always fun. We’ve practiced a lot, and we’re going to bust out some new songs in the coming weekend. That’s exciting. And then some songs we won’t play for a year or two years, and then we’ll say, ‘Hey, let’s bring that song back. That would be fun.’ It sort of rotates. I’m always pushing the band to add more hip-hop ’cause I think that’s a fun challenge, but we started working on some pop songs. We’re going to do a Spice Girls song pretty soon that we’ve never done before just sort of because of the limitations. There are four guys in the band and one gal, and I can’t sing high enough to bust out some of the boy band/girl band stuff. We always try to be as authentic as possible and not do our take on a song, just play it like the record. … I think the more it sounds like the song people know and love, the easier it is for the crowd to get into it, and sort of feeding off of that is the real fun of the band. I guess I didn’t name any actual songs. … I’m very tired of doing “All Star” by Smash Mouth.



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Midtown

Best local district

Among the many Oklahoma City districts that emerged as major destinations since the turn of the century, Midtown experienced one of the most dramatic rebirths. In less than two decades, Midtown transformed from a faded area pockmarked with empty storefronts and disused buildings into one of the top places OKC residents want to live, work, shop, eat and spend their weekend evenings.

While most people can identify their favorite restaurants or bars in the district, one of the true success stories is in residential housing. In 2006, the long-abandoned Sieber Apartment Hotel was transformed into a luxury building featuring 30 apartments and eight residential loft spaces. And while many classic buildings enjoyed successful renovations in the ensuing years, they were joined by new-build apartments like The Edge at Midtown and Lift that added dozens of new units, offering multiple price levels for entry into Midtown.

Expect much more in the next few years as new projects are greenlighted and more people are attracted to this central and extremely walkable district. In February, the former Villa Teresa campus was approved for redevelopment into a $30 million complex featuring 11 condominiums, six flats, 10 townhouses and a hotel. If you can learn how to drive in a roundabout, you can make your way through Midtown, and even if you can’t figure them out, the district has just about everything within walking distance.

Best beer selection — James E. McNellie’s Public House
Best margarita — Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes
Best burger — The Garage Burgers & Beer
Best Latin restaurant — Café do Brasil
Best rooftop bar — O Bar at Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City
Best patio dining — The Bleu Garten
Best diner — Sunnyside Diner
Best Midtown district Restaurant — Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes
Best pre- or post-event spot — The Bleu Garten
Best bowling alley — Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge
Best veterinarian clinic — Midtown Vets
Best pet-friendly patio — The Bleu Garten
Best doctor (general practitioner) — Jeffrey Hirsch MD — SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital
Best optical shop — Midtown Optical
Best yoga — 405 Yoga
Best place to get fit — YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City
Best national or regional hotel — The Edge at Midtown — NE Property Management




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Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center

Best art gallery
For now at least, everybody visiting Oklahoma Contemporary is there intentionally.

“We’re at the fairground,” said artistic director Jeremiah Matthew Davis, describing the art center’s current location. “It’s best known for its horse shows and for its gun shows, which are awesome for Oklahoma City, [but the] people who are coming out to the fairgrounds for their corndogs in September or for the quarter-horse show in the spring, they’re not necessarily the people who are coming to the fairgrounds for contemporary art. … No one accidentally wanders into our space as it is currently. If you’re coming out here, you really want to find us and you really want to be here.”

Founded by Marilyn Myers and current board president Christian Keesee as City Arts Center in 1989, Oklahoma Contemporary changed its name in 2012 and began looking for a new location. Scheduled for completion in the fall of 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary’s new facilities will sit on a 6.1 acre site at NW 11th Street and Broadway Avenue.

“We looked toward our future and how to best continue to expand our mission to provide amazing creative and artistic experiences across multiple disciplines and learning opportunities for the community, and that was part of the decision to move downtown,” Davis said.

In its current location, Oklahoma Contemporary faces challenges exhibiting works in the gallery due to low ceilings, limited lighting and the variety of classes, performances and other activities happening simultaneously in the same space.

“The gallery is a hallway, the way it’s designed,” Davis said. “So in order to access different parts of our building, you have to cut through the gallery. So that means we have to always think about that in our layout and our exhibition design. There’s certain things that we can’t display because we know people are going to be moving through and traversing it in order to get back to the ceramics studio or the dance studio.”

Based on “fairly conservative” projections from current trends, Davis said Oklahoma Contemporary expects about 100,000 visitors per year after its new facilities open, including foot traffic from curious passers-by, but whether they’re returning visitors or just wandered in off the street on a whim, they will all be appreciated.

“We’ve been spreading the word about what we do, looking to engage new audiences,” Davis said, “and practicing radical inclusivity and radical hospitality, making sure that everybody who comes through our doors feels welcome and feels like this is a place where they can find and make their creative home.”



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Jay Roberts
Mind Bender Tattoo and Fine Art Gallery

Best visual artist
Punk rock and pop culture play large roles in tattoo artist and painter Jay Roberts’ work, but his influences include almost anything he sees and hears.

“Every day, I get online and it’s like a punch in the gut,” Roberts said. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be, so every day, I’ll see some awesome tattoo of a painting, or even a sculpture, music, everything is an influence. Everything inspires me.”

Roberts will be included in a Mind Bender exhibition Oct. 13.

Would you consider yourself primarily a tattoo artist?
No, I love tattoos and I am a tattooer and it’s my livelihood, but I paint all the time, I draw all the time. I’ve been doing it forever. Is it my primary medium? I would say no, but I spend more time doing it, if that makes sense. … Every minute I’m not tattooing or drawing or painting, I kind of go crazy. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

When did you start tattooing?
I got my first machine a couple of years ago as a gift and had some crazy friends that knew I wanted to start doing it, so they said, ‘Learn on me, get better and eventually, because you give a shit, you’ll get better and fix anything that’s terrible.’ I started my apprenticeship in 2012, got my license in 2014, so I’ve only been tattooing a couple of years, but I love it. … I’ve wanted to tattoo since I was a kid. I thought it was the most fascinating thing taking an image and putting it on someone permanently for the rest of their life.

What was your first tattoo?
I was 14, and I tattooed “UP THE PUNX” on my arm, and I thought it was the coolest thing. It actually said “UP THE P” for a solid six months, and I did a little stick-and-poke and finished it “UNX.”

When a tattoo is an original design you’ve created, what is the creative process?
It’s definitely developed with the person. Tattoos should be an experience. If someone’s walking in with a piece of paper and asks you to trace it, that’s one thing, but if you say, ‘I like these ideas. I’ve seen your work. Run with it,’ that’s what I’m trying to do more of. … It makes it original. You don’t want the same Google shit everyone has, every Pinterest idea. That’s just a fad. I want them to have an original piece that says something and let the artist run with it. That’s when they can get weird and have fun.



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Plaza Walls

Best public art / mural
Started in 2015 by curators/artists Kristopher Kanaly and Dylan Bradway with the cooperation of Mason Realty, the Oklahoma City Arts Commission and Urban Design Commission, the Plaza Walls rotating mural project has showcased the work of artists and students and provided OKC with a concrete example of street art as a community improvement project.

More than 80 artists have contributed to the project since it began, and more than 100 murals have been featured. An estimated 400-500 gallons of paint has been used so far.

Plaza Walls also serves as a public event space hosting an annual Mural Expo in September and other events throughout year.

An estimated 200,000 people visit the Plaza District every year, and more than 25,000 people are expected to view the murals at the 20th Annual Plaza District Festival Sept. 29. More than 240,000 people drive past the murals on 16th Street each month.

The 430-foot long Plaza Walls alleyway boasts 5,160 square feet of wall space with 12-foot-high walls with entrances on Indiana Avenue and 16th Street. The Indiana wall alone is 54 feet long with 756 square feet of mural space.

Photos of more than 60 murals from throughout the project’s history have been archived online by Google’s Cultural Institute.

This year, Plaza Walls features murals created by more than 30 artists. The work of 22 local, national and international artists will be exhibited during the Plaza District Festival.

Plaza Walls’ Facebook page has more than 1,000 followers and its Instagram account (@plazawalls) has nearly 3,800 followers.



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Maxey’s Motorsports

Best motorcycle dealership
Maxey’s Motorsports likely earned the distinction of being chosen as Oklahoma Gazette’s best motorcycle dealer for the same reason it has stayed in business for 56 years: customer service and growing selection.

Jim Maxey founded the dealership in 1962 selling 80cc Yamaha motorcycles. Jim’s grandson Tony Maxey took control of the dealership in 2016 from his father Dan.

“It means so much to walk into the same building that my grandfather, grandmother and dad sold motorcycles [in],” Tony Maxey said.

The power of a motorcycle engine isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years. The dealership has expanded to sell Honda, Polaris, Suzuki, Arctic Cat, Triumph, Genuine Scooters, Can-Am and the recent addition of Textron Off Road vehicles.

Tony Maxey said that off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles represent the largest growth market in the industry.

“In Oklahoma, you can take them out to lake property or up into the desert [in the northwestern part of the state],” Maxey said. “We carry Honda for off-roading and ATVs for hunting season and stuff like that.”

Regardless of your level of adventure, Maxey Motorsports has you covered. The dealership sells a six-passenger Polaris Ranger Crew utility vehicle that sells for $26,499 and has a 999cc engine. It also has a two-passenger Honda Pioneer 500 with a 475cc engine that costs $8,999.

Motorcycle selection for new bikes ranges from the $27,700 Honda Gold Wing with a 1833cc engine to the 49cc Honda CRF50F for $1,499.

Maxey’s Motorsport has a large selection of parts and factory-trained service technicians on staff for vehicle repair if you aren’t in the market for a new bike, ATV, utility vehicle or side-by-side.
Tony Maxey said they he still sees customers who bought something in the store in 1962.
“I’m just trying to continue the tradition that [my family] started,” he said.



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Byron’s Liquor Warehouse

Best place to buy beer
Best place to buy liquor
By the time the United States ratified the 18th Amendment, Prohibition had already been the law of the land in Oklahoma, included in the state constitution adopted in 1907. An amendment to the Billups Law passed the next year allowed dispensaries to provide alcohol for medicinal purposes to patients as prescribed by a physician (Sound familiar?) until this system was outlawed in 191After national Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Oklahomans quickly voted to legalize beer, but liquor would remain illegal in the state until 1959. Byron’s opened for business the same year.

Originally constructed by Byron Gambulos as a sample liquor store designed to demonstrate the logistics of operating such a business in the state, discreetly named Byron’s Package Store officially opened for business in December of 1959 after the buyer Gambulos originally intended to sell the business to backed out.

The original Byron’s store was 3,900 square feet and located at the corner of NW 23rd Street and Lincoln Avenue. The current store, now called Byron’s Liquor Warehouse, at NW 23rd Street and Broadway Avenue is 30,000 square feet.

The fight to control liquor prices in the state grew violent, sometimes deadly, and after two fire bombings in the mid-1960s, Byron built an armor-plated pillbox guard tower equipped with machine guns on the roof of the store to defend the business from attacks.

Byron’s offers more than 800 beers (including 50 different kinds of kegs), 3,500 wines and 5,000 spirits in stock and plans to add another 100-200 beers in the next year. Many will be refrigerated in a newly installed 18-door beer cooler after the law changes in October.



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CBD Plus

Best place to buy CBD products
Vice president of CBD Plus Jake Chilcoat insists that the company’s headquarters address, 420 N. Pennsylvania Ave. was purely coincidental. In fact, the Oklahoma State University graduate said he would like to dispel any kind of notion that CBD Plus is in any way affiliated with recreational marijuana.

“We didn’t start this business to get people high,” Chilcoat said. “We started this business to help ease people’s pain.”

Wendy Hampton, a CBD Plus franchisee, agreed and said that CBD Plus’ professionalism and honesty is what sets it apart from the competition.

“We offer the best quality products at half the price that our competitors sell at,” Hampton said. “And that’s why we have loyal customers. But what brings them in the door to begin with is that we look, feel and are professional.”

A large portion of CBD Plus’ customer base is over 50 years old, Hampton said.

“People are already skeptical of the product. For people like my parents, the over 50 and conservative crowd in need of pain relief, they’re not going to walk into someplace that advertises marijuana,” Hampton said. “We hope to be kind of an all-natural pharmacy, one that’s not intimidating, that’s approachable and knowledgeable and a place people can go to for help. We want to earn our customers’ trust,” Chilcoat said.

All CBD Plus stores have the same clean-cut design and no-hype atmosphere. All of CBD Plus’ products, Chilcoat said, are organic, pesticide-free and tested by a third-party laboratory.
After suffering from a traumatic car accident that left one of Chilcoat’s knees in shambles and kept him looking for pain relief, he approached family friend and CBD Plus CEO Ryan Vicedomini with an interest to get involved in the company. Chilcoat launched the company’s first franchise in Moore in early 2018.

A few short months after its inception, CBD Plus has nearly thirty franchise businesses across Oklahoma with stores in neighboring states expected to open in future months. CBD Plus has become the fastest-growing franchise business in history, Chilcoat said.

The company and its stakeholders are proud to call Oklahoma home.

“All of our franchisees are Oklahoma families,” Hampton said. “We are a family business.”
Hampton said her husband recently quit his job in the oil and gas industry to work full-time at their CBD Plus franchise.

All CBD Plus products are derived from hemp plants that are grown on a 10-acre farm that the company owns in Colorado. Production is finalized at the company’s headquarters in Oklahoma City, where products are distributed to franchise stores and sold as oils, creams and edibles.

Once rules are finalized in Oklahoma, Chilcoat said, CBD Plus will expand its businesses to sell medical marijuana as well.



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Central Oklahoma Humane Society

Best place to volunteer
Best charitable company
Best nonprofit
From the tiniest kitten to the largest Great Dane, animals need homes, and Central Oklahoma Humane Society is the place where Oklahoma City loves to volunteer and get warm and fuzzy. But there is so much to do beyond walking and playing with prospective pets, and OK Humane has something to match your particular set of skills.

Every weekend, a van lined with permanent kennels transports up to 40 dogs to cities that have fewer adoptable pets available. Frequent destinations are Chicago and Minneapolis. OK Humane covers all expenses, including hotel, food and gas, and many of those dogs have adoptive owners waiting for them in those cities.

The Community Cat program needs drivers to assist with this growing program that brings spaying and neutering services to outlying areas.

OK Humane’s Neonate Nursery uses staff and volunteers around the clock to save tiny kittens and puppies — an excellent opportunity for those interested in pursuing veterinary medicine.

Fostering can make the difference between life and death for dogs and cats, and foster pet parents can choose from cats, kittens, large dogs, small dogs, litters of puppies or bottle babies. OK Humane covers all food, medical and toy costs.

Group volunteering is available for companies looking to put their employees’ efforts toward a good cause.

OK Humane volunteers must be 16 years old or older, but the organization welcomes “micro-volunteering” opportunities in which schools or groups conduct donation drives. Also, children who love dogs and cats can ask friends and family to donate to OK Humane in lieu of birthday presents.

Volunteers should be able to commit to a 2-3-hour shift each month.



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405 Yoga

Best yoga
A high school teacher, chef, physical therapist and a nonprofit manager exit a room. What is the last thing they say? At 405 Yoga in Midtown, it’s usually, “Namaste.” These professionals are just a handful of the diverse instructors at the Midtown studio. 405 Yoga is one of over two dozen yoga studios in the metro serving a growing population of Okies interested in the meditative exercise that has existed for centuries but has just begun to infiltrate the Sooner State. Since its inception last year, 405 Yoga has been a favorite among many an Okie yogi. Owner Meredith Vansant said 405 Yoga is the first power yoga studio in Oklahoma. The studio offers yoga classes, workshops, retreats and even an instructor training program. We chatted with Vansant to learn what makes 405 Yoga the place to get your Zen on.

Your staff is diverse! Are they typical 9-to-5 professionals with a yoga side hustle?
Our instructors are fully trained and come from all walks of life. We pay our instructors twice the amount the average teacher in Oklahoma receives, but we have found that they don’t do this for the pay. They love the practice and believe, like I do, that teaching yoga is a way of serving others.

What is your studio’s philosophy?
Kindness. Our motto is people first, profit second.

Has yoga always been a part of your life?
I was more of an athlete growing up. I run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Our 405 Yoga studio in Midtown is now a main sponsor of that marathon. I didn’t try yoga until I moved to Washington, D.C. after I graduated from college. I went there to work in policy, and I didn’t know anyone. I opened 405 Yoga’s first studio in D.C. to introduce people to the hometown kindness I grew up with. Now a lot more people know our area code!

How many 405 Yoga studios are there?
There’s the one here in Midtown, one in D.C. and we are opening one in Tulsa and one in Atlanta.

You’re busy! Do you manage all of those studios? What other roles do you hold?
I work and live here in Oklahoma City, but I do my fair share of traveling. The key to the success of 405 Yoga is the people who make this studio a family. Our managers, instructors and greeters, they make this doable. I am working on earning an MBA. I am the oldest of four children and a mom to my 4-year-old son, William.

What do you think draws people to yoga?
Between all of our responsibilities, it’s hard to spend time with ourselves. My hope is that during a yoga class, a person can really be in touch with who they are, even if that means getting to know themselves all over again.

What’s your life motto?
YOLO.

Are you a vegetarian dog lover who lives in leggings?
Yes! How did you know?!



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Jeffrey Hirsch MD
SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital

Best doctor
Oklahoma City family practitioner Jeffrey Hirsch is a household name among many in the OKC metro. The New York-born doctor graduated from University of Oklahoma’s College of Medicine in 1975 and has spent the past 39 years tending to the hurt and healing in the Sooner State. Ranging from adolescent to retiree, Dr. Hirsch’s patients can’t seem to get enough of him. His being voted Best doctor comes as no surprise to many. Hirsch’s Facebook page is filled with positive reviews and high ratings. Across websites like WebMD, healthgrades.com and angieslist.com, a single bad review cannot be found. Hirsch and his staff, located at 100 W. Main St., Suite 200, treat patients with a variety of ailments. We sat down with Hirsch to find out what it takes to be the best doctor in Oklahoma City.

What was your childhood like?
I had a great childhood. I was blessed to have extremely supportive parents.

What is your family like now?
I have two great kids. My son, Adam, is a screenwriter in Hollywood and my daughter, Hannah, works in public health and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. My wife died from breast cancer about 20 years ago. I remarried a few years ago.

What made you want to become a doctor?
When I was a teenager, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had wonderful doctors, and after I saw the way she was cared for and the impact that care had on her life, that was it; I knew from then on that I wanted to be a doctor.

What has it been like to work in the same market for almost four decades?
It has been a pleasure. I love Oklahomans, and I love my patients. They are kind people and proactive in their health.

What do Oklahomans seem to have in common healthwise?
In Oklahoma, we tend to have high instances of diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. We are still evolving, quite frankly, from families that used to have all-American high-fat breakfasts, smoke often and work in unhealthy environments. We are now considering our health more, we are taking a step back and questioning our habits and we are making our health a priority. I never tire of seeing the transformation.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you could give all Oklahomans?
Live life to the fullest and take care of yourself.

What do you use for your allergies?
I am one of the few Oklahomans who does not suffer badly from allergies.

What’s your life motto?
The Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated.



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21c Museum Hotel
Oklahoma City

Best national or regional hotel
Best hotel restaurant
21c Museum Hotel — a five-story building that houses 135 hotel rooms, a restaurant, a bar and a contemporary art museum that is open to the public — is nestled in a dusty corner of Oklahoma City’s Arts District. The hotel’s owners bought the old Fred Jones assembly plant and converted it into what is now a modern and trendy hot spot for locals and visitors alike. Food and beverage director Michael O’ Hara said by late next year, the surrounding neighborhood will be just as fresh and hip as the hotel is.

“This whole area is going to be converted into a new neighborhood called West Village. There’s going to be residential complexes, restaurants and shopping outlets. It might look like a construction zone right now, but by mid 2019, it’s going to be totally different,” O’Hara said.
Here is a breakdown of OKC’s best-voted place to rest your head and wine and dine.

The hotel’s restaurant, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge, was named after Fred Jones’ wife, Mary Eddy Jones.

Each of the eight 21c Museum Hotels identifies with a specific colored plastic penguin designed by contemporary artists Crackling Art Group. 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City proudly displays several 4-feet-tall purple penguins throughout the hotel. The penguins are the one art collection that hotel customers are allowed to touch and move throughout the hotel.

The ground-floor art exhibit is free and open to the public, but there are small exhibits on the second, third and fourth floors of the hotel that are reserved for guests.

The hotel’s ground floor includes 14 thousand feet of art exhibit space that can double as a venue for weddings and banquets.

Mary Eddy’s boasts 10 entree items and five dessert items on its menu. The most popular entree items are the OKC Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich, cast-iron lasagna and shrimp lettuce wraps while the most popular dessert item is the macaron ice cream that includes Fruity Pebbles ice cream and whipped cream.

The restaurant’s bar boasts 10 specialty cocktails, more than 100 spirits and over 100 wine labels. The most popular cocktails are the Laid Back, a cucumber-infused gin drink and the .357, a bourbon cocktail with coffee and banana flavoring.

Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge is responsible for all of the hotel’s catering and room service needs. The restaurant is open every day of the week, usually from 6:30 a.m. until midnight.


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