Food Briefs: Beats & Bites, Right-A-Way returns, Zoo menu update 

click to enlarge A crowd enjoys live music at Beats & Bites in 2016. (Riverwind Casino / provided)
  • Riverwind Casino / provided
  • A crowd enjoys live music at Beats & Bites in 2016.

Beats & Bites

Riverwind Casino’s food truck and music festival Beats & Bites returns in May, and organizers are already working to get the event ready for the public.

This year, the casino is asking local food trucks and vendors to apply online to take part this spring and summer.

The application is available at under the Entertainment tab. Applicants have until Friday to register. Approved food trucks and vendors will be notified by March 31.

Riverwind general manager Jack Parkinson said he expects Beats & Bites to grow in its second year. About 26,000 people attended the festivals last year, and casino officials learned a lot from vendor and food truck operator feedback.

Beats & Bites kicks off the season 6-11 p.m. May 13 in the casino’s west parking lot, 1544 State Highway 9, in Norman. The free event happens the second Saturday of each month through August. Visit

Jimmy Johnson’s made-from-scratch burgers, formerly featured at Right-A-Way Burger, are now available at 51st Street Speakeasy. (Garett Fisbeck / file)
  • Garett Fisbeck / file
  • Jimmy Johnson’s made-from-scratch burgers, formerly featured at Right-A-Way Burger, are now available at 51st Street Speakeasy.

Right-A-Way return

A run of bad luck doomed Right-A-Way Burger in late 2016, said owner Jimmy Johnson. A busted hood vent on his busiest days and a broken thermostat that wiped out his fresh beef supply forced him to close his far north Edmond burger location.

“After I closed Right-A-Way, I was eager to get back to cooking for the public while the iron was still hot,” Johnson said.

Fans of his burgers can scarf them down at 51st Street Speakeasy, 1114 NW 51st St.

“With the perfect mix of some of my recipes and the Speakeasy, it is a delicious combination,” he said.

Speakeasy’s kitchen is open 4-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, serving Baja fish tacos, black bean burgers, nachos and Johnson’s from-scratch burgers. Ideally, Johnson said he’d like to open the kitchen for lunches, too.

The centralized location puts Johnson’s food a lot closer to Oklahoma City diners.


Zoo food

Minnesota-based Lancer Hospitality took over food service at Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden in January and replaced some of the entertainment destination’s more tepidly received restaurants with new concepts.

“We are a food-first company,” said Pete Virnig, Lancer senior regional director of operations. “We create restaurant-quality, restaurant-style food in a zoo setting.”

In Oklahoma City, that includes new restaurants focusing on burgers, pizza and taqueria-style tacos. At Big Rivers Café, the company serves freshly made buttermilk chicken tenders with waffles.

“All the food we create is fresh and locally sourced as much as possible,” Virnig said.

Bill Dockum, senior director of guest experience, said the zoo wanted the quality of food to match the quality of other experiences for guests.

“It’s easy to do the corn dog or the chicken nuggets, but our guests deserve more,” Dockum said. “They deserve the same quality they’re getting elsewhere in the zoo.”

His favorites so far are the chicken and waffles and sweet roasted corn that “just melts in your mouth.”

The Zoo is located at 2101 NE 50th St. Visit

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