Lunch and grind 

Oklahoma Gazette tasked our new jack-of-all-knowledge and subculture beat writer to survey and critique a pair of local strip clubs … on their menus.

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Starved for excitement after a year of tribulation surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19, metro residents are finally returning to their favorite haunts to eat, drink, and be merry.

Thanks to major development in Oklahoma City, local gourmands have a wider variety of dining options than ever. Among an explosion of new concepts, one market often goes overlooked in the age-old deliberation of where to eat. Open late 7 days a week, and on all major holidays, OKC’s gentlemen’s clubs serve everything from traditional pub fare to full-course meals. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh I’m sure you go there for the food. You probably read Playboy for the articles, too.” Dear skeptic, this writer is pleased to be your guide through the glitter and lace. Join us as we get to the bottom of the city’s topless world, and flesh out the naked truth.

Billed as “OKC’s Premier Gentlemen’s Club”, the brutalist architecture of Night Trips cuts an imposing figure among the warehouses and restaurants surrounding its OKC location on W Reno Avenue. Opened in 1994, this modernist monolith of the Meridian strip stands as a stark testament to the era of its inception. Once inside, visitors are transported to a multi-tiered, matte silver playground from a bygone era. Two floors, three stages, and banks of TV screens befitting the lair of a Bond villain set the tone of the opulently industrial atmosphere at Night Trips. A full bar greets the visitor as they descend the stairs to the main floor of the club, where gorgeous entertainers and staff stand ready to meet their needs. While the interior seems smaller than it appears from outside, the space is masterfully utilized. Any seat in the house offers a fantastic view of the entertainers, who perform as if in an audience of royalty.

click to enlarge Night Trips at 220 Vermont Ave. - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • Night Trips at 220 Vermont Ave.

As professionals, we chose to enjoy our meal and the show at point-blank range, mere feet from the main stage. Prompt, friendly service is the name of the game at Night Trips. Our order was taken immediately by the lovely and outgoing bartender while our cocktail waitress ensured that the drinks never ran dry. The menu consists mostly of finger-food appetizers, burgers, and the ubiquitous strip club Caesar salad (for the entertainer on-the-go watching her figure). We tried the hot wings and chicken nachos on our visit, which came out quickly, a must for the lunch-hour diner. The breaded wings tossed in Night Trips’ house buffalo sauce were positively delicious. Well above average for short-order pub fare. More substantial lunch and dinner items are noticeably absent, however. Menu items range from $6 to $15, and are offered a la carte, standard practice in the business of separating hungry eyes from stacks of singles. The option of adding sliced avocado to any dish is a nice surprise, and a real treat. The 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekday special on half-price chips and queso plates and $3 domestic beers makes Night Trips a solid destination for lunch or happy hour. For something a little satisfying though, we headed a little farther west...

click to enlarge The hamburger basket at Red Dog Saloon - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • The hamburger basket at Red Dog Saloon

If you grew up in Oklahoma, chances are you’ve been regaled with a wild story about the Red Dog at some point. Originally opened in 1970 and operated continuously since, The Red Dog Saloon holds the title of longest-running strip club in Oklahoma. The iconic, red-brick building at 6417 NW 10th St. boasts a near-mythical status among generations of working stiffs and high-rollers alike. Past the ever-present row of motorcycles at the front door, two floors and two score of foxy, friendly entertainers on multiple stages catch the eye and stimulate the imagination. Reminiscent of rock venue nightclubs of the 80s, the Red Dog’s cavernous interior offers pool tables and quiet enclaves for casual bar patrons as well as tableside stages and a rotating go-go cage to stimulate the more prurient customer. Once a highlight destination of the NW 10th Street strip club circuit, Red Dog Saloon appears to be the last man standing among its competitors in the wake of the pandemic.

Current owner/operator Jason Mackey describes the March 2020 closure order as a real shock. “This place hasn’t closed ever. We’ve been open 365 days a year for as long as I can remember. When they said we had to close, it hurt me. I got a little tear in my eye.”

But you just can’t keep a good dog down. Back in business with fresh renovations as well as ongoing additions and improvements, the club continues to draw lively crowds on a daily basis. The key factors to his business surviving and thriving are “keeping communication open with my staff and the entertainers. The big advantage we have over a lot of clubs with the COVID situation is we have the room to spread people apart. Occupancy isn’t a problem for us, even with proper social distancing. You gotta be flexible. You have to find a way to make it when things start to change, and run a clean, honest establishment,” Mackey said.

Comfortably nestled in the rear of the club stands The Red Dogg Café. The full-service grill shares a moniker used by the club for a time in the 1980s to avoid pesky regulations.

“There was some old law on the books stating that you couldn’t have topless girls dancing in a saloon, so we changed the name to ‘Red Dog Café’ for a while,” Mackey said.

Operated as a standalone business inside the club by business partners Lou Champ and Brandon Nash since 2015, the café stands on its own as a popular lunchtime destination for blue-collar crowds who love the food and the view.

“All the contractors and people who work out in the field, they come in here and pack the place out,” Champ said.

click to enlarge Lunch and a show for seven bucks - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • Lunch and a show for seven bucks

The menu offers great deals on a wide selection of fast-casual favorites. Flame-grilled quesadillas, hot and cold sandwiches, wings, and nachos grace the weekday menu at prices all under $9. The star of the show, however, is the famous Red Dog burger basket, the daily $7 lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This juicy, third-pound masterpiece is hand-packed and seasoned with fresh, lean ground beef and grilled to perfection. Stacked high with crisp veggies on a seedless bun with shoestring or curly fries cut daily from fresh potatoes, the quality of the meal punches far above its price point. If there’s a better tasting, more filling burger in town, I certainly haven’t heard of it. The Red Dogg Cafe also features rotating dinner specials on the weekends.

“We like to throw in something a little different on the weekends. Something from all cultures; Italian, Asian, soul food, you name it,” Nash said. “When we do the ribs and brisket, they go crazy for it.”

Both Champ and Nash love what they do and dote on their clientele.

“We’re just happy to be making a living. Making sure that the girls, customers and staff here love our food, that’s the most important thing,” Champ said.

Between the quality of our meal and the enthusiasm of the staff, Red Dogg Café gets two thumbs up from this thoroughly engorged critic.

Among the pulsing landscape of hot new establishments and the hip dishes they’re pushing, let us not forget the stalwart sentinels of the local nightlife, or the hot dishes pushing their hips to the beat of the city’s pulse. OKC’s gentlemen’s clubs deliver lunch with a view, rain or shine, 365 days a year.

Next time you succumb to the urge to satisfy your appetite, grab a seat tableside and plunge face-first into their sinfully satisfying culinary offerings. Oh, and bring some singles, folks. The ladies there aren’t working for your smiles.

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Sean Nugent

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