TLO’s Year in Food: 2016
6:00 AM EST on December 28, 2016
As we come upon 2017 and all of the culinary misadventures it is sure to hold, I'd like to offer a special thanks to all of you for coming along with me—many against your will—as we traversed the OKC food scene together this past year. And because so many of you asked for it, here’s a handy guide to the individual joints I reviewed over twelve months, ready for your perusal and patronage. ¡Cómpralo Ya!
Published: January 7, 2016
What I Said: “…Gonzalez Mexican Restaurant is a pretty solid pit-stop in Tishomingo and being the only Mexican eatery in a 50 or so mile radius, it really has to be. Gringos can only live on gas station-based pizza pies for so long.”
What I Learned: Gwen Stefani is uncomfortable taking pictures with waitstaff. Or Mexicans. Or Mexican waitstaff.
Best Comment: “Seeing that pic, Gwen reminds me of a girl my brother used to date. It worked out okay, though. He tossed her aside when got the attention of a cute girl.”
Published: March 17, 2016
What I Said: “…Scott’s Chipotle Chile Fudge Pie… I don’t know who Scott is, but he is a confectionary genius. It may not look pretty, but that creamy, chocolaty body hits you with a rich punch to the teeth and then, just as you start to feel safe, along comes hot and spicy KO out of nowhere…Forget a slice; get me a whole pie of that hot bitch and do it soon.”
What I Learned: If Robert Rodriguez ever shoots a movie in Oklahoma, the Powerhouse is the perfect bar for Antonio Banderas to lock and load in.
Best Comment: “Thank you for spelling “chile” correctly when referencing green chile. This is an important public service for people from Oklahoma and Texas who spell it the same way you spell chili, which is … not the same thing.”
Published: April 25, 2016
What I Said: “…the fork tender meat perfectly blending with that smooth and creamy peppery country gravy like two forbidden lovers intertwined in the heat of passion, each drop of sweat sizzling off the seasoned cast iron skillet of Southern-style temptation.”
What I Learned: Travel-sized cups of country gravy “for the road” are not available at this time.
Best Comment: “And dude, I don’t know if you’re kidding about the Congestive Heart Failure or not, but if you aren’t, I’d not be eating too many meals like this.”
Published: May 17, 2016
What I Said: “Famous for their hot, hand-pinched yeast rolls, a big basket of these butter-topped portions of manna from Heaven appeared at our table before we could even order anything and it was hard to not dig right into them, so why fight it? Slathered with sweet cinnamon butter, these rolls were a meal unto themselves…”
What I Learned: There’s always room for fried pies!
Best Comment: “What you said about the okra… I second that! I dream of the okra at Jimmy’s. Not. Even. Joking. It happened, folks. It is that good.”
Published: May 24, 2016
What I Said: “…I simply cannot stand by and allow friends to order chips and queso for $12.00. This ain’t Chili’s, bitch!”
What I Learned: Eating expensive chicken fried steak whilst sequestered on a patio during cold and rainy weather like a punished dog inspired me to study Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
Best Comment: “Maybe if you had dressed a little better they would have allowed you to eat indoors … just sayin”
Published: June 7, 2016
What I Said: “…thank God the waitress warned me about the large order of fries, which is a massive outing that could fill a fireman’s bucket. The half-order is more than enough for anybody this side of Prader-Willi Syndrome.”
What I Learned: Onion burgers are the burgers of the common people. Common people like you.
Best Comment: “As to making food stretch, don’t forget how biscuits and gravy kept lots of families alive in the Depression. Mama made a mean water gravy.”
Published: July 6, 2016
What I Said: “Berta’s is more than just a Mexican buffet, it’s an all-you-can-eat-art museum, a South of the Border-infused studio where honest salt-of-the Earth artisans craft and create, perhaps even unknowingly, rhapsodic delicacies that can either stand the test or time, or, for that moment you’re lucky enough to be there, capture it in a fleeting moment.”
What I Learned: White people can get uncomfortable when there is no cheese to be found.
Best Comment: “probably the worst Mexican food I ever ate. there was not a sliver of cheese to be found anywhere. if cheese less Mexican food is your thing then this is the place for you.”
Published: July 19, 2016
What I Said: “Treating the pile of chicken fried steak as though it were a lard-laden Gom Jabbar and I was the gastronomic Kwisatz Haderach, I repeated the mantra “I will not feel full. Fullness is the mindkiller…” in my head as I took my fork and knife and cut into the thick, rich cuts of prime beef, slowly chewing each tender, delicious bite of absolute Dixie heaven.”
What I Learned: Louis cannot eat five pounds of Chicken Fried Steak in one setting.
Best Comment: “I am dying to go, but I’m taking no cash so i have to finish.”
Published: August 2, 2016
What I Said: “…a beautiful infusion of diverse flavors, a melting pot of delicious that represents this country and everything that Le struggled to attain, from the zesty South of the Border sausage and peppers, to the hard working chickens of the heartland, the backbreaking potatoes of the Midwest and the sweet flapjacks and syrup of our neighbors to the North, all on one plate that might as well be the Goddamned Constitution of the United States.”
What I Learned: We, as a culture, have we forgotten the lessons about the importance of breakfast taught to us by that anthropomorphic demonic booger, Timer.
Best Comment: “The food is great but fuckin’ old people:(“
Published: August 16, 2016
What I Said: “As far as Oklahoma City Tex-Mex goes, San Marcos really should be on the top of the list, every bit as familial and authentic as all those other guys that get so much of the oft-repeated local ink. But maybe it’s that low-key, lesser-known factor that makes this joint just a bit cooler that those other hombres, kind of like that little old-school neighborhood eatery you’d find off the beaten path in Austin or San Antonio, of which the vibe is strong with here.”
What I Learned: It’s exhausting trying to explain to people the difference between “Tex-Mex” and “Mexican” and how they are both “authentic.” Ugh.
Best Comment: “…shut up Louis! I like my San Marcos quiet and uncrowded. More for me!”
Published: August 30, 2016
What I Said: “As they handed me those big white grease-stained bags of food, the pungent smell of deep-fired onion immediately filled every inch of airspace in the car. I inhaled deeply, knowing that this would be the last time that I would ever know that smell again. That smell of fresh-cut onion rings…that smell of her hair…that smell of my youthful indiscretions of future past, both romantically and gastronomically.”
What I Learned: Not everybody gets as emotional as I do when a burger joint closes.
Best Comment: “I think I could justify buying that sign and putting it in my yard – my backyard, of course (don’t need carloads of hungry derps showing up at my house at all hours of the day, like moths to a porch light).”
Published: September 13, 2016
What I Said: “Walking into the eatery, however, is like walking right into the middle of a Taylor Swift song, with almost every table occupied by pert college girls and hot moms keeping it tight in yoga pants dining on salads with berries in them while showing their girlfriends the “Live, Laugh, Love” placard they just purchased at Pier One. All that was missing was a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, but what can you do, c’est la vie (which I think is French for “shake it off.”).”
What I Learned: Healthy food can taste great, I only wish I didn’t have to go to the Quail Springs area to do it.
Best Comment: “I add my condolences for your dearly departed dog. I know from personal experience that’s a tough thing to go through.”
Published: October 18, 2016
What I Said: “You know, I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance. Even before I lifted a fork to my mouth, it felt nice to be in a place with no loud indie rock, no hipster waitstaff ignoring you and no young people staring at their phones that whole time. Just old people, making the most of the fragile time they have left on this stinking rock, and enjoying a high class meal while they do it. My kind of crowd!”
What I Learned: I miss public school cafeteria dining on a very deep and personal level.
Best Comment: “...that Luby’s is classic. It’s the last place were the elderly can go for a nice safe meal.”
Published: November 1, 2016
What I Said: “I…couldn’t pass up the dish with most intriguing name I’ve ever heard: Seua Rong Hai or, affectionately enough, the Weeping Tiger ($10.50). I don’t care where I am or what it is, if there is ever a dish that sounds like it could be a Mortal Kombat finishing move, call me Blub-Zero because I am gonna put a total fatality on that concoction. GET OVER HERE!”
What I Learned: It’s truly a shame what OKC’s gastrorati chooses to celebrate and ignore in their continued celebration of style of substance.
Best Comment: “Now I have someplace to hang and eat while I drop my dogs off at Swaim to see the vet.”
Published: November 15, 2016
What I Said: “Look: I’m not a doctor. And, to be honest, I don’t think the woman shearing my matted coif at Supercuts was either. But, you know, sometimes in this cray-cray world, the best words of medical advice are the ones passed down from mother to child, master to apprentice or hairstylist to guy with a coupon for a free shampoo.”
What I Learned: I’ve never been steered wrong when it comes to restaurant recommendations from Supercuts employees.
Best Comment: “My favorite is just up the road, Pho Thai Nguyen. If you ever want to sample them, not alone, I’d be happy to eat noodles and talk food. No man should eat great food alone.”
Published: November 29, 2016
What I Said: “Gravy splashes, fish fillets fallen into the meatloaf pan and frustrated dessert eaters using their hands to separate slices of pie wasn’t out of the ordinary in what I was fearing would become the tastiest adaptation of Lord of the Flies to date, and thankfully, for once, I wouldn’t be Piggy.”
What I Learned: In the land of the buffet, the man in the Rascal Scooter is king.
Best Comment: “This might be the saddest review of all time.”
Where should I eat in 2017? Put your recommendations in the comments! Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.
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