It was an overly sultry afternoon when I walked into the Red Rooster, 3100 N. Walker Ave., last Wednesday, my shirt already sticking to my back. I figured I would at least be momentarily cooled down with a glass of much-needed ice water; tired of waiting to be seated, I found an open spot close to the door and promptly raised my hand to get the waiter’s attention.
He brought a couple of glasses to the table, and a carafe of water…lukewarm tap water, that is. I figured I should complain, but I’m sure that my waiter—or, perhaps, even the manager—would just give me the ready-made Paseo-esque excuse that it’s how they serve water in France or some other pretentious nonsense; it just isn’t worth it, I suppose.
In retrospect though, it is pretty representative of the sad state of affairs that the once venerated dive bar has morosely become since reopening in recent months. A hipster enclave if there ever was one, the Hitlerjugend haircuts and ill-fitting corduroys ran rampant among the seemingly air-conditionless building as I sat there, sweat beading down my forehead as I sipped my warm water.
Looking at the flimsy menu, seeking relief, my date ordered the cold Soba noodles ($10.00) in a futile attempt to cool down ever so slightly, while I instead went with a Red Rooster favorite from days long past, the basic Rooster Burger ($10.00), wishing, hoping and praying that they didn’t stray too far from this classic mainstay all that much.
While I admittedly haven’t been to the Rooster in the past few years, some two decades or so ago it was very much a down and dirty hangout that I could usually be found at; a shit-kicking Friday night spot where the cheap beer was guzzled with even cheaper burgers. The rock and roll was loud and the dry-heaves in the parking lot even louder. It was a true representative of Oklahoma City, at a very specific time in many of our lives. Who could forget the circa-1989 Coors Light bikini model poster that dominated the dive's decor?
Now it looked like a place where young urban professionals worshipped at the misbegotten altar of the 40 Under 40 Awards. And, sadly, I’m almost north of forty.
But what about the food?
Delivered in mismatched rooster-emblazoned dishes—obviously a Pinterest idea if I ever saw one—the cold Soba noodles were, well, cold. With the overpowering taste of creamy peanut butter slithering its way between every bit of soba noodle, the mushrooms and carrots were not very noticeable, but the thick slaw-like garnish with a jalapeño on top was a nice touch:
I had a bit more trouble with the Rooster Burger, though. Served in a casserole dish—how quirky—with not even a side of pommes frites, from the very first bite, the oral explosion of expensive mustard covered the off-putting taste of the local meat. I handed it across the table, shoving it in my date’s face to taste—line forms to the left, ladies—and she gave me a wincing look of disgust, letting me know I wasn’t imagining things.
That being said, while I very much liked the toasted bun, as well as the overabundance of grilled onions, this burger was in no way like the originally tasty sandwich that I used to practically live on. But, then again, this incarnation of the Red Rooster wasn’t made for people like me, and I've fully accepted that; filled with so many modern annoyances, I simply pushed my plate casserole dish aside and paid the bill.
Who knows…maybe in another twenty years if, God-willing, I’m still here, I can try the latest incarnation of the Red Rooster and whatever futuristic cyber-delicacies that will be force-fed to us; hopefully, at least, they might have some decent air-conditioning and cold water by then.