Every year since we moved to Oklahoma, in the weeks coming up to my birthday, Kel asks, “What would you like to do for your birthday?” And every year I reply, “Let’s go into the city!” Just in case you think the Sooner state is all Dust Bowl and whipping-winds-plains, Oklahoma boasts two cities: Oklahoma City and Tulsa. But when I say “the city,” I mean Oklahoma City. We tried Tulsa one year for my birthday, and it was great, but – we just like OKC better. I could give you the reasons why, but I don’t want to bruise Tulsa’s feelings. Suffice to say the reasons have to do with coffee, food and ambiance. It doesn’t hurt that a big, beautiful Whole Foods recently opened its doors there.
One of the main reasons I like to go into the city for my birthday is because of my philosophy that on my birthday, Someone Else Should Make Dinner (as well as the other meals, if possible) – and our tiny, shadow of a town just can’t offer the kind of eating opportunities that we prefer. But OKC does. This year my birthday wish was no exception. May 18 was the day and we hopped into the Subaru and headed west. Here’s what we did:
Lunch. Mocha. Old Books. Dinner.
No journey to Oklahoma City is complete unless we’ve stopped at Whole Foods at least once. Not only is it a reliable place to pick up a vegan meal and load up on staples for the pantry, it’s in a really fun area with unique shops and great walking space for Ike (and us). After a quick shopping trip in WF and lunch on their patio we headed into downtown proper for our caffeine fix at a local roasters. OKC has become a real gourmet coffee town, which works for Kel and me quite nicely.
After coffee, we gave Ike a good walk and relaxed a while before dinner at Matthew Kenney. I’ve written about this place before and it still amazes me that OKC is home to a raw restaurant and raw culinary institute. How did that happen? The restaurant staff is made up for the most part by students and the food is inventive, fresh and flavorful. Both the food and the restaurant itself are beautiful. The real stand-outs on the menu are always the desserts.
One thing that strikes me about this restaurant is how different the kitchen is. And I don’t mean because everything is raw and instead of ovens and flat-tops, there are rows of Vitamix blenders and dehydrators. Have you ever noticed the frenetic buzz of activity in the open kitchens in conventional restaurants? The staff is constantly moving, dodging each other, smoke and steam rising, plates and hot pans flying everywhere. At Matthew Kenney, there is a much slower vibe. Staff pad back and forth behind the large work areas carrying big bowls of fresh greens, chunks of fruit and trays of dehydrated produce. There’s no need to worry about flipping that steak before it goes from medium-rare to well-done. It’s almost Zen-like in the spotless kitchen at Matthew Kenney and that peacefulness translates into one’s dining experience. (Icing on my birthday “cake” was a gift certificate waiting for me at the restaurant – thank you, dear! You know who you are .)
Build A Feet-happy City.
I love that Oklahoma City is growing in positive ways. Rundown areas are being revitalized, new buildings are going up and shops and restaurants are coming in and the young population is eating it all up. A small pop-up street fair of sorts happened to take place during our visit, so I knew we had to go check it out. The Better Block OKC project was all about demonstrating how to make cities more pedestrian- and people-friendly with the focus on quick and inexpensive (think re-purposed and recycled) solutions for maximum effect. There were temporary store fronts, food trucks (no vegan ones, sadly), graffiti artists, live music, crafts and fresh, local produce for sale.
Down By The River (The Boathouse District).
Ever since living in Cambridge, MA and then in Washington, DC, I’ve nursed a secret desire to row. There’s just something about it – the early mornings, the glide over the water, the athleticism – that appeals to me. I planned on taking a rowing class in DC, but we moved before I could turn that plan into action. Being rather land-locked on a ranch, the only rowing I can do is atop my beautiful Indorow machine. I love it, but it’s a far cry from being on the water. Little did I know that rowing had – well – followed me to OKC. The premier training site for Olympic and Paralympic rowers is right there – on the Oklahoma River. And I just found this out about a week ago. I’m so tickled by this, you cannot imagine! Tops on my list of things to do in OKC was visit this site and I wasn’t disappointed.
There’s a wonderful walking and bike path that follows the river with plenty of trees and good views of the city skyline. The boathouses are architecturally stunning and being able to watch the elegant boats skimming over the water is a real treat. I felt the itch to climb into a sleek, tapered scull and take off – with Ike as the coxswain, of course.
We wrapped up our OKC visit with a trip to Second Chance Books (Kel and I can’t resist used book stores) followed by lunch at Coolgreens (a local chain offering fresh salads and flatbreads) and one last mocha for the road. Now I’ve got a whole year to plan our next birthday adventures…