Oklahoma Road Trip - Chicken and a Biscuit
My travel season, which runs late February to late September, has officially begun, and the event that kicks it off for me is the BASSMASTER Classic. Lovingly referred to by the folks in my industry (fish-bait) as the "Superbowl of bass-fishing" -- minus the epic commercials -- this year's event takes place this week in Tulsa, OK.
I'll be honest, the road trip from my northern Arizona town to Tulsa, OK does not put me in the path of many Eater.com-notable locations. I'm not getting weekly emails from Tasting Table or Food & Wine that recommend I stop at hot, new restaurants in places like Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City or Tulsa. But when you're food obsessed, I believe good food finds you.
My apologies to Albuquerque and Amarillo as I blazed through Albuquerque without stopping to make it to Amarillo at a decent time in the evening, and when I pulled into my hotel parking lot I heard my bed calling. I'm looking forward to hitting up a French restaurant in Albq. on my way home that I'm hearing a lot of murmuring about ....
I had plans to swing by Guyutes in Oklahoma City the following day, though. Named after the song by Phish, Guyutes opened six months ago in an area of OKC (namely the Uptown 23rd District) that is rapidly expanding with good eateries (Guernsey Park, which I wrote about last fall, is right across the street). Providing OKCers with "elevated street food" with a local focus in a laid back atmosphere, this youngish group of "kids" likes their music loud, they're beer cold, and their food noteworthy.
When I walked in on a Monday at 11:10am, the music was already pumping and the staff warm and welcoming. If I had to guess, the two "kids" that chatted with me, took my order and served my food couldn't have been a day over 21, but the folks soon darkening the door after me for lunch were middle-aged and older, and most sported suit and ties.
I'd read about the Disco Biscuit and ordered that straight up. An open-faced brined and fried chicken with green onions and spicy honey-butter served on a cheddar biscuit sounded like a Midwestern classic amped up a notch or two. While I waited for the party to start, I noshed on an order of Okra-Homa (heh-heh!) - blister-roasted okra with a spicy aioli for dipping.
The okra was a good move. Crisp and smokey, I left no soldier behind on the plate. The chicken and biscuit was unfortunately ... not that good. Though the menu said it was brined, the chicken was dry and under-seasoned and while it wasn't over-fried, I feel they were overdue to change their frying oil. I like the idea of a cheddar biscuit, but this one was heavy and dense.
That being said, I would still definitely recommend the place. Why? Because their Peace in the Middle East wrap (that I ordered to go and enjoyed later that evening) made everything right. It made stars align. It made peace in the most war-torn region of the plant actually attainable. A whole-wheat tortilla filled with beet hummus, crispy falafel, roast cauliflower and a couscous/quinoa blend laced with pickled carrot and a tangy lemon vinaigrette joined hands and sang kumayah in my mouth. And for a sammy with zero meat in it, I've never enjoyed a tastier meaty-tasting meal in my life.
And the menu is loaded many more intriguing concepts like Peace in the Middle East. Add to that the extensive list of craft-cocktails and beers and it's clear why the place is getting so much press. So they had a bad Disco Biscuit day the Monday I showed up. Who hasn't?
I feel it's okay that I was a bit hard on my one OKC stop - they're known culinary mecca of Oklahoma so they can handle the scrutiny. I have a list of Tulsa go-to's, but my last visit to Oklahoma's second largest city did not prove to be exactly memorable.
A lot can change in three short years. The downtown "Blue Dome District" has always been popular with locals as well as visiting tourists, but the food scene there is specifically on the rise. This afternoon I stopped in at Bramble Breakfast & Bar for lunch, right next door to Tallgrass Prarie Table, it's big-sister restaurant.
My mission was the Tuesday Blue Plate Special: the Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Sandwich. After the slight let-down the previous day, I needed a fried-chicken redemption to restore my faith in Oklahoma.
Bramble serves breakfast all day and I was tempted by the daily french-toast special, but I couldn't turn my back on the fried chicken. The chicken sammy came perched atop a pillowy white biscuit served alongside a bed of greens and crispy brussels sprouts that had been finished with smoked oil.
This was the chicken sandwich I was expecting in OKC and instead found in Tulsa. The chicken (not the skin, but the meat) was moist and gently sweetened from brine, and each crispy piece was lightly drizzled with sweet heat. The biscuit was tender and light and perfect. I need to disclose that I wolfed down the greens and fried Brussels sprouts before I was even halfway through the chicken. Lesson learned ... Tulsa is on the rise.