The Best of the Best 2014

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Dining

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Asian

Whether you can eat with chopsticks or not, Asian cuisine is always worth exploring, and some restaurants offer the best experience. In Tulsa, that place is KEO Restaurant, noted for its diverse menu of favorites hailing from across the continent, sleek style and imagination. P.F. Chang’s also received the nod for its Asian-inspired bistro favorites, while Pei Wei Asian Diner chain locations were favored for its blend of fast food convenience and casual dining. If Japanese cuisine is on your mind, so is Okura Sushi & Grill, the winner in Oklahoma City for its way with grilled dishes as well as sushi and then some. Thai Kumkoon comes close, however, with the best Thai menu in Norman and its signature Evil Jungle Chicken. Grand House used to be a Chinese bistro until it got into the habit of serving more than Kung Pao chicken and dim sum.

Bakery

Stopping by the bakery for a fresh-baked loaf of bread, cookies or a cake is a snap when you have a favorite bakery. Merritt’s Bakery is that favorite for many Tulsa readers, who like that it has several area locations yet retains its personal touch and even serves breakfast and lunch. Ann’s Bakery has been in business for more than 75 years, and it has served customers faithfully for every one of them, which makes it a top Tulsa bakery. Brookside highlight Antoinette Baking Co. brings its best each day, but most love it for its $5 pie nights. Setting is crucial to dining, and La Baguette Bistro & Bakery definitely has it along with a first rate bakery that Oklahoma City readers think is tops all around. When you need a cupcake and gourmet coffee fix, head to Cuppies & Joe for its selection of pies, cakes and other treats. Some of the most creatively baked and decorated goodies can be found at Brown’s Bakery if you want an order for a special occasion.

Barbecue Restaurant

The right ingredients must come together to make great barbecue – choice cuts of meat, fire, sauce and technique. Rib Crib, the Tulsa-based franchise, has it all down, plus it has multiple locations. In Tulsa, folks have headed to Brookside for Elmer’s BBQ’s smokehouse authenticity for years, and most likely will continue for many more. Readers also like Billy Sims BBQ and its many locations as well as the standing-room-only Burn Co. Barbecue in Tulsa’s South Boston District. Earl’s Rib Palace is fit for a royal court with flavor to match, which is what makes it the best of Oklahoma City and the region. City smoke doesn’t get much better than Iron Starr Urban Barbeque and its unique spin on classic comfort foods. And if it tastes like you’ve stepped into a family tradition at Swadley’s Bar-B-Q, you’re right. That method, sauce and service took years to perfect.

Breakfast

It’s the most important meal of the day, so be sure you make it count at the right place. Tulsa favorite Brookside By Day makes the head of its category for location, location, location, but it also serves great omelets, breakfast burritos and sides ideal for weekend brunch. Another favorite, Phill’s Diner is the one constant in an ever-changing Tulsa landscape, and the breakfast plates are just like you remember at grandma’s house. Finally, Duffy’s Diner brings out morning favorites made to order. We’re convinced that Jimmy’s Egg may have perfected home fries. Oklahoma City loves to wake up at this classic. The Classen Grill’s menu of Mexican-inspired favorites are a must in the city, along with the fresh-squeezed orange juice. For a side of retro with that coffee, try out Norman’s The Diner, featuring Tex-Mex variations on breakfast standards so good that readers had to tell us about it.

Phill Hughes is owner of Phill’s Diner, Best Diner. Photo by Brandon Scott.

Phill Hughes is owner of Phill’s Diner, Best Diner.
Photo by Brandon Scott.

Burger

Sometimes your appetite wants a fine burger. Good luck trying to find a parking place at Ron’s Hamburgers and Chili near downtown Tulsa during the lunch hour. Diners pack Ron’s locations for homemade burgers and Spanish okra or fries – uniquely Oklahoman. You can’t ask for a more fun selection than what you’ll find at Fat Guy’s Burger Bar, serving the usual beef along with sausage, lamb and pizza burgers near ONEOK Field. The views from Blue Rose Café’s patio over the Arkansas River are a big attraction, but the burgers will bring you back. Fun and freshness go into Oklahoma City’s S&B’s Burger Joint, a local favorite. It’s not always easy to get into Bricktown Burgers – hours are short – but it’s totally worth it. What would a best of OKC list be without Irma’s Burger Shack? It’s here along with its diner finery and No Name Ranch partnership intact.

Deli/Sandwich Shop

Finding a favorite deli involves some finesse for navigating endless sandwich, soup and salad choices. Jason’s Deli makes it an adventure with a million ways to make a sandwich, and because it does it so well, Tulsans made it their top pick for deli and sandwich shop. PJ’s Sandwich Shoppe turns sandwiches into art with some of the most succulent hot sandwich combinations you’ll find anywhere. Felini’s Cookies & Deli stacks up the freshest ingredients and sauces for the lunch crew along with sweets to the tune of many praises. Many places profess to bake their bread fresh daily, but for some reason, it never tastes as good as the dough rising from the colorful little Someplace Else Deli & Bakery in Oklahoma City. Everything in between is pretty good, too, as are the cinnamon rolls. The Earth Natural Café & Deli may have just relocated, but fans followed the vegan-friendly menu and fresh goodness to Norman’s Flood Avenue. City Bites Deli & Grill delivers on its promise of great choices and quality.

Desserts

After the main course is finished, don’t say “no” to dessert, especially if you find yourself at one of the best. Queenie’s Café & Bakery is a favorite at Utica Square for its sweet selections. When they talk about desserts “to die for,” they’re talking about the chocolate bread pudding and other morsels at Michael V’s near Bixby. The Wild Fork, another Utica Square cornerstone, takes the cake for its very special version in our list. Cupcakes are the star of the show at Oklahoma City’s Cuppies & Joe, which also offers great gourmet coffee to go with those treats. Not only can one get great bread at La Baguette Bistro & Bakery, but three words will go far: Try the cheesecake. Just as you’d expect at Nonna’s Euro-American Ristorante and Bar, dessert is a work of art – from the brandy sauce on coconut coupe to the delectable cakes.

Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, Best Seafood. Photo by Brent Fuchs.

Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, Best Seafood.
Photo by Brent Fuchs.

Diner

We can’t have a best of Tulsa diners list without Phill’s Diner. The old-school eatery has plenty of snap and good, home-style cooking. Readers also like Tally’s Good Food Café, with its throwback to ‘50s culture and Route 66 nostalgia. Duffy’s Diner gets into the ranks, too, with greasy-spoon charm and flavor. When it comes to diner food, Norman’s The Diner serves the best, according to readers. We especially like the touch of Tex-Mex. If you want a burger or anything that comes expertly put together by awesome fry cooks, head to Nic’s Grill, which serves a little of everything. Classen Grill also knows how to make mouths happy, and the big portions will make it sing.

Fast Food

You’ve only 15 minutes to grab lunch before a meeting. Without thought you go to your favorite fast food joint around the corner, and the day is saved. Our readers in both metro areas made Arby’s their first stop when hunger calls. The roast beef sandwiches and curly fries put it at the top. For the quick and delicious burgers, tots, fountain drinks and more, Sonic Drive-In was also named a winner, while Taco Bueno got the nod for fast Mexican munchies on the go.

Bodean, Best Seafood. Photo by Natalie Green.

Bodean, Best Seafood.
Photo by Natalie Green.

Fine Dining

There’s something to be said for the charm of a white tablecloth, and in combination with ambiance, professional staff and exquisite food, you have the makings of a fine dining restaurant like Polo Grill. Tulsa made the Utica Square restaurant its favorite, but diners also like Palace Café, its elegance and inspired way with cuisine. Juniper, the restaurant and martini lounge, has a farm-to-table approach and appreciation for fine ingredients. It may be named for a great ball player, but Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse doesn’t play games with its dining. Seriously good and professional, the Oklahoma City Bricktown restaurant wins big. Readers celebrate with dinner at Red PrimeSteak as well as at the sky-high Vast. Over in Nichols Hills, The Coach House takes the vote, and with an impressive menu and wine list, it’s easy to see why.

Ice Cream Shop

It’s summer, in case you haven’t noticed. Chill out with our readers’ picks for best ice cream shops. Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores was a winner long before we proclaimed it for creamy, cold goodness and sundaes. Tulsa also likes Marble Slab Creamery and its manual approach to blending and mixing flavors and ingredients. Another winner, Cherry Berry makes frozen yogurt a fun proposition, expecially if you have kids, and families are its biggest fans. As with Tulsa, Oklahoma City loves its Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores – the choices, the memories and possibilities. Kaiser’s American Bistro has a choice dining selection, but is it hard to believe that it’s just as popular for its ice cream and frozen treats? Cold Stone Creamery is another OKC pick for its yummy blends.

Italian

There’s more to Italian food than tomato sauce and spaghetti, and Dalesandro’s Italian Cuisine in Tulsa provides the delicious evidence. Voters made it their No. 1 choice in Tulsa for lasagna, linguine, pesto and much more. Ti Amo Italian Ristorante ranks high, too, with great atmosphere and always fresh entrees. For its attention to detail on classic Italian dishes, Biga is a big winner, or should we say, diners are the winners. The name says it all at Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, Oklahoma City’s ultimate choice for entrees that build on tradition with timely nuance and a well-paired glass of wine. Victoria’s Pasta Shop makes magic every night in the metro that made it a favorite for Italian food, while Vito’s Ristorante gets points for wonderful food and red-and-white checkered table cloths in the spirit of family-run establishments.

Margarita

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Tallgrass Prairie Table, Best Stylish New Restaurant. Photo by Natalie Green.

If a restaurant can mix a great margarita, imagine what it can do over a flame. Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina is the place to stop for great concoctions on the rocks, frozen and using a variety of ingredients. Cherry Street’s Mi Cocina also makes magic in a glass with a range of variations on the quintessential margarita. Tulsa also appreciates the pours for this fruity summer drink at El Guapo’s Cantina and at Señor Tequila. Chelino’s Mexican Restaurant has diversified its offerings all over Oklahoma City, but its margarita remains one of its most bragged-on buys. The margaritas at 1492 New World Latin Cuisine are like the décor of this Plaza District establishment – wonderfully light-hewn touches blazing with eclectic charm. Readers also like the chilled choices of Ted’s Café Escondido.

Mexican

As a Mexican restaurant is good at making a margarita, so it follows the restaurant must be good with everything on its menu. The logic holds true when it comes to Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina and its menu of casual cuisine favorites with all the hallmarks of Mexican the way Tulsa likes it. Also, Mi Cocina was voted a top choice for its ambiance and modern, fresh takes on old recipes. Readers also like Café Ole and its patio dining along with Señor Tequila’s festive atmosphere and authentic taste. In Oklahoma City, tasters prefer Iguana Mexican Grill, its selection of sizzling entrees and well-established knack for pairing the right dish and the right margarita or tequila. Readers also voted for 1492 New World Latin Cuisine for its expansive and interesting menu and Ted’s Café Escondido’s tasty offerings.

Outside Dining

Dining al fresco in Oklahoma is a real treat, and in Tulsa, diners enjoy fine food and drinks on the patio at Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina locations. With a view of the Arkansas River, Waterfront Grill in Jenks is another favorite for its variety of cuisine and great riverside tables. Also by the river, Blue Rose Café wins for its people watching and views, which are fantastic at sunset. Utica Square’s The Wild Fork always saves a special seat for guests beneath its tree-canopied patio. The Mont Restaurant is what it’s all about in Norman, and the charm of its umbrella-covered tables easily recall a European cafè in the afternoon. The gorgeous outdoor seating at Bellini’s Ristorante makes a memorable dining experience for many readers, who told us as much; while Redrock Canyon Grill gets plenty of attention for its open-air seating as well.

Pizza

There are, believe it or not, people in this world who do not like pizza. They didn’t vote in this survey, but most of our readers confessed an unwavering devotion to Hideaway Pizza, that homegrown collection of restaurants serving awesome pies throughout Tulsa and Bartlesville. Yet, there’s room for the competition, and Andolini’s Pizzeria makes its way onto our list of top pizza picks for Tulsa along with Hey Mambo, a fun addition to the Brady Arts District. In Oklahoma City, the romance with Hideaway Pizza continues, which is only fitting since the franchise began in nearby Stillwater. The Wedge Pizzeria and its two locations nicely wedge into “The Best of the Best” for its luscious meatballs, savory antipasto platters and that brick-oven goodness. The gourmet-inspired Upper Crust Wood Fired Pizza makes most other pizza places look like sauce-slathered frozen pie shells.

Place to Take Out-of-town Guests

There are those places that you like to take visitors from out of town, and taking them there is a treat for you as well. Polo Grill makes great dining happen with skilled and knowledgeable staff, with rustic, almost Old World elegance and modern cuisine. Likewise, Stonehorse Café has a spectacular way of making diners feel special – from that first pour of wine to the last bite of dessert. Readers also give the nod to the always exceptional Palace Café and its vision of refinement. If you plan to visit Oklahoma City, stop by Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, the Oklahoma City tried-and-true pick for fine dining. The Coach House promises upscale and delivers on all fronts with seasonal menus and constant thought to reputation. Deep Fork Grill claims to be Oklahoma City’s best kept secret, but apparently, that’s just not so – its excellence is gaining renown.

Salads

A salad is more than a wilted appetizer at Tulsa’s Celebrity Restaurant, which features some interesting variations on its “world class” Caesar salad that are worth investigating. Order a salad at Charleston’s Restaurant, and you have a meal perfect for the summer months – salads have generous portions of salmon, chicken and other ingredients. Olive Garden’s well-known garden salad puts this famous chain on our list of favorites. Go for a salad at Oklahoma City’s Coolgreens, and you won’t be disappointed with the assortment, freshness and price. Cheever’s Café, which specializes in contemporary comfort food, is a favorite for its plates of greens and other unlikely ingredients that tantalize the taste buds. Norman’s The Earth Natural Café & Deli also makes the ranks for the quality and freshness you’d expect from a place named Earth.

Salsa

A good salsa can make dreams come true. Certainly, it was the wish of owners to see Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina become the successful franchise it is today, and it all starts with the zesty red concoction served every time one sits down to eat. Mi Cocina also boasts good salsa. Folks have raved about Café Ole’s salsa for years. Iguana Mexican Grill serves a mean salsa in Oklahoma City, and for its peppery perfection, the salsa was named best. Close by, the recipes at Ted’s Café Escondido get the nod, along with the creative mix at 1492 New World Latin Cuisine.

Seafood

When they talk about freshness where seafood is concerned, it does make the difference. But where restaurants go from there is the line dividing these kitchens from the pack. Bodean Restaurant & Market is the Tulsa pick for its contemporary décor and refreshing take on cuisine. Readers also voted Bonefish Grill tops in this category for many reasons pulled from the deep sea. White River Fish Market & Restaurant also gets the nod for its serious attitude to seafood done home style. Another Hal Smith enterprise, Hefner Grill’s expansive seafood offerings are worth diving into head-first, which is why voters named it best in Oklahoma City. The excellent Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse also gets some love for its diverse entrees along with the fun, aptly named Pearl’s Oyster Bar.

Steakhouse

It takes expert precision to cook a good steak. The chefs at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar are the best, according to readers, at getting it right along with the service and other refinement expected at this Tulsa favorite. Mahogany Prime Steakhouse comes highly recommended; one bite of the skillfully seasoned and charred steaks, and one understands why. Tulsans also heavily favor relative newcomer Prhyme in the Brady Arts District as well as the honorable elder statesman of the group, Sapulpa’s Freddie’s Bar-B-Que & Steakhouse. Ask anyone in Oklahoma City where to find the best steak, and you’re most likely to hear Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse. Don’t expect an assortment of ballpark standards – Mickey Mantle’s is all about perfection and fine tastes. Oklahoma City readers also appreciate Red PrimeSteak and Boulevard Steakhouse for their great skills in the kitchen. Mahogany Prime Steakhouse and the old school charm of Junior’s of Oklahoma City also take their sizeable shares of readers’ votes and approval.

Stylish New Restaurant

Just like those places to be seen, these new restaurants are the epitome of cool and modern, and who doesn’t want to be welcomed in? Tallgrass Prairie Table opened to great fanfare in 2013, and for good reason. Japanese cuisine spot Zanmai made its entrance on a tide of praise for its precision in the kitchen, show on the hibatchi and a restaurant that made the most of its view of downtown Tulsa. Tavolo moved into downtown Tulsa and brought a bit of Italy. Bricktown gets all the cool restaurants, right? Many times, yes. Oklahoma City Thunder baron Kevin Durant fulfilled his promise to open a restaurant in Oklahoma City, and Kd’s Southern Cuisine was born serving fried green tomatoes unlike any you’ve ever had. Guernsey Park is the hottest new restaurant for Asian fusion dining and sushi. Empire Slice House is still making waves in the Plaza District with some of the most imaginative pies in town.

Sunday Brunch

Brunch is more than 11 a.m. mimosas at restaurants like Palace Café, which features a sumptuous menu of breakfast-into-lunch entrees that delight the palate. Tulsa’s favorite place to take guests is also its favorite Sunday brunch spot on cheery Cherry Street and anywhere else in town. Another place for surefire brunch goodness, Polo Grill brings creative, bright cuisine to the table along with a great drinks menu. If you’re very lucky, you’ll find a table at Lucky’s Restaurant for its amazing bruch. Rococo Restaurant and Fine Wine and its classic American bistro fare do Sunday brunch nicely. Syrup is well-practiced on the art of brunch. The breakfast boutique that’s also open for lunch is a Norman favorite. Kitchen No. 324 is known for its rustic favorites, genious creations, great coffee and fresh-made pastries.

Sushi

After you get over the initial caution that sets in when you’ve had your first bite of sushi, you start to scan the menu to see which combinations of rice, seaweed, fish, veggies and unexpected ingredients you can try next. In The Raw has made an art of sushi and made itself Tulsa’s top pick in the category. Better yet, take sashimi-phobic dining partners with you since the menu has plenty of cooked dishes, too. Fuji carries some of the more traditional rolls you’ll find in Japanese cuisine, but the inventive and colorfully named creations are fun, too. Newcomer Zanmai and Blue Dome District heavy Yokozuna complete Tulsa’s list for best sushi each for their location, creative cuisine and selection. Sushi Neko knows how to keep the spotlight and favor in Oklahoma City. Colorful rolls as tantalizing in the mouth as they are to look at on a plate, plus a shouting sushi chef and chic presentation, are hard to miss. In The Raw shows up on the Oklahoma City list, too, for the cool atmosphere, a great menu and optimal Bricktown location. Fans of Okura Sushi & Grill and its menu gave it high marks, placing it on our list.

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