It’s small, discreet, easy to miss. If you stroll through the sidewalks of Midtown in Oklahoma City, you might walk right past without catching sight of one of the most lauded restaurants in the state.
Since Ludivine opened in 2010 as one of the first truly “farm-to-fork” restaurants in Oklahoma, it has feted celebrities, local movers and shakers, and anybody else who wanders in for a taste of lovingly prepared local flavor. While locally sourced restaurants have been all the rage lately, Ludivine remains head and shoulders above its peers. Part of this, as chef-owner Russ Johnson explains, is because Ludivine’s efforts go far beyond simple geography.
“It’s about relationships, practices and information,” he says. “It’s about knowing that the products you are using are the best and freshest available because you know who raised them and how. We serve fresh fish every night at Ludivine. Obviously, we are nowhere near an ocean, but we work with individuals who have longstanding close relationships with captains of small fishing vessels, and who are known to employ sustainable fishing practices, in keeping with the same values we would expect from a farmer or rancher that we deal with right here in Oklahoma.
“By the same token, I would much rather buy a pastured lamb from a small family producer in Texas or Colorado than beef from a feedlot that just happens to be 10 miles from my restaurant.”
The menu at Ludivine changes daily and is based on local and sustainable availability and the whimsy of the chef. Picking an evening to dine is like playing a game of culinary Russian roulette that you can’t lose. Recent offerings have included crispy roasted pheasant with beets and mushrooms, braised lamb neck with eggplant, suckling pig with poblano cheddar grits, and a maple pot de crème that will make you hear “Dreamweaver” in your head. For those who like the comfort of familiarity, appetizers like the famous charcuterie board and the roasted bone marrow with grain mustard and local condiments are always available.
The only rivals to the fare at Ludivine are the drinks. Bartenders Colby Poulin and Chris Barrett create thematically decadent cocktails each season (watch for the latest iteration in January). Their latest concept is the Public Enemies menu, inspired by and named after gangsters of the 1930s. Barrett says all of the cocktails are Ludivine’s unique takes on classic drinks from that era, and each features a different amaro (a bittersweet Italian herbal digestivo). While there’s not a bad choice among them (trust us, we know), one highlight is the Scarface – inspired by Al Capone, of course – with rye whiskey, Cynar liqueur, homemade banana liqueur, coffee liqueur and bitters. The Queenie – a confection of gin, green Chartreuse liqueur, absinthe cream, egg white and champagne – is fit for royalty.
Soon, you may not even need to hunt for the small, intimately lit, brick-and-mortar location; Ludivine can come to you. Johnson says the restaurant will soon launch a new line of retail products, as well as offer a new concept called Soiree, which provides “two totally different but equally exciting options for in-home, multi-course dinner parties.” It doesn’t get much more local than that.
Ludivine is at 808 N. Hudson Ave. For information on the daily menu, visit www.ludivineokc.com.