Steve Pipps’ Road Diaries (Part 2 of 4): Oklahoma

I rolled out of bed and realized what a horrible mistake I had made. Never drink so much bourbon the night before you have to make one of the longer legs of a 36-hour drive, it makes for a very uncomfortable day. That is exactly what this day was, uncomfortable and horrible, but we made it to Oklahoma without a scratch and I was asleep before I said hello to my family.

If you are a more responsible adult than myself, along the way you might want to stop at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is a small detour, but it’s worth it with exhibits like the ’91 Campaign or the Biography Exhibits that show Bill Clinton in his youth and his campaigns for Governor, Congress and Attorney General.

If Clinton isn’t your thing then just keep heading west on 40.

When I awoke the next day I had one single question….

Season 1 Episode 2: “How to Have Fun in Oklahoma With Your Grandparents”

We had a few days to kill so we decided to visit my cousins in Oklahoma City and explore the art districts and Bricktown. For as many years as I have been going to Oklahoma I have never explored downtown, but it is a budding area for artists and has a lot going for it.

After stopping at the pizza restaurant, Wedge, that my cousin works at for some fantastic specialty ‘za we made our way over to the art district. There are different parts to the art district, The Plaza being a main thoroughfare. Along a small strip of road are restaurants, thrift stores, art galleries and bars that make up The Plaza. We went into multiple thrift stores saw a lot of local art pieces that were beautiful and unique, but also overpriced.

Check out Empire for another great slice of ‘za and some local beer. The pizza is all craft (I don’t know if this is a known way to describe pizza, but think large New York slices with crazy names and toppings) and can come with pink sauce or red sauce. Definitely go with the pink sauce, it’s like a very spicy ranch.

Next, head over to Paseo district. Just make sure it’s not a Monday when everything is closed. The Paseo is more art gallery focused with a number of small shops run by a few artists featuring their pieces and a few more affordable items for purchase such as shirts or bags.

Paseo is styled like Santa Fe, all adobe, very quaint little shops. There are only two restaurants in Paseo so be sure to get your fill elsewhere if you plan on spending time exploring all of the galleries.

Before dinner in Bricktown, check out the Myriad Botanical Gardens in the heart of downtown. The garden is suspended in a circular tube above a man made pond that features Koi and other wildlife. If you don’t feel like paying the entrance fee for the gardens, exploring the grounds is free and just as interesting. The pond is almost a city block and a bridge is situated across the middle of it for a true bird’s eye view of the whole area. If you happen to visit the area in the evening you might even catch a movie in the park.

Photo-by-Carl-Shortt-Jr-1024x700 (1)
Photo by Carl Short: Tanglewood

Bricktown has been around for a number of years, but has continued to grow as other areas in the city continue to develop. The OKC Thunder also had something to do with the jump in tourism; their arena is situated in the heart of Bricktown next to Chickasaw Ballpark, home to the OKC Dodgers. Although the restaurants are more chain oriented the food is still pretty delicious. At Pearl’s Crabtown you get a classic fried catfish po’boy.

After a full day in Oklahoma City, we traveled back to Shawnee to visit our favorite restaurants. The city is home to just under 30,000 people, but there are a number of diamonds in the rough when it comes to food.

Hamburger King is a staple in Shawnee and rightly so. The burgers are incredible and so unpretentious. The joint has been around since 1922 and has stayed in the family since then. I highly recommend the double bacon cheeseburger with potato wedges, (if you’re from Ohio you might know them as Jojos.) Grilled on a flattop, the burgers cook in their own juices and the buns are warm sesame seed topped bready goodness.

Although you wont have any room after your meal, go for a piece of pie. The key lime pie is a creamy delectable slice of heaven.

Next, you have to try Van’s Pig Stand. Yes this is the trip of the rib, but it’s drastically different from Peg Leg in Nashville so there’s no worry of getting sick of them. The ribs are bigger and smokier than those in Nashville and they are smothered in fantastic house barbeque sauce. It has been my favorite place to get ribs since I was a young boy and it still stands to this day.

Beyond food check out downtown for a taste of small town America where everything you need is on Main street. The street might be hurting these days, but you can still see the façade of its former glory. There are still some great antique shops along the strip and Bibliotech Books & Comics. The shop has a huge selection of every genre including most Stephen King books if you’re into that kind of thing. Also stock up on any comic book you might be lacking, the selection there sure isn’t.

After all of this, be sure to visit with your family. That is what you’re there for after all. Three days gone it is time to leave and continue on to the second to last stop along the way, Santa Fe.

Read part one, Nashville, here. Stay tuned for part three of my four-part piece on How to Travel Across America in Style. – Steve Pipps