Thu Sister's Guide to OKC, OK

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I miss my family and home all the time, home being the city I immigrated to and grew up in, Oklahoma City. During my childhood and teenage years, I didn't have permission to go out much, I didn't eat out at American restaurants unless my parents thought Sonic or McDonald's sounded tasty that day. Any time we ate out at a restaurant, we would go to a Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant. There was also accessibility, like not having a car and not having the money to just spend without worry at new places. Thus, growing up, I didn't get to explore OKC much, not just food wise, but fun wise. When I moved away, I made it a point to visit some new places every time I came home. Since then, it's become a tradition of my sibling's and I, to visit and try new (and not so new) places in OKC. I've lived in Chicago for 9 years now, and every time I go home, I try something new. Regardless of all the new things that are popping up in OKC, I'm also discovering tons of places that have been around for quite some time, and I'm just now getting the chance to explore my home of 18 years. It's given me a different perspective of OKC, and along with the new changes I am seeing in the art & food community, I'm really excited for OKC's future. My family still call the city home, after all, and I need for it to keep getting better, not only for my family but for every single person living there. I hope you guys enjoy the guide. If I'm in town and you're in town, hit me up. We'll go get coffee and make some memories. 

Keep scrolling to check out some of my favorite spots, coffee shops, eats, photo opportunities, throw in a little bit of nostalgia, and you got the best damn guide to the city that made me. There are spots in all of my fave neighborhoods: Asian District, Downtown/Bricktown, Plaza District, Paseo Art District, Uptown, Automobile Alley, and Western Avenue. As I visit home and find new faves/and visit old goodies, I'll update the list, hopefully with new photos and thoughts. Can't wait to explore more spots! I love you OKC!

  Chicken Nikuman at Gorō Ramen.

Chicken Nikuman at Gorō Ramen.

  Roasted chicken and pepper jack strudel at Cheever's Cafe.

Roasted chicken and pepper jack strudel at Cheever's Cafe.

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  A slice of the Italian Stallion (left) and the Napoli (right) at The Wedge. 

A slice of the Italian Stallion (left) and the Napoli (right) at The Wedge. 

0 dollars (Free),  1-15 dollars ($),  15-30 dollars ($$),  30-50 dollars ($$$),  50+ dollars ($$$$)
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Eats:

($$) Phở Cường and Phở Liên Hōa. Ahhhh, phở! This is top on my list because any time my parents would take us out to eat, we would literally just go to a Viet restaurant, which isn't anything new since we were already eating Vietnamese food at home. I used to think it was a waste of eating out, because I wanted to try new things, but I appreciate it very much now. My parents were just making sure I grew up with food from my culture, and Viet food is a big part of who I am. Now, I miss eating phở all the time. I know how to make my own, and it's pretty fucking good, so hit me up if you want that recipe! My parents knew the owners of Phở Cường, and my dad actually works there now, so we ate there practically any time we wanted phở. My siblings and I always got the gỏi cuốn (spring rolls, not fried) with sweet peanut sauce or the chả giò (fried egg rolls) with sweet fish sauce to share. My go to is phở gà (chicken) garnished with lime, hoisin sauce, basil and mint. I save the decadent avocado smoothie for dessert. Phở Liên Hōa is another fave, and the only difference here is they add quail eggs to your phở. They're like mini hard boiled eggs, with an equal ratio of egg white and yolk. It's genius. Go to either spots, you won't be disappointed.

($$) Gorō Ramen. Get the chicken Kara-age (fried soy-marinated thighs) and pork belly or chicken Nikuman (steamed buns) to share. Save the Tori Paitan ramen for yourself, and don't forget to add the house-made garlic chili bomb! I can't handle spice, so I ask for it on the side. Should you sit outside, enjoy the "Ramen Girl" mural by JUURI. It's beautiful. 

($$) Empire Slice House. I've never been to the physical location, but we got their pizza to go and ate it while walking around downtown. They have slices of the day, so I imagine there's a round of rotating flavors. Very tasty. 

($$$$) Grand House and Fung's Kitchen. OK, first of all. Do not even attempt to go to either of these Dim Sum spots and not expect to shell out. I mean like, 50 dollars, more if you eat a lot, get some to go, buy a drink, and also have room for dessert. And tip the crew!! I grew up on Grand House. We didn't go often because it's priceyyyyy. On special occasions, my parents would signal for a turn and I would see the green roof. I'd get so excited. Fung's Kitchen is also amazing, although I've only had it once. Grand House only offers Dim Sum on the weekend, and I would assume the same for Fung's. Do yourself a favor and call for the hours before you go, and always arrive around an hour before you want to be seated. IT. GETS. PACKED. I recommend the fried shrimp & squid balls at Grand House and rice noodle rolls, plain or with shrimp, topped with a sweet soy sauce at either spots. I'm drooling already. If you're allergic to seafood, they have plenty of other little bites. 

($$) Cheever's Cafe. Cheever's was the first spot I went to when I came back after my freshmen year of college, the first food "adventure" my siblings and I had. It was a goal of ours to try new restaurants in OKC. I had the roasted chicken & pepper jack strudel (shown above). It was so good! In the future, I'm hoping to come back and try the Cheever's Chicken Fried Steak. I lovveeeeee me a goooooood chicken fried steak, topped with mounds of country gravy. Can't wait.

($$) The Wedge. I've been to the location on Western twice, and both times I got the Napoli pizza, which is loaded with herbed extra virgin olive oil, pancetta, spiced walnuts, asiago, rosemary, and arugula. My first time having arugula was at The Wedge btw! When it's not too hot, eat outside in their patio area. Just like eating in your own backyard.

($$) Golden Phoenix. I love going here for family style Viet food. I even requested it one Christmas break! They have a canh chua cá (sweet & sour soup with catfish) that is just as good as my mom makes. You can pick and choose which amount, family dinner for 2, 3, 4, etc. The bigger the group/set, the more dishes come with your order. On the side, we'll also get the sweet and sour pork chops and gỏi đu đủ (green papaya salad) which comes with fried shrimp chips. Golden Phoenix is also known for their Chinese BBQ, so you have plenty of protein options.

($$) Golden Palace. If you gotta go to a buffet, then head to Golden Palace. They have Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian BBQ. And these little cheese & corn nuggets I just can't seem to find anywhere else. 

($$) Picasso Cafe. When I first learned how to drive, I got lost and stumbled upon the Paseo Art District and found the Picasso Cafe. No smartphone or hashtag discovery. Talk about pre-internet times, lol. Last time I visited I got the pressed Cuban sandwich with a side of the house fave soup, lobster bisque. 

($$) Big Truck Tacos. My sister Susan and I used to have secret food dates when we worked together, and on one of these dates we went to Big Truck after work when they had only been open for a couple of months. The weather was a little chilly, but we sat outside on the picnic benches. We ordered chicken flautas, chips & queso, and I definitely got myself a fried shrimp taco. It was all delicious. A little more pricey than a traditional taqueria. Definitely a summer hot spot. 

($$) The Red Cup. I haven't been here in 8 years, so I can't recommend a dish or drink but I can guarantee it's good. They have a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options. Hope to visit when I come home!

($) Lee's Sandwiches. Another Viet spot to grab to go bites, drinks, pastries, and gelato! Don't miss out on the Viet cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk), it's phenomenallll. The secret is the crushed ice. They also have the best selection of bánh mìs (Vietnamese sandwiches) in OKC. My family used to buy bánh mìs from a business called The Saigon Baguette that was located inside the OKC Milk Bottle building and when that closed, we'd get them at Super Cao Nguyen grocery. It's nice to have another option! My two faves are the pork roll and grilled chicken. I like to eat them with a heathy dose of pickled veggies, cilantro and soy sauce. 

($) Thai Kitchen OKC , Downtown. My siblings and I went to school with the owner's children, we used to take the bus at the terminal nearby, and my brother used to wait tables at Thai Kitchen so we know the spot and folks pretty well! The food is sooooooo good here, and you can't beat 1.99 Thai iced coffee. Perfect for dinner after exploring The Underground Tunnels.

  More than 700 flavors at Pops Arcadia. 

More than 700 flavors at Pops Arcadia. 

  Taking a break at Classen Coffee Company.

Taking a break at Classen Coffee Company.

  All the breakfast cereal flavors you could want at Hurts Donut.

All the breakfast cereal flavors you could want at Hurts Donut.

  You're gonna want a whole box. 

You're gonna want a whole box. 

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  A classic chocolate scoop at Kaisers.

A classic chocolate scoop at Kaisers.

  My fave, a toffee bit bobaccino with extra toffee bits at Cafe Bella.

My fave, a toffee bit bobaccino with extra toffee bits at Cafe Bella.

  The Boom Boom Pow at Cuppies & Joe.

The Boom Boom Pow at Cuppies & Joe.

0 dollars (Free),  1-15 dollars ($),  15-30 dollars ($$),  30-50 dollars ($$$),  50+ dollars ($$$$)
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Coffee & Sweets:

($) Classen Coffee Company. This little white building has been occupied by its fair share of different businesses. I used to play across the street in a park. Now, it's one of my new fave coffee spots. It's comfy, in my fave neighborhood (the Asian District) and it has a drive thru!! I love the shape of the building too. It's incredibly unique and it stands out from the surroundings. The last time I went I ordered a maple sugar latte and my sisters and I just sat and relaxed. If I lived in OKC again, I'd be here practically every other day.

($) Cafe Bella. This place is MY SPOT! The south side of OKC doesn't get a lot of love, but that's where I grew up and went to school. Located in the South Penn Plaza shopping center next to the Viet supermarket and a pretty tasty Thai spot is Cafe Bella. They have alllll my faves: bánh mìs, tiramisu, and toffee bit bobaccinos. Stay and catch up with a friend or grab a drink to go, I've done both. Also, Vietnamese co-owner Nikole Pham is always so nice when we come by! :) A couple of heads up: Their holiday weeks are always dependent on the year and if there's bad weather they're known to head home, so we always call first to make sure they're open. The kitchen also closes about an hour before their closing time. 

($) Any Braum's. Affordable and a part of my childhood memories. I love their chocolate malts. They also have yummmmmy burgers. 

($) Cuppies & Joe. The best damn cupcakes in OKC. QUOTE ME. The Boom Boom Pow is my absolute fave. It's a vanilla bean cuppie with chocolate buttercream, caramel, and sea salt. I am dying to try some of their peach pie. I used to come here often when I was in town during summer break and it's for sure one of my favorite spots. They also have a delicious iced chai and there is wifi and plenty of room to chill. 

($) Kaisers Grateful Bean Cafe. My siblings and I had ice cream here, but I'm eyeing a bison burger on the menu I'd love to try. 

($$) Hurts Donut. A little bit of a drive to the location in another city, Norman, but it was worth it. Don't worry, I hear an OKC spot is in the works! Get the Fred Flintstone and Captain Crunch. I do love my breakfast cereals. 

($$) The Original Pops Arcadia. While it's technically in Arcadia, it's a must. There's a new spot in Nichols Hills but the original is huge, the building has won several architectural awards and there's a gigantic soda bottle sculpture that lights up at night. They also have food and damn good country gravy and chicken strips. Make a day of it! And you can't forget the soda. They've got a signature collection of 700 flavors. Two of my faves: Sweet Corn and Barack O'Berry. 

  The red tunnel.

The red tunnel.

  The yellow tunnel.

The yellow tunnel.

  The blue tunnel.

The blue tunnel.

  Inside the Crystal Bridge.

Inside the Crystal Bridge.

  Hidden seats.

Hidden seats.

  The Tropical Dry Zone.

The Tropical Dry Zone.

  The Womb.

The Womb.

  "Ramen Girl" mural by JUURI at Gorō Ramen.

"Ramen Girl" mural by JUURI at Gorō Ramen.

  Waving excitedly in front of a Plaza Wall. 

Waving excitedly in front of a Plaza Wall. 

  Dale Chihuly at the OKC MOA. 

Dale Chihuly at the OKC MOA. 

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  You gotta experience an OK fair. 

You gotta experience an OK fair. 

0 dollars (Free),  1-15 dollars ($),  15-30 dollars ($$),  30-50 dollars ($$$),  50+ dollars ($$$$)
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Art, Murals, Museums, & Photo Spots:

($$) Factory Obscura. I was able to experience their exhibition SHIFT last year, and cant wait to experience BEYOND in September!!! Head to their website to grab tickets, and make sure to follow them on Insta! They're doing amazing work in the OKC art scene. ❤

($) Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Fondly know as the OKC MOA. My first time here was during a high school field trip, and this is where I fell in love with museums. They're my favorite thing to visit, they're the equivalent of my go to bar. I appreciate my teachers so much for giving me that experience. Tickets are only 12 bucks for an adult, so do yourself a favor and go! OKC MOA has a permanent Dale Chihuly exhibition the greatness of which I have only ever seen rivaled in Seattle. 

($) Myriad Botanical Gardens / Crystal Bridge. Pay 8 dollars to be inside a crystal tube that is 13,000 square feet with a waterfall and a sky bridge. Doesn't it sound magical?! BECAUSE IS IT. I love conservatories and botanical gardens and the Crystal Bridge is just a little piece of magic in downtown OKC. On the south end of the bridge, you have the Tropical Wet Zone which is watered daily. On the north end, you have the Tropical Dry Zone which is only watered from April through September. I have only been here twice, the first time I was pretty young so I don't remember at all but there are pictures, so yes, even at a young age I was taking pics all up in the flora. The fact that these two zones could coexist inside one gigantic crystal tube is nothing short of astounding and magical for adult me. It's just breathtaking. I can't wait to experience it time and time again. 

($$$$) 21c Museum Hotel. It costs to stay in the hotel, but the Museum on its first floor is free! Visit to check out the new contemporary artwork they have rotating and don't forget to stop by the artist gift shop. There are purple penguins everywhere and their website states, "We think the purple penguin is an articulate ambassador for the spirit of discovery, ingenuity, and community that 21c strives to nurture in the creative heart of OKC." I think those are amazing words and captures the spirit of openness and adventure you should  have when you visit OKC. 21c is also connected to a restaurant, so should you get hungry, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge is right in the building. 

(Free) Plaza Walls. I love the Plaza District! It's home to Empire Slice House, Gorō Ramen, and tons of cool murals. Plaza Walls is a rotating mural project that creates opportunities for artists and is helping to increase public art in OKC. There are 30 walls, so be sure to check them all out and follow the Insta and keep up to date with new murals and artists!

(Free) Womb. So. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips co-started the Womb in 2011 to be sort of a space for performances and shows. I don't know when this building opens, I have never been to an art show inside it, and I hear it's closed for the time being. But every now and then talks of a show or art exhibit would pop up and I'm keeping my ears open because I want to be there for it. The building is draped in colorful murals by artist Maya Hayuk. Even if it never opens, I love looking at it. The colors are so beautiful and in your face compared toy our surroundings. And, I'm a pattern girl. It's definitely a must see.  

($$$) OKC Arts Festivals. There are a number of them throughout the year in different neighborhoods. I grew up volunteering with my high school at the fest on the campus of Oklahoma City Community College and working as a rep for the Oklahoma City’s Teen Art Council at the downtown 2009 fest. It's always fun to walk around and look at art and eat some fest food. Prices really vary, depending on what food and art you buy, and also take into consideration paying for parking. The OCCC campus one ends the last day with fireworks. It always felt like a perfect end to the last of summer's days. Do go with your friends. They make it so, so much more fun.

(Free) The Underground Tunnels. I first saw and experienced the tunnels during a field trip and I remember thinking "Man, I need to make photos down here one day." Each tunnel is lit by neon lights. They lead to different areas of downtown OKC and some provide a direct connections to other buildings close by. They're only open on weekdays, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., so make a day of it. There's photo galleries, art installations and murals and it's really close to the OKC MOA and delicious food at Thai Kitchen. 

($$$) OK State Fair. If you grew up in OKC, you went to the fair. The dates always coincided with my older sister's birthday, so it was always a big deals, and this was the one of the few times a year my parents would let us have American food, even though it's technically junk food. I do not like high and fast rides, and I get nauseous easy so the only other thing to do was eat and watch everyone's stuff, haha. Buttered corn on the cob, cotton candy, fresh squeezed lemonade. I have very fond memories of riding the slow caterpillar "roller coaster" whilst my siblings got on "The Rainbow." Going back as an adult is the best because now I can buy and eat all the yummy fair foods. Occasionally, I'll check out the bumper cars. 

(Free) "Fortune Favors the Brave" Mural.  Painted by Julie “Juuri” Robertson, this mural is huggggge. Juuri is a fellow Asian American artist, and there needs to be more APIA artists in OKC, so go out and show her mural some love! She is also the artist behind the "Ramen Girl" mural at Gorō Ramen.

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