If Oklahoma City conjures up images of stockyards, rodeos and pickup trucks blaring country music, well…you’re not wrong. But it’s also high time you plan a visit and get to know this spirited city and its evolving wine scene.
Long a regional hub for arts and culture, Oklahoma City’s culinary scene has grown consistently in the past decade. There are plenty of new places to drink and dine across its many growing districts. The city offers a variety of innovative, affordable options where wine takes center stage.
“After we got the [NBA’s] Oklahoma City Thunder [in 2008], I think that was a real turning point,” says LaVeryl Lower, who co-owns the nearly 31-year-old Metro Wine Bar & Bistro with her husband Chris. “And now, a few weeks ago, there were six restaurants that opened in one week that were all independently, locally owned.”
A growth in tourism and an influx of jobs from companies like Dell, General Electric and Amazon have helped propel its food and drink scene through trying times. Even through the recession, says Lower, as larger markets slowed down their wine purchases, her bar and others in the area could still buy.
“We developed relationships with a lot of wineries that might not have thought Oklahoma would be a good market, who realized we were a really good market,” says Lower. “I think wine lists across the city reflect that.”
“Our most important goal is to provide knowledge and education to customers who want that kind of interaction, but without being rigid or forceful about what the customer is supposed to like.” —Ashley Skinnell, wine manager, Freeman’s Liquor Mart
That can be seen clearly at The Pritchard, which opened in October 2016. Shelby Sieg, the executive chef, also curates the wine list. She left the Oklahoma City area for a few years to hone her skills as a pastry chef on the East Coast. Though she didn’t think she’d return to the area, the city’s food and drink scene convinced her to reconsider.
“In the time that I’ve been [back] here, it’s really, really cool to see some chefs who have lived in other larger markets come back and bring their knowledge back, or up-and-coming chefs that decided to go out on their own and really take a risk,” says Sieg. “The amount of like chef-driven concepts around the city has just exploded.”
The Pritchard, a dining staple, has helped to propel the concept of seasonal small plates throughout the city. People were so hesitant at first that Sieg says they had to add larger entrées to the menu. But as dining culture has evolved, a more laid-back style is catching on.
“I don’t necessarily know if The Pritchard was on the forefront of it, but I think we contributed to that, and I’m really excited about the way that the direction the city is going right now,” says Sieg. “I think people should be visiting us more.”
Oklahoma City’s best wine bars
Nestled in the Plaza District, The Pritchard specializes in boutique wines and small plates. Expect dishes that reference Sieg’s training as a pastry chef. Sweet and salty combinations like burrata and peaches with basil and crispy chicken skin are served alongside charcuterie and cheeses adorned with everything from fig caramel to elderflower rhubarb jam.
“We’re just coming up on our three-year anniversary [in October],” says Sieg. When The Pritchard opened, “there really wasn’t another small-plates concept in Oklahoma City,” she says. “We kind of had just come on the brink of that kind of trend hitting.”
Sieg’s dishes pair wonderfully with an extensive wine list. Choose from around 60 bottles, 25 offered by the glass. Stop in during the afternoon or late-night happy hour for $6 glasses of wine, among other specials. Twenty Twosday offers $22 bottles of wine, and during weekend brunch, get a taste of Sieg’s doughnuts served with salted caramel ganache.
Bright, open and airy, with plants that vine down floor-to-ceiling windows, Bar Arbolada has quickly become an Arts District staple since it was opened in 2018 by Riley Marshall and Dustin Lancaster.
The majority of this bar’s wines, featuring past offerings like D’Aupilhac Lou Maset Rouge from the Languedoc to Oregon’s Big Fire Pinot Gris, are available by the glass. There’s also a cocktail menu that features original drinks cheekily named for celebrities like the Carroty Underwood (vodka, purple carrot, lemon, Averna, ginger). Be sure to fill up on bar snacks like corn fritters and shishito peppers while you’re here.
Anatomy Wine Club
Anatomy Wine Club does a little bit of everything. In addition to its monthly wine club, Anatomy’s welcoming, Instagram-friendly bar has nearly 30 wines available that rotate seasonally, more than half served by the glass. Tasting portions are also offered, as are half-bottles of wine served in beakers, along with bottles and glasses that can be served by porrón. There’s also a bottle shop open nightly until 10 pm. Expect bottles like Omero Cellars Gamay Noir and Camino Roca Altxerri Txakoli. Keep an eye on Anatomy’s Instagram to learn about special events, Sunday trivia and drinks deals.
Restaurants with excellent wine lists
The Jones Assembly
If you enjoy live music as much as you do wine or delicious comfort food, stop by The Jones Assembly. It opened in summer 2017 and remains somewhat of a unicorn within the city. It has a full-service bar and restaurant downstairs, the T Room cocktail bar upstairs, as well as space for 1,600 people for concerts.
You’ll find an extensive wine list by the bottle and glass, craft cocktails and an array of dishes like scallops over cauliflower purée and wood-fired pizzas. Open every day but Monday, it serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, lunch and dinner. A limited yet enticing menu is offered on concert nights like Frito duck chili pie. Pair the food with one of the nearly 20 by-the-glass wines, from California Pinot Noir to Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
Named for a prominent Oklahoma City family that ran a successful flower business in the early 1900s, Cheever’s Cafe is proud of its heritage. Located in the city’s Uptown 23rd District, the eye-catching restaurant features an Art Deco facade made from bricks of limestone.
Though its walls are still emblazoned with advertisements for “FLOWERS,” these days you’ll find desserts and wine bottles in glass coolers instead of bouquets. Alongside dishes like grilled shrimp casarecce with charred broccolini and pickled Fresno chilis or a short rib melt, enjoy a glass of everything from Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris to Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir.
The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro
Opened nearly 31 years ago along Oklahoma City’s Western Avenue, The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro was one of the first of its kind in the city. Inside, you’ll find the cozy atmosphere of a long-standing neighborhood bar. LaVeryl Lower has managed the wine list since she and her husband opened in 1988. Since then, she’s taken pride in the wine list, which features around 325 bottles, served alongside classic, hearty dishes like filet mignon and risotto.
“We have one by the glass right now that I really like called Chateau de Pelican,” says Lower “It’s a Savagnin from Jura.” She adds that there are about 23 by-the-glass options available. “I like to keep my wine by-the-glass list really fresh and have really unique wines that people may not try otherwise.”
Stock up at these wine shops
Voters approved a resolution in 2016 that allows grocery stores and warehouse clubs to carry wine. Sieg and Lower both implore wine lovers to support local shops that have been in the area for decades and now face competition from megacorporations.
Freeman’s Liquor Mart
Though it might look like a side-of-the-road liquor store from the outside, you’ll find an impressive array of Old World wines like those from Barolo and Côte-Rôtie at Freeman’s Liquor Mart. There’s also a great selection of U.S. wines, from Day Wines Chenin Blanc (Ribbon Ridge) to Jonata El Alma de Jonata from California. Opened in 1959, the shop is well regarded by its regulars.
“We try to have a little something for everyone,” says Ashley Skinnell, Freeman’s wine manager. “Our most important goal is to provide knowledge and education to customers who want that kind of interaction, but without being rigid or forceful about what the customer is supposed to like.”
Edmond Wine Shop
When he opened Edmond Wine Shop in 1973, Vance Gregory designed the store so wine would be the focal point. Since then, he’s fine-tuned the selection of more than 3,000 wines, including 1,600 domestic offerings and over half under $20.
“We are fortunate to have a loyal clientele that we have fostered over the past 45 years,” says Gregory. “I started my store in November of 1973 believing in the future of fine wines [in Oklahoma] and have not been disappointed.”
Search through the shop’s selection of Old and New World wines and an equally impressive collection of craft beer, specialty spirits and liqueurs. Budget plenty of time, you never know what gems you might find.
Wineries to visit
Clauren Ridge Winery
A wine-centric trip to Oklahoma City isn’t complete without a visit to at least one of the local wineries. Clauren Ridge, located just north of the city in the suburb of Edmond, opened in 2012 and operates its own vineyard that powers its Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage. Stop by to taste through the lineup and tour the grounds. Also keep an eye out for special dinners, with themes like Titanic and End of Prohibition. Each are held in Clauren Ridge’s wine cave and include a private barrel tasting.
Farfalla Wines celebrates its origins in its tagline: “Oklahoma Wines with California Roots.” Winemaker and co-owner Cathy Wright attended the executive winemakers program at University of California, Davis, before she returned to Oklahoma to open a winery with her husband Ray in downtown Yukon in 2010.
Farfalla imports grapes from California to make everything from dry Cabernet Sauvignon to her popular line of semi-sweet flavored wines like Peach Chardonnay and a Strawberry Riesling. Farfalla keeps the winery experience as relaxing and low-key as possible. Enjoy a weekend afternoon in the tasting room and tour the scenic grounds, or sit poolside and enjoy a glass during warmer months.
Out and about in Oklahoma City
If you’re in Oklahoma City to eat and drink, start in the Plaza District. Check out Oak & Ore for craft beer and a bite, Empire Slice House for pizza and cocktails, or The Press for chicken-fried ribeye. Room for dessert? Stop by Roxy’s Ice Cream Social for a seasonal flavors and Pie Junkie for a fruity treat. While in the area, visit the historic Lyric Theater for a live performance.
Once you have your fill of wine and beer, head to the Paseo Arts District just north of downtown. Start off with a cocktail at Frida Southwest and then tour the more than 20 artist studios and galleries, especially on the first Friday of the month. Then check out Holey Rollers for a donut and coffee, OSO for tacos and tiki drinks.
Other neighborhoods to check out include Midtown, where you’ll find a variety of shops, pubs and great restaurants like the ultra-buzzy Nonesuch and area favorite Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes. Visit Bleu Garten, which hosts local food trucks, entertainment and has multiple bars. Then, stop by Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge to roll a few frames and hang out in the upstairs beer garden. At the center of the city’s recent revitalization, Midtown connects to historic neighborhoods worth exploration like Automobile Alley and Bricktown.
Finally, don’t miss Myriad Botanical Gardens, host of the much-anticipated Pumpkinville fall carnival each October, and the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge in nearby Yukon, where there’s ample opportunity for bird-watching, hiking and kayaking. Adventurers can seek an impressive 80 miles of trails in and around OKC that provide a great way to take in the natural beauty that surrounds the city, including trails that hug nearby Lake Hefner.