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Trapped in the Plaza District

In all fairness, it’s difficult to know who is and who isn’t a gypsy witch these days. Ever since Old Navy started selling peasant blouses, anybody could be ready to put a curse on you and today it happened.

The woman spat on the ground and cracked open a chicken bone and suddenly you were trapped. Until the Wiccan priestess you found on Yelp can come and lift the curse, you’re stuck in the Plaza District for the rest of the day.

The Plaza District

But that’s not much of a hardship, really. If you need help filling up your day, we’ve got you covered.

The Terrain

The Plaza District is one of OKC’s smaller hotspots, located mostly along NW 16th Street between Kentucky and Marion avenues. But what it lacks in size is makes up for in density. Finding an empty storefront is hard to do thanks to a boom in restaurant and retail that began a few years ago.

First Stop

Nothing makes you hungrier than a gypsy curse. That’s just science. So your best bet early on is Aurora Breakfast, Bar & Backyard (1704 NW 16th St.)

Pork n' Biscuit

Open Tuesday-Friday from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Aurora is where the Plaza goes for breakfast.

Executive chef Henry Boudreaux, late of Ludivine and Museum Cafe at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, designed a menu with surprising depth for its short size.

Get some coffee to start. Aurora brews Hoboken Coffee Roasters beans from Guthrie, making for an excellent cup. While I’m partial to espresso beverages, the bottomless cup of drip coffee is a great value and extremely tasty.

My friend Kasey is a vegan, because some people just like to suffer, and she’s quite obsessed with the overnight oats ($7). The local honey drizzle isn’t strictly vegan, but I’m not strictly anything, so who am I to judge. Made with almond milk, bloomed chia seeds, orange blossom water and granola, the oats have a hearty, filling texture with lots of flavor. With fresh fruit on top, it’s almost worth it to be healthy.

Overnight oats

Almost.

I like animal protein, so my choices tend toward the traditional, like the crab and asparagus omelette ($15), which comes with spicy arugula pesto, the fresh pop of marinated tomatoes and a tangy hit of creme fraiche. If you haven’t had this decadent dish, I implore you to give it a try. There’s nothing quite so lovely as crab for breakfast.

Unless you count one of Aurora’s ridiculous biscuits. The menu says the biscuits have thyme in them, but since you’ve already been cursed by a gypsy today, let’s throw skepticism out the window and admit that these are definitely at least ⅓ magic.

My personal choice is the pork n biscuit ($10) which cuts one of those sorcery-steeped biscuits and piles on sarsaparilla-braised pulled pork, yellow cheddar, red onion, a runny egg and house-made hollandaise sauce.

It doesn’t say “benedict” in the name, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Why is it in the Plaza District? Was it also cursed? It doesn’t matter. It’s probably going to try to order this biscuit.

“It’s a classic biscuit, really,” Boudreaux said. “There is one part that’s extremely painstaking—we have to pick fresh thyme constantly.”

If there’s any downtime in the kitchen, staff knows to get to work on more thyme, because they always need more.

His favorites are the Plaza Jam biscuit, which includes whipped cream cheese and an heirloom tomato jam, and the open-faced lox. Boudreaux throws love to all his local food sources, but he’s especially enamoured with Esca Vitae, which provides the dense rye bread that makes the lox pop.

While it’s a great spot for breakfast, he said you might want to swing back through for lunch. Using local Destiny Ranch beef, Aurora makes some killer burgers. Whether or not I’m trapped in the Plaza, I’m headed there soon to try one myself.

Up Next

You can kick it at Aurora for a while, but if people watching gets old, head across the street to check out the Plaza Walls.

Plaza District Executive Director Cayla Lewis said the Plaza “prides itself on being an arts and cultural district. The Plaza Walls are right in line with what we aim to be.”

The effect of the walls has been multi-fold, she said. The alley used to be a bit scary and foreboding, but the addition of rotating murals has made it a friendly, popular place to gather.

“Having actual art on the walls has definitely curbed the graffiti,” Lewis said. “Once you give time and respect and, in this case, art to an area, you see it turn around.”

If you’re low on funds, the Plaza Walls are a great way to spend some time enjoying yourself without spending a dime.

BUT, if you do want to spend a dime, the murals surround a few really cool shops, including Bison Shop and Reference • Point (both sharing space at 1745 F4 NW 16th St.). The businesses sell one-of-a-kind jewelry, candles, home goods, clothes and books.

Thirsty?

What’s an arts district without coffee? The Plaza’s favorite caffeination station is District House (1755 NW 16th St.). Serving PT’s Coffee, this wide-open restaurant has plenty of room to hang out, plug in and tune out.

District House

Just because you can’t leave the district without incurring a plague of warts on your bowels doesn’t mean you can’t get some work done. Ample tables, free WiFi and a chill soundtrack make this a perfect place to meet and mingle with freelancers.

The menu is just what you’d expect — plenty of espresso drinks, cold brew and plain old delicious drip coffee — as well as smoothies, steamers and (because it’s 5 p.m. somewhere) a selection of beer and wine.

Still a bit peckish? Good! District House’s deli makes a mean sandwich, including vegetarian options. This is one area where the restaurant has definitely improved over the last few years. The selection has grown alongside the quality.

Uh-oh

You spilled coffee on your shirt? And then mayonnaise? This is not your lucky day, my cursed friend. Thankfully, the Plaza has its fair share of retail establishments.

Tree & Leaf

A good first stop is Tree & Leaf (1705B NW 16th St.), especially if you’re a fan of the Thunder. This is the place to find some truly out-there designs, including my current favorite “Stone Cold” Steven Adams shirt.

If you’re also looking to kill some time, pop into DNA Galleries (1709 NW 16th St.) for a selection of shirts and fun, fancy, local art.

When did enamel pins get cool? I’m not sure. But my friend Erin (aka the boss lady who designed my logo) has some pins for sale there. And there are plenty of other cool trinkets and tidbits for you to peruse. I love DNA because it’s affordable and cool. Yes, you can drop some serious coin there if you want, but there’s something for every budget. Including mine, which is $0.

Drink up

Now that you have a shirt and, presumably, shoes, it’s time for some service. The Plaza has a fair few watering holes, because this is an area that enjoys alcohol. Which makes it...pretty similar to every other area in the city.

Saints (1715 NW 16th St.) is one of the oldest bars in the area (the honor of “oldest” goes to Scorecards, which is a cash-only bar known for smoking, cheap domestic beer and not much else) and boasts a clientele as diverse as its beer list.  

There’s also a pretty tasty menu, if you’re into Irish food, which was specifically designed to go well with beer.

Across the street are a pair of great watering holes/restaurants.

The Mule (1630 N. Blackwelder Ave.) specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches and sports an enormous “leave a beer” board. I keep checking, but nobody has left me a beer. Please, Oklahoma. Take pity on me. I need a beer.

The owners are opening up another restaurant nearby called The Press. I’ll let you know more when it’s ready for review.

For a slightly more upscale feel, mosey into Goro Ramen + Izakaya (1634 N. Blackwelder Ave.) and indulge in the selection of beers, cocktails and sake. This is one of my favorite haunts, so if you’re stuck in the Plaza and there’s a very large man breathing in a bowl of spicy ramen and looking uncomfortable in his own skin, that’s probably me.

Wander farther west and you’ll find one of the finest places for beer in Oklahoma, period. Oak & Ore (1732 NW 16th St.) is a craft beer bar with a rotating 36-tap selection of tasty, hard-to-find brews from across the state and around the world. The big chalkboard menu lets you know the price and the ABV, but for the best results, ask your bartender for advice. If nothing else, they’re happy to give you a little taste of different brews to make sure you find one you like.

And if you happen to be trapped in the Plaza on a Tuesday, the bar specializes in fried chicken that night.

Relax

Now that your liver is relaxed, why not extend the same courtesy to your feet and pay a visit to Well Beauty Nail Studio (1745B NW 16th St.) for a mani-pedi?

Dudes, bros, male-type-people, etc., please get over the idea that manicures and pedicures are only for the fairer sex. You know why they’re so fair? They get pampered with things like manicures and pedicures.

My feet are an absolute train wreck most of the time, so believe me when I say it’s a treat to have someone clip your nails, trim your cuticles and generally lavish attention on my dogs when they’re barking.

You know what else is relaxing? Staring at some kitschy clothes and reading comic books, which is what I do at Bad Granny’s Bazaar (1759 NW 16th St.).

Bad Granny's Bazaar

Bad Granny’s asks the question: What if an ugly sweater party was an entire store? There are so many vintage finds and oddities waiting for you to rescue them, or at least to look at them in silent admiration before moving on to the next little section of the store.

Finally, you could zone out while enriching your soul at Graphite (1751 NW 16th St.). Though it’s not always open, this gallery houses an eclectic, rotating selection of fine art that is a joy to behold. You could even behold it at your behome if you’d like to bebuy some of it.

It’s not unique to the Plaza, but it is firmly on display here — the intersection of art and commerce is a joy. Most of us aren’t in the market for art every time we leave the house, but it’s nice to be able to experience beauty, to see the world through someone else’s creativity, even while we’re out getting dinner or waiting for a Wiccan to pour essential oils over our bodies in order to break a spell.

Graphite

HOW ARE YOU HUNGRY AGAIN?

Not you. You’re probably a normal human person. I was asking my stomach, which is never quite sated, even when I’m too full to walk.

With dinner rolling around, it’s time to ask yourself the tough question: will anybody notice if I eat at both Empire Slice House and The Pritchard Wine Bar?

Fun fact: They won’t. And even if they do, no one will care. This is the Plaza District. It’s the Outback Steakhouse of Oklahoma City, in that there are very few rules and no one is actually Australian.

Fungus Among Us

Empire (1734 NW 16th St.) is one of OKC’s premier pizza joints, thanks to quirky wall art, a fully stocked bar and a menu that balances whimsy with really, really delicious pizza. Slice specials change daily, though you can be fairly certain pepperoni and cheese varieties will always be available.

Last time I stopped in, I nabbed a slice ($3.75) of Uncle Buck (mozzarella, pork meatballs, baked marinara and fresh basil) and Fungus Among Us (cremini, shiitake and button mushrooms, spinach and truffle oil) and a can of Austin East Blood Orange Cider that was so good I didn’t bother breathing while I pounded it.

Across the street is The Pritchard (1749 NW 16th St.) which has the enviable distinction of being the Plaza’s finest dining experience without seeming the least bit pretentious. Major props to executive chef Shelby Sieg and general manager Mindy Magers for creating an atmosphere that feels refined and relaxed. It’s not an easy line to walk, but they nail it every time.

First things first, let Magers’ staff of bartenders walk you through the extensive and expertly chosen wine list. There are some big, budget-busting pricey bottles on the menu, but the crew is great about finding you affordable and absolutely wonderful wines for the budget-minded set, too.

The food menu is...I don’t know how to say this. It’s too good. Suspiciously good. Is Shelby in league with that gypsy who put the curse on you? I’m not saying absolutely yes, but, yes. She is.

Roasted pork belly with cheesy grits

I’ve never known love like the stuff I feel for a plate of gnudi (WHICH BETTER BE COMING BACK SOON) or the head-spinningly delicious pork belly and cheesy grits ($11) I got last time I was in.

Show up early and ask for the Housemade CRACKer ($4), which is basically fried cheese. Why early? Because it sells out all the time. It’s simply too good to last.

(And if you think I’m not chomping at the bit to give this place a full review, just you wait.)

If you aren’t stuffed beyond belief, be sure to grab dessert at Roxy’s Ice Cream Social (1732 NW 16th St.) or Pie Junkie (1711 NW 16th St.). Actually, forget I said that. I don’t care if you’re stuffed — go get something sweet to cap off your night.

When the Wiccan priestess finally arrives, you might be sad to leave the Plaza. So don’t leave. Catch a show at Lyric Theatre (1727 NW 16th St.) or grab a drink with your new nature-worshipping friend. Maybe there’s more magic waiting to happen.

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About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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The Details

UR/BUN

431 NW 23rd St.

urbuneats.com 

405-602-1534

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Closed Mondays

Sun, Tue-Wed 

11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Thurs 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.- 12 a.m.

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