I didn’t drink any beer at Oak & Ore and it was great.
Sure, yes, if you’re going to the Plaza District for Oak & Ore, a fabulously cool craft beer bar that’s been kicking around for a solid four-plus years now, you’re probably going for the beer. After all, that’s what they do. Owner Micah Andrews is a beer nerd par excellence and he’s spent a decade learning everything about beer, including how to get some of the best stuff in the world delivered to his bar in Oklahoma City.
And yet, I skipped the suds, because what was in front of me needed no accompaniment, nor distraction. I attacked the dinner menu at Oak & Ore completely sober because the food deserves its own attention.
Not that I’m telling you not drink beer at Oak & Ore. By all means, go to town. The selection is wonderful, the bartenders are knowledgeable, and the Uber and Lyft drivers know exactly where it is.
But, for the sake of the review, I thought it was important that you know that it isn’t a place where being hammered is the only way to enjoy the food.
You’ve been to that bar. We’ve all been to that bar. The one with a menu that simply lists the items in the freezer that a surly bartender will gladly nuke to a pooping-hot temperature. (Not a typo. You know what happens if you eat that stuff.)
Oak & Ore is not that. Are the nachos amazing when you’re blitzed out of your gourd? Certainly. But I’ve known people who would rave about the used wood chips in a hamster’s cage when they’re drunk.
If you’re sober or under 21 or you just don’t feel like drinking one night, that doesn’t preclude you from digging on this food.
Speaking of, let’s talk dishes. I’m about to do something I normally avoid, but here it goes: the pretzel ($6) is not made in-house, but I’ll still order it.
Hot pretzels are one of my all-time favorite treats and Oklahoma City is weirdly flush with them. Would I be more impressed if Oak & Ore was going full Bavarian for their hot pretzels? Of course. But I was also kind of impressed that the bartender was so happy to divulge that they get them from a local company. Why? Because sometimes people lie, especially if they think it’s what you want to hear.
Okay, so Oak & Ore doesn’t make the pretzels. It’s still a really good pretzel with really good beer cheese and really good mustard and, were I in a drinking mood, there’s little else I’d want to eat alongside a German beer.
If my soft pretzel recommendation stings, wait until you try the hot chicken ($13).
I’m not afraid of a little heat. I’ve eaten a ghost pepper. I’ve sprinkled Carolina Reaper powder on my eggs. I have a lovely collection of sauces from Baby D’s Bee Sting that I’m happy to use in almost any situation.
But this chicken was a trap. I mean it. Under the sauce and the skin, the chicken was moist and delicious. Well cooked. Nicely seasoned. Good chicken.
The crispy skin, which had been drenched in hot sauce, was like getting shot in the mouth with a bullet from Satan’s gun. Seriously, I was sweating and I couldn’t get the heat to dissipate. Finally, I went next door to Roxy’s Ice Cream Social and bought a pint of vanilla for my friends and I to share, because that was ungodly hot.
If you’re into it, great. If you, like me, have a moderate-but-not-insane heat tolerance, tell them to ease up a touch on the hot sauce so you can actually eat the chicken.
Related: them biscuits and hot honey were gooooood.
Speaking of hot, the hottt fries ($4) are actually spelled like that, so don’t blame me. Much more endurable than the hot chicken, the hottt fries are covered in spicy seasoning, but they’re just really great fries. Nice and thick, crispy crunchy crust, and lots of that fluffy mashed potato feel in the middle.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the falafel gyro ($9) is a cooling treat for vegetarians or just non-jerks. (Sorry, it’s not that I’m a vegetarian, but I’m getting really sick of people acting like eating vegetables is a struggle. Get over yourselves, eighth graders! It doesn’t have to include meat to be good!)
The falafel are massive, with a lovely crust that hides a tender filling of well-seasoned chickpeas. Tons of tzatziki sauce and a big pile of salad on a pita: what more could you ask for? Oh. Oh, really? Well, that’s nice and all, but this is just a restaurant review. What you’re talking about would involve, at the very least, Santa Claus or Elon Musk.
I was deeply happy to discover that the Korean BBQ bowl ($13) is still on the menu, lo these many years. I’m not 100 percent sure how a craft beer bar in the Plaza District ended up with a bowl filled with smoked fried rice and sweet-and-savory Korean BBQ beef, but it’s there and it’s wonderful.
It is not far removed from bibimbap, if you’re looking for a flavor guide, especially with the fried egg and veggies hanging out on top, waiting to be mixed into the rice. I’m probably getting another one of those the next time I’m in, because sometimes a dish is so good, you don’t have to change it up.
I know street tacos ($8.50) were on the menu before, but I really think they’ve kicked them up, because these were tremendous. Hats tipped all around to the Oak & Ore kitchen for these.
What you get: three tacos on corn tortillas, filled with cotija cheese, beer-braised pulled pork, a guajillo chile sauce, pico de gallo, crema, cilantro and lime.
It’s a saucy, messy taco and I want them again and again. Especially if I’m drinking, because these were just really, deeply satisfying.
And I swear to whichever god is disappointed in you most often, if you say, “But they’re not really authentic” I will personally give you a very mean look. (I’m actually a huge coward. Sorry.)
No, I guess these aren’t the kind of tacos you’d get on a street corner in Mexico. But you’re in Oklahoma and they taste really great and maybe just stop being terrible all the time. Have you tried it? Have you tried not being the worst human alive for five minutes? Could you?
Oak & Ore is a bar that sells some very good beers and I encourage you to try one or several, if that’s your thing. But if you don’t drink or you don’t want to drink or maybe you’re just low on cash and trying to save a buck but you still want to have dinner with your friends, Oak & Ore still has a lot to offer. Especially if you’re not the worst human alive.