If you’re looking to get away from the ordinary, you should #Escape2OKC, sponsored by The Escape OKC. Each month, instead of pairing wine with your entree, I’ll be pairing an escape room with a metro-area restaurant for a themed evening of food, fun and frustration.
If you are, in the words of the President, “sick of winning,” then you really need to get to know The Escape OKC, where winning is faaaaaar from a guarantee. You will be tested. You very likely will be found wanting. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
My friend Nate and I tackled The Lost Antidote room at The Escape and we were found extremely wanting. We were so bad, one of the staff came to check and make sure we knew we could ask for a clue, which we desperately needed. This game challenges the senses and really works on your problem-solving skills. It was 100 percent a hoot, even though we were in the ~70 percent of people who couldn’t finish it.
And what better place to salve our wounded egos than The R&J Lounge and Supper Club? If you’re looking for an antidote to losing, let the bartenders at R&J whip you up any number of winning cocktails to lift your spirits with their spirits.
While I’m partial to a vodka press, those who haven’t spelunked the cocktail menu at R&J will find a rich vein of alcoholic treats. Being a classic kind of bar, they do a lot of classic drinks — old fashioneds, French 75s, tiki drinks galore — and their carafes of sparkling wine are the starting place for many a wild evening.
You can (and should) drink at The R&J, but you would be remiss to ignore the excellent food menu from owner Russ Johnson and chef Brad Ackerman.
The menu has changed a bit since The R&J opened in 2014, but it’s never strayed far from the supper club roots. You can still get a top-notch beef stroganoff ($15.90) and pork & beans ($16.90), though the latter is made with braised wild boar shank. There aren’t a lot of shortcuts taken here. The attention to detail is pretty spot on.
For an opener, try the classic cheesy crab toast ($9.90) to share with your friends/date/people at the next table who are staring at your plate wondering what that magical dish is called.
They start with a solid slice of bread, baste it in butter and garlic and pile on the cheesy crab mix. On top of that goes Muenster cheese, which is broiled to a bubbly, crispy, just-this-side-of-burnt perfection. Texturally, it’s a winner. The bread is crisp and sturdy, yielding a satisfying crunch and chew. The crab mix is decadent, especially paired with the butter and garlic, and the Muenster cheese has a nice pungent odor and sharp, creamy bite. It could be a meal in itself, but why stop there when you could have…
Homemade bacon ($10.90). Did your parents ever make bacon? I’m not talking about frying it in a pan, I mean did they make it? Did they cut the pork belly into slices and season and smoke it? Because that’s what The R&J does, and that handiwork shines through when you take a bite of this ultra-thick, crispy/chewy glorious bacon. It comes with a truffle blue cheese that uses real truffles and not just mushroom oil.
This is knife-and-fork bacon. It is, to borrow from my review of the dearly departed Esca Vitae, steakon. Four slices is more than I should eat, but it’s never enough.
Keeping with the bacon kick, R&J’s grilled pimento BLT ($11.90) has a thinner, crispier cut of the housemade bacon, slathered with their own pimento cheese and layered with lettuce and tomato on toast.
I’ve had plenty of pimento cheese sandwiches in my day and most of the cheese came from a deli tub my parents picked up at Homeland. If that’s your hesitation, hesitate no longer. This is made in-house and it’s delicious. Creamy, a hint of spice and utterly luxurious. That’s really what the supper club does — it turns the mundane into the monumental.
For instance, the trout amandine ($16.90) may not sound particularly special. It’s definitely an old-school dish, but in the hands of Ackerman and his crew, it’s a delight.
You get everything you want from the classic, but with modern sensibilities. Many versions of trout amandine absolutely drown the fish is breadcrumbs. Here you get a sparse coating with tons of fresh herbs that help soak up some of the fish’s natural oiliness and the crunch provides a textural counterbalance to the supple flakiness of the fish.
Is trout a stronger tasting fish? Yes. You can’t live on cod and tilapia alone, folks. Food tastes like food. It’s supposed to have flavor. I don’t consider trout an “acquired taste,” but maybe you do. If so, I think it’s worth acquiring.
Not every restaurant can nail a chicken-fried steak ($14.90), but R&J definitely knows how to make this Okie classic sing. Crisp, flavorful breading that binds to the meat without getting too thick. The steak itself was tender enough that the accompanying knife was unnecessary. Fill your fork with a bite of CFS and a dollop of those really real mashed potatoes and gorgeous cream gravy and you’re in heaven. This is the ideal nostalgia food — it tastes like you wished it tasted when you ate it as a kid.
The R&J Lounge and Supper Club is one of those “Room of Requirement” restaurants in that it can be whatever you need it to be. A quick bite at the bar? Done. A sit-down meal of big flavors and big portions? Done. A party spot for late-night revelry? Extra done. Heaven waits on the other side of that red door.
#Escape2OKC reviews are sponsored by The Escape OKC, Oklahoma City’s home for great live escape rooms. Bring a team of up to seven players and match wits with the puzzle masters who designed each of the five rooms. Whether you’re a spy, a detective or just someone trying to stop the end of the world, The Escape has something for everyone.