Oklahoma is notoriously land-locked. We have ponds and lakes and, occasionally, rivers. You might see two notable absences on that list: seas and oceans. And that is why, for years and years and years, diners were extremely wary of seafood in Oklahoma.
Depending on your age, you might still think this way, or maybe you don’t understand why people show so much trepidation about fish.
I, myself, was scarred by a terrible piece of fish as a child. My father decided one day that we WOULD eat this fish that had been in the freezer for, conservatively, ever. Despite the fact that it was freezer burned beyond belief, I was told to eat some of the worst fish of my life.
So...I get it. But that’s not an accurate representation of the state of Oklahoma’s seafood today. Instead, we have lots of transplants who brought their expertise at preparing fish at the same time that shipping and refrigeration techniques are better than they’ve ever been.
The result is a number of great restaurants where seafood should be celebrated instead of shunned. Here are a few of my favorites.
(You’ll note I did not include sushi restaurants this time around. For a rundown of good “utility sushi” spots, click here. For more high-end sushi reviews, try Yuzo Sushi Tapas, Sushi Neko, and Tsubaki Sushi.)
5816 NW 63rd St., OKC
There are a limited number of cuisines that Oklahomans seem to accept as vehicles for seafood. Cajun/Creole cooking is at or near the top, as you’ll likely figure out going down this list. Cajun King sets itself apart from the rest, both as an all-you-can-eat buffet and with their preparation of catfish—probably the most popular fish in Oklahoma. Catfish Almondine takes strips of catfish, covers them in almond flour, and then fries them to a pale gold. This fish is light, airy, and addictive. Don’t bother looking for it on the buffet line, though—it’s brought around to each table after it’s freshly fried. (You can always ask for more, though.) Other seafood options at Cajun King include crab and shrimp in their gumbo and delicious crawfish etouffee.
Brielle’s Bistro/Magnolia Bistro
Part of a growing Creole/Cajun group are Brielle’s and Magnolia. Here you’ll find blackened catfish under crawfish etouffee, shrimp over fried green tomatoes, gumbo, po’boys of catfish, crawfish, gator, or shrimp, shrimp and grits, and smoked salmon. Read a full review of Brielle’s here.
Another growing trend in Oklahoma are boil-and-dump seafood spots like Crawfish Pot, which just opened a second location in Norman. While Cajun boils are not necessarily new to the metro, having restaurants seemingly dedicated to the concept are a recent development. Pick your protein, spice flavor (usually Cajun or garlic butter) and heat level and they’ll toss it all in a bag, boil it, and dump it on a table for you. Expect to see peel-and-eat shrimp, crawfish, clams, and crab, among the options. It’s a fun and messy dining experience, best for feeding a group of adventurous eaters.
East Coast style has long been the draw of Rococo. I’m as guilty as anybody about labeling it an Italian restaurant, when it’s really more of a coastal seafood spot. Can you get great Italian food at Rococo? Yes. But I don’t know that their extremely popular crab cakes or broiled lobster tail or fish/shrimp/scallops and chips or wild salmon fall into that category. What you need to know is that owners Bruce Rinehart and Jason Bustamante are fanatical about the quality of their ingredients, meaning you’re getting some of the freshest fish in the state, no matter when you go in. Oh, and it’s delicious, as if I’d send you someplace that wasn’t. For more East Coast fare, check out their sister restaurant, The Manhattan.
The last time I went to Osteria, I had a plate of squid ink pasta, covered in clams, in a sauce made with sea urchin, topped with braised octopus. What I’m saying is, yeah, they’ve got seafood. Next time I’m in, I’m going for the whole branzino, which is a delightfully moist and flavorful bass. Keep your eyes on the weekly fish special, as well.
The Drake Seafood & Oysterette
The menu has changed over time at The Drake, part of A Good Egg Dining Group, but they’ve never strayed far from its focus on seafood. Yeah, there are steaks and chicken now, but it’s still one of the best places in Oklahoma for raw oysters (not just big boys from the Gulf, but flown in from all over), seafood paella, pan-seared grouper, and more. If you REALLY love seafood and you’ve got a little extra cash in your pocket, try the Treasure Chest: it’s got a jumbo lobster tail, twelve fresh oysters, the ceviche of the day, and nine grilled and chilled jumbo shrimp. Great for a large group or a single, shameful Greg.
Trapper’s Fish Camp/Pearl’s/Crabtown
Pearl’s Restaurant Group includes three concepts that all have roughly the same menu. Trapper’s Fish Camp is a bit more upscale. Pearl’s Oyster Bar is more middle-of-the-road, and Crabtown in Bricktown aims at a more laid back clientele. What doesn’t change between the three are great dishes of gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and lots and lots of shrimp.
Off The Hook Seafood & More
Owner/chef Corey Harris isn’t from Louisiana. He’s not a Cajun or Creole chef. He loves seafood and he loves spice and when it all comes together, well, there are some similarities to Cajun cuisine, but there’s also a lot of differences. Off The Hook is famous for its melted lobster sandwich and the smothered seafood fries, but if you want the really good stuff, order like me: Blackened shrimp, fried catfish, and grits...all under a warm waterfall of lobster cream sauce. You don’t need sriracha on here.
Brent’s Cajun Seafood & Oyster Bar
Brent’s in Edmond and The Shack in Oklahoma City used to have nearly identical menus, but while the Shack has changed quite a few items around, Brent’s retains the dish to which I pledged my eternal devotion: Seafood Courtbouillon. It’s catfish, shrimp, scallops, and crawfish tails in a rich broth served over rice. It’s spicy and filling and glorious. Brent’s also does a dynamite brunch that I’ll be posting about soon.
The Shack Seafood & Oyster Bar
While I miss a few of the old items at The Shack, there’s plenty of crawfish and shrimp on the menu, as well as oysters (both raw and cooked). But if you’re looking for individual fish prepared to order, this is the spot. Yes, you can get almost anything fried, but a nice blackened mahi mahi or a shrimp-and-crab-stuffed snapper are great choices for lots of flavor with a bit less fat.
C’est Si Bon
Some of the best fried catfish you’ll find in the state comes from C’est Si Bon. With locations in Midwest City, Del City, and Edmond, as well as a food truck and frequent appearances at the Oklahoma State Fair and the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts, it’s little wonder C’est Si Bon is winning over so many fans. For my money, the stuffed fried shrimp and the catfish po’boy are the two must-have dishes. But I won’t stop you for ordering some frog legs for the table, either.
If you haven’t heard of this place yet, well, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll do a better job spreading the gospel of Crudoolandia. This is a Mexican street food (or “beach food,” as they say) with two OKC locations and one in Tulsa. If you don’t like shrimp, this might not be the place for you. But since I love shrimp, it definitely the place for me. Shrimp cocktail. Peel-and-eat shrimp. Shrimp in aguachile on a tostada. French fries covered in michelada flavoring and shrimp. Are you picking up on a theme? Also, if you love micheladas, Crudoolandia serves a bunch of them in lots of different varieties. Booze and seafood! Come get it!
Los Arados Taqueria y Cenadoria
5201 S. Western Ave., OKC
Why do so many people think Mexican food is all beef, chicken, and pork? Not that I don’t enjoy all of those meats, but Mexico is a big country with a lot of coastline. Of course they’re going to have some great seafood dishes, too. That said, much of the menu at Los Arados is shrimp, which I’m a fan of. If you’re not, look for other fish preparations like the mojarra frita or filetes culichi.
Are these the only places to eat seafood in Oklahoma City? Yes. That's it. No one else even knows what a fish is.
Of course there are other places for seafood. These are just some of my favorites. If you have ideas for additions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might even listen!