OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — It is almost, almost fall. The days are noticeably shorter, college football has started, the weather is going to break just any second now … we’re about to move into primo patio season. And with COVID case numbers still uncomfortably high,* it’s a better time than ever to eat someplace where outdoor dining is more than an afterthought. But where to pick?
When an overcast day rolled around, I chose to visit a place where choice is among the main features.
The Collective Kitchens + Cocktails proudly touts itself as OKC’s first food hall. The concept is fairly new to the city—The Collective opened in 2019, shortly before Parlor—but easy to grasp: A place with the convenience and variety of a food court, but with local operators, nicer ambiance than a mall interior and, frankly, better food. Michael Scott aside, not a lot of people are really jonesing for Sbarro.
The result is tailor-made for parties who are having trouble agreeing on a dining destination; each person can visit a different restaurant or mix and match for whatever suits their fancy, including cocktails, wine, and a substantial selection of beer, then reconvene with their spoils.
It might theoretically be less of a draw if you’re solo or your group’s palates are simpatico.
On the other hand, I’ve driven more than 10 miles more than a couple of times to visit Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks when its food truck was still touring the metro, so these days, there’s basically a big flashing light on my mental heads-up display anytime I look toward Midtown. The finely chopped mixture of steak and grilled onions makes an outstanding sandwich when stuffed into a soft bun and doused with cheesy goo—sorry, “whiz”—but is somehow even better as a taco with provolone and a dab of garlic aioli in a slightly crispy tortilla. I probably couldn’t eat my weight in these things, but it’s tempting to try.
Speaking of tortilla-based fusion treats, The Fried Taco is also a potent draw. There’s something viscerally satisfying about crunching into a mouthful of deep-fried shell and juicy filling, and the flavor combinations I’ve tried have been very good, especially the brisket and especially the September special of chicken bacon ranch.
If you’re looking for something a little farther off OKC’s beaten path, try the savory loco moco with a side of spam musubi at Shaka Hawaiian Cuisine, or some beef soya sticks and fried plantains courtesy of the “Sub-Saharan cuisine” of Edie’s Grill. A classic onion burger at Evolve This Burger? Check. Customizable seafood bowls at Okie Pokie? Double-check. You could also just dive face-first into a Belgian waffle covered in s’mores toppings via Press Waffle Co. Who’s stopping you?
And as a nice bonus for this particular moment, the alfresco option isn’t a tossed-off afterthought; the development was designed with outdoor seating in mind, whether in the courtyard of two- and four-tops, the more casual seating area with low couches and artificial turf or the ample upstairs patio, which has both space heaters and cooling fans for climate amelioration.
It can get busy, so checking out the varied menu options online before your visit is an effective time-saver.
Midafternoon on a cloudy Wednesday, though, I had The Collective mostly to myself and could pick anywhere to linger over a cinnamon mocha from Conley Coffee Co. To echo this establishment’s raison d’etre: It’s good to have options.
The Collective Kitchens + Cocktails
308 NW 10th, OKC
Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-midnight
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m.
(Hours vary for the individual kitchens)
* Mayor Holt announced a few days ago that Oklahoma County passed the 75% threshold of eligible residents who’ve gotten at least one dose—which is simultaneously great news and indicative of room for improvement. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
Last Updated September 17, 2021, 4:14 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor