As an Oklahoma girl who regularly taps into the pulse of all of the goings-on in our great city (and it is a great city), I would like to discuss a certain … phenomenon that occurs around this time every year. October 28 marks the official beginning of the 2015–2016 Thunder Basketball season. From now through June, our Oklahoma City air is filled with something magical, intangible and oh-so wonderful.
This thing is state pride. Since the initiation of an Oklahoma-based NBA team in 2008, the sense of Oklahoma pride has become undeniable. There is something about having 18,000 ecstatic Okies packed into "the Peak" cheering on our team that is so sensational. Over the past seven years, being an Oklahoman has become something to be proud of, something you want to announce to the world, something you're passionate about. A fire has ignited in our hearts, and across the state you can hear us declare, "I'm an Okie and I'm damn proud of it!" This is not to say this pride was born seven years ago, since we have been proudly flying our Oklahoma flag for many, many years. But something far more deep-seeded and palpable has taken shape in our state, and the country has taken notice. We aren't called the loudest NBA fans in the country for nothing.
I strongly encourage every Okie, native or otherwise, to attend a Thunder game. As your ears ring from the resounding clamor of the crowd, take a look around you. People from all over the state surround you. From Miami to Lawton, Broken Bow to Guymon, and everywhere in between, we join together at this place, all of us dressed in blue. Here, we are just Oklahomans, banded together to cheer on one team. Our team. Crimson and orange take a backseat to blue and white on these nights. Pokes and Sooners alike stand up to cheer on the Thunder together. Here, we are united.
In the spirit of this state unity and local pride, I urge all of you to support our Okie-owned restaurants, bars and shops before and after the games (and anytime, for that matter). The "Keep It Local" movement has given birth to many fantastic spots for people to come together and enjoy each other's company. These places are located in the various districts of Oklahoma City (yes, we have actual districts now), all of which are infinitely interesting with their own distinct ambiance. For some of you, it may be a bit hard to understand how they're different, how they're divided geographically and what their overall "vibe" is; this post is intended to serve as an introduction.
DOWNTOWN – Starting with the areas closest to "the Peak," Downtown houses several cool spots that serve as great pre- and post-game locales ideal for gathering with friends. A block north of the arena is FLINT, located on the ground floor of the Colcord Hotel. Warm and vibrant, FLINT lives up to its name with a cozy interior and outdoor patio space that are perfect for warming up on chilly evenings. Adjoined on the west side of the Colcord is Devon Tower, the 49th floor of which houses Vast. Sleek and sexy, Vast offers a 360-degree bird's-eye view of our great city, and the open seating in the bar area makes it an appealing locale for social gatherings.
FARMERS' MARKET – Go a mile west of "the Peak" and you'll find the burgeoning Farmers' Market district (located off of Reno and South Klein Avenue) that is home to one of my favorite bars. Powerhouse opened its doors one year ago and has become a can't-miss staple of OKC nightlife. Equal parts South and West, Powerhouse was opened by Austin native Clay Berkes, who recognized the undeniable opportunity for growth here in Oklahoma City. Complete with a patio, fireplace, "corn hole" and delicious drink selection, Powerhouse makes for a perfectly laid-back evening out with those you love.
DEEP DEUCE – Four blocks north and two blocks east of the Chesapeake arena lies Deep Deuce, an OKC district that is undergoing a substantial retransformation. One locale that is near and dear to my heart for one very important reason is WSKY Lounge, located on the corner of Northeast Second and North Central Avenue. Dark and smoky, WSKY, by its name, specializes in whiskey, bourbon and scotch, with about 250 types to choose from. Come light up a cigar and relax under the dim light of the filament bulbs. If you happen to stop in on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday night, the dashing young man behind the bar (you'll know the one) will take excellent care of you.
MIDTOWN – The Midtown district, located between Northwest Sixth and Northwest 13th from North Harvey Avenue to North Walker Avenue, has seen vast developments over the past several years. Two years ago, the Ambassador Hotel opened its doors, housed in the 1928 Osler Building. The seventh floor of the hotel is home to the cool, urban O Bar, with the best view of the Oklahoma City skyline anyone has ever seen. With a set of talented bartenders making top-notch signature cocktails, O Bar is a sure-fire hotspot any night of the week. Just four blocks south on North Walker Avenue from O Bar lies Ludivine, an original restaurant concept serving up a menu that changes daily depending on what they can get fresh and in-season from their suppliers. Adjoining the restaurant is Ludivine's bar. Dark and dreamy, the bar of Ludivine is a quiet, intimate place to gather, complete with a cocktail menu and bar selection that aim to please. If you're looking for your new favorite place for dinner and/or drinks, Ludivine is it.
PLAZA – The Plaza district, located on Northwest 16th between North McKinley Avenue and North Indiana Avenue, is known for its trendy, hipster vibe and artsy street festivals. The Mule has been a popular Plaza staple since the district's inception, serving up great beer and grilled cheese selections. Warm and casual, The Mule meets all the requirements for an easy, simple social spot. Oak & Ore, a block down from The Mule, is a clean, Kansas City-style bar (as I like to call it) with a fantastic craft beer selection and a food menu that definitely checks all the boxes. Oak & Ore's décor flirts with sparseness, light and texture and is a can't-miss if you're Plaza-bound. Empire Slice House is another slam-dunk gathering spot in the Plaza district, located two doors down from Oak & Ore. With a pizza menu that offers classic as well as new flavors (served until 2 a.m.), Empire is a quirky, 90s grunge bar and restaurant great for late nights out.
UPTOWN 23RD – The Uptown 23rd district, located on Northwest 23rd between North Harvey Avenue and North Shartel Avenue, is presently the most up-and-coming area of Oklahoma City. The renovation currently taking place at the historic Tower Theater will result in the reinstatement of the Tower as a premier venue for film showings. Additionally, a new craft cocktail bar, Savings and Loan, will be located on the first and second floors. An image of what Uptown will become is The Drake, located on the northwest corner of Northwest 23rd and North Walker Avenue. Owned by A Good Egg Group, the dining masterminds behind Red Primesteak and Cheever's, The Drake opened its doors at the end of August and has quickly become Oklahoma City's new favorite restaurant. I suggest pairing a dozen oysters, complete with the Banyuls and Rosé mignonettes, with a glass of white, sparkling or rosé wine for a romantic night out with your significant other. Everything on The Drake's menu is sure to please, with delicious, fresh-caught seafood that just won't quit.