The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
Though it’s now the oldest single-family owned barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma, the Shawnee Van’s Pig Stand wasn’t Van’s first barbecue shop. The family patriarch first began crafting his signature pork sandwiches and plates of ribs in 1928 and shared his recipes with family members as they opened up their own hubs throughout Oklahoma. More than 80 years later, Van’s descendants still grill up barbecue dinners and sandwiches with those signature recipes, that is, if they have taken the blood oath to keep them secret. Though they specialize in cuts of pig, the grill masters incorporate everything from brisket, turkey, chopped beef, and chicken into their dinners, pairing each meaty helping with two sides and a slice of texas toast. Sweet flavors, including sweet tea and pecan pie, cap off savory meals.
Cooks bustle about the kitchens of Tulio's Mexican Restaurant, stuffing flautas with juicy morsels of skinless white-meat chicken and marinating strips of sirloin steak. The beef soaks in its bath of spices for a full 24 hours before it’s deemed ready for fajitas al carbon and mexican steak-tip dinners, a slow but necessary process that typifies the restaurant’s concern for getting traditional Mexican recipes right.
Though they share certain ingredients in common, there’s no mistaking the difference between a giant burrito—stuffed with up to five pounds of meat or piñata candy—and light entrees such as veggie fajitas with steamed rice and ranchera beans. Whether sautéing peppers or deep-frying chimichangas, the cooks keep an eye on heart health and use only 100% vegetable oil. Fresh produce goes into dishes such as the Cancun chicken, whose sweet bell peppers and guacamole-celery hot sauce make for more green than a bank vault filled with lime jello.
Drawing on skills he refined at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Benvenuti's Ristorante's executive chef, Anthony Compagni, deftly incorporates contemporary touches into the menu's traditional, Old-World recipes. Hints of saffron lend a twist to the lobster ravioli, and herb-crusted lamb chops appear alongside sautéed watercress and greek yogurt. Although he imports handmade pastas from Abruzzo, Italy, Compagni also makes mozzarella in-house and sources local, organically grown produce whenever possible.
Wooden cube shelves dominate the dining room's brick walls and display a selection of wines from the restaurant's 150-bottle-strong wine list, which includes representative tipples from countries around the world. A rolling, library-style ladder allows servers to effortlessly snag a bottle from the higher shelves without the hassle of welding spare corkscrews into a jetpack.
Armed with fine food, freezers, and 25 years of errand-running experience, the helpful helpers at Catering Creations and HH Concierge tend to tasks on behalf of the busy. The catering arm of the business features monthly changing “take and bake” dinner menus and a daily set of lunch options. The recent offering of king-chicken-ranch casserole ($5.99/individual-size, $19.99/full-size, serves 4–6) proved a customer favorite, especially amongst local poultry royalty.
In the Raw combines traditional and nouveau dishes and a cool, contemporary ambiance to comprehensively cater to romantic rendezvous. The menu features an array of fresh sushi options, from traditional cylinders such as the california roll ($5.25) to innovative options such as the fiery volcano roll, which incites eruptions of taste-bud applause with a combination of deep-fried shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, and jalapeño, all topped with scallops cooked in a spicy sauce ($14.95). Less-bundled bite-ables include the pork and sesame noodle bowl ($10.95) and an 8-ounce pepper filet paired with wasabi mashed potatoes and asparagus ($27.95). Tempura-fried bananas ($6.50), chocolate or vanilla crème brûlée ($6.50), and other desserts help meals end happily, rather than with petty squabbles over whose napkin is the largest.