Travel By Taste–Warr Acres, OK

Travel By Taste
4818 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 787-2969
Travel By Taste

Travel By Taste


For some time I have had a love for Persian music and Persian cats, and Travel By Taste has convinced me that Persian food should be added to the list. The name “Travel By Taste” may be more than a little bit appropriate since few restaurants contribute as much to expanding the food experience in Oklahoma City as the Persian cuisine served here.

Travel by Taste’s “deli” style service makes it look very casual, and I was somewhat surprised by the “fine dining” experience I got from the food. Orders are taken at the cash register (but unlike Nunu’s and some other restaurants, you pay for the meal when you are finished eating). It is also not a “fine dining” restaurant in the sense that it closes at 8:00 P.M., so some may find this a bit too early to sit and enjoy a leisurely dinner (although I have felt no pressure to eat quickly and leave so that they could close up and go home). In spite of these constraints, though, Travel by Taste is really one of the places I go for a fine dining experience in OKC, where the food lives up to the expectation.

The fact that they serve Middle Eastern flavored hot tea is another factor that makes this restaurant one of my favorites. Food is brought to the table, and customers are served just as in any restaurant, but the only difference here is that you place your order at the cash register. I do enjoy browsing the market when I go to order and to pay, and I am sure this is by design.

The market

Patrons enter through the market, and the dining room is through the door on the left.

Travel by Taste serves “halal” meat in the “Specialty Dishes” section of the menu (these are equivalent to kosher meats). Meats include the lamb shish kabob, grilled chicken, kabobs, and ghormeh sabzi. Probably not surprisingly, these are among my favorite items at the restaurant. The rest of the menu is non-Persian and does not include halal meat, but I have found it to be very good as well.

Items from the “Regular Menu”

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

The non-Persian portion of the menu also has the less expensive items. One of the best items I have found is the Falafel Sandwich, which by itself makes a very substantial meal. The freshness, texture, and flavor of the falafel are its most notable features, and this is definitely one of the best in town. The bread was very fresh with a traditional pita flavor, but was large and thin like a wrap. I liked the fact that the bread did not fall apart when it was saturated by the sauce as is frequently the case with with this type of sandwich.

Hummus was another standout item from the “regular menu,” placing it in contention for being the best in OKC. The hummus and other appetizers here come in fairly large servings, and may be better shared than for just one person.

Persian salad

Persian salad

The Persian Salad had a dressing that for me was a little disappointing, but the salad itself was quite good. I really thought the Greek Salad was more enjoyable in terms of flavor, but the one I tried had only one olive that I could find and very little feta. These salads did not reach the point of being a “disappointment,” but I think they are better at other restaurants.

Shish Kabob (from the Regular Menu)

Shish kabob

Shish kabob

The Shish Kabob was not one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” but I think it is probably one of their best items. This was made with filet mignon, and it was like eating steak in a high end steak house only with a flavor from being marinated that makes it better than the typical steak.

One feature that put the shish kabob among the top ones I have tried was the Saffron Rice served underneath the meat and vegetables. This was very fresh and delicious, and the rice was something I would enjoy eating by itself.

Lamb Kabob (“Specialty Dish”)
The Lamb Kabob is one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” and I would say is equally as enjoyable as the beef version (although I would not say this about all the lamb dishes I have tried in various restaurants). Some people would like the lamb better, and I would say that both are good.

Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa

Grilled chicken with Turkish salsa

Grilled chicken with Turkish salsa

Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa has been my favorite item since I first tried it, but with the new menu in 2014 it is no longer served. The good news is that customers can still get the same thing by ordering two dishes: the chicken kabob and what is now called “Turkish salad” (formerly Turkish salsa). The bad news is that there is about a fifty percent higher price tag ordering it this way (but I think it comes with a larger serving).

The Chicken Kabob accomplishes a very hard feat by making the chicken as flavorful and tender as the beef. The seasoning is a major part of the meat’s appeal, and of course coming from the “halal” section of the menu, this is undoubtedly some of the best meat available.

The Turkish Salad is made with tomatoes, onion, parsley, pomegranate sauce, chile peppers, and walnuts for a taste that is a little bit like tabouli (but sweet with pomegranate and crunchy with walnuts). This was quite a unique combination that I have not found in other Middle Eastern restaurants.

Ghormeh Sabzi

Ghormeh sabzi

Ghormeh sabzi

Ghormeh Sabzi was one of the Specialties I was hesitant to try because I had a rather disappointing experience with it at another restaurant. Travel by Taste, though, knows how to do it right (at least it was right for my taste buds). The flavor and color seem to come mostly from shredded parsley, but Travel by Taste has mixed in enough kidney beans, dried lime, stewed beef, and green onions to give it quite a delicious flavor. Some of the other patrons, on seeing this dish being delivered to my table, have commented that it is one of their favorite dishes.

Gheimeh with Potatoes

Gheimeh with potatoes

Gheimeh with potatoes

Gheimeh with Potatoes is a mild dish with tomato sauce, covered with French fries. None of the items at Travel By Taste are spicy, but this dish is quite mild in terms of not having as many spices as some of the others. It does have a very good flavor, though.

Desserts

Persian ice cream

Persian ice cream

Travel By Taste has a limited dessert menu, but the Persian Ice Cream was one item I had not seen elsewhere. This was home made ice cream with pistachios and rose water. Rose water is a prominent flavor in Iranian cuisine, and I think it is worth splurging a little bit to try this ice cream (normally in restaurants I go for cake or baked goods).

Discontinued Items
My previous review mentioned the Khoresh Bademjan, a beef and eggplant stew listed under “Specialty Dishes.” The discontinued items seem to be among the more expensive ones that were not ordered very often, but I think the ones still served offer a good choice of Persian dishes.

Overall Comments
So far almost everything I have tried has gone on the “best items” list, and I think this is truly a sign of a consistently excellent restaurant. Of course my view of the restaurant may be skewed because of ordering mainly the “Specialty Dishes” which are the most expensive items. Even so, this is one of the least expensive restaurants in town which I consider to have “fine dining” type of food. The falafel sandwich is certainly more casual than other dishes, though, and in some situations can be just as satisfying (and there are still many items from the menu I have not yet tried).

The Iranian music sometimes played over the speakers is very enjoyable, and the dining room is very comfortable. The back of the dining room looks like a place where people can sit around, enjoy a drink, and plug in a computer.

The “market” is very good for imported goods and some Middle Eastern style food produced in the United States. I particularly like the fresh fruit and nuts which can be purchased separately or combined to create your own trail mix.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Middle Eastern (Persian)
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: “Specialty Dishes” on the menu are halal

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 24, 2016
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ghormeh Sabzi, Shish Kabob, Lamb Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Turkish Salad, Hummus, Saffron Rice, Persian Ice Cream

Special Ratings
star 5 Shish Kabob (filet mignon)
star 5 Lamb Kabob
star 5 Chicken Kabob
star 5 Ghormeh Sabzi
star 4 Falafel Sandwich
star 5 Turkish Salad
star 4 Greek Salad
star 4 Persian Salad
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Saffron Rice
star 5 Persian Ice Cream

The Garage–Oklahoma City, OK

The Garage
6900 NW 122nd St.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 603-3080
The Garage

The Garage in northwest Oklahoma City


The Garage is a little bit out of my comfort zone. It is a sports bar (I don’t generally like places this loud and I don’t normally order drinks). It is always crowded, and I have trouble getting a table (several times the people waiting in line have made it worse by sending some people in their party to grab a table while the others are waiting in line, even though posted signs prohibit people from doing this). Even though the restaurant is usually crowded, the parking lot is usually worse (although my time in Seattle made me realize that the parking problems in OKC are not really very serious).

The biggest step out of my comfort zone, though, has been the food. I made several trips here and ordered what are normally some of my favorite items, only to find myself wanting to order something different the next time. I do like the restaurant, but it took me several trips to figure out what to order.

Veggie Burger
At many restaurants I order the veggie burger, which usually provides the same toppings and the same enjoyment as the regular burger, but which I consider to be a healthier alternative.

Garden burger

Garden burger and sweet potato fries

At The Garage the version I tried was the Garden Burger with green chili and a chipotle ranch sauce (I should have known I was in trouble when they spelled green chile as “green chili”). Actually the green chile was good, and was made from the now widely available Hatch green chile. I don’t know why they needed to add chipotle to it, but I thought I should at least try it the way it came on the menu.

The patty was made with rice and mushrooms, and I found it to be flavorful (the problem here was that they seemed to be trying too hard to jazz it up).

Fish Tacos

fish tacos

Fish tacos

Fish Tacos are another item that I frequently enjoy, and the ones here are probably one of my favorite items at the restaurant. I was disappointed by the mayo sauce they put on it, though, and I don’t know what else could be substituted to make it better.

The tacos came with a flavorful slaw, which I liked, and the fish was good. They would probably taste plain without the mayo sauce, but they would be good tacos.

Fish and Chips

Fish and chips

Fish and chips

Fish and Chips come with a mayo sauce, but you can skip this and use malt vinegar instead. The french fries were very salty and the slaw that came with it was served in a rather small bowl. The problem for me was the amount of fries that were served compared to the fish and the slaw.

Slaw

Slaw

Side order of slaw

For the fish and chips or other dishes you may wish to get a larger order of slaw, and this is also available. This is supposed to be the same slaw that was served at the old Herman’s Restaurant, and it did taste very good. I remember Herman’s, though, and I think the difference from The Garage was that Herman’s served their slaw at a very cold temperature (I am not sure about this, but this is my memory of it).

Turkey Patty

Turkey burger

Turkey burger

The Turkey Burger was one I liked less than the others, but it does point out the fact that The Garage offers several alternatives to the traditional beef burger. The one pictured had green chile and cheese (without chipotle), which I thought was good.

Bison Burger

Buffalo burger

Buffalo burger with green chile and cheese

Trying the Bison Burger took me the most out of my comfort zone based on my normal menu choices, but I thought it was by far the most satisfying alternative to a traditional hamburger. The flavor was a little different than beef, but I thought in a good way. The green chile and cheese that came on it made me feel that I had a New Mexico style green chile cheeseburger, and I was very happy with this selection.

Overall Comments

I have not tried the hamburger here (on purpose) because I wanted to see if they had any good alternatives. Probably all of the alternatives were what I would call good, but the buffalo burger was by far the best.

Boris and Natasha

A couple of friends have been here

The non-sandwich menu is limited, but the items I have tried have been good. I liked the fish and chips better than the fish tacos simply because of the fact that I could skip the tartar sauce and use malt vinegar on them (while the tacos come with a mayo sauce).

The food is good for a casual burger joint, and I appreciate the fact that they have several types of patties and an even bigger choice of toppings. I would say that some of their topping combinations, though, are not ones I would like to have again.


RATING: 21

Cuisine: Hamburgers
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 28, 2016
Number of Visits: 5
Best Items: Bison Burger with green chile and cheese, Garden Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, Fish and Chips

Special Ratings
star 5 Bison Burger
star 5 Garden Burger
star 4 Turkey Burger
star 4 Fish and Chips
star 4 Fish Tacos
star 5 Sweet Potato Fries
star 5 Slaw

Ding–Bethany, OK

Ding Asian Fusion
6400 N.W. 39th Expressway
Bethany, OK
(405) 603-8858
Ding Asian Fusion

Ding Asian Fusion in Bethany


Ding Asian Fusion is the latest venture of Szechuan Bistro, a popular Chinese restaurant on Memorial Road near Edmond. With the following Szechuan Bistro has built up since it opened, I would think they would want to keep the same name with the new restaurant, but for whatever reason they have changed it.

In some ways they have changed the concept at the new restaurant. Ding serves sushi and Thai fried rice (thus the “Asian Fusion” part of the name). The main menu looks to be much the same as at Szechuan Bistro–spicy Sichuan style entrees with smaller servings available as lunch specials. Ding does not have the “whiteboard specials” of authentic Sichuanese dishes that are available at Szechuan Bistro, though.

Ding's interior

Ding’s comfortable dining room

I am not surprised that the restaurant in Bethany would have fewer authentic dishes than the Edmond branch. It was somewhat surprising, though, that the Chinese dishes served at Ding seem to have the same authentic flavor that is found at Szechuan Bistro. Moreover, the lunch specials contain the same dishes I have found to have an authentic Chinese flavor, including the shredded pork in garlic sauce (while other dishes such as the Chinese eggplant are available from the regular menu).

The ambiance is very nice, prices are good, and lunch specials come with soup and rice (the hot and sour soup here is definitely among the best in OKC).

Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce
The first thing I wanted to do at Ding was to see if it had the same food that is served at Szechuan Bistro. Other than the changes in the menu I have already mentioned, I think the answer is yes.

Shredded pork in garlic sauce

Lunch portion of shredded pork in garlic sauce

Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce is a great choice for lunch provided the garlic will not be an issue for you (I have already determined that I do not want to book a dentist appointment after eating this dish). The sauce is very well balanced and not too sweet. The vegetables are crispy and flavorful, and overall this is one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

The ironic thing about this dish is that it serves as a replacement for what was my original favorite Chinese dish in Oklahoma City–the shredded pork at Lotus Mandarin (which was located on 38th Street a couple of blocks from where Ding is now located). So if there are any other “old timers” out there who enjoyed Lotus Mandarin as I did, I would recommend checking out Ding. (The flavors of Ding really remind me of Lotus Mandarin, except that I think Ding offers a greater variety of authentic Chinese dishes).

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup

This is one of the soup choices available, and is the one I recommend if you like spicy food (although I don’t think the soup here is as spicy as at Szechuan Bistro).

A Note About the Spicy Sichuan Dishes
Ding has chiles on the menu next to spicy items–either one, two, or three chiles. The shredded pork in garlic sauce has one chile, which I found to be barely noticeable on the spice level. This is fine with me, because I liked the dish, but I just want to make the comment that a dish with one chile is barely spicy at all (and many menu items have no chiles).

While I think the flavor of Ding matches Szechuan Bistro, the spice level apparently does not. I think this is in keeping with Ding being an Asian Fusion restaurant rather than a Sichuanese one.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Dec. 29, 2016
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine/ Iced Tea
MSG: N/A
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce

 

Menu (Dec. 2016):