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Pho Bulous does not have what I would call an extensive menu, but it has enough that there are good choices other than its signature dish, the pho. This is a suburban restaurant in a strip shopping center, but there are so many competing Vietnamese restaurants in north Oklahoma City I believe that many of them are stepping up their game, and give customers more than they may expect to find in similar restaurants located in other cities.
In the case of Pho Bulous I believe the main attraction is the pho. I found it to be one of the best in the Oklahoma City Metro, and they have several varieties of the soup including vegetarian soup that is only available at lunch (but this is one of the few restaurants that offers it). Note: as of 2020 the menu says “vegetable broth available upon request.”
The Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Platter was better than I expected in many ways, based on a comparison with other restaurants. The chicken was very good, especially in the quantity of meat that they give, and had just the right amount of char. I liked the fact that there was a generous portion of nuts, and the other vegetables were good. It had a very good chile sauce (a must for me), and overall this was a good meal. The only drawback was that I did not taste any mint, even though the menu said that it was included. I gave the dish five stars because it was that good, but this kind of inaccurate menu description does not sit well with me. In being objective, though, I can say that in spite of this it was a very good dish.
The Noodle Soup with Chicken (chicken pho) seemed to be made with the same care that most restaurants use for their beef soup, and I thought it was quite good. In fact, compared to other chicken soups this may be the best one I have had at a Vietnamese restaurant. Other restaurants (Pho Hieu in Yukon for example) add other ingredients that make them better in some ways, but the one here was pure chicken meat with chicken broth, and I was quite impressed with the flavor that it had.
The pho here has MSG, but apparently not very much because I did not have a reaction to it. Because of the soup’s flavor and the fact that it was for practical purposes MSG-free, this restaurant is definitely near the top of my list for the noodle soup.
My dining companion had a Lettuce Wrap which was described as “passable.” Obviously they are trying to appeal to more people by having other items on the menu, but the Vietnamese food is what I would consider their specialty.
In addition to the standard drinks, they have boba drinks (tea and coffee). I think the hot jasmine tea is one the expensive side, and I do not order it.
Pho Bulous offers some of the best bang for the buck I have found in Edmond (provided I skip the hot tea). The pho is some of the best I have tasted, and the vermicelli platter is good quality as well.
Hours: Closed Tue.
Accessible: Yes (ramp is on the north side of the shopping center next to Charleston’s)
Smoking: No smoking
Most Recent Visit: Mar. 11, 2017
Number of Visits: 2
Best Item: Chicken Pho
Asian Food Details
|MSG:||Yes (in a small amount)|
|Chicken Pho (Noodle soup with chicken)|
|Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Platter|
Menu (Jan. 2020):
1309 S. Agnew Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
Probably a stereotype easily evoked in people’s minds about the Sooner State is one in which western garb is the accepted mode of dress and cowboys may be seen sauntering along the dusty streets into the sunset. In the Stockyards section of Oklahoma City, this perception is not far from the truth. For most of the twentieth century, and into the present one, Cattlemen’s Restaurant has been a gathering spot not only for those who make their living from various aspects of bovine husbandry, but also for locals and tourists who feel more comfortable in a down home cafe than in the typical fancy steak house in which boots and a cowboy hat would seem as out of place as country and western music over the piped music system.
While this reviewer generally likes to avoid “tourist traps,” a visit to Cattlemen’s is highly recommended, even if it seems that the clientele is composed more of camera laden tourists than the cowboys who have been Cattlemen’s “bread and butter” for so long. The food and service have remained true to the time when the restaurant had not gained national recognition, and it is an experience that is difficult to match, even in the cattle producing regions of the Southwest.
The House Salad is highly acclaimed for the creamy garlic dressing, and I found the lettuce to be about as fresh as can be expected given the transportation logistics of supplying this vegetable not normally grown in the immediate vicinity. It did seem, however, that there were too many white, pale, and practically inedible plant parts thrown into the salad.
Cattlemen’s is renowned for its Lamb Fries, served as either an appetizer or a main course. Served with a tangy sauce, they make a unique and flavorful dish. Personally, though, I did not find much that I considered special about this delicacy. I think I already have enough hair on my chest that I do not wish to regularly consume something that is purported to grow more.
Of course, the main reason to come to Cattlemen’s is for the steaks. Several varieties are available, ranging from the highly marbled rib eye to leaner cuts such as the filet. All of the cuts taste as you may remember them from the days before mass-production cattle ranches and feed lots pumped the animals full of growth hormones and antibiotics before being shipped to chain steak house restaurants and the places offering the “$7.99 specials.” The biggest shock I received after a number of years without visiting Cattlemen’s was how much the prices had increased into the range of some of the fancy steak houses, while the second biggest surprise was how much the steaks still tasted as they did years ago.
The Rib Eye Steak is one of the recommended cuts for a special treat, as it costs a little more than some of the other cuts. Cattlemen’s features a USDA prime cut that is supposed to be the best steak available, but the regular rib eye I ordered was in the top category of my beef experience. The expertise of the cooks in preparing the meat to the red, pink, or brown level ordered by the customer is a large part of the positive experience here. Fat and gristle are removed from the steak before serving, so it would not be unreasonable for the waiter to pick up a “clean plate” at the end of the meal with only the shallowest pool of juice leftover from the steak ponding on the bottom of the plate.
The Filet is the smallest steak served, and also one of the best. The staff at Cattlemen’s recommends ordering this steak medium to medium rare, so this might be a consideration in figuring out whether or not to order this particular cut.
The Cattlemen’s Strip was the first steak listed on the menu, but I did not think it lived up to other cuts I have tried. This is known as a New York strip or Kansas City strip at most restaurants, and is usually a cut I find very flavorful and enjoyable. At Cattlemen’s, though, it had quite a bit of gristle and was cooked unevenly.
Back to the positive category, though, I would recommend the T-Bone as one of the better choices that are served (I shared a take-out order so I have a good idea about the taste but not how filling it is compared to the other steaks).
The Baked Potato is usually as exceptional as the main dishes, but I have not always found it to be so lately. With a limited menu, the establishment has gained a lot of its reputation by producing high quality, perfectly cooked potatoes that taste as if they were subjected to the slowest cooking process possible. Of course with such a reputation there is nowhere for it to go but down if the potatoes happen to be a little “off.” I have experienced good ones over the years, but I do not know if recent experiences are an indication that the quality of the restaurant has changed. I really do not go to the restaurant enough to judge if the food is really different than it used to be. The sour cream, cheese, and bacon bit toppings that come with the potato are of a pretty standard quality, and it is really the tuber itself that provides the basis for the experiences I have had.
Cattlemen’s keeps a pie case near the front door so patrons can hardly avoid having to make the decision of whether to eat more, even though I do not think anyone ever complains about the regular meals not being of sufficient quantity. The Pie does not match the quality of my grandmother’s, but it is pretty good for ones served in restaurants.
Prime rib is served on weekends, and chicken fried steak is always available. Other dinners are served, such as chicken and seafood. It is not often, though, that a person would have the opportunity to enjoy steaks of the quality served at Cattlemen’s, so this seems to be the choice of most diners. While Cattlemen’s is not as inexpensive as it used to be, the “stockyards ambiance” does not require that prices be at the inflated levels that customers have come to expect at most places in order to enjoy a high quality steak.
I have seen mixed opinions on the Internet about whether Cattlemen’s really has the best steaks in Oklahoma City, or whether it is mainly a matter of the history, setting, and reputation that the restaurant enjoys. My own opinion is that some of the steaks will probably live up to people’s expectations, while others may not. It seems that a really top-notch steakhouse should have cuts such as the New York strip that are equally enjoyable as the filet, and I have not found this to be the case at Cattlemen’s. Some places in OKC might give Cattlemen’s some stiff competition in the steaks, but I still think Cattlemen’s delivers what people expect–excellent steaks in a setting that may be even more memorable than the food.
Oklahoma City, OK
Since Zorba’s opened in 1991 it has been one of the city’s most popular restaurants for Mediterranean food. With recipes “from Cyprus to Spain” (according to Zorba’s menu), the name “Mediterranean” is very descriptive.
Zorba’s began in a small building near the Mayfair shopping center (where Sheesh Mahal is now located), and moved to the present location in 2007. The new building is much larger, with a bar and some big screen TV’s that are usually tuned to sports or news (at a low enough volume, though, so it does not disturb the conversation). Additional cooks at Zorba’s can serve a larger number of customers, and I think the menu now offers more items.
At the old restaurant I met the owner, got recommendations about what to order, and observed him cooking. I really enjoyed the quality and consistency of the food, and it was easy to know what to order (the owner would give me recommendations).
I thought when the new restaurant opened it got off to a rocky start–with the additional cooks hired to operate the new restaurant and larger menu there were inconsistencies in the food that were not there before. Some of the new items were a “miss,” but mostly I just didn’t know what was the best thing to order any more.
My current thinking is that if you want Middle Eastern food there are other restaurants in town that do it better, and there is a Moroccan restaurant a couple of blocks north of Zorba (so that is a logical place to go for that type of cuisine). Having said that, there are a number of items that I really like at Zorba’s (including a Moroccan dish), and Zorba’s also excels as a place to bring a large group who want to order different types of food. I have raised the rating of Zorba’s from my earlier reviews because I want to highlight what it does well rather than things I have found to be disappointing (many of which I am now attributing to the “growing pains” it had when it first opened).
Salads and Appetizers
Since salads are one of the better items I will start here. Several choices are available, and a salad or soup comes free with most dinners. Unlike Mexican restaurants where queso and sopapillas are usually served “free” (but built into the prices charged), the “free” appetizers here are definite enhancements and really do not jack up the prices to levels that are too high.
Tabouli is one of the choices available as a free appetizer, but the one here is not my favorite in town. I found it to be rather skimpy on the green vegetables, and even though the flavor was good I would prefer one with less bulgar and more vegetables and herbs.
The Greek Salad (another one of the free salads) was very good when I ordered it several years ago. I have heard from readers, though, that Zorba’s is now including fewer olives and other enhancements to the lettuce.
The Persian Salad seemed rather simple, but it was fresh and flavorful. I would say this is a good choice, and is my favorite of the three free salad choices.
Zorba’s Signature Salad is not one of the ones that comes free with the dinners, but I think is the best one I have tried (and ranks among the best in OKC). The photo shows that it has just about every ingredient imaginable, but also it is very fresh with a good flavor.
Soups are also one of the free appetizer choices with some of the dinners, and there are three choices on the menu. The menu describes the lentil soup as “seasoned to perfection and cooked with the freshest ingredients.” I would say they are correct on the second part but I disputed whether it was seasoned to perfection (I think the soups at Nunu’s and Camilya’s are better).
On an early visit I ordered a Vegetable Sampler that includes dolma, falafel, spanakopita, tiropita, hummus, baba ghannouj, asparagus, and salad. I thought this plate was not filling enough to make a meal, but it is now served as the “Hospitality Sampler” with some additional items. Mainly I wanted to see which of the vegetable side dishes were the best.
Dolma, or grape leaves, was one of the best items on the vegetable platter. It had a fresh, mild flavor, and was even better when dipped in the yogurt sauce that was provided.
The Falafel was the only fried food on the platter that I thought was at the level of quality I usually find in good Mediterranean restaurants. I could not tell if it was made from scratch or from a mix, but it had a good flavor. Again, the yogurt sauce helped.
The Tiropita (cheese pie) and Spanakopita (spinach pie) were fried, and somewhat of a disappointment. The spinach pie had a fried crust that I thought was too greasy, and the spinach was not spiced as well as I have had in other places. The cheese pie seemed lacking in flavor (in the photo the spinach pies are on the lower left and the cheese pies are to the right of the falafel).
The Pita was very good, and I think is something for which Zorba’s is known.
Hummus was very good and possibly one of the better ones I have eaten (although a pretty small sample came on the vegetable platter).
Shish Kabob Platter
The Shish Kabob Platter seemed to be one of the few meat dishes that contained a balanced amount of vegetables along with the meat. This is good if you like rice, since it comes on a large bed of white rice. The vegetables on the skewer, though, seemed rather flavorless compared to most shish kabobs I have tried. Out of the tomato, onion, potato, squash, and mushroom, I cannot think of anything that really stood out. I really think Zorba’s could do better with their vegetables.
The meat on the shish kabob was all right but I thought it was not very tender. The flavor was OK but I have had better at other Mediterranean restaurants.
Moussaka seemed to be one of the better dinners served at Zorba’s, being a Greek dish I have not found even at some of the city’s Greek restaurants. I enjoyed the one here, and thought it had a good flavor. I am not saying Zorba would be proud of this dish but I think he would at least be happy.
The chicken dishes point out both my enjoyment and frustration with the food at Zorba’s. Chicken Bandarri was a serving of three stewed chicken thighs with a tomato garlic sauce over a bed of basmati rice. The highlight was the chicken, and I really ordered it because so few restaurants offer dark meat chicken by itself. The sauce was not quite as flavorful as I had expected, based on experiences at a number of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants. The rice came in a quantity that was way more than I could eat, and in fact I thought the entire dinner was too big and I had to take one of the chicken thighs home. The rice was also dry (but I really would not say the same thing about the chicken).
Moroccan Chicken is another chicken dinner available, and this one provides slow cooked chicken with Moroccan seasonings, a lemon olive sauce, and basmati rice. This was the opposite of the chicken bandarri in that the Moroccan chicken had an excellent sauce but I thought the meat was a little dry. Cous Cous Cafe a couple of blocks from Zorba’s specializes in Moroccan cuisine, and normally I would not think to order this type of food at Zorba’s, but in this case I think the Moroccan chicken is something that is quite good. The fresh raisins and olives added flavor, and I thought the sauce was done very well. This was certainly one of the “hits” I have found at Zorba’s (and the meat was not dry enough to really make a difference).
The Catalan Chicken was served with a flavorful basil butter sauce, and I thought the garlic mashed potatoes were flavorful. This stuck in my memory as being one of the two best meals I have had at Zorba’s (along with the Moroccan chicken).
The Baklava was not the best I have tried, but several types of Mediterranean style desserts are offered. I liked everything I tried, including the baklava.
The original Zorba’s offered Persian tea (either hot or cold) on the house, and I thought this was a very nice touch to the meal. The tea was discontinued at the new restaurant, but now hot tea is available at an additional price. This is not the same tea served at Cous Cous Cafe with sweetener mixed in, but it is good enough for me to enjoy (and is a lot better than the drinks that were offered when Zorba’s first moved to its new location).
There seem to be more items on the menu than previously, and even though I have been disappointed in some items I usually find others that I like. The prices are a little high at Zorba’s but not outrageous compared to other restaurants. It is a good family restaurant with lots of tables and something on the menu for everybody.
Hours: Open Daily
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, wine
Most Recent Visit: Jun. 22, 2016
Number of Visits: 9
Best Items: Moroccan Chicken, Catalan Chicken, Dolma, Zorba’s Signature Salad
|Zorba’s Signature Salad|
Menu (Jun. 2016):