Some Restaurants to Explore Along Historic Route 66

U.S. Highway 66 extended from Chicago to Los Angeles, and in its heyday was one of the busiest highways in the country. With a renewed interest by many in exploring “The Mother Road,” restaurants along the historic route are increasingly acknowledging the fact that interest in Route 66 can be a factor in bringing customers to them. I thought it would be interesting to make a list of places along the roadway that I have highlighted in my blog as well as on my earlier web sites. I do not purposely go to restaurants because they are on Route 66, but I find that this is where many of the places are located that have interesting food.

U.S. Highway 66 was decommissioned on June 27, 1985, and no longer exists as an officially designated highway. There are many signs showing the route, though, and state and local governments have done their part in commemorating the historic highway. Google Maps also designates the road, although I think some guide books and web sites have more detailed information about exactly where the route was located.

The route also changed over time. An example of this is in Oklahoma City where Route 66 once passed by the State Capitol but later was built as an expressway in the northern part of the city (this route was later re-designated as part of Interstate 44). My article is mainly focused on the most recent route with some mention of the older ones.

Some restaurants have been in operation at the same location since the time that the actual U.S. 66 was located in front of their business. Others try to recreate the types of restaurants that were predominant during the 1960’s (the heyday of Route 66 before the Interstates began to divert traffic away from the old highway). This can be anything from the food (diners, etc.) to the decor (large booths, etc.). Some restaurants are completely modern but pay homage to Route 66 through signs or murals. Still others just happen to be on the route and possibly are on sections of the old highway that are not well marked and relatively unknown. There is now a great variety of cuisines and degrees of fidelity to the perceived Route 66 “theme,” but I want to put all of the ones in which I have eaten on my Route 66 List (and to share the information with readers).

 

Pops–660 W. Hwy. 66, Arcadia, OK

The pop bottle statue at Pops

Pops on State Hwy. 66 in Arcadia, OK

The giant pop bottle statue in front of Pops in Arcadia is becoming a landmark along Route 66, but the business itself is relatively new. Pops sells a large variety of pop (known as sodas in other parts of the country) and also has a grill where you can order hamburgers, etc. For me it is mostly a place to get some very good root beer and sarsaparilla.

 

Chow’s–3033 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, OK

Chow's on the early route of U.S. 66

Chow’s Chinese Restaurant at 3033 N. May Ave., OKC

Until the early part of the 1950’s Route 66 went through downtown Edmond, along Kelley and Lincoln Blvd. to the State Capitol, along 23rd Street to May Avenue, and then north to N.W. 39th Street where it met the route going west which kept the same alignment throughout the history of the highway.

I think this “original route” (along Lincoln, N.W. 23rd, May Ave., etc.) was not known to most people my age as even being part of Route 66 until the preservation movement publicized this fact and began promoting businesses along these streets. I have reviewed several restaurants on these streets and visited many more, but I am not making an extensive inventory of the restaurants as part of this article. Instead, I will just make a note of one which is one of my favorites.

Chow’s Chinese Restaurant at N.W. 30th and May is special to me because the Chinese food is so much better than it was when I was growing up. This location is especially significant to me because my high school is located across the street. Some may have heard of Northwest Classen because it is the Alma Mater of Rick Bayless, Elizabeth Warren, and other notable people. I also sometimes make a shameless plug because it is where I began to hone my writing skills which have reached their full expression in the restaurant reviews on this blog (but as in high school I still frequently wander off-topic such as writing articles about Route 66).

 

Ann’s Chicken Fry–4106 N.W. 39th St., Oklahoma City, OK

Ann's Chicken Fry

Ann’s Chicken Fry at 4106 N.W. 39th St., OKC

Ann’s Chicken Fry opened in 1971 after Interstate 40 was completed through Oklahoma City but when this portion of N.W. 39th Street was still officially designated as U.S. 66. Since that time it has continued to promote the fact that it is located on Route 66, but this is not the reason most customers come here. Instead, it popularity is based on the fact that many think it has one of the best versions of chicken fried steak in the area (I like it almost as much as the ones in Austin, Texas). In addition to the chicken fried steak, though, it has excellent fried chicken and an atmosphere that is very much like the restaurants of the Route 66 heyday.

 

Ding Asian Fusion–6400 N.W. 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK

Ding Asian Fusion

Ding Asian Fusion at 6400 N.W. 39th Expwy., Bethany, OK

Ding Asian Fusion is in a building which has housed a number of restaurants in the past few years. The current restaurant is not one that I think has a particular Route 66 theme, but in my opinion it is good Chinese food. Ding used to be a branch of Szechuan Bistro and now has been sold to an independent owner, but the food is much the same as it was originally. There are quite a few Szechuan style items that are more authentic than Americanized, but the spice level is American by default (you can ask for a higher spice level if you wish).

 

Birrieria Diaz–6700 N.W. 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK

Birrieria Diaz in Bethany

Birrieria Diaz at 6700 N.W. 39th Expwy, Bethany, OK

Birrieria Diaz has a Route 66 mural on its east wall, but otherwise seems like a normal neighborhood Mexican restaurant. It is unusual for the northside Oklahoma City neighborhoods, though, because of the fact that the food is very authentic. This is definitely one of the places I go because I like the food and not because it is on Route 66.

 

Stray Dog Cafe–6722 N.W. 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK

Stray Dog Cafe

Stray Dog Cafe in downtown Bethany

Stray Dog Cafe is best known for its breakfast and hot dogs, but it is open for dinner two nights a week (Fri. & Sat.) with specials not normally on the menu such as El Pollo Loco served with a ghost pepper mayo. Probably most people would be more interested in the very Route 66 style American food they usually serve.

 

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q–4000 N. Rockwell Ave., Bethany, OK

Swadley's in Bethany

Swadley’s BBQ located a half block south of Route 66

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q is actually located a half block south of Route 66 on Rockwell Avenue, but I think it is close enough to include in this article. The traffic signal for Highway 66 is visible in this photo just above the Mayflower moving van (with the green, yellow, and red sign). Some may have to take my word for it, but the highway is actually quite close. I think Swadley’s has the kind of food that fits the spirit of the highway–it is something we remember from the time of Route 66 (those of us who are old enough) and it seems just as good now as ever.

 

Jim’s Restaurant–7950 N.W. 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK

Jim's Restaurant

Jim’s, 7950 N.W. 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK

For years Jim’s was a diner which was open 24 hours, and now it is just open “late.” It is still a good place for those on a trip who want the food to be served quickly so they can get back on the road, yet to enjoy a relaxed moment while they are there. I think it is best known for its breakfasts, and I certainly think they do a good job with this.

 

Mae’s–505 E. Main St., Yukon, OK

Mae's in Yukon, OK

Mae’s, 505 E. Main, Yukon, OK

I would say Mae’s is more of a cafe than a diner since it has somewhat limited hours and is a little more upscale than the typical diner. I was impressed with the food (it is definitely not a greasy spoon type of place). Of special note is the apple streudl they serve for dessert, which is the most Czech-like dish I have found in this town which was largely founded by Czech immigrants.

 

Green Chile Kitchen–12 E. Main St., Yukon, OK

Green Chile Kitchen in Yukon

Green Chile Kitchen, 12 E. Main, Yukon, OK

Green Chile Kitchen is one of the newer restaurants on this list, and has brought Santa Fe style cuisine to an area which is sorely lacking in this type of food. Of course if you are continuing west on Route 66 you will be able to get the real thing (either on the older route which actually goes through Santa Fe or on the newer route which gives you access to the numerous restaurants in Albuquerque which serve this type of food). As a purist I thought part of the food here was as it is served in New Mexico and some was not quite at this level, but I enjoyed all of it.

 

Poquito de Mexico–422 W. Main St., Yukon, OK

Poquito de Mexico in downtown Yukon, OK

Poquito de Mexico, 422 W. Main, Yukon, OK

Poquito de Mexico gives a taste of another style of Mexican food that is near and dear to my taste buds–that of Tex-Mex. While I am not quite as wild about this food as I am of the New Mexican cuisine served at Green Chile Kitchen, I do think it is a better representation of Tex-Mex food than many similar restaurants in Oklahoma. It also has the pedigree of being there when this was the “real” Route 66 highway.

 

Johnnie’s Grill–301 S. Rock Island, El Reno, OK

Johnnie's in El Reno, OK

Johnnie’s, 301 S. Rock Island, El Reno, OK

Johnnie’s Grill has onion burgers that are so good that I have never been able to resist the temptation to go back instead of trying one of the other places in El Reno which are also reputed to be very good. It is also on the old Highway 66 which made a rather serpentine route through the heart of El Reno which I think was to bring traffic in front of as many businesses as possible. Now with less through traffic, though, Johnnie’s seems to be as popular as ever and serves the best onion burger I have found anywhere.

 

Hibachi Buffet–1231 E. Main St., Weatherford, OK

Hibachi Buffet in Weatherford, OK

Hibachi Buffet, 1231 E. Main St., Weatherford, OK

Hibachi Buffet is one of the newer restaurants on Route 66, and is one of the few that is also visible from Interstate 40 (with an exit close by). I think they have decent Chinese food, and I have enjoyed stopping here since it was at its old location in downtown Weatherford (then called Young China). I will take this opportunity to point out, though, that western Oklahoma is not lacking in restaurants along Route 66 that fit the “roadfood” theme, have been there since U.S. 66 was the main highway through town, and/or is marketing itself as a “Route 66” restaurant.

 

Bangkok–5901 E. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo, TX

Bangkok in Amarillo, TX

Bangkok, 5901 E. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo, TX

I know Bangkok Restaurant has been on this stretch of the old Route 66 in Amarillo for a number of years, but I do not know if it dates back to 1985 when U.S. 66 was decommissioned (my first visit to Bangkok was in 2005). In fact, I believe this is an example of redevelopment along the former highway once most of the traffic moved to Interstate 40. Now a neighborhood restaurant, Bangkok serves both the immigrant population from Southeast Asia who now live in Amarillo as well as the non-Asian population who just like good food at cheap prices (you get both of these at Bangkok). My favorite item so far is the chicken kaprao, but I can only make it back to Amarillo infrequently to try other dishes combined with the fact that there are several other good Asian restaurants nearby from which to choose (and I like them all).

 

Ly’s Cafe–5615 E. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo, TX

Ly's Cafe in Amarillo, TX

Ly’s Cafe, 5615 E. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo, TX

Ly’s Cafe is another good choice within the “Asian Strip” along Route 66 on the east side of Amarillo. This is a Lao restaurant which offers food served the traditional style (photos of traditional Lao food I have seen from California look the same as the food I got here). There are other restaurants along this strip from the 5600 to the 5900 block of E. Amarillo Blvd., but this is the only one I have found that is dedicated exclusively to food from Laos.

Route 66 at the Texas-Oklahoma Border

I believe that something almost as important as the meals I enjoy and write about are the journeys to get to these various places (and in some cases this really seems to be even more important).

One such journey which has interested me since the days of my youth is the iconic one along Route 66 (U.S. Highway 66) which was gradually replaced by Interstate 40. My family made frequent trips from Oklahoma City to New Mexico to visit relatives as well enjoy the cooler summer temperatures in the mountains, and as a result I witnessed much of the transformation of this roadway to the way it is at present.

The sections of Route 66 which still exist have become quite an attraction for tourists, as well as the entire experience of 1950’s and 1960’s era travel which a growing number of entrepreneurs are savvy enough to try to replicate for visitors today.

I can say with a high degree of certainty that the original sections of Route 66 which still exist are not there by design, but just happened to survive due to various circumstances. I found a couple of examples of this on a recent trip on Interstate 40 at the Texas-Oklahoma border. Through some old maps that I have as well as ones I found on the Internet I have developed somewhat of a timeline for the history of this section of Route 66, but I also have memories of it from traveling in my parents’ station wagon on many of our family trips.

 

Wheeler County, Texas Just West of the Oklahoma State line

From Exit 176 eastbound in Wheeler Co., TX into Texola, OK

South frontage road of I-40 at mile 176 in Wheeler Co, TX

South frontage road of I-40 at mile 176 in Wheeler Co, TX

When I saw this section of road I suspected immediately that it was an original segment of Route 66, and a check of the old maps has confirmed that this is the case. This particular section of road is accessible if you take the Texola exit from Interstate 40 eastbound at Exit 176 in Texas.

This was the original Route 66 from the 1930’s and 1940’s, and now seems far too narrow to have functioned as a two-lane high speed highway, although I know that this was the case. Probably the biggest difference in that time period had to do with the size and number of trucks operating on the highway, but even for cars this seems like a narrow road.

A 1961 map of Wheeler County from the Texas Highway Department shows that this had become the eastbound portion of a now 4-lane divided highway. It is interesting that they developed this portion of the road to a 4-lane version of Highway 66 while the Interstate highway is in development (and was open in 1972 for the entire length of Wheeler County except for the loop around the city of Shamrock which was under construction at that time).

What seemed to save this portion of the roadway was the fact that a Texas law said any property owner along a roadway (including US highways) could have access to the roadway. When limited access highways were developed, including Interstate highways, they had to build frontage roads to provide the property owners’ access mandated by state law. With Texas being an ever so frugal and conservative state, they decided that the existing roadway (the old Route 66) would make an excellent frontage road. In Shamrock, where the new Interstate highway bypassed the city, the old Highway 66 is still in its form as it was in the 1960’s (a four-lane divided highway) now known as Business Route 40.

 

Texola, Oklahoma

The farthest west town in Oklahoma along the old Route 66

Route 66 in Texola, OK

Route 66 in Texola, OK

According the the old highway maps which are available for download at the ODOT web site, this section of Route 66 in Oklahoma was widened to four lanes in 1958, and served as the main highway until 1976 when this section of Interstate 40 was completed. Much of the existing Route 66 in Oklahoma today is this same type of four-lane highway, particularly through cities and towns. Because the Interstate largely did not go through the center of towns in western Oklahoma, this left large portions of Route 66 intact and this is another very good place to explore the old road.

Businesses along Route 66 in Texola

Businesses along Route 66 in Texola

Texola has a few businesses along Route 66 which seem to cater mainly to tourists. I was there late in the day and probably after their closing time, but I did see a few cars parked in front (I think they probably get more business during the day).

Texola is a good example of much of the 1960’s version of Route 66, but the south frontage road of Interstate 40 in Wheeler County Texas was of great interest to me as being an original section of the highway from the 1940’s and earlier.

Current Day French Culture in Lafayette, LA

While growing up, my dad and uncle shared their household with my great grandmother from Belgium, giving our family a very strong link to the French culture. My dad’s generation had never attempted a serious study of French that I know about, and French conversation in the household consisted of a few phrases.

These stories, though, prompted an interest on my part to become at least a little familiar with this part of my family tradition. An obvious place of interest to me is Lafayette, the unofficial capital of French Acadiana where French families settled after they had been “kicked out” (I believe that is the technical term) of Nova Scotia and surrounding provinces by the British settlers during the “Great Expulsion” from 1755 to 1764. Some of these refugees found homes in the Thirteen Colonies, but a large number arrived as a group in 1765 in what was then the Spanish ruled colony of Louisiana. Because of their numbers, though, they and other French colonists preserved French as the predominant language of the area, and Louisiana fell back under French control shortly before the time it became the American “Louisiana Purchase” in 1803.

Remarkably, French remained the primary spoken language in Acadiana through at least the 1930’s and early 1940’s (the boundaries of Acadiana being based on the areas where French was spoken). When I visited in 2017 I can say that I really never heard any French spoken by the residents there. I was searching for it (such as listening to French radio stations, etc.), and I know it exists, but today this is not a French speaking area.

Through sources such as YouTube you can find videos of Cajun French, and it is obvious that the expert speakers are primarily of the older generation. In the short term the language has not died out because there is a diligent effort by much of the younger generation to keep it going. In the long term, though, it is hard to know what is going to happen.

This narrative is meant to give a background for some things you can see when you are in this beautiful and totally enchanting area.

Hotels along Pinhook Rd.

Hotels along Pinhook Rd.

An area that may at first look like downtown is the “commercial district” along Pinhook Rd. located just south of the historic city center. This area has a wide choice of hotels and is away from the Interstate traffic (Interstate 10 is about four miles to the north).

Rosa Parks Transportation Center

Rosa Parks Transportation Center

A good place to start an exploration of downtown Lafayette is at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center at Jefferson St. and Cypress St. To get here from Pinhook Rd. go east to the Evangeline Thruway where you turn north, turn left when you get to Jefferson Boulevard and go about four blocks until you see the large public parking area (parking is free). This is also the parking lot for Amtrak, Greyhound Bus, and several city and parish offices.

Entranceway to downtown

Entranceway to downtown

While headed west on Jefferson you will also notice this entrance sign to downtown Lafayette (this is the historic downtown area). This view is looking west from the parking lot shown in the last photo. The building at the left edge of the photo is Dat Dog, a casual restaurant that I went in to investigate, and found that it could be of interest to foodies (although I was not able to try it at that time).

Along Jefferson St.

Along Jefferson St.

Along Jefferson Street are some shops, restaurants, bars, etc. that could be of interest to visitors. Mainly I thought it was very visually appealing, and not typical of what you would see in a city’s downtown (just south of this area is the main part of downtown with more traffic, parking lots, etc.).

Dwyer's Cafe

Dwyer’s Cafe

I wasn’t there at the right time, but Dwyer’s Cafe (323 Jefferson St.) is known as the home of the “French Table” where people gather at 7:00 am to enjoy breakfast and speak French. Of course I think Dwyer’s also has good food (which I also was not able to try on this visit).

There is a YouTube video in French showing the group who meet at Dwyer’s as well as other efforts to promote the French Language: Louisiane 2010 – Parler français. The video caption says some of the people who come learned the language from their grandparents but did not know where or when they would have a chance to practice it today (and the meeting at Dwyer’s gives them the opportunity).

In fact, if you wish you can find a multitude of videos about Cajun French on YouTube. My big takeaway from visiting Lafayette, though, is that they speak English. If you want to practice your French you may have to seek out someone who can converse with you.

For those not interested in the language the Cajun food is reason enough to visit Lafayette (but I think there are opportunities to experience the language as well). Most of all, though, this is a very livable mid-sized city with plenty of food choices of all types, and it is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area.

This area of Louisiana certainly seems to rank with northern New Mexico as being one of the most unique cultural areas of the United States. One commonality of these two areas was the homogeneous language and cultural group each had that allowed their native language to survive, and which to some extent is present today.

My Restaurant Guide lists some restaurants I tried as well as ones that look good and would be on my list for future visits: Louisiana Restaurant Guide.

I want to be sure to mention Poche’s, in Breaux Bridge a few miles east of Lafayette, for excellent home style Cajun food.

“Lagniappe” (Additional Information Available on the Internet)
While Lafayette and the surrounding area may not always exude an obvious French culture in its day-to-day life, there is much to discover just below the surface, or simply by knowing where to look. An excellent source seems to be the Lafayette Travel web site, with links to events, attractions, food, and any other information that might be of interest to residents and visitors (I compliment them on the amount of information that is available on the site).

Outdoor concert series are often scheduled multiple times per week (with the most taking place during the best weather seasons of spring and fall or at the appropriate time of day for the musicians’ and audience comfort). Indoor concerts and dances are also available on a frequent basis.

Much of the local music is performed in Cajun French or has French roots, and this music has continued through the generations at dances and just about anywhere people got together for a social occasion or to have a good time. The Lafayette Travel web site seems to provide information about the easiest ways to find whatever musical event is going on.

Lafayette and all the surrounding cities celebrate their French roots through the local cuisine, and the Lafayette Travel site offers a multitude of suggestions. My experience is that a little bit of searching on web sites can result in very positive results in finding Cajun food or other types of local cuisine. In fact, even many people in New Orleans say the best Cajun food is not there, but in Acadiana.

The web site even has a list of places with a “French Table” where people can get together to practice French (and usually enjoy food at the same time). I was unable to find this list through the web site’s menu, but located it through a Google search which I will share:

French Tables (for Practicing French)

According to the list Dwyer’s Cafe has their meeting every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. This is only one of nine places currently listed in Lafayette which have a French Table, with others available in surrounding cities.

My Overview of All of This
I really have a couple of takeaways from visiting the area: (1) If you are interested in exploring any aspect of French culture in Louisiana it is easy to find with a little bit of searching, although it will definitely not be a situation where you will feel like you are in a foreign country and do not know the language, and (2) If you are coming primarily for Cajun food I think it will definitely be worth the trip–any cuisine is its best at the source, and I definitely found that to be true here.

Bangkok–Amarillo, TX

Bangkok Restaurant
5901 E. Amarillo Blvd.
Amarillo, TX
(806) 383-9008
Bangkok Restaurant

Bangkok Restaurant


Bangkok is one of several Southeast Asian restaurants along the old Route 66 in Amarillo that have become some of my favorite places to stop when I am passing through. I not only like the Thai and Lao food served at the multiple restaurants within a 5 or 6 block strip, but it seems that something will always be open late at night (Bangkok is open until 11:30 p.m.), and many of them are open holidays such as Christmas (I am not sure about Bangkok in this regard). I have not even come to the point that I have a favorite among these restaurants–I just know that I have had good meals at all of them.

My first visit to Bangkok was in about 2005, and it immediately impressed me with two things–the good food and the fact that there was no smoke. I do not know if in fact it is a non-smoking restaurant because in Amarillo each restaurant can make its own choice, but I just know that I have not experienced anyone smoking in my three visits there. If I am mistaken about their smoking policy I will say that the dining room is large enough that you could stay away from the smoke (if there is any). Probably the thing that would be of concern to most people, though, is the fact that it is cash only (they do not take checks or credit cards). The prices are so cheap, though, it makes me think this is how it could be at all restaurants if they stopped taking credit cards.

From the old and new menus I have picked up, I noticed that some new dishes have been added but there have been minimal price increases on the old ones. The “kaprao” dish I ordered in 2019 appears to be a little smaller than a similar “krapao” dish I had in 2009 (so perhaps they have reduced the portion size a little bit). I am not saying this to discourage anyone, but on the contrary I found that you still get good servings at very good prices. Plates are still very filling even if they are smaller than before (and I do not know if this is the case). In any case, you get a very good portion of rice with the plate, and this is not the case at all Thai restaurants.

Some Menu Items

Chicken kaprao

Chicken kaprao

Chicken Kaprao is a very flavorful and somewhat spicy dish that is so good it makes it hard to try anything else on the menu (I ordered the “krapao” on an earlier visit). Pad kra pao is actually the translation for holy basil, one of its main flavor components but one which was not mentioned on the menu. Instead, the following were mentioned or were items that I saw in the dish: green beans, Thai eggplant, and green, red, and orange chiles.

I should mention that the spice level you would like in the food is what you should order. The spice level is not adjusted for American tastes–the one here is the real deal.

They gave me some chiles on the side but I ended up not using them (this was my insurance in case the food was not spicy enough, but the extra spice was not necessary).

Chicken panang

Chicken panang

My dining companion ordered Chicken Panang, and we shared the dishes. I liked this because I got to sample one of Bangkok’s curry dishes and to be able to say that it was excellent as well.

Items from the “Old” Menu

Krapao

Krapao from the old menu

When I visited in 2009 I also ordered the chicken “Krapao” which visually looks a little different from the current dish but I believe it is the same thing. The chicken was ground (now I believe the pieces are a little larger). I noted that this one had eggplant, bamboo, and green beans (I believe the current one has the same ingredients). Both the old and new one had mushrooms. I did not notice the red and orange chiles in the old version but perhaps they were there. In any case, this was essentially the same dish with the rice served on a separate plate (rather than now when the main dish and rice are on the same plate).

From an even earlier visit I noted that the Chicken Soup was very good (I do not have photos of it). It came in a large bowl, almost big enough for a meal, (and comes in an even larger bowl if you want it). The broth was almost clear, with lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs mixed in for a flavorful base to the very good white meat chicken. Small mushrooms were the only vegetable included. I am not sure the amount of food in the smaller bowl would be enough to make a satisfying meal for the average person, but the flavor was more than satisfying (I ate it as an appetizer). The current menu lists both a chicken soup and chicken coconut soup (I believe the former is what I got).

My Appraisal
This is very much a home style restaurant where you feel that you are sharing a family’s meal. I also feel this way because of the absence of overly-sweet curries and things that some restaurants do to try to adjust their food to American tastes. Here you get a Thai taste, although they will of course adjust the spiciness level and anything else you need because of dietary restrictions, etc.

The thing that is difficult about the menu is that it lists items such as “chicken soup,” without telling you that this is a very complex chicken soup with Asian flavors which include lemongrass, etc. I have observed many customers come in who seem to be regulars, and know what dishes they like. I do not think there would be anything here that I do not like, but of course when I come to a place that cooks in the real Thai style I like to take advantage of it as much as possible. The kaprao dish is something I like to order here because I cannot find it at a lot of Thai restaurants, and certainly few dishes that are as good as the one here. Nevertheless, if you feel like getting something simple (such as chicken soup) I would say that if you are in the mood for it, it can be equally satisfying.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $
Hours: Closed Wed.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Cash only

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 11, 2019
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Chicken Kaprao, Panang Curry, Chicken Soup

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Thai Tea
MSG: N/A
Buffet: No
Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Kaprao
star 5 Panang Curry with Chicken
star 5 Chicken Soup

 

Menu (Jan. 2019):

 

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q–Bethany, OK

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q
4000 N. Rockwell Ave.
Bethany, OK
(405) 470-4343
Swadley's BBQ

Swadley’s in Bethany a half block south of Route 66


It seems that there are enough versions of barbecue in Oklahoma that one person can never try all of them, but a few restaurants have become particularly popular such as Swadley’s Bar-B-Q. With the original location in the west Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany, Swadley’s moved from NW 23rd & Council to NW 39th Expressway & Rockwell and has established several branches throughout the metro. It seems that the family’s 80 years of experience in the food industry is paying off (Swadley’s celebrated its 20 year anniversary as a restaurant in 2018).

I really dislike restaurants that answer “everything” when you ask “what is especially good here?” or “what is the restaurant’s specialty?”. The employees at Swadley’s told me “ribs,” and I would agree that this is usually the best item. I have found several varieties of meat that are worthy substitutes, though, and for most occasions I think I actually like them better. In this respect Swadley’s is among a handful of barbecue restaurants in the city that offer such a variety of good choices.

In need to make a couple of comments about Swadley’s at the outset. One is that I have found the quality to be inconsistent over the time I have been coming, and this is undoubtedly what has caused many reviewers and commenters to largely dismiss the barbecue here as not being representative of Oklahoma’s best. I will say that I understand this sentiment, but I have found the quality to be much more consistent in the last couple of years (as of this writing in 2019). Some of my friends and relatives from out of town have come here and found it outstanding, as have I. It still has some weak points, but I have not found inconsistent quality to be one of them on the last several visits.

Another major point is that the side dishes have always been a major factor in my desire to come here versus other choices that might be available. For a while this was inconsistent as well, although the Memorial Road restaurant seemed to keep the consistency while it was lacking at the Bethany location. Now, though, I consider this problem to be “fixed” as well, at least in my experience. No place is perfect, but it is always better to have an upward trajectory, as I believe this one has.

The Barbecue

Rib dinner

Small order of ribs

Swadley’s menu describes the Ribs as “Hand Rubbed Honey Rib Dinners,” and I thought the flavor was one of the best I had tried. Three types of sauce were available, but before applying any of them I tried the “eating the meat plain” test to see if the flavor was worthy of standing on its own, and it passed with flying colors. I thought it had just the right amount of smoke flavor, but it seems that everyone has their own preference, so this is just my opinion. The meat left a smoky aftertaste in my mouth after the meal was finished, but did not overwhelm the other flavors while I was eating the food.

The really important factor of the ribs, though, was the tenderness of the meat (and this is even more of a factor now that my teeth are no longer in the best shape). This is the one thing I most often find lacking in ribs, especially in other parts of the country (but sometimes even in Oklahoma). I would have to judge Swadley’s ribs as being just about perfect in every way, although this does not mean I could not find others (especially in Oklahoma) that are as good or better.

Ribs. sausage, and brisket

Three meat dinner with ribs, sausage, and brisket

Brisket is probably the next most popular item at Swadley’s. This meat is “24 Hour Sugar Cured” and while it is not meat that will fall apart when touched by a fork, it has the kind of barbecue flavor that would be expected in a good Oklahoma “Q” restaurant. The brisket, though, has shown the greatest variability of any item over the times I have tried it, ranging from moist to dry. This, along with the hot links, has been my biggest disappointment at Swadley’s.

One way to try different types of meat at Swadleys’s is by ordering the “2 Meat” or “3 Meat” dinners (as shown in the photo above). One surprise for me was that Swadley’s has excellent Turkey, which I tried on one of the plates. In this case I thought Swadley’s was better than most other BBQ restaurants that serve turkey. When ordering turkey I do not like too much smoky taste, and I thought Swadley’s was just right, as well as having very good meat.

Sausage was one of the choices on the 3 Meat dinner shown in the photo (and is barely visible under the ribs). This choice was not very exciting, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I prefer the sausage at the German and other specialty restaurants.

Sampler plate

Sampler plate with turkey, sausage, brisket, hot links, ribs, and pulled pork

Take out orders are quite popular at Swadley’s, and one that offers a large variety of meats is the sampler plate with six items (shown in the photo above). The Pulled Pork, which I tried for the first time with this order, was cooked well with burnt ends, and I thought was excellent. The turkey was as good as it had been the first time I tried it. The Hot Links seemed too spicy to me, and I thought were not as enjoyable as the sausage.

Pulled pork and chicken

Two meat plate with pulled pork and chicken

For a while I had a turkey fixation that seems to have kept me from trying the Chicken, but now the chicken is an almost constant part of any two or three meat dinner because of its excellent flavor.

Pulled Pork has become another one of my “top three” choices (along with chicken and ribs), although unlike the others I think it is really only good with the sauce.

I have not cared for the Sauce as much as at some other restaurants, but there are several varieties so most people can find something to their taste. I think some of the sauces are way too sweet, but the thick and juicy sauce is really pretty good. Best of all, though, is the fact that none of the sauces seem to contain MSG (and I have had enough experience with the sauces that I should know by now if they did).

They provide several types of pickles and other condiments to make sure you have the full Oklahoma barbecue experience.

Side Dishes
Swadley’s serves an array of side dishes which makes it difficult to try them all, and I think this is another of the restaurant’s best features. Baked Beans come in two styles– sweet or hot (I was told the hot one was really hot with jalapenos included, but it was not any spicier than most Mexican food). The sweet baked beans were initially sweet for my taste, but now it has become one of my “go to” side dishes (although I really think the ones at Billy Sims are better).

The Okra was extremely non-greasy compared to most versions, and I think is one of the best choices for a side dish (but it needs to be eaten right away and would not make a good take-home dish).

The Green Beans seemed bland to me at first but now have become a consistent favorite of mine (and bland is good compared to the things some restaurants do to their green beans).

The Potato Salad looks as if it is mostly mayonnaise, but it has a good blend of flavors that makes it better than it looks.

Corn on the Cob was cooked just right, and I thought was very good.

The Cole Slaw either comes with chunky pieces of cabbage and a very good dressing (this is something that I think has become more consistently good over the past ten years or so).

Other Items
The Iced Tea is especially good, with both sweetened and unsweetened available (at one time I saw that they used Luzianne–I do not know the current brand but it is still good).

The restaurant recently switched from Texas toast to a roll on the dinner plates. I liked the Texas toast better, but the current roll is still a good feature to help round out the meal.

Turkey sandwich

Turkey sandwich

The owner pointed out on one visit that sandwiches are popular at lunch, and this may be a way for people with a light appetite to enjoy the food here (the sampler plate and some other combination plates seem clearly designed for families rather than individuals).

Ice cream machine

Free ice cream is available from the machine

A free Ice Cream Cone machine is also available. Even though this type of ice cream from a machine is not the best, I really enjoy it as part of the tradition of eating at Swadley’s. My biggest complaint is that I always have to ask the staff which side of the machine is vanilla and which is chocolate (I like the vanilla).

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

Occasionally a person may prefer one of the regular desserts, such as chocolate or strawberry cake. Out of the two I think the chocolate is a little better, although both are good choice.

A Summary
Overall I think I like the meals here better than the individual parts of it, simply because there is so much selection and all of it is good. I don’t have proof of this, but it also seems that the servings are larger here than at other places (for the same amount of money). This is good Oklahoma barbecue, about which I really have no complaints.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Barbecue
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Additional Locations: 8317 S. Western Ave. (OKC), 2233 W. Memorial Rd. (OKC), 308 E. Hwy. 152 (Mustang), 1629 E. OK-66 (El Reno)

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 10, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken, Okra, Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Chocolate Cake

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pork Ribs
star 5 Pulled Pork
star 5 Chicken
star 5 Turkey
star 4 Brisket
star 4 Hot Links
star 4 Sausage
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Cole Slaw
star 5 Green Beans
star 5 Okra
star 5 Sweet Beans
star 4 Spicy Beans
star 4 Mac and Cheese
star 5 Chocolate Cake
star 5 Strawberry Cake

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 has been in operation since the summer of 2016, but in this time it has already gone through a transformation (and fortunately seems to have survived intact). It started out as the latest venture of Szechuan Bistro, a popular Chinese restaurant on Memorial Road near Edmond. It so happened, though, that while visiting Szechuan Bistro in 2018 I talked to the man who I learned was the “former” manager at Ding, and learned that their former satellite restaurant was now independent and had new owners. This put into perspective, though, a visit I made to Ding a short time earlier where Ding seemed to be in a parallel time line–most things were as I thought they should be, but certain details were “off” (such as the expressions on employees’ faces when I asked them questions about Szechuan Bistro thinking that this was still their parent restaurant).

I should point out that being an offshoot of Szechuan Bistro gave immediate credibility to the food here, and I was happy to have the same food in a different location. It was not exactly the same in the sense that Ding made the default spiciness at a lower level than the same dishes would be at Szechuan Bistro if you just ordered from the menu and did not specify a spice level. In addition there was a list of more authentic “whiteboard specials” from Szechuan Bistro that they eventually incorporated into the regular menu while Ding never offered them on either the menu or as a special.

Ding's interior

Ding’s comfortable dining room

Ding was more of a “fusion” concept, serving sushi and Thai fried rice (I do not know if these are still available). The menu items I saw at Ding in 2018 still looked much like the ones at Szechuan Bistro, with mostly Sichuan style dishes along with a few that are definitely more “safe” for some people (chow mein, moo goo gai pan, etc.). A synopsis of this is that the Ding menu of 2018 was still very similar to the Szechuan Bistro of two years previous, but in that time Szechuan Bistro has expanded their choices to include many items which used to be listed as whiteboard specials.

The ambiance at Ding follows Szechuan Bistro’s upscale concept, prices are good, and lunch specials come with soup and rice (the hot and sour soup here is definitely among the best in OKC). When I ate here in 2018 I still thought I was eating at a Szechuan Bistro restaurant, based on the flavor of the food. I think Ding has a good beginning which they are continuing with new owners and mangers, but it is essentially the same food.

Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce
I believe the main difference between Szechuan Bistro and Ding is that the latter has a more limited choice of items that I consider to have an authentic flavor. I used my past experience, though, to order the Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce from the lunch menu on my first visit to Ding.

Shredded pork in garlic sauce

Lunch portion of shredded pork in garlic sauce

This turned out to be a great choice for lunch although at the time garlic was not an issue (I have already determined that I do not want to book a dentist appointment after eating this dish). The sauce was very well balanced and not too sweet. The vegetables were crispy and flavorful, and overall this makes a great lunch for me.

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 in the adjacent city of Warr Acres). 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).

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung pao chicken

Lunch portion of kung pao chicken

The Kung Pao Chicken is another excellent choice, and has the authentic flavor without as much garlic (at least I think there is less garlic). The difference here is that it includes chunks of garlic that you can either choose to eat or not. The chicken is white meat, and there is a generous portion of celery and bell peppers, as well as red chiles. The sauce was very flavorful, but I think it was made more so by the fact that I asked for the dish to be made more spicy (the extra spice seemed to add a smoky flavor that made the sauce even more interesting in terms of flavor). The dish itself was not extremely spicy, but this is because I generally refrain from biting in to the red chiles.

I was a little disappointed in the number of peanuts that were included and the fact that it did not have any bamboo shoots, but overall I thought this was an excellent dish with a much better than average flavor. This dish was served after the ownership change at the restaurant, but the flavor seemed like the “old” Ding which was essentially the same as Szechuan Bistro (although less spicy).

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. So far I think the “new” Ding has continued the same food they have had from the beginning, so I continue to be happy that a very good Chinese choice can be found in the Bethany area.


RATING: 24

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

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 24, 2018
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine/ Iced Tea
MSG: Yes
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce
star 5 Kung Pao Chicken
star 5 Hot and Sour Soup

 

Menu (Dec. 2016):