THE NBA MAY
have lost its Sonic boom, but it’s gained a more natural rumble. Following a lawsuit between the SuperSonics organization and its former host city, Seattle, the team’s owners moved the franchise to Oklahoma City starting with the current 2008-’09 season. But the franchise didn’t just change cities: It changed its identity. Now called the Thunder, the team gives Oklahoma City a permanent presence in the NBA.
In case you find yourself here come game day, check out our poll of the city’s biggest boosters -- its residents -- on the best spots to eat at before and after the game as well as where, besides courtside, to cheer on the mighty Thunder. Since no one can live by basketball alone (okay, some can, but quite frankly, missing out on other Oklahoma City attractions would be a crime against fun and culture and steak), we also asked in-the-know residents for their locals-only knowledge of some of the city’s other must-see spots. -- Jenna Schnuer
JULIA KIRT | Executive director, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition
Watch the game from the comfort of your bar stool …
“The newest, coolest restaurant is IGUANA MEXICAN GRILL
,” Kirt says. “They have a really [great] bar with flat-screen TVs.” Her favorite drink at Iguana: the swirl. For something a little more down and dirty, head to the COCK O’ THE WALK
. “It’s a dive with cheap beer and good veggie burgers. And it has really big TVs and pool tables.” Sounds like our kind of bar.
JIM TOLBERT | Owner, Full Circle Bookstore
You should never start your day without a good breakfast …
is a French bistro that is noted more for its evening meals, but it does great breakfasts. I usually get an egg-white omelet,” Tolbert says. But when he’s ready for a bigger weekend breakfast, he heads to CLASSEN GRILL
. “It has been a breakfast place in Oklahoma City for 30 years,” he says. “It’s loud and busy and has wonderful hash browns.”
LINDA CAVANAUGH | Anchor for NBC affiliate KFOR-TV
Work in some shopping …
“I would go to ROUTE 66
, which carries all kinds of unique handmade things. Some are from Oklahoma and some are from around the nation, but you will not find [any of it] in a department store. Down in the Stockyards City, if you’re wanting Western, LANGSTON’S
is it. ”
AVIS SCARAMUCCI | Owner, Nonna’s Euro-American Ristorante and Bar
Eat up and rally away …
While news anchor Linda Cavanaugh immediately suggested NONNA’S
as the perfect pregame place to eat at (especially if you’re in the mood for some of owner Avis Scaramucci’s supertasty hydroponically grown vegetables), Scaramucci says her BRICKTOWN
restaurant neighbors also offer some seriously good chow: “[Bricktown is] kind of the backdrop for the Ford Center, where all the NBA games are played. It’s a seven-minute walk, max,” she says. For steaks, MICKEY MANTLE’S
“is a fun place to go. They have the best battered and fried mushrooms I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
DICK STUBBS | Owner, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
Learn about the team’s new home city and state …
“The NATIONAL COWBOY & WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM
, known locally as ‘the Cowboy Museum,’ is truly something,” Stubbs says. “[In addition to great art,] it has things on military history, the rodeo industry, and the movie industry.”
LYN ADAMS | Executive director, Oklahoma Children’s Theatre
Keep your kids busy until tip-off with a day of family fun …
Adams says that kiddos will eat up the atmosphere at CHELINO’S, a Mexican restaurant that features “a mariachi band and, quite often, a balloon-animal clown. People with children are never shuffled off to the corner. It’s loud and exciting and fun for the kids.” Afterward, Adams suggests, walk to the south end of the BRICKTOWN CANAL to see the CENTENNIAL LAND RUN MONUMENT, a still-in-the-works bronze sculpture that gives kids a frozen-in-time look at homesteaders on the way to make their claims.
GENA TIMBERMAN | Executive director, Native American Cultural & Educational Authority
Use Oklahoma City as a window to the state’s Native American history …
Timberman says one of the best places to explore the city’s American Indian and cowboy roots is the OKLAHOMA STATE CAPITOL. “It’s a really unsuspecting and interesting place to see art from all different aspects of our culture,” she says. Her favorite piece: Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen’s painting Flight of Spirit, which depicts five Native American ballet dancers from Oklahoma against a backdrop of the Trail of Tears.
MICK CORNETT | Mayor
Watch with the locals (and make sure the mayor is staying on his diet) …
“There’s one [place to watch games on the small screen] that’s a cut above all the others. It’s a chain: BUFFALO WILD WINGS,” Cornett says. “They’re the official watching place of the team. On weekends, it’s where I watch the NFL games.” But don’t expect to see the mayor chowing down on a pile of blue-cheese-drenched deep-fried wings. Since putting the city on a diet (www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com), his game-day meal of choice is the blackened-chicken Caesar salad. “Everybody’s looking over my shoulder to see what’s on my plate,” he says.
JOHN D. WILLIAMS | General manager, Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City
Walk off the hot dogs you ate at the game …
As a hotel general manager, Williams has lived in 10 different cities over the last 30 years. He says Oklahoma City has, by far, the friendliest people he’s ever come across. Stroll amongst them as you wander along the OKLAHOMA RIVER. “We have a brand new boathouse [CHESAPEAKE BOATHOUSE] down there on the river, and three more boathouses are in the beyond-the-planning stages,” says Williams.