Greater Oklahoma City Chamber - OKC's Bricktown district is the place to eat, drink, play

OKC's Bricktown district is the place to eat, drink, play

Monday, September 8, 2014

by Greg Morago

Houston Chronicle

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - A gleaming new Aloft hotel looks down on Bricktown, the 40-block warehouse district that is this city's major downtown area attraction.

The gleaming Aloft with its hip WXYZ Bar isn't technically in Bricktown but in the adjacent Deep Deuce neighborhood, but you can't blame it for wanting to be part of the city's busy entertainment district. It's where it's happening in OKC.

Bricktown is home to the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, the Bricktown Canal (a wee waterway linking Bricktown attractions) and a 16-screen Harkins movie theater complex. Within walking distance of the Cox Convention Center and Chesapeake Energy Arena (the Oklahoma City Thunder's turf), the area also is where you'll find some of the city's hot bars and brewpubs, must-do restaurants, places to shop, and where most of the new hotel development is centered.

The area's about to get even hotter, too. According to the Oklahoman, the Steelyard development will bring 250 apartment units and a Hyatt Place Hotel with retail shopping to East Sheridan Avenue. At least three other hotels are being developed in east Bricktown, the newspaper reported.

Travel from Houston is easy: both Southwest and United have daily hops to the energy- and tech-friendly OKC.

We spent a long weekend in Bricktown recently, and here's what we saw:

Do

The 9,000-seat Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (2 S. Mickey Mantle) - home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Triple-A team of the Houston Astros - helped revitalize Bricktown when it opened in 1998. The stadium features a 7-foot bronze statue of Mickey Mantle, the baseball Hall of Famer who was born and raised in Oklahoma. During the seventh-inning stretch at Bricktown Ballpark, fans sing both "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the title tune from "Oklahoma!"

Meanwhile, located on the canal level at 200 S. Oklahoma, Red Pin Bowling Lounge offers several experiences in one venue: bar, restaurant and bowling alley in a hip setting. There's also a generous outdoor patio right on the water.

On the shopping front, Exhibit C (1 E. Sheridan), is Bricktown's newest art gallery. Owned by the Chickasaw Nation, the gallery is a handsome space showing Native American art with a retail shop offering books, jewelry, pottery and other crafts from Chickasaw artisans.

Eat

The Mantel Wine Bar & Bistro (201 E. Sheridan) is a small gem of a restaurant where you can get a great steak, cocktail and fine bottle of wine. The intimate eatery - not to be confused with its expansive neighbor, Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse - is a boutique experience, a place for romantic dining, expense account dinners and casual, elegant supper.

Skinny Slims (201 E. Main) is Bricktown's newest and perhaps most interesting bar. Sitting just below the Walnut Street Bridge, the tiny, 803-square-foot English pub is in a three-sided sliver building that was once a bunking shack for railroad workers. Skinny Slims is known for its beer selection and sports fans who have adopted it as their place to drink and watch games.

There are about a dozen Chileno's Mexican Restaurants in the greater Oklahoma City area, and Bricktown's outpost (15 E. California) is a decent place to feed that need for nachos and margaritas. The menu is enormous, covering all aspects of the Mexican food roster of fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales, seafood cocktails and grilled meats and seafood platters.

In a city with a proud stockyards history and a legendary steakhouse - Cattlemen's Steakhouse, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in OKC - a fancy-pants steakhouse might be unnecessary. Or wholly appropriate, which is the case of Mickey Mantle Steakhouse (7 Mickey Mantle) where the big boys wine and dine. Situated directly across from the ballpark, this is the place for giant lobsters, enormous steaks and big red wines. And outsize tariffs to boot, but the city's energy titans don't blink an eye.

Stay

Opened earlier this year, the 155-room Hilton Garden Inn (rates from $149) and the 100-room Homewood Suites (rates from $169) are two Hilton brands that share the same 11-story building in Bricktown (328 E. Sheridan). The unique dual-branded building on the eastern end of Sheridan, Bricktown's main thoroughfare, has rooms that overlook Chickasaw ballpark. Though each hotel has its own lounge and check in, they share elevators, pool, fitness center and business center. Both are within walking distance of all Bricktown attractions.

The Aloft debuted in April; it's an $18 million investment in the city's growing downtown district. With 134 rooms (including a 1,900-square-foot Celebrity Suite that fetches $1,500 a night; regular room rates from $179 per night), all of Bricktown's attractions are due south of the hotel, including the year-old Wsky Lounge, a very cool craft cocktail bar with live music (228 NE 2nd).