Saturday, January 5, 2013

Edmond: Great Food and Art, Oklahoma-Style

Over the holidays we made a trip to visit family in Edmond, Oklahoma. Aside from yours truly coming down with a nasty sinus/respiratory infection we had a great time. Now, I am the first to admit I have an iffy relationship with terrain so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days. I'm a diehard trees-and-mountains person, even though I spent all but five of my growing-up years on the wide open prairie. And Edmond, a small community just northeast of Oklahoma City, flat. (At least, compared to the mountains of Georgia, my own state. But Edmond does have some very gently rolling hills, I do admit.)

However, this part of Oklahoma has the most awesome, dramatic skies, particularly sunsets, which inspire many a landscape artist. The unobstructed views of phenomenal cloud formations in shades of  red, orange, purple and gold is almost heart-stopping. The people there are warm, friendly and fiercely proud of their western culture and history. Edmond is a microcosm of all the best the state has to offer, IMHO.

On this trip I learned there is a side of Edmond I hadn't known existed: it's home to some of the best restaurant food I've ever tasted. Edmond has no shortage of good places to eat, but two in particular rate my Five Thumbs Up.

The first is Italian Jim's, a fascinating blend of outstanding Italian fare with -- of all things -- an adjacent glass blowing studio. Situated in Edmond's charming, pedestrian friendly downtown, the restaurant's patrons enter the dining room by walking past a dazzling display of owner Chris McGahan's blown glass pieces. (Move over, Dale Chihuly!) Once seated, they can savor mouthwatering pizza and other Italian dishes, then watch more exquisite fine art glass being created in the working studio adjoining the restaurant. It's hard to say which is turned out more skillfully or beautifully: the food or the glass! I had ordered a portabello mushroom dish with a sauce so good it actually tempted me to lick my plate in public. One of my brothers ordered a pizza to go in addition to his meal. He graciously offered the rest of us a sample when it was brought to the table with the check. The pizza never made it to the car, it was that good. (Sorry, bro. We owe you one.)

Edmond's downtown had been turned into a wonderland of holiday fairy lights at the time of our visit. It was truly magical to see at night; daytime visitors at any time of the year will spot dozens of permanent public sculptures all along its streets and tucked away in less obvious places. Edmond may be small but it's mighty serious when it comes to its culture and art.  

While you won't find art treasures at Johnny's Charbroil, another Edmond discovery, you will find hamburgers and onion rings to die for. (The locals simply call it "Johnny's.") The decor at their West Danforth Rd. location is spartan but that's the only thing that's spartan in this place. The hamburgers are so huge, flavorful and juicy you'll go through a dozen napkins eating one. The burger I ordered was piled about 5 inches high with delicious meat, slabs of fresh tomato, crisp lettuce, tangy pickles and dripping with cheese. And their onion rings! OMG, I used to think the world famous onion rings at Atlanta's Varsity were tops until I tried Johnny's. Johnny's onion rings are sublime. You can order them as a side or by the bag. I can see why the latter is so popular. The batter is tempura-light and the onion rings within are perfectly fried to the color of a palomino. They are melt in your mouth decadent. You could stuff yourself silly on the onion rings alone but with a burger, it's a meal Guy Fieri would drive on a flat tire for.

Yep, the trip to Edmond was great. Wonderful family, fine food and beautiful art......what more could one possibly want? If you're ever in Oklahoma, check Edmond out. It's chock full of nice surprises!