When in roam
The Local Bison serves Okie favorites with a twist
The Menhune features a rum-grilled pineapple, bacon, jalapeno jack cheese, and volcano aioli
The interior is cozy chic, with a bold splash of teal. A smattering of thick, wood-block tables bookend a formidable U-shaped bar. Energetic pop dance tunes bump in the background, while television sets flicker with the latest game. Coupled with a menu that features fried mac-n-cheese and beer battered onion rings, it would be easy to dismiss The Local Bison as a sports bar. But that would be underestimating the new kid on the Deco block.
Owners Tony and Emily Galvez have been in the restaurant and bar biz for dozens of years. The Local Bison is their brainchild, and now they’re ready to let it roam The Deco District.
Located directly across from H.A. Chapman Centennial Green, the restaurant is perfect for families with plenty on the menu for the kiddos. Chapman Green is slated to be a summertime hub, with movie nights and events, and The Local Bison will be stocking “picnic basket” to-go options for park-goers.
“We fell in love with this area,” Emily said. “Up until now, there really hasn’t been a lot of living downtown, but now with these apartments and there’s more foot traffic. We wanted to bring a neighborhood bar to the area.”
“And we set our prices so that people can come in three or four times a week, and not just once a month,” Tony said. “We want to be a place for those regulars.”
Though the name evokes a strong carnivore vibe, the owners and chef admit that their diets were more in line with the bison’s. The owners have been living vegetarian for several years, and their chef, Joey Guns, has been vegan or vegetarian for almost two decades. He has also been the sous chef at SMOKE. on Cherry Street for several years, and his prowess on the grill belies his preclusion of meat.
“This whole area is very vegan-friendly,” Emily said. “We’ve been calling it the vegan-friendly district. We do think it’s a huge movement, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. More people are moving toward a vegan lifestyle. And Joey’s vision for the non-meat options really fit our vision.”
The menu features Oklahoma favorites with a twist, while dishes like shrimp and jalapeno grits and fried green tomatoes give a charming wink to southern influence. But the first thing that caught my eye was the Okie Eggroll.
I sampled the Okie Eggroll because I’m a sucker for a southwest egg roll. And cheese fries. And fried green tomatoes. Comfort foods need not be fussy, and we need not be ashamed for letting ourselves indulge in what we love. The Local Bison’s menu speaks Okie fluently.
The menu is a menagerie of kickass sandwich and burger combos Guns has concocted in his free time, like some hobby-slash-superpower. Despite the owners’ veggie predilection, burgers abound at the Local Bison—starting with the low-key basic burg, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, American cheese, and Bison’s own aioli. It’s a perfect, unpretentious specimen, with a glossy bun, a manageable-sized patty, iceberg lettuce and tomato. This burger is the jumping-off point for more adventurous options like The Menhune, featuring a rum-grilled pineapple, bacon, jalapeno jack cheese, and volcano aioli. The Spicy PB&J steps it up with house-made peanut butter (!), raspberry serrano jam, bacon, and cream cheese. Of course, they have a bison-blend burger, topped with bacon jam, caramelized onion, brie cheese, and tomato.
The creativity spills over into their variety of flatbreads and sandwiches, and their coconut corn chowder soup, offered daily. Their priciest options are their entrees, topping out at $14. The shrimp and grits is a more traditional preparation, while their potato chip fried chicken is a more unique approach. The Local Bison’s potato chips are blended to a fine dust, which perfectly coats a juicy chicken thigh that’s been brined in a local brew.
The Local Bison’s menu is approachable, with dishes that are sure to strike a note with the delicate, sometimes picky Okie palate. The price point is also attractive, meaning that this can be a place to visit for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. The restaurant is great for families, but from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., bar rules apply—only folks ages 21 and up can enter. The bar is stocked with plenty of local beers on tap, creative cocktails, and a smattering of wine and bubbles.
Located at Fifth Street and Boston Avenue in the lower level of the Meridia building, The Local Bison is open every day for lunch starting at 11 a.m. and stays open late. The kitchen closes around 10 p.m., but the bar is one of the few in the area that keeps serving until midnight on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and open until 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.