When friends from out of town visit Oklahoma City, one of their first requests is a food tour of my favorite local restaurants. One of the stops that always makes my list is the R & J Lounge and Supper Club, simply because it is both unique within the city and consistently enjoyable.
Chef and owner Russ Johnson is a native of OKC. After honing his skills in Aspen and Denver, Johnson returned to Oklahoma to share his talents with his home state. In 2010, Johnson and then-partner Jonathon Stranger opened the original Ludivine location, and in 2014, the pair opened their second restaurant, R & J. While the concepts could not be more different, the attention to detail and meticulous planning for each is evident.
Before R & J opened, a year of research and development went into the menu, recipes and conceptualization of the decor in this stylish homage to a 1950s and ’60s supper club. Menus from decades past offered inspiration, and recipes passed down from previous generations bring an authenticity to a menu intended to be just as delicious as it is nostalgic.
One of my favorite dishes on the menu is the beef stroganoff, made using Johnson’s grandmother’s recipe. It’s classic family comfort food, with the quality you would expect from the chef behind Ludivine.
The menu offers a combination of true retro classics, along with some more modern elements. Hot plates include the trout amandine, steak frites and chicken fried steak. The pork and beans dish features braised wild boar shank over chili-style beans with cheddar crema. The three burgers range from classic to modern, and the three sandwiches offer chicken, beef, and pimiento cheese and bacon.
The cold buffet boasts salads, a lox plate, and even a relish tray featuring spicy cucumbers and feta, warm buttered olives and peppers, pimento cheese, artichoke dip and pickled collard greens.
No visit is complete without an order of the cocktail weiners. A small crock of little smokies in a sweet and tangy sauce sits atop a tealight to be eaten with cocktail picks. Homemade bacon is served with truffle and blue cheese.
The cocktail menu features an impressive variety of classic drinks, along with fabulously kitschy tiki creations. I usually start with an Aviation, then allow the bartender to offer up suggestions. In addition to plentiful choices, drinks prices are more than reasonable; even outside of the daily happy hour specials, few cocktails on the menu are over $10. Red, white and sparkling wine on tap and various beers round out the expansive list.
The interior of the cozy downstairs will make you want to tuck yourself into one of the comfy Naugahyde booths and enjoy a cocktail. At the same time, a carefully curated variety of music plays in the background, and the low-lights and flickering candles cast a subtle glow on the gold stripes alternating between flocked red on the walls. Upstairs offers additional seating when the weekend crowd fills the booths. A screened-in patio offers breezy al fresco dining, complete with heaters to ward off the cold. Private event space is available.