Triple D Day. It sounds heroic.
But actually, it’s just my attempt to eat lunch and dinner at two “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” (Triple D) restaurants while driving 1,500 miles through the Midwest in a single day.
Whadda ya think about splat?
The Diner was famous for its award-winning chili and a green chile sauce (yum!) but as I got close, I learned that the owner of the restaurant had died suddenly at age 56. Also, they closed at 2:00 p.m. and it was already 2:30.
Damn, the first Triple D location derailed! Where to lunch? I opened Yelp and the first place that came up was Matthew Kenney, a moderately-priced vegan restaurant with designer raw entrees and avocado-based desserts. Say what? I opted for this healthy oasis as The Diner owner’s unfortunate early departure lingered in my thoughts.
I got off the freeway in Oklahoma City (also known as “OKC”) and was shocked to see incredibly hip development around the restaurant. It reminded me of Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, or maybe my imagined version of the Vidal Sassoon Institute.
I thought it might be a mirage in the dessert. This vegan place had it all…and by that I mean:
An open kitchen layout…
While I downed an immunity shot of lemon, cayenne, garlic and ginger, I asked my waiter about the restaurant.
He said Matthew Kenney had locations in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. An important investor is a lawyer from OKC, and she required a hometown location that housed a restaurant, education courses and small retail store.
“Wow,” I thought. “Matthew Kenny is OKC’s gain.” One of the best kale salads I’ve had. The walnut peccadillo’s spicy richness was a new experience.
I don’t think I chose the best entree. I opted for green curry with kelp noodles which were good and spicy but not as knock-my-socks off as I was hoping for.
I recently learned this location is closed, I’m sorry to report. But if you’re in LA, Chicago or Miami and hankerin’ for healthy, give Matthew Kenney a shot.
Refueled and feeling awesome, I drove through an onslaught of rush hour traffic in Oklahoma City’s fading winter twilight. My trusty Nissan whizzed past darkly silhouetted office buildings, one of whose windows were brightly lit in the shape of a cross.
I drove and drove. Fearing I would make the same mistake with my second Triple D location, I called Avila’s to get their closing time. 8 p.m. My arrival time according to my iPhone? 7:45.
Dang! I rushed hundreds of miles, knowing every minute meant the difference between Triple D-light and Triple D-saster (yeah—I said it). I forwent pee breaks, and even called Avila’s again to make sure they took credit cards.
I pulled up just in time.
Talk about home cooking—this place is in the owner’s old house.
I spent the better part of my 3 hour drive agonizing which of Triple D’s three featured items I would get. Thank God, Avila’s made it easy for me.
I found the most genius thing in the world—a salsa pitcher. But what happens when you sink the pitcher?
I started off with the pozole, which was my favorite. Spicy as hell and brimming with fresh add-on goodies like chopped onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime.
Pozole is an Aztec stew made with maize hominy, a type of corn. Interestingly, Aztecs believed the Gods made man out of corn and in special religious ceremonies, they made this dish with human meat! After cannibalism was banned by the Spanish, natives switched to pork because of its similar taste.
About this time, an older man dining alone asked our waitress about the song playing on the restaurant’s sound system. The waitress had no clue, but being a Bossa Nova fan, I did (it was “Guantanamera“), so I looked it up on my phone and explained it to both of them. Interestingly, it’s kinda like a Cuban version of “The Girl from Ipanema” except it features a lady from Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo!). The singer mistakenly things the woman is in love with him because she brought him a carne asada sandwich. But alas, she puts him in the “friend zone.”
Finally, the combo came. The food didn’t taste that fresh, but to be fair, what can you expect on a Sunday night 5 minutes from closing? The beans were delicious (probably lots of lard) but a little too salty for me. The brisket gordita was awesome. The brisket added great texture and carnality. I thought it was pretty novel, but learned its pretty common amongst Dallas Mexican restaurants. The next time I’m in town, I’m going to explore it more.
Overall, Triple D Day was a triumphant success, even though it was different than expected. We landed on Omaha Beach, we liberated Paris….we ate lard-laden beans and organic raw cacoa nibs.
Only one question left to answer. What’s for breakfast?