In 1993, my husband and I moved back to Edmond with two kids; when we had left Edmond in 1990, we only had one. We had just finished a short three-year stint in an historical home located in Lincoln Terrace, south of the State Capitol. I still miss that old home, but after having spent several years during my college days at the University of Central Oklahoma, had two children go through their entire primary and secondary education years here, and after having lived here now for a total of twenty-two married years, and a couple of “unmarried years” before that, I feel like my adopted home town is indeed Edmond, Oklahoma.
So, I feel invested in this town. And I feel proud of the special places and amenities it has to offer.
One of my favorite places I’ve been appreciating since it opened is Café 501, located on 5th street and Boulevard, just a little south and east of the downtown area. It’s pretty easy to remember how to get there; the address is the name of the place (501 S. Boulevard) and the phone number includes the name: (405) 359-0501. But I don’t like the restaurant just because I can remember where to go! I like the restaurant because I’m kind of a food snob. I worked in the institutional foodservice distribution business for seven years and visited a great many kitchens during that time. And, have looked at hundreds of menus. And, have had lots and lots of not-so-great meals in restaurants over the past twenty-five years. When I go to Café 501, however, I don’t worry about that.
After leaving Dan McGuinness in Edmond, Kelly and I knew we were heading north, but we didn’t really have a set plan. She suggested that I call Nancy at Cordero Farms. An answering machine greeted me, so we decided to just head north on I-35. Our other option was Alva, OK. By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided we needed to find a place to spend the night. Earlier in the day when Kelly mentioned we might go to Alva, I decided to call a sorority sister who lived there. I only mentioned that we might be going that direction and that I would call her if we decided to take that route. I added that I didn’t want her to hear that I’d been there and her be upset with me if I hadn’t called. I laughed; she simply said that she’d know if I showed up. Hmmm. It turns out she was not kidding. Kelly called the bed and breakfast that she’d heard so much about, and got us a room. One room…the only one available. After she made sure it was okay with me that we had to share a room AND a bed after only meeting a few hours earlier we committed to the reservation. I mean, we were in the middle of nowhere by this time. I could also tell from Kelly’s end of the conversation that we were being invited to the local restaurant for a late dinner.
If you do what I did and accidentally search for the Ludivine restaurant in Oklahoma City by typing “Ludivine dot com” into your browser, you’ll be met with a screen full of drop dead gorgeous, blond – um…nakedness. Evidently Ludivine Sagnier, the French actress, is famous for her nude acting scenes. And, still photos of these scenes are displayed on the front page of her website in case you needed to be convinced of her ability to pull off the roles into which she was cast. Certainly it’s not just to garner website attention and attract high internet traffic, right?
I’m sharing this uncomfortable detail of my personal life because the information could be valuable in case you wish to eat at a new restaurant in the Mid-Town OKC area and you might happen to do a search at your place of employment. And, if you’re already past that stage and you work for a state agency like I do, then you might also want to do what I did: Immediately call or write your information technology friend and let them know of your faux pas. Here’s a copy of my e-mail…
Dear [Name of IT friend]–
I was looking up Ludivine restaurant because I want to go eat there tonight. I typed in Ludivine dot com (rather than the correct ludivineokc dot com) and for a brief moment was flashed with naked women photos.
Eek! I’m just telling you this because I may have set off some kind of filter or monitoring system within the workplace internet software…
In case you’re wondering if I’ll be the next state employee on the 10:00 p.m. news, the answer is no. Evidently, my anxiety level was much higher than my friend’s and his response was basically, “This stuff happens. Thanks for the heads up.”
I’m saving my e-mail just in case.
Enough about me…let’s talk about Ludivine. The restaurant. In Oklahoma City.
The Red Dirt Chronicles has already covered the establishment in three ways: a) We gave a shout out to Peach Crest farms, one of their local suppliers; b) I wrote an article about why I’m crazy about the concept of the restaurant and featured a link to their YouTube video library educating the viewer about various aspects re: their growers or producers, their purchasing philosophy, etc; and, c) the fact that they are now open for business. This review will wrap our regular coverage of the restaurant and we’ll only go back if we do some specialty work such as an interview or collaborative event. Oops – still talking about “us” now…time to get down to business.
Ludivine, New Prairie Cuisine…A Review
The restaurant site and interior
Located on the corner of 7th and Hudson, Ludivine sits diagonally across from the new Federal Building in the Mid-Town area of Oklahoma City. The streets in the vicinity are not too busy and provide ample parallel parking. At night, the restaurant sign beacons you with its bright robin egg blue color and a scissortail flycatcher punctuating the logo.
Enter the restaurant and you are met with a smart décor stitched together with pewter-look delicate chandelier placements, commissioned paintings that will keep you glancing at them throughout your entire visit, and heavy dark wood tables juxtaposed against seating covered with moss-green and soft gray textiles. A color palette of burnished fulvous, deep brick-red, ebony, gray, accents of goldenrod and a knock-out indigo made my synapses start firing…astute choices indeed. My favorite tabletop item was not the flowers grown in the Shawnee area, although they’re close. Rather, I was especially drawn to the flatware design – the forks have a 45-degree angle at the base of their tines, so they lend a trendy finish to a comfortable, sharp context.
The kitchen is in full view and guests are given a choice of sitting at the surrounding counter to watch the cooking action, or sit at a table in the dining area. The only drawback to the dining area I could see is that they could use between two and four feet more floor space width. The wait staff and guests move fluidly enough, but can be seen jockeying for position to find their way, regardless of the engaging and friendly banter.
The bar has plenty of space for a comfortable hang out, or to meet and greet prior to a meal. I’m still mulling over the large stripe patterned curtain chosen for the south window in the bar, but I’d take out-of-town guests there in a heartbeat. Overall, even with the space constraints factored in, I give the space a solid “A.” And, I tip my hat to the person or team who sweated the details to bring it all together. Nice job, Ludivine. You won’t be redecorating your space for a good long while.
Food and drink
A server fully invested in the restaurant, as well as his role as our dinner guide greeted us. He mentioned we were “lucky tonight because they had Coq au Vin on the menu,” kept the chilled water coming and answered all our questions. I had my eighteen year-old daughter with me; she decided to order the lamb burger. I ordered the Coq au Vin. We held off on appetizers because there was a strong possibility of dessert in our future, and I ordered one of their house specialty cocktails to start the evening.
I chose this particular drink because I had watched a video demonstration on their Facebook page and decided the beverage needed further investigation. When my Bee Smashed Kneecaps (an adaptation of their Bee’s Knees cocktail) arrived, I was not disappointed. A mixture of Broker’s gin, lemon, lavender, and honey – shaken and strained, filled the glass. At the same time refreshing and bold, the finish of lavender filled my “exhale” after the first gulp. I had been concerned there would be too much honey or sweetness but this fear was put to rest immediately. It was a grown up drink and a dandy one at that. The Ludivine bar also gets a solid “A.”
The chilled water plus the assortment of breads was a nice filler between courses. My daughter appreciated the pumpkin bread. I liked the bacon crumble extra-chewy baguette.
Next came dinner. I’ve had several variations of Coq au Vin over the years, so I was curious about the Ludivine approach. They served their chicken quarter over whipped turnips, with a few Crowder peas, steamed turnip wedges and a small pickled okra spear, the Vin sauce pooling on all sides. My most important question was answered on the first bite: Yes, the chicken came before the Vin, and was not covered up by the reduction. There is a spectrum of “done” for cooked vegetables and I was surprised to find the turnip wedges at the front edge of that range. I thought they might have been slow roasted for some time. This was a good choice because with a roasted chicken in rich sauce, plus brown Crowder peas and whipped turnip bed tending to take on the Vin flavor, a difference is needed. The barely-done turnip wedges and the tender okra spear provided that difference. I’d like to see perhaps one more element of variety to set off the complete dish; perhaps kicking the whipped turnips for something that holds up better, or pooling less sauce. Still, this dish earns an “A-.”
We ordered a plate of four assorted desserts. I’m sure these rotate every evening, so I won’t dwell too much on the detail. I will say, however, that the chilled blueberry soup was one of my top picks for the evening. If that soup is available when you visit, order it. They serve their coffee French Press fashion and for that I was grateful. The blend of their beans was roasted one to two shades too dark and oily, with a slightly bitter finish. Perhaps an intentional choice to compliment the sweet palate of desserts, but I think a bit more mellow of a finish would sit better with the majority of those dining. Dessert, A; coffee; B.
Here are a few extra notes to finish off this particular review – I noticed there wasn’t a huge amount of noise coming out of the open kitchen. This is unusual and I wonder if intentional as well? For me, it was a pleasant surprise. They provide a recycled carry out container similar to a cardboard material you would see in egg cartons…another nice touch. And, although they weren’t initially taking reservations last week, they are now. A needed addition if they keep performing like they did for our visit.
In sum, from the moment we exited my car to the moment we left the building after our meal, I felt relaxed, well served, and well fed. My artistic side was nurtured by the interior design. And, I’m certain I will go back again and again. My next goal is to try some of their colder salads and check out the homemade noodles dressed with soft herb pesto.
An overall solid “A” visit. And, I feel good about sending you, your family or your business guests there any time you’d like to go. Enjoy!
Lovin’ the New Prairie Cuisine…Red Dirt Kelly
P.S. If you click here, you’ll get straight to the CORRECT website. Isn’t is nice that we took care of that little task for you?
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.