It was a Friday night in Norman, but Main Street was eerily quiet. The record store, the art gallery, even the bars were empty.
The barest of all buildings seemed to be the Opolis, 113 North Crawford. Inside, the few lightbulbs that dot the room shone down like atmospheric spotlights at notable points, such as the bar area or a table in the corner. The music of Alain Bashung reverberated across the music hall, those low notes rippling the water in my glass. I was told it’ll probably pick up later, when the bands start playing around 9 or so.
Looking for good bar-based vegan food is almost an impossible task in Oklahoma. Sure, I can find high-priced fusion-eats in just about any upscale food truck across the city, but what about, let’s say, a plate of nachos? It’s that promise of bar-based vegan food—and apparently really good bar-based vegan food—that brought me here to the Opolis and, God willing, it will be their bar-based vegan food that’ll keep me coming back.
The small menu—a small menu is all you need, I keep harping to people—is surprisingly confident in its abilities to satisfy and satiate those that reject carnal tastes of the flesh, animal or what have you. A collection of classic bar-food items, from hot wings to Frito chili pies, it seems like the kind of hearty foodstuffs that could turn your typical daily meat-eater into, at the very least, a once-a-week vegan.
As the Francophile tunes spun overhead, I put in for a half-order of the New Wave Nachos ($7.00) and, perhaps the most difficult meat-based item to mock, the Sloppy Veggie Joe ($8.00). Order in—number 4 was my ticket—I sat in the singularly lit corner, sipping a cup of black coffee as a sound-guy piddled around on-stage behind the large screen that advertised the Opolis’ upcoming shows and events.
A band called Flock of Pigs was coming up soon; even though I am officially too old for punk rock, I’m really into the deep cuts of these New Wave Nachos. Brought to my table from a dark and mysterious room in the back, blue organic tortilla chips are smothered and covered in both the house veggie chili and, if you ask nicely, vegan cheese. And, of course, onions, tomatoes and peppers—you can do what I did and sub out the sour cream with chopped avocado for a fresher kick.
Sharp as a razor, the tight sting from the heat of the nachos was right on. The crispy blue corn chips are always a nice touch, but the house veggie chili was a great relieving of the old meaty guard, with the vegan cheese a worthy fill-in. The mixture of spicy toppings stopped the world and melted temptingly with the chopped avocado. Like finding an out-of-print album from Decima Victima—which I am always looking for, by the way—this was classic New Wave with a Spanish tongue.
I’ll be truthful and admit that the intense waiting and wondering about a Sloppy Veggie Joe had me mostly nervous to sample it, though. When it was brought to me from the same sinister back room, it was plated with sides of home-made potato chips and a rather large house salad, an unexpected but mostly garnishable treat; the meatless Joe, bun open, non-meat exposed, was glistening from the light of the one solitary bulb hanging above it.
Moving the chips and salad aside, with the insides spilling out from the vegan bun, this devious sandwich featured the Opolis’ biting “vegan Joe blend”—whatever that magic mix is—served with a healthy stock of vegan mayo and, thank you, a few sliced pickles for a tart taste. I should’ve ordered one to take home and dine with the Serge Gainsbourg album I bought at Guestroom on my way home.
With a few other items I am very intent on trying someday and everyway—what’s this about a Loaded Budget Bowl, my penniless pockets ask—the Opolis proved itself to be so much more than just another rock and roll dive to a faded barely-there like me; it’s the perfect place to live fast, die young and, hopefully, leave a moderately healthy corpse. Cómpralo ya!