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Sedalia's in Oklahoma City listed among best new restaurants in the nation

A light blue building with a red sign that says Sedalia's in script. A blue bench faces the door.
Graycen Wheeler
Sedalia's is located near NW 10th St and May Ave in Oklahoma City.

Just north of the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, a light blue building no bigger than a house beckons with smells of woodfire and seafood.

That building is home to Sedalia’s Oyster & Seafood, which Bon Appétit just listed among the nation’s 24 best new restaurants of 2023. It’s Oklahoma City’s third restaurant to make that list in the past six years, after Nonesuch in 2018 and Ma Der Lao Kitchen in 2022.

Chef and co-owner Zak Walters says those three restaurants have something in common — they took risks to fill culinary niches.

“Ma Der is a Laotian restaurant inside of this market, where the city didn't even realize they had Laotians inside of it,” Walters said. “And so that's a bold idea — we're a 100% seafood restaurant right next to the fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.”

Walters said he and his wife/co-restaurateur Silvana are happy to run Sedalia’s in a neighborhood his family has worked in for decades. The restaurant is on the same lot as Walters’s family’s playground equipment business.

“Look at the restaurant as more of a community center and where things happen as opposed to just a place to go get something to eat,” Walters said.

The restaurant uses local produce when it can. That means a menu item might only stick around for the few weeks its ingredients are in season here.

Three men wearing aprons and brown baseball caps work in a small restaurant kitchen. On a butcher block counter sit wine bottles, baskets of lemons and oranges, a crate of something green and glass plates.
Graycen Wheeler
Chef Zak Walters (center) works with Sous Chef Amaru Loetz and staff member Pedro in the Sedalia's kitchen.

Of course, the more aquatic fare travels from farther away. Bon Appétit wrote that Sedalia’s raw bar “rivals those on either coast.” Walters credits the methods Sedalia’s staff use to store and prepare their seafood.

“As crazy as this is going to sound, the worst enemy for an oyster is ice,” Walters said. “If you take those oysters out, and you put them in a walk-in, and you throw a bunch of ice on top of them to keep them as cold as absolutely possible, all you're doing is killing them.”

But if you keep them just cool enough and let them snuggle up with each other, Walters said, they’ll keep on living deliciously for a while.

The way Walters talks about keeping oysters fresh is strikingly similar to how he talks about the restaurant — it’ll die if it’s frozen in place. The menu and the wine list need to keep growing and changing.

“That's what keeps things humming,” he said. “That's what keeps it alive. When new places are dictated by one thing over and over and over again, it loses its life.”

Walters says Sedalia’s ever-evolving seafood menu might not be for everybody, and that’s perfectly okay.

The bulk of the menu is going to be things that might put you out of your comfort zone, but that should be exciting,” he said. “This should be an experience for people to come in and kind of get pushed out of their comfort zone a little bit.”

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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