Aplate is placed with care in front of you. It’s a hand-thrown ceramic plate, pale blue with brown flecks, reminiscent of a robin’s egg.
“This is barbequed quail with grilled greens and parsnips. Enjoy.”
On this plate does indeed sit the component parts of the previous sentence (the barbequed quail, greens and parsnips all present) but what is also present is an intangible artistic quality. Calling it food almost feels like a misnomer when something is arranged on the plate with such skill and intention.
Welcome to Nonesuch, where every plate is a painting and every bowl an eye-opening experience into flavors old and new.
Some would call the aesthetic of Nonesuch’s interior spartan, minimalistic, pared down. With a single track light pointing down at the diner’s plate, the focus is clear. The food and flavors are the stars, not a fussy interior that distracts from the journey of the palate.
It’s no wonder that this 20-seat, 10-course culinary experience was named Bon Appetit magazine’s Best New Restaurant in 2018.
“For a long time, it didn’t feel real,” said Nonesuch Chef Jeremy Wolfe. “We went from having 20 to 30 people on a busy Friday night to 40 people a night, three months in advance.”
As for the dining experience at Nonesuch itself, not much has changed after the restaurant’s newfound fame. The chefs, Jeremy Wolfe and Colin Stringer, still create “modern Nordic cooking,” as discussed at length by Andrew Knowlton in his Bon Appetit profile of Nonesuch—a style defined by “hyper-local, often foraged ingredients and minimal but artful plating.”
The culinary team sources their ingredients only from their home state of Oklahoma, which helps sharpen their creativity. This creates a masterful experience for the person enjoying their ten courses throughout the tasting menu.
“The menu very much has to change with the seasons. So, it’s like ‘Okay, blueberries are gone,’ and you can spend the rest of the year thinking ‘What am I going to do with that in the next year?’” Jeremy said.
Another aspect of the Nonesuch dining philosophy is to not prime the people dining with what they will experience so they can “figure out the surprise for themselves,” to quote Chef Jeremy. People aren’t told what notes or flavors they “should” be experiencing. In fact, diners don’t receive the menu for their meal until the end, allowing them to go into the moment with as few preconceived notions as possible.
“Don’t go to Nonesuch if you just want to sleepwalk into another expensive restaurant,” said Nonesuch fan and Oklahoma City resident Joshua Reid. “The restaurant experience forces you to the present and commands you to forget any other meal you’ve ever had. It slaps you in the face, Old Testament style and reminds you what cooking is all about. It is a fine art; a craft finely honed over to deliver a one-of-a-kind sensory experience.”
The intentionality of the entire experience also helps anchor guests as soon as they set foot in the restaurant. First, reservations are done in advance and online, with payment collected at the time of reservation. Guests never have to worry about their wallet whenever they come into the restaurant to enjoy their meal. There’s no dress code, either. The space is designed to encourage people to come as they are, pretension checked at the door.
“We want it to be very casual. Come in here, wear shorts, wear a t-shirt. Everything is already paid for, so you just sit down and hang out with us for an hour and a half, or however long it takes you. We just appreciate you being here, thanks for taking time out of your life to choose to dine with us,” Jeremy said.
“We want it to be very casual. Come in here, wear shorts, wear a t-shirt. Everything is already paid for, so you just sit down and hang out with us for an hour and a half, or however long it takes you. We just appreciate you being here, thanks for taking time out of your life to choose to dine with us.”Jeremy WolfeNonesuch Chef
The Nonesuch team’s dining philosophy of authenticity seeps through every choice made for the space, especially when it comes to building a food-centric community. The food, of course, has to be incredible, but they want to offer diners (whether they drove 5 minutes or 500 miles) something more.
“I think what we really are fortunate to be able to do is use food as a connection to those people. And to build these person-to-person memories for these guests that come in,” Kyle said.
“I think what we really are fortunate to be able to do is use food as a connection to those people. And to build these person-to-person memories for these guests that come in.”Kyle KernNonesuch General Manager
That’s why there isn’t a major distinction between the kitchen and the dining room, or why there aren’t separate tables around the space. That sense of inclusion encourages people to use food as an anchor point to grow closer together. To the point where the chef team at Nonesuch frequently gives their own recipes away when asked about a recipe from the evening’s menu.
The people at Nonesuch are also a huge factor in why this restaurant continues to make waves in the dining world. Samantha McIntosh, another Nonesuch fan, said that one of her favorite parts of her time at the restaurant was the sense of community. “The people next to us were really friendly, so that night was a really fun communal experience,” she said. “I’m going back for my birthday in a few weeks and can’t wait.”
And the team at Nonesuch is constantly taking their dining experience and community building to the next level, like they did for their dining experience Foraged Spaces.
On May 11, 2019, 18 regular Nonesuch guests piled into line cook Dr. Peter Glatz’s converted school bus—affectionately dubbed the Bertha Bus—for an evening of food, adventure and exploring Oklahoma City. Almost every course of the meal was held at a different restaurant or venue across the city (six in total), which had Nonesuch staff throughout.
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last night we escorted 18 guests in a giant hippie bus to some of our favorite spots in the city and cooked dishes for them. it was one of the most fun and ambitious things our little team has ever pulled off and we can’t wait to do it again. thanks to everyone who entrusted us to an adventure! #nonesuchokc
By the end of the night, former strangers emerged as 18 friends. Both Kyle and Jeremy expressed doubts that it would work, wondering if people would try to Uber home early—but no one did. There was even a moment on the bus when a couple of guests broke out a bottle of whiskey out of nowhere, and everyone started sharing it. For the team at Nonesuch, that’s what food is all about.
“This is why we do these things: to create those bonds. Not just between us and the guests, but the guests and each other. A really unique experience that a lot of other restaurants don’t have,” Kyle said.
“This is what this is all about. This is why we do these things: to create those bonds. Not just between us and the guests, but the guests and each other. A really unique experience that a lot of other restaurants don’t have.”Kyle KernNonesuch General Manager
People come for the globally recognized cuisine, but what makes them come back is for the authenticity they encounter, as well as the relationships they made along the way. Perhaps what’s most striking about people’s willingness to not just try a tasting menu in places like Nonesuch, but around the world.
Food will forever be a constant in the lives of humanity. However, most of the time, it’s just treated as “fuel,” propelling people from one email to the next. Nonesuch and other dining experiences like it make food the star of the show and transform the community into the robust supporting cast. In a world where it is so difficult to pause and take a second, Nonesuch challenges us to take our time and enjoy—enjoy the food and the people we share it with. What makes a dining experience truly life-changing isn’t the number of likes you receive on an Instagram photo of your meal, but the shared experience and memories you savor for years to come.
Header image © Choate House for Nonesuch, second image © Joey Rubin for Nonesuch, third image © Josh H. for Nonesuch, fourth image ©Joey Rubin for Nonesuch.