Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
Winning big can be hungry, thirsty work. We scoured Oklahoma’s casinos for your best bets on sustenance whether you are on a winning streak, holding, folding, walking away, running, or just down to your last five bucks.
Fancy That Cafe
215 E. Main, Norman
What doesn’t: Usually, service is fine, but we counsel patience, as the staff is small.
The tip: Fancy That is known for its lunches, but don’t skip the brunch and dinner, too.
One recent Saturday morning, I was supposed to meet a journalist friend in downtown Norman at The Diner, a destination that’s been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” a Food Network show.
But alas, the line was out the door at the tiny, legendary restaurant, so we decided to pop in next door to Fancy That Cafe, Bakery and Catering, which added brunch and dinner to its popular lunch-only menu after it was purchased by executive chef Tom Slatt in late August 2010.
Slatt kept Fancy That favorites and added many bistro-style dishes, with all sauces and dishes made fresh with high-quality ingredients. Inside, the walls were painted in contemporary tones of deep red, dandelion yellow and cool gray, but the charming, mismatched chairs and tables from the previous owners stayed.
Our brunch that Saturday was a happy and exceedingly tasty accident. It was my first sojourn to Fancy That’s new brunch and hasn’t been my last.
I chose blackened salmon eggs Benedict ($10.95), two perfectly poached eggs perched on nicely spiced blackened salmon on toasted wheat ciabatta bread. Asparagus and house-made tomato-basil hollandaise sauce top the dish. Breakfast potatoes are served as a side on all brunch dishes.
Other Benedict choices include the barbecue brisket Benedict ($9.50) with slow-roasted brisket over Texas toast, poached eggs, braised mustard greens, house-made barbecue hollandaise sauce and crispy onions.
Slatt also serves up a more traditional Benedict ($8.75) with smoked ham over a toasted English muffin, baby spinach and a housemade lemon-scallion hollandaise sauce.
Food memories are made of these. The combinations I’ve tried are remarkable, and I couldn’t wait until I could go back again and try more of the brunch menu.
On my second visit, I ordered the Fancy breakfast burrito ($9.25), creamy scrambled eggs with bacon, potatoes and house-made green chili, cheese and chipotle sour cream tucked inside a flour tortilla. Again, I left with taste buds tingling and a desire to try more.
My dining companion tried the huevos rancheros ($8.75) with crispy corn tortillas topped with either scrambled or poached eggs, red chili sauce, avocado and Cheddar cheese. She wasn’t a big fan of the red chili sauce, which she deemed a bit too acidic.
Fancy That’s perennially favorite luncheon quiches are also served at brunch. Quiche Lorraine ($8.25) is a quiche with ham and cheese served with Gorgonzola cream. Quiche Florentine ($8.25) features spinach and cheese, also served with Gorgonzola cream.
There are no oatmeal, pancakes or waffle-type dishes at this time, although there are several tasty choices from the bakery always available, like cupcakes, generously sized brownies and lemon bars.
Slatt is in the process of applying to serve alcohol, and it would be nice to be able to have a mimosa or Bloody Mary with brunch, or a glass of wine with dinner.
Until then, brunch is served from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Slatt also added dinner service Wednesday through Saturday evenings with his seasonal menu changing about every three to four weeks.
Appetizers include a chilled Spanish gazpacho ($5); hot Dungeness crab and artichoke bruschetta on crostini with sweet onions ($9); and a grilled Italian sausage over Gorgonzola polenta with baby ’bella mushrooms and balsamic glaze ($7). Three salads include Bella’s chopped salad with diced eggs and Gorgonzola dressing ($5), a Caesar-style salad ($5) and a roasted Champagne beet salad with spiced pecans, goat cheese and mixed greens ($6).
Seasonal dinner entrées include rigatoni Bolognese ($13) made with ground beef, pork and veal, tomato and garlic ragout, tossed with rigatoni pasta, fresh heirloom tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.
Slatt’s well-priced Angus New York strip steak “au poivre” ($20) is a 10-ounce pepper-crusted strip steak with roasted garlic-whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus topped with a brandy-peppercorn sauce.
Fancy That was long a popular lunch-only restaurant, serving comfort food like poppy seed chicken casserole, grilled panini sandwiches, homemade soups, salads and quiches. Those items are still available, and customers can pick a regular entrée and two sides for $8.55 or an entrée with one side for $7.25. A trio of sides is $7.50.
It takes a skillful culinary hand to take an existing popular restaurant and evolve it to the next level. Slatt has done it — and well.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.