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.
Is the term “for beginners” inherently insulting?
And I thought, “This is deli for beginners.”
The thing is, I don’t mean it as a pejorative. We’re in the middle of Oklahoma, after all. Not everybody (including, I should add, me) has been to Katz’s Deli in New York City. There are a lot of people around here whose deli experience begins at Subway and ends at the sliced-meat counter at Homeland.
Yet here, in this tiny restaurant, they’re baking their own bread and slicing up pastrami and corned beef and salami and making delicious little sandwiches. And people are lining up to get them.
You might assume it’s because the prices are low … and maybe you’re right. Most are less than $4, which is kind of ridiculous. As Peggy Carty (who owns the restaurant with her husband, David) told me, they probably should raise prices, but it’s hard to do that to people who depend on them for an affordable lunch.
But the price is only part of the draw. Someplace Else traffics in some classic and well-thought-out combinations.
Peggy suggested we try the hoagie ($3.95), served up hot. At the heart of it is a roll of sliced lunch meats. Ham, salami and capicolla with provolone cheese. Up top, shredded lettuce and tomato. And that’s all well and good, but the real draw is the river of diced pepperoncini peppers that gives the whole thing a subtle, tangy heat.
While the price is a little higher, the prime rib sandwich ($4.95) with a side of horseradish was definitely worth it. It’s not a mountain of meat, but I certainly didn’t feel cheated. The bite of the horseradish went well with the tender slices of beef and big ruffles of lettuce.
For those looking for more of a deli experience, the pastrami sandwich ($3.95), with mustard on rye, and the salami and provolone ($4.25) had the right balance of strong flavors and chewy texture. Part of that is from the breads, which have just enough tensile strength to hold the meat, but not enough to offer a good set of teeth much resistance.
Should the avocado and cream cheese sandwich ($4.55; get it with bacon — trust me) be categorized as a dessert? Maybe. It might not be as sweet as the cookies, but the creamy richness of the cheese and avocado and the chewy crunch of the bacon would be a great endnote to any meal.
That said, it’s hard to recommend leaving Someplace Else without a cookie. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, chocolate sugar ($.28 per small cookie; $.56 per large cookie): It’s hard to go wrong when everything tastes so right. My personal favorite is the s’mores bar ($.56). My eyes rolled so far back in my head on that one, people at the next table had to check I wasn’t having a seizure.
So, if “deli for beginners” is considered a bad thing, let me rephrase: Someplace Else is a good spot for those of us with adventurous palates to take our less-adventurous friends.
We’ll still get a good meal and, hopefully, they’ll find something that sparks their interest in bolder fare.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.