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.
What works: Crowd-pleasing menu and service.
What needs work: I'd like en entrée of pretzels. But that's more my issue.
Tips: Go at night and get a drink. Hippy Juice tastes like smiles, but will knock you down.
“We wanted a place that felt comfortable,” he said. “The kind of place where we’d want to hang out.”
On that count, he’s succeeded.
Whether it’s a room full of couches, a seat at the bar or one of the tables and booths, Picasso is a nice spot to park your butt. And while comfort and service might draw in some customers, the food needs to be pretty good, too.
It is. I’m sorry, was I supposed to wait until the end and treat this like a cliffhanger? My mistake. Let’s try to mystery this thing up again.
Good appetizers are pretty essential at a restaurant where people linger. Heavy entrées are fine and all, but you need something to pick at. And there’s nothing I want to pick at more than the soft pretzel ($5). Tender dough, with just a little pull on the crust, lots of salt and that warm, soft center. The cheese for dipping is fine, but I really love the mustard: all spicy and sharp.
The ahi tuna appetizer ($10) is more substantial, but with a light Asian vinaigrette on top, it’s still easy on the stomach. And the risotto croquettes ($6) — deary me, but they can give a gentleman the vapors. Crunchy and creamy and, when paired with the tomato sauce, full of really wonderful flavor.
As much as I like the tuna appetizer, I’m even more taken with it as a sandwich ($10). Blackened ahi tuna on a bun, with thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers and a wasabi aioli. I tell my friends it’s on the menu because of me. My friends have responded by naming the sandwich “The Douche Bag.” But, seriously, it’s a great sandwich. Rather than lettuce and tomato, the carrot and cucumber complement the Asian flavors of the tuna and wasabi.
More fish? More fish. Fish and chips ($10), to be precise. It’s tilapia, instead of cod, and the batter is made with delicious Old Style beer. More to the point, it’s fried perfectly and served with a caper rémoulade, which, you have correctly guessed, is delicious.
If you’re looking for something a bit heavier, let me point you to the airline chicken ($13). It’s a seared, skin-on chicken breast (with a bit of the wing, for presentation) topped with bacon-blue cheese cream. It’s tender. It’s big on flavor. It’s the kind of thing you should order if you feel like you’ll be chopping wood or fighting Mothra.
right Margarita pizza
With a crowd? Get a pizza ($12). House-made dough and a nice selection of options. C’mon. A chorizo-jalapeño-onion pizza sounds pretty good. Search your heart. You know it to be true.
Vegetarian options are available, including quinoa tacos ($7) and vegetarian chili Frito pie ($9). I prefer the grilled cheese ($8), however, which is an ever-changing beast made with whatever cheeses are on hand for the cheese plate.
It’s easy to be at Picasso Cafe.
Too easy, really. One quick drink usually becomes a couple of hours of laughing and talking and ordering food I didn’t intend to get when I went in. But that’s a good thing, and it’s one of the many reasons I keep going back.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.
Photos by Mark Hancock