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.
1133 N.W. 25th
What works: You get fresh and authentic dishes.
What needs work: The curry dishes lack the “wow” factor.
Tip: Don't wait for your server to take your payment; do that at the front cash register.
The rolls are a surprisingly hearty start to a broth or noodle-based meal. The shrimp is incredibly fresh and plump, packed with a clean and semisweet taste. It’s almost coastal good.
If you want a little something to warm you up, try the hot-and-sour soup ($1.75), which comes with crisps to contrast textures. It’s thicker than most hot-and-sours and boasts a meaty flavor from the mushrooms floating around in the chicken broth base. It’s not a huge portion, but for the price and abundant menu options, you don’t want to fill up on appetizers before the main event.
The dish that will keep me coming back is the bun tom nuong ($6.95). This is one of the most traditional Vietnamese dishes — a vermicelli bowl — and packed with flavor and pretty healthy for you.
The perfectly seasoned and grilled shrimp rests on a bed of vermicelli (a noodle that resembles a thick spaghetti noodle), and is garnished with freshly chopped green onions, julienne-sliced carrots and cucumber, finely chopped peanuts and just a sprig of parsley. Once again: the shrimp! I don’t know where Mr. Pho gets them, but I don’t care; they are tender, juicy and flavorful.
The dish comes with a large ramekin of a house-made special sauce to be poured over the meal. It’s a Sriracha-, vinegar- and fish saucebased blend that brings together all the dish’s flavors in something that won’t let your taste buds down.
If you’re at Mr. Pho, it’s assumed you like pho. If you are on the fence about pho, you should try theirs. If you do like pho, welcome home.
The tái chín ($5.50 for small) pho bowl contains slices of rare steak and brisket and is the perfect treat on a rainy day. The rich broth packs a punch all on its own. When it’s combined with the fresh green onions, noodles, as well as the boat of jalapeños, sprouts and lime, the seemingly normal bowl of pho transforms into a contender for one of the city’s best.
The small bowl is plenty if you’re at lunch or a light eater. However, if you’ve saved all your eating power in a day for this one meal, you’ve the option of a large for $5.95 or extra large for $6.95.
With the rather expansive menu of lo meins to noodle soups, there’s a little something for everyone. You can get a vegetarian-friendly tofu with vegetables in a brown sauce ($8.95) to a combination stir-fried egg noodles ($9.25) that come with shrimp, barbecue pork, chicken and mixed vegetables.
The spot is busy, but you’d never feel it in the service. A smile always greets you, your drinks stay full, and your food is served fast. They take care of you at Mr. Pho.
Don’t forget to grab your fortune cookie on the way out the door!
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.