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.
3838 N. Lincoln Blvd.
What works: Tacos, burritos … you know, Mexican food.
What needs work: Not much. It does what it does.
Tips: Get queso for the tamales on the side. You may find you don't need all that sauce.
Let us converse for a moment about the glories of Mexican-style fast food.
No one is arguing that crispy tacos or bean burritos are the height of fine dining. No one claims that it is healthy or authentic or, frankly, looks very good. But we all eat it on occasion and we all sigh and think, “Oh, yeah. That’s the stuff.”
Lately, for me, “the stuff” comes from Taco Rico.
No one would blame you if, upon arriving at Taco Rico, you said aloud, “My dear, it seems as if some hooligans have defaced the sign on this Taco Bueno.”
Believe me, that feeling doesn’t go away once you’re inside, either. Taco Rico is clearly an old Taco Bueno, and the menu, while it differs a bit, can fill all of your Bueno-esque needs and more.
Crispy tacos, soft tacos, bean burritos are all standard and taste the way you’re expecting. If you enjoy the Muchaco, then I have no doubt you will equally admire Taco Rico’s Chamaco ($1.69-$2.39). It, too, has a fried shell filled with your choice of beef or chicken, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.
It is not particularly good for you.
It is one of my favorite things.
For something a little closer to tacqueria-style, they have barbacoa (shredded beef) and carne asada (seasoned steak) tacos ($1.59), which are served simply in a pair of small corn tortillas with diced onion and cilantro. Squeeze on a little lime and you’ll be in flavor country.
And then there’s the aptly, if not particularly appetizingly, named “wet burrito” ($4.39). It’s a burrito, filled with rice and steak.
It’s wet because it’s covered in queso. It also tastes pretty good, especially with sliced avocado, tomato and lettuce on the side.
There are plenty of combo meals to choose from, many with rice and beans on the side, or you can put together a piecemeal feast by just choosing your favorites.
Whatever you get, be sure to at least try the tamales ($1.49).
Again, I cannot say these are directly from Mexico, nor do I want to. Tamales are, by and large, pretty tasty, and these are no exception: moist, but not watery, corn meal surrounding a seasoned pork core.
They cover the whole mess in queso and chili sauce. It’s a thoroughly satisfying endeavor.
I like a frisée salad with organic heirloom tomatoes and an aged balsamic vinaigrette. I am over the moon when someone sets a plate of medium-rare prime rib-eye steak and garlic smashed potatoes with truffle butter in front of me.
But sometimes, if I’m being honest, I want to roll into a place like Taco Rico, with plastic silverware and napkin dispensers and a salsa bar. I want friendly people behind a counter to quickly make me a meal that isn’t fine dining and doesn’t aspire to be.
And when I bite into that taco or Chamaco or wet burrito, I will relax my shoulders, slide down a bit in my chair and sigh.
Because, man … that’s the stuff.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.