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.
5612 Northwest Expressway
What works: Inexpensive, but still tasty.
What needs work: The wait time, especially for to-go orders, is approaching unreasonable.
Tips: Albacore loin. For reals. You’ll thank me later.
It’s all the same fish. Can we agree on that?
There has been a sushi explosion — figurative, not literal — in Oklahoma City over the last decade. There are lots of places that will gladly roll strips of raw fish with strips of vegetables inside a blanket of rice and seaweed.
But nobody has fresh fish.
Nobody caught that tuna today at Tenkiller and brought it over to Oklahoma City for your nigiri. That salmon/shrimp/eel you’re eager to devour was frozen at some point. That happened.
And you know what? It’s fine.
We’re a lot better at freezing and defrosting things than we used to be. But if you think that the fish is superior from shop to shop, you’re mostly fooling yourself. The food may vary, depending on the skill and artistry of the chefs, but that’s true of any cuisine.
With that in mind, I invite you to consider a restaurant whose name does not inspire confidence in traditional Japanese cooking, but does the job, regardless: Shawn’s Sushi.
Shawn’s began its life as a parttime business run out of the Kolache Kitchen. So, yeah, Shawn’s Sushi is a big improvement over “Sushi at the Kolache Kitchen.” But the draw is still the same: pretty good sushi for a little cheaper than you’ll find it elsewhere.
The rolls are standard. The Tootsie ($4.50) is good. So is the Crazy Cajun ($11.99). There are several rolls with fried components, but lots of them are fresh and raw and tasty, the way Yojimbo, god of sushi, commands.
I’m never quite sure what the “standard” ingredients of a Philly roll ($4.95) are supposed to be, but cream cheese and salmon are always tasty, so it doesn’t really matter. At Shawn’s, the third component is asparagus, which makes me happy. No offense if you’re one of those who prefer cucumber in a Philly roll, but you’re wrong and you should feel bad about yourself.
Most of the rolls with lots of sauces on them blend together. Which is probably why I most enjoy the sushi that has the least amount of dressing: nigiri. And at Shawn’s, my favorites are mackerel ($4.50) and albacore loin ($5).
If you hate fish that tastes like fish, please don’t bother with mackerel. It’s salty and firm and it tastes like fish. Personally, I like fish, so I keep ordering it. The albacore loin is less pungent, but equally delicious. I think it has a slightly sweeter flavor than regular tuna
(although I’m happy eating both).
Shawn’s gyoza ($4.95) are tasty little dumplings, but nothing to write home about. (But writing and sending to my boss are OK.) They’re a little chewy, which is better than being so tender they fall apart.
The sushi is Shawn’s main draw, but they have another set of dishes I highly recommend: the house-made noodles. These are thick, delicious noodle dishes that are filling and perfect for that one person in the party who doesn’t like sushi. The best, in my estimation, is the teriyaki chicken noodle ($7.99).
If you’re looking for fancy, keep looking. Shawn’s Sushi sells sushi that tastes good, looks fine and costs a little less than competitors. Because the thing I value most in a sushi restaurant is their ability to serve me sushi. Everything else is window dressing.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.