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.
GoGo Sushi Express and Grill
1611 S. I-35 Service Road, Moore
What worked: delightful tempura and competent sushi
What needs work: removing the big-screen TVs from the walls
The Tip: affordable sushi and grilled dishes in a casual atmosphere
In summertime, the sidewalk outside GoGo Sushi is a miniature jungle. It’s covered by a profusion of exotic tropical potted plants.
Inside is a spacious dining room and long bar with stools. The theme is Asian modern, with black lacquer tables and chairs, red vinyl booths and little ceramic fish on the wall. Nestled in an upscale strip mall, it’s walking distance south from the Warren Theatre — and is perfect for a quick meal before or after the movies.
Helen Tran and her daughter Lisa Tran opened GoGo Sushi four years ago and they’ve built a loyal clientele.
“We have lunch specials for between $5 and $6,” Helen Tran said.
GoGo may sound like fast food, but it’s several paces ahead in terms of quality.
The dining experience is similar to most pleasant, if not fancy, area eateries. Large televisions mounted on the walls tuned to different channels were only mildly annoying. The TVs were muted and a radio was playing.
Staff and customers tend to be young, and the atmosphere is casually upbeat. A hipster at the stainless steel bar was snapping an iPhone photo of his elaborately prepared sushi boat combination platter ($8-$14).
There are plenty of other menu choices besides sashimi and nigiri. The tempura shrimp and vegetables appetizer ($5.95) included a perfect pair of onion rings. These were goldmedal-winning onion rings, perfect in their light crispness and mild Vidalia flavor. If all restaurant onion rings were as good as these, America would be a better place.
Bento boxes are the carefully prepared single-portion meals that Japanese homemakers send off with their children and spouses to school or office.
GoGo offers several such bento boxes, including teriyaki chicken ($8.25), Korean short ribs ($10.25) and grilled salmon ($9.25). They are served with four pieces of California roll sushi, house salad, tempura veggies, a scoop of fried or white rice and miso soup.
If it were up to me, there would be an outright ban on miso soup. To me, dried kelp and shaved bonito fish broth taste like soiled socks simmered in pond water. Unfortunately, GoGo allows no substitutions.
Hibachi scallops ($11.25), on the other hand, were expertly prepared and most delicious. The fat white shellfish had a swiftly seared crust with just a hint of soy sauce and sesame oil. They were juicy and tasted fresh from the deep blue sea. The noodle dishes all use thick udon and soba varieties. Stir-fried yaki chicken udon ($7.95) came with a generous mix of carrots, zucchini, mushroom and scallions.
As with most sushi emporiums, there’s a ton of rolls from which to choose; GoGo has more than 60. Helen Tran insisted that people really do order quail’s egg and tobiko (flying fish roe) rolls.
My sushi selection method is to go for the roll with the goofiest name. So if there’s a Creature from the Black Lagoon or Satan’s Barbie Doll roll, I’m in. I picked the Okie roll ($7.25), which is veggie bacon, salmon, cream cheese, jalapeño, freshwater eel and sesame seed. I like to think that the eel had been freshly noodled that morning from a creek in Gotebo.
Tran said she names rolls after her grandchildren. The Nathan roll ($8.25) is super white tuna, lemon juice, spicy mayo and green onion. Bella’s roll ($7.75) is the chimichanga of sushi. It’s a fried package of snow crab, avocado, cream cheese, masago (capelin roe), green onion and chili sauce.
Tran’s favorite roll should be served with Big & Rich playing in the background. It’s the Spicy Cowgirl ($14), which consists of tempura shrimp, avocado, smoked salmon, crab stick and spicy mayo.