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.
Cous Cous Cafe
6165 N. May
What works: big flavors, quality food, low prices
What needs work: better information about their desserts
Tips: The parking lot is small, so carpool.
It’s hard to find a bad gyro. Some have more or less meat. Some have feta cheese. But most are just the same.
Not at Cous Cous Cafe. In fact, they do lots of things differently at Cous Cous Cafe, and that’s why you should plan to eat there soon.
Let’s start with the gyro sandwich ($5.25). Two things occurred to me as I took my first bites:
1. There wasn’t any tzatziki sauce.
2. I didn’t care.
There was sauce, it turned out, a little farther into the sandwich, but the meat was so moist and flavorful, I was glad to eat it without. That’s because Cous Cous Cafe uses a different kind of gyro than most restaurants — one that meets halal standards. I could taste the difference.
The meat is also cut into thicker chunks than you’d usually find, which gives the sandwich a more substantial feel.
I also had the chicken shawarma sandwich ($5.25), which takes seasoned chicken roasted on a spit and carved into pieces, and wraps it up with sauce in a pita. Yum. It would have been hard to put this sandwich down, if there weren’t so much more to eat.
Both sandwiches come with french fries, by the way — a pretty excellent value for $5.25.
My wife likes to pretend to be healthy occasionally, so she ordered one of the vegetarian combos. For $6, she got two falafels, hummus and couscous salad. While the salad didn’t float my boat, I thought the falafels had a nice crunch and a pleasant, mildly herbaceous flavor. The hummus (with pita for dipping) was creamy and delicious.
She also ordered some Moroccan tea ($1.99 for small, $3.50 for a large), which is sweet and intoxicating. On a chilly day, it’s the perfect pick-me-up.
The highlight for me was the kebab combo platters. You can get chicken, lamb, veggies and kofta kebabs with rice and a Persian salad. I’ve had the lamb, and quite enjoyed it, but on my most recent visit, I opted for chicken and kofta ($10.95).
Kofta is basically a coarsely ground, spiced lamb meatball, skewered, flattened and charcoal-grilled. If they replaced beef patties with kofta patties in most hamburgers, I’d probably be happy with it. You can also get it in a sandwich or burrito at Cous Cous Cafe.
The Persian salad is good enough to get on its own, with lots of crisp crunchy ingredients bathed in oil and Mediterranean spices.
Cous Cous Cafe is almost too inexpensive to believe, especially for the quality of food served. I know I’m going back for another of those delicious gyros on a regular basis. At least until my gyro tree starts to sprout.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.
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